After a Section 32 settlement has been negotiated and paperwork has been drafted and filed with the Workers’ Compensation Board a hearing will be scheduled. Presiding at your settlement hearing will be a Workers’ Compensation Law Judge who will review your paperwork and ask you questions in order to confirm that you fully understand the terms and implications of your settlement. The Law Judge will determine whether or not the terms of the settlement are fair and reasonable.
Most Judges will read specific questions from the C-32.1 form which is a claimant release form for Section 32 settlement agreements. This is the same form that must be signed and notarized and filed with the Workers’ Compensation Board before they will even schedule a hearing in your case.
The questions asked are designed to confirm, in no uncertain terms, that the party understands that once the settlement is approved it can not been appealed or changed and that the party understands that they are not required to enter into a settlement. If the medical portion of the claim is being settled, the Judge will want to make sure that the claimant understands this and agrees to it.
The exact questions that are asked are outlined here:
- Do you understand that the Section 32 agreement, if approved by the Board, is binding on you and all the other parties and may not be appealed to either the Board or the Court?
- Do you understand that once the agreement has been approved by the Board and the ten day waiting period has expired, the agreement cannot be withdrawn, modified, or reopened, and that the only way an approved agreement can be revisited is upon a written request to the Board, with the approval of all parties to the agreement, and the approval of the Board?
- Have you been placed in any duress in order to accept this agreement?
- Have you been made any promises that are not reflected in this agreement?
- Are there any outstanding liens on your claim(s) (such as child support, taxes, spousal maintenance, or attorney fees)?
- Do you understand that you have the right to litigate your Workers’ Compensation claim(s), and that you do not have to settle your claim(s)?
- Do you understand and accept the amount of the settlement?
- Do you agree to the fee requested by your attorney or licensed representative with the understanding that the Board has the authority to approve, disapprove, or modify the fee request?
- Do you understand that when this agreement becomes final, any future medical expenses related to this claim may become your responsibly?
- Have any doctor/hospital bills related to this claim been paid by anyone other than your employer or the Workers’ Compensation insurance carrier?
Question 2 is designed to make sure that the settling parties understand that even after the Judge provisionally approves the agreement there is a 10 day cooling off period during which either side can withdraw from the agreement in writing. Once the 10 days expires, there is no way to back out of the settlement.
Question 5 involves whether or not outstanding liens exists, the most common is child support. If there are child support arrears and an order has been issued than the agreement will not be approved unless it includes satisfaction of the outstanding amount owed to the child support unit.
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