Changes approved for workers’ compensation settlements

Lawmakers passed a bill April 18 that will help injured workers receive settlement payments more efficiently.

<a href='http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist17' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. Joni Albrecht'>Sen. Joni Albrecht</a>
Sen. Joni Albrecht

LB953, introduced by Thurston Sen. Joni Albrecht, requires the Workers’ Compensation Court to approve a lump-sum settlement in cases when the employee is eligible for Medicare, is a Medicare beneficiary or has a reasonable expectation of becoming eligible for Medicare within 30 months of the time of settlement.

The lump-sum settlement also will apply in cases when the medical expenses incurred for treatment of the injury will not fully be paid as part of the settlement if the employee’s attorney affirms that the settlement is in conformity with the compensation schedule and in the best interests of the employee or his or dependents.

The bill eliminates a requirement for a duly-executed release if a lump-sum settlement is approved by the court.

Finally, it clarifies that the 50 percent penalty imposed on settlement payments made more than 30 days late to an employee still would apply unless the court enters an order of dismissal with prejudice.

Medicare’s interests must be approved by the court if the employee’s attorney affirms that the resolution of payment of disputed medical, surgical or hospital services is in conformity with the compensation schedule and in the best interests of the employee or his or her dependents.

The application for a lump-sum settlement must include a statement explicitly stating that the parties have considered the interests of Medicare and have taken reasonable steps to protect any interests of Medicare.

The court will not be required to approve other areas of the settlement.

The bill includes provisions of LB784, introduced by Omaha Sen. Tony Vargas. These prohibit contractors and employers who have unpaid fines for violating the Employee Classification Act from entering into a contract with the state or any political subdivision until the fines are paid.

The bill passed on a 48-0 vote.

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