When it comes time to settle your workers compensation case, you may hear the terms regular or liability stipulation, and no-liability stipulation. What is the difference?
The type of stipulation that applies in your case depends on whether or not your employer and their insurer have accepted your job injury claim. Remember that in Georgia you are eligible for workers compensation medical and lost wage benefits if you are injured while performing an activity that arises out of and in the course of your employment. This arising out of and in the course of language has given rise to hundreds of court cases. For example, if you are injured while playing a practical joke on a co-worker, or while on a break, your employer may argue that your injury did not arise out of or in the course of employment.
If your employer accepts your claim, this means that your employer has acknowledged that you were injured while on the clock, engaged in some legitimate work activity. Accepting or picking up your claim does not mean that you have won – it just means that your employer acknowledges that you have some rights under the workers compensation system. Settlements that are reached in cases where a claim was accepted are considered regular or liability stipulations. When you settle, you accept a lump sum in exchange for your agreement to waive all claims for medical benefits and lost wage benefits arising from your injury.
If your employer contests or controverts your claim, then they are saying that your injury did not arise out of or in the course of employment. They may be arguing that you were not on the clock when hurt, that you hurt yourself at home, that you were impaired by alcohol or drugs when you were injured, or that you did not really get hurt at all. When a claim is controverted, you do not receive medical care from your employer nor do you receive lost wage benefits.
When claims are controverted, we will usually request a hearing to ask a judge to order your employer and their insurance company to start providing benefits. However, before that hearing, your employer may be willing to offer a lump sum to you to settle all claims. Since the employer/insurer has not accepted responsibility for providing benefits, such a settlement is called a no liability stipulation.
Usually, but not always, no liability stipulations are less than regular settlements. Sometimes it makes more sense to take our case to the judge, then settle after the hearing or mediation. Sometimes it makes sense to wait for the judge’s decision about whether your injury did arise out of or in the course of employment. These strategic decisions are part of what I do when advising my clients. So if you have been representing yourself and the insurance company starts talking about a settlement it makes sense to call me. I can be reached at 770-351-0801.