A Final Stipulation is a written contract agreement between you and your employer that fully and finally settles your workers’ compensation case. It also forever resolves your employer’s liability for your workers’ compensation injury. The Final Stipulation is a legal document that, ultimately, must be approved on the record by the Administrative Law Judge.
What is the Final Stipulation?
In Connecticut, your settlement is referred to as a “stipulation.” In this type of agreement between you and your employer, you agree to close out and resolve your workers’ compensation claim in exchange for payment of a sum of money from your employer. The Final Stipulation sum is usually paid in a lump sum but can also be scheduled in installment payments, like your weekly TT or TP payments.
Agreeing to a Final Stipulation will require you to give up your rights to future benefits for your injury from this employer. This normally includes the right to future medical care and treatment. The one right that you never waive is your right to undertake vocational rehabilitation services. A Final Stipulation is, well, FINAL. This means that you cannot change your mind and reopen your case if your medical condition deteriorates over time. Make sure that all your future claims are included and fully compensated when you agree to a Final Stipulation. There simply is no “do over” down the road if you’ve forgotten to include something important.
Accepting the Final Stipulation
We counsel our workers’ compensation clients that when you accept a lump-sum settlement offer from an employer, you are releasing the employer from past, present, and future liability. This means that the employee waives any right to recover future expenses or file lawsuits against their employer in exchange for cash up-front. The reason why insurers pay large lump-sum settlements is that, in the long run, they could end up saving money. Even if you are tempted to accept the settlement, it is often less than what you might be entitled to in total. In other words, by accepting the employer’s offer, the employee is gambling that the amount will be enough to cover all their present and future expenses.
Your Final Stipulation must be approved by the Administrative Law Judge on the record. This means that you will have a stipulation approval hearing before the Administrative Law Judge. Your employer, or more likely their attorney or insurance carrier representative, will participate in the hearing. The employer will prepare the written Final Stipulation and will send it to you for your review and signature. The Final Stipulation will be a lengthy legal document written in formal legal style. We strongly advise you to have a workers’ compensation attorney review the proposed Final Stipulation with you, including going over the details of your injury claim, your attending physician’s final report, and your likely future medical condition. Don’t leave out anything that could benefit you – now or in the future!
Final Stipulation Forms
In addition to your Final Stipulation document, you will also need to sign an official acknowledgment form, called “A Stipulation and What It Means.” This form, which the Workers’ Compensation Commission creates, asks a series of questions aimed at making sure that you understand what you are doing, signing, and agreeing to in your Final Stipulation. It confirms your intention to resolve your workers’ compensation case. Additionally, you will need to provide your attending physician’s final treatment report to the Administrative Law Judge for their review and consideration.
All required forms will be submitted to the Administrative Law Judge, and a stipulation approval hearing will be scheduled. At this approval hearing, the Administrative Law Judge will ask you questions about your settlement with your employer, your present medical condition, and your plans for your future. The Administrative Law Judge will approve the Final Stipulation if it appears to be in your best interest.
Under Connecticut law, once your Final Stipulation is approved, your employer will need to pay your final settlement to you within 20 days. If the payment is unreasonably delayed, you can receive up to an additional 20% penalty for the late payment.
It is important that you seek professional expertise when you look to reach a final settlement of your workers’ compensation case.
Assistance With the Final Stipulation
Final Stipulations resolve your case in full, forever. A mistake in negotiating your Final Stipulation, from a lack of complete understanding of what you are doing, could forever change your life. Workers’ compensation law is increasingly complex and adversarial. You need an advocate to fight for your rights. Contact us for help.