As of January 1, 2012, a significant change in Washington’s workers’ compensation laws has provided an opportunity to resolve the claims of injured workers age 55 and over through structured settlements, called CRSSA (Claims Resolution Structured Settlement Agreements) agreements. The CRSSA option is intended to provide an alternative for injured workers who feel “stuck” in the Department’s system, and wish to pursue retirement or alternative work goals outside their claims.
Causey Law Firm was one of the first workers’ compensation firms in the state to successfully negotiate for and receive approval of a CRSSA from the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals.
The Department has a specialized unit of experienced personnel to evaluate incoming requests for CRSSA’s from injured workers and employers. If the Department (or self-insured employer) concludes the claim is appropriate to consider negotiations under the CRSSA, they will request the applicant provide a proposed lump sum figure to initiate negotiations. Many factors are taken into account in determining whether or not a CRSSA is appropriate, to include whether it is in the best interest of the worker, the nature and extent of both industrial and non-industrial injuries, other claims, present and future income sources of the worker, present and future expenses, employment and education history, and the effect a settlement may have on other benefits. All of this information is provided to the Department or employer, and if an agreement is reached, it is forward to the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals, which is a separate state agency, for final review and approval. As of May 2012, 18 agreements have been filed with the Board, but only six of these have been approved.
Structured settlements allow a worker to resolve all the issues in their claim (time loss, permanent partial disability, vocational rehabilitation benefits, and pension) except treatment, by closing their claim and receiving, after an initial lump sum payment, monthly or bi-weekly payments until the full amount of the settlement is reached. An injured workers’ right to treatment cannot be compromised under the CRSSA rules and, in some cases, a worker can include authorization for future anticipated treatment in the agreement. The amount of the settlement and payout schedule will vary depending on the unique circumstances of each claim.
As we have advised several of our clients, it may not be in your best interest to pursue a CRSSA. However, if you are an individual who wishes to pursue self-employment, retirement, part-time work, or alternate vocational avenues, and have become tired of the “system” running your life, and you’d like to have the power to resolve your claim, it may very well be appropriate to pursue this new option. If so, please give our office a call, and we will be happy to provide further assistance.