Once a workers' compensation claim is settled, it is usually considered closed. However, if you end up needing additional medical care that is related to the initial work injury, you may or may not be able to re-open your claim and receive benefits. Whether or not you can depends on your particular claim and your state's laws.
Future Medical Expenses
The wording in a settlement agreement for a workers' compensation claim is important. If there was a possibility that you would need additional treatment in the future for your injuries, your attorney more than likely ensured that your future medical expenses would be included in the settlement. If that is the case, you can submit your bills for your treatment to your employer's insurance company.
However, if your settlement agreement did not state that you had a right to have future medical expenses taken care of by the insurance company, you will have to rely on your state's laws to help you receive benefits.
Some states have laws that protect the rights of employees to receive help with medical bills after a settlement has been reached. This is even after you have signed a full and final release. There might be special conditions that apply.
For instance, in Oregon, you can reopen a claim for workers' compensation benefits if your injury has worsened and your treating physician is willing to state that you do need additional care. You can also reopen the claim if you need care to help temporarily manage an injury that was considered to be stable. The state also has a time limit of five years after a settlement is reached to file for reopening. If it is beyond that time limit, there are some special circumstances that could possibly result in reopening of the case.
If you are unable to reopen the old claim, there is a possibility that you can file a new one. In order to achieve this, you have to show that your injury is the result of a new incident. For instance, if you have hurt your back after repetitively lifting at work, you could claim that the new injury is related to the work that you have done since the settlement.
The insurance company will most likely try to dispute this and claim it is the result of the old injury for which you have already received payment.
Whether you want to reopen an old case or file a new one, it is imperative you talk to an attorney, such as those at Zavodnick, Perlmutter & Boccia LLC. Workers' compensation cases are complex and made even more so once a settlement is reached.