At Parnell, Michels & McKay, we handle both New Hampshire and Massachusetts worker’s compensation cases. However, we often are asked about the differences between the two as it relates to settlements. In worker’s compensation cases, these are called “lump sum settlements.” A lump-sum settlement generally uses the weekly wage benefit amount as a basis for coming up with a settlement figure. For example, in a situation where an individual is getting $400.00 per week in wage benefits and is permanently disabled, there are a number of factors that come into play. Generally, it’s the injured worker’s life expectancy, the wage benefit amount, and whether the client prefers settlement to receive regular weekly benefits. If a person is permanently disabled and cannot work any form of employment, the person is very likely entitled to wage benefits for the rest of their life. However, most people tire quickly of dealing with worker’s compensation insurance and prefer to avoid the continued hassle of denials, delayed benefits checks, and fights with the insurance companies.
So, what is factored into the settlements beyond the above? In New Hampshire, that answer is permanent loss of use or function of a part of their body, and the wage benefits if a permanent disability exists. If a person loses function, both Massachusetts and New Hampshire recognize that the injured worker should be compensated for this loss. The determination of this amount is very complicated, and I strongly encourage anyone facing a permanent disability to consult with a worker’s compensation attorney prior to agreeing with the insurance company on the permanent impairment. In Massachusetts, however, lump sums can also include scarring and disfigurement, and future medical bills can be lump summed as well. New Hampshire does not allow future medical bills related to the work injury to be lump summed, nor does New Hampshire account specifically for scarring and disfigurement. It is always dangerous to lump-sum future medical bills without knowing what you are agreeing to, so it is very important to consult an attorney prior to agreeing to any settlement.
There are other minor differences in worker’s compensation law between New Hampshire and Massachusetts, but when it comes to lump-sum settlements it is important to know what is being resolved. If an injured worker fails to get the proper legal advice, they can put themselves in a dangerous situation where they could resolve their case for too small an amount and not properly include things like permanent injuries in both Massachusetts and NH, and scarring and future medical bills in Massachusetts.