Brian Clymer, Attorney at Law

Changes in settlement statute strip away protections from unrepresented injured workers

Insurance carriers are salivating at the prospect of settling out numerous claims with unrepresented injured workers, per a new statute that eliminates meaningful review by the Industrial Commission of Arizona to make sure the "full and final" settlements are fair and reasonable to the claimant.

No longer will the ICA have to consider "best interests" of the injured worker based on certain criteria when it reviews settlement agreements involving unrepresented claimants. Senate Bill 1100 amended A.R.S. 23-941.01 and eliminated protections that would have required the Industrial Commission to make sure that full and final settlements were fair and reasonable to the injured worker. (See changes here). The amended statute goes into effect August 2, 2018, and insurance carriers are lining up to present bare-bones settlements with unrepresented workers in the hopes of clearing out claims and reducing their reserves.

We've already seen settlement offers from CopperPoint that significantly undervalue the potential cost of future medical treatment. CopperPoint then forces the claimant to use NuQuest's "NuShield" product for administration of the medical set aside funds. On its website NuQuest boasts that their product reduces the carrier's medical costs by $50,000 to $100,000 on average (See here). It also touts that carriers will "realize a 7 : 1 return on investment." Claimants also need to be aware that if they agree to use the NuShield product it may include a clause that prohibits the claimant from switching to a different company to manage the medical set aside funds.

Carriers are supposed to act in good faith and give equal consideration to the interests of the injured worker, as well as their own, however, these tactics of forcing claimants to use a particular product or settle future medical treatment for pennies on the dollar raise concerns of whether the carriers are acting in good faith.

We strongly encourage unrepresented injured workers who have been approached about settlement to seek legal advice from an experienced workers' compensation attorney. Please contact us if you're unrepresented injured worker who is considering a settlement proposal from a carrier. We have the tools and access to specialists who can fairly evaluate the cost of future medical treatment and help you assess whether the settlement is fair and reasonable to you. 

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