A typical workers’ compensation settlement won’t be finalized until the claimant’s medical condition has fully stabilized. Having a clear picture of the extent of the illness or injury would help the court determine what the fair compensation should be.
That said, medical care and physical recovery can be unpredictable. There are situations where the claimant’s condition would unexpectedly get worse. Sometimes doctors would find evidence that their patients are more disabled than they previously thought.
These situations beg the question: can a person reopen an old workers’ compensation claim even if it had been settled years prior? California law dictates that a person can if it’s proven that their condition worsened and they’ll need further treatments. To learn how to successfully do it and what the requirements are, read on.
Hire a Lawyer
Reopening these claims can be more difficult after a judge has already approved the original settlement agreement. This is why the first thing you should do is get a lawyer who can represent you and study your situation properly. They’ll determine if you have the legal legitimacy to pursue this claim.
Your lawyers will also need to reach out to your former employers or their insurance representatives to let them know that you’re reopening the claim. Avoid initiating any form of communication with them yourself because this can be counterproductive to your goals.
File a Petition on Time
Under California law and regulations, a petition to reopen a workers’ comp claim can only be filed within five years after the date of injury. After this specified limitation has elapsed, the case will be time-barred.
Your petition should contain a clear explanation of your situation and how you’ll need additional compensation for more treatments. Remember, state law doesn’t allow workers to re-litigate previous decisions over and over again. You should be able to let them understand that you’re not just doing this because you didn’t agree with the previous decision.
Prove Your Claim With Sufficient Documents
Aside from a written explanation, you should also provide supporting medical records. You’ll need to include strong evidence that illustrates how the injury you incurred has worsened after accepting the original agreement. You should be able to prove that you did not aggravate your injury by going back to work early. Additionally, you should have sufficient evidence to prove you need new medical treatments to recover from your work-related injury.
Seek Reputable Legal Counsel
Reopening a workers’ compensation claim that has already been settled is a complex process. You need supporting medical documents and evidence for a higher chance of a positive outcome. Importantly, you also need the guidance and support of an attorney with experience handling similar cases. Your attorney will discuss the facts of the case with you and help you build a strong claim.
Haffner Law’s personal injury lawyers have extensive experience in this area of practice. We are ready to guide you throughout the entire process, providing you with sound legal counsel and diligent representation. Get in touch with us today at 213-514-5681 for a free consultation, or learn more about our services.