On My Way To Court: How Liens May Impact a Workers’ Compensation Settlement

August 5, 2014

Today was an eventful day in workers’ compensation court. I had two settlements both with interesting lien issues. The first of the settlements is interesting because it has a State Temporary Disability lien attached to it. We filed several claims, but one of the medical conditions was not associated with the work accident.  However, because the client filed a claim for State disability benefits, it was attached to the workers’ compensation claim. When State Disability asserts lien against a workers’ compensation case, the matter takes a long time to resolve because it has to be taken into consideration by the Judge of Compensation before the matter can be resolved. The two computer systems speak to one another so that everyone is aware of the existence of the lien.  Typically, if any monies are recovered through workers’ compensation, the State temporary disability lien has to be repaid; however, in this matter, the Judge of Compensation determined that the condition for which the client received State disability was not in fact associated with the work-related accident.  Therefore, we were able to have one of the claims dismissed which allowed for the elimination of the State disability lien.

The client was able to recover on the related medical issue and receive not only an award through workers’ compensation, but also maintain the ability to reopen the claim. In New Jersey, when a matter resolves by what is called an Order Approving settlement and an individual receives a percentage of disability for whatever the particularly injured body parts, the case changes. They not only receive an award for that injury, but also maintain the ability to reopen the case so that if the conditions become significantly worse they can request additional medical treatment and additional benefits from the workers’ compensation insurance carrier. But, they must do that within two years of receiving their final payment.

The other matter which will resolve interestingly enough has a Section 40 lienattached. This is a different kind of lien which exists when there is a third-party matter. This means that as a result of the claim the individual not only will receive workers’ compensation benefits, but will also receive benefits from a lawsuit against a third party. The workers’ compensation insurance carrier asserts its lien rights so that when the third-party matter resolves, the workers’ compensation carrier can be reimbursed two thirds of their money. This lien was named after Section 40 of the Workers’ Compensation Act that allows the workers’ compensation carrier to recover its money.