The move by the Maryland Workers Compensation Commission to require Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approval of settlement that meet the criteria for review has "The Free State" joining the ranks of its neighbors in adding another procedural hurdle to the compromise of on the job accident claims. Experienced workers comp lawyers have no issue with the part of the regulation that requires CMS approval on settlements that meet the CMS threshold. If the measure becomes permanent, it will help protect some claimants whose attorneys might not be familiar with the federal requirements for compromise settlements of workplace injury claims.
However, some lawyers do not like the requirement of contemporaneous medical reports on expected future medical costs for all claims, especially in small settlements. "Spending $600 to settle a case for $1,200, where there will be little to no future medical care or costs, does not make economic sense for the claimant or her counsel," according to Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun County workers comp lawyer Doug Landau. Landau said he understands the theory behind such a requirement — judges want to know that future expenses have been contemplated before approving a settlement that closes future claims — but it doesn’t work that way in practice. "Doctors want to be paid, and should be paid, for their time, so to draft a report, most doctors charge hundreds of dollars to several thousand dollars and on a small claim it becomes a deal killer," he said. "So those cases don’t get settled, they languish."
The Maryland Workers Compensation Commission indicated that there was a decrease in settlements last year, but it was attributable, at least part, to attorneys, carriers and employers learning how to work within the new regulations. Ultimately compliance was high and the commissioners were impressed, according to the report in WorkCompCentral in which Landau, of the Herndon law firm ABRAMS LANDAU, Ltd. was interviewed this week. Landau thinks regulations like the one proposed in Maryland will start popping up throughout the country. "I think eventually while workers’ compensation laws will always be different from state to state, although the wisdom of that may be waning, the fact that there is now this federal interplay will require more uniformity," he said. "When you have the interplay with Social Security and Medicare, it’s going to require the workers’ compensation commissions in various states to either get going or get lost."