In Pennsylvania, workers' compensation cases are settled by entering into a compromise and release agreement. The parties then must go to a hearing in which the workers' compensation judge determines whether the injured worker understands the significance of the agreement.
In Hong v. WCAB, 51 A.3d 905 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2012), the injured worker entered into a lump sum settlement. The agreement did not say whether unpaid medical bills would be paid in addition to the lump sum. After the settlement, the injured worker learned that one physician had an outstanding bill in excess of $37,000.00 which the employer refused to pay.
The Commonwealth Court stated that to set aside a compromise and release agreement, the party trying to set it aside must show fraud, deception, duress, or mutual mistake. The court found that none of these factors was present. The court found that had claimant wanted to ensure payment of past medical bills in addition to the lump sum, his counsel could have included appropriate language in the agreement. That the claimant had counsel was an important factor for the court.
Bottom line: Make sure you understand the Compromise and Release Agreement, including and provisions concerning the payment of medical expenses.