Reopening A Closed Workers’ Compensation Case

By Justin S. Eppler

Premiums businesses pay for workers’ compensation insurance continue to go down in Alaska. Why? The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development attributes the decrease to two major factors — lower medical costs and a reduction in the number of worker claims. Since the cost of medical treatment in Alaska is among the highest in the country, the decrease in claims must play a significant role in reduced insurance premiums. This begs the question, are there fewer workers injured now, or are more claims being denied?

It is often difficult to have an initial workers’ compensation claim accepted and settled. Trying to reopen a closed case if you begin suffering from the same injury again is extremely challenging — but not impossible.

If you want to reopen a closed workers’ compensation case because you need additional medical treatment for your injury, do what other injured workers have done in Anchorage, Alaska, and in Fairbanks, Juneau, Wasilla, and Palmer. Call our team at the Law Office of Justin S. Eppler, LLC to discuss your workers’ compensation case.

Can You Reopen a Closed Case?

The best answer to this question is, “It depends.” Proving that you are suffering from the results of the same work injury isn’t the issue. The type of settlement you signed for your workers’ compensation case is.

Just to clarify, Alaska’s workers’ compensation system is a “no-fault” system, which eliminates the need for workers to sue their employers for injuries suffered on the job. They simply need to file a claim with the employer’s workers’ compensation insurer to seek compensation for their injury. Under this system, those damages are limited to medical treatment and income loss due to permanent or temporary disability. Workers cannot recover non-economic damages such as pain and suffering or loss of consortium.

If you signed a “compromise and release,” you agreed to hold your employer and its insurer harmless for the damages you suffered in exchange for a lump-sum settlement. You accepted that sum as full compensation for the injury and in so doing, you cannot go back to them for more even if you suffer further due to a worsening of the same injury.

If you agreed to a structured settlement, however, you may be able to reopen your case. A structured settlement is an annuity that pays out over an extended period. These provide tax advantages for the employee and payment for future medical expenses.

Qualifications to Reopen a Closed Case

All workers’ compensation settlements are subject to final approval by the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board to be binding. To reopen a case after settlement, you would need to file a petition for reconsideration or modification with the board.

Case law has established that employees are allowed to bring a succession of workers’ compensation claims arising from the same injury. A petition for reconsideration must be filed within 30 days of the board issuing its final decision on the claim. The petition requires a statement as to why you are filing for reconsideration and medical documentation that supports your request.

How Legal Counsel Can Help

The challenges of reopening a closed workers’ compensation case are immense. Although Alaska’s workers’ compensation system is designed to allow employees to represent themselves throughout the process, retaining the services of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney is a wise investment.

Employers aren’t always on your side. The volume and severity of injury claims filed by their workers increase the premiums employers must pay workers’ compensation insurers. Your attorney, on the other hand, will have your best interests at heart.

Hundreds of injured workers have turned to us at the Law Office of Justin S. Eppler, LLC to represent them in workers’ compensation claims. If you live or work in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Wasilla, or Palmer, Alaska, and want to file an initial claim or reopen a closed workers’ compensation case, call our office today to schedule a free case consultation.