The vast majority of workers’ compensation claims are resolved through settlements. A workers’ comp settlement is an agreement between you and the other party (in this case your employer’s insurance company) that you’ll stop pursuing your claim in return for a specific sum of money.
If you’re worried that these settlements are public records, the answer is a bit complex. In the state of Illinois, they are technically public information, but they aren’t easily accessible.
Illinois Workers’ Comp Settlements Are Public Information
All workers’ compensation claims filed with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission are public records. This means someone could theoretically go look up your specific claim and find the amount you settled for.
That said, doing so does require them to be looking for your specific record, and the process generally takes more time and effort than most people would go through. It’s typically only done if someone—like your employer or an insurance company—feels a need to look through your past claims.
Confidentiality Agreements in Settlement Contracts
While your settlement is a matter of public record, you may still be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement as part of your settlement. The reason for this is to make sure you don’t talk about the amount you were paid or the fact that you received a settlement.
These types of agreements can backfire quite a bit in that they open you up to additional liability, such as breaches of contract and taxes.
Breach of Contract
Since workers’ compensation claims are public records anyway, the information involved in your claim could still be exposed. If this happens, it’s possible that the insurance company or your employer could try to sue you for breach of contract, even if you said nothing.
By law, payments made to compensate people for their injuries are tax-free. However, if there’s a confidentiality agreement involved in your settlement, it may be interpreted as an instance where you’re being paid to say nothing, not where you’re being compensated for an injury. As such, you might run into complications with the IRS if the agreement isn’t structured properly.
Extra Burden to Carry
Finally, a confidentiality agreement can be burdensome in general since you have to keep it secret. As such, it’s typically best to avoid signing a confidentiality agreement as part of your settlement—at the very least, don’t sign it without having an attorney look at it first.
Should You Still Settle?
While having your settlement be a public record doesn’t seem all that appealing, it’s typically better than your alternatives.
Filing No Claim
One alternative is to not file a claim at all or to forfeit all compensation. Since you’ll then be faced with the full burden of recovering from your injury without adequate compensation, this is not recommended.
Going to Court
In some cases, you may want to take your claim to trial, especially in cases where there’s a large sum on the line or when the insurance company is being particularly disagreeable. The results of your trial will also be matters of public record, however, so this isn’t a method to keep your workers’ compensation claim confidential.
In any of these cases, you’ll want an attorney to advise you on the best course to take. Hart David Carson LLP can help you throughout the process of settling your workers’ compensation claim.