If you are an injured worker in Massachusetts, you may have heard of a Section 19 Agreement. Perhaps, your workers’ compensation attorney mentioned to you that the insurer proposes a Section 19 Agreement. Or, if you are unrepresented, maybe the workers’ compensation insurance adjuster offered a Section 19 Agreement. Regardless of how you’ve heard of it, a Section 19 Agreement is something that comes up in many Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation claims.
When there is a dispute in a workers’ compensation claim, sometimes the dispute is resolved by the parties entered into an agreement, as opposed to having a judge to make a decision on the claim. For example, if the insurer refuses to pay the injured worker the workers’ compensation disability benefits he or she claims or they refuse to pay for medical treatment, the injured worker (or his or her attorney) would generally file a claim for benefits with the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents. While the claim is pending, the parties may reach an agreement that would resolve the dispute that gave rise to the claim. When the agreement is reached, the parties would reduce the agreement to writing to memorialize the agreement. The written agreement would then be filed with the DIA for consideration by an administrative judge. If the judge approves it, the agreement would be enforceable just like an order made at a Conference.
The term “Section 19 Agreement” gets its name from the section of the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act that governs these types of agreements, which is M.G.L. c. 152 § 19. Section 19 states, in part: “any payment of compensation shall be by written agreement by the parties and subject to the approval of the department. Any other questions arising under this chapter may be so settled by agreement. Said agreements shall for all purposes be enforceable in the same manner as an order under section twelve.”
The DIA has a form called a Section 19 Agreement which must be completed and signed by the employee, his or her attorney, if any, and the insurer’s attorney before it is submitted to the DIA. The Agreement would then be submitted to the DIA for approval. Generally, an administrative judge would review the Agreement and, if acceptable, approve it. Once it is approved, the parties would be bound by said agreement. For example, if the agreement was for the insurer to pay the injured worker temporary total disability benefits for a specific period of time, once it is approved by the DIA, the insurer must pay the disability benefits it agreed to pay.
If you are dealing directly with the workers’ compensation insurer yourself, and they propose a Section 19 Agreement, you should have an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney review the agreement to make sure all aspects of your claim are addressed and your rights are protected.