Every so often we get a phone call from a past client who is wondering if they can reopen their workers’ compensation case. Oftentimes they ask this because their medical situation has gotten worse, or some other aspect of their life has changed. There are some ways in which a workers’ compensation case in Minnesota can be reopened or a previous award vacated so a new award can be granted, but it’s not easy. We explain how that process works in today’s blog.
Cause To Reopen Workers’ Comp Cases
For starters, it’s important to know that the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals is not keen on reopening closed cases. When a settlement is made, it is usually structured in such a way that an employee is agreeing to the possibility that their condition could get worse or a settlement may not cover all expenses related to your injury. This is why it is so important to have a lawyer by your side when you are pursuing an injury claim so that you can maximize your award. The court is often reluctant to set aside previous agreements, so before you sign on the dotted line, think carefully about what you’re agreeing to.
With all that said, workers’ compensation does allow for cases to be reopened if there is what’s known as “cause” to reopen or vacate a previous decision. You and your attorney will need to show cause in order for your case to be reopened.
So how can you prove cause? The state actually lists some ways in which a person could prove that cause exists. “Cause” exists if any of the following circumstances are present:
- There was a mutual mistake of fact.
- There is newly discovered evidence which would have had a great impact on the original ruling had it been known at the time.
- The award was based on fraudulent information.
- There was a substantial change in medical condition.
Many people believe they can pursue a reopening of their case through the last point, which is that there’s been a substantial change in medical condition. However, that’s not the whole clause. It states that there has to be a substantial change in medical condition since the time of the award that was not clearly anticipated, and such change could not have been reasonably anticipated at the time of the award.
For example, let’s say you slipped on a wet spot in the shop and smacked your head on the ground. You were treated for a skull fracture and missed some time on the job. You settled your case and returned to work after you healed. Now, five years down the road, you are suffering frequent migraines that may be due in part to your previous head injury. It’s not unreasonable that future migraines could occur after a significant head injury, even if they were not present immediately after the injury, so it’s unlikely that a Court of Appeals would reopen the case even though you argue that this is a substantial change in medical condition.
If you are trying to get your case reopened, the best thing to do is to contact a workers’ compensation lawyer. We’ll be able to take a closer look at the details of your original case and any new evidence in order to make an argument that shows cause. If you need help with this process, please reach out to Dean Margolis today.