39-71-741. Settlements and lump-sum payments -- legislative intent. (1) By written agreement, a claimant and an insurer may convert benefits under this chapter in whole or in part into a lump sum. An agreement that settles a claim for any type of benefit is subject to department approval as provided in subsection (2). Lump-sum advances and payment of accrued benefits in a lump sum, except permanent total disability benefits under subsection (2)(c), are not subject to department approval. If the department fails to approve or disapprove the agreement in writing within 14 days of the filing with the department, the agreement is approved.
(2) The department shall directly notify a claimant of a department order approving or disapproving a claimant's settlement or lump-sum payment. Upon approval, the agreement constitutes a compromise and release settlement and may not be reopened by the department. The department may approve a settlement agreement to convert the following benefits to a lump sum only under the following conditions:
(a) all benefits if a claimant and an insurer dispute the initial compensability of an injury and there is a reasonable dispute over compensability;
(b) permanent partial disability benefits if an insurer has accepted initial liability for an injury. The total of any lump-sum payment in part that is awarded to a claimant prior to the claimant's final award may not exceed the anticipated award under 39-71-703. The department may disapprove an agreement under this subsection (2)(b) only if the department determines that the lump-sum payment amount is inadequate.
(c) permanent total disability benefits if the total of all lump-sum payments in part that are awarded to a claimant do not exceed $20,000. The approval or award of a lump-sum permanent total disability payment in whole or in part by the department or court is the exception. It may be given only if the worker has demonstrated financial need that:
(i) relates to:
(A) the necessities of life;
(B) an accumulation of debt incurred prior to the injury; or
(C) a self-employment venture that is considered feasible under criteria set forth by the department; or
(ii) arises subsequent to the date of injury or arises because of reduced income as a result of the injury.
(d) except as otherwise provided in this chapter, all other settlements and lump-sum payments agreed to by a claimant and insurer;
(e) medical benefits on an accepted claim if an insurer disputes the insurer's continued liability for medical benefits and there is a reasonable dispute over the medical treatment or medical compensability; or
(f) medical benefits on an accepted claim if the claimant has reached maximum medical improvement and the following applicable conditions are met:
(i) the insurer and claimant mutually agree to a settlement of all or a portion of medical benefits; and
(ii) a settlement is in the best interest of the parties to the settlement.
(3) The parties to a medical settlement agreement shall set out the rationale that is the basis for the settlement under subsection (2)(f), and the claimant shall indicate by a signed acknowledgment an understanding of what medical benefits will terminate because of the settlement.
(4) Any lump-sum conversion of benefits under this section must be converted to present value using the rate prescribed under subsection (5)(b).
(5) (a) An insurer may recoup any lump-sum advance amortized at the rate established by the department, prorated biweekly over the projected duration of the compensation period.
(b) The rate adopted by the department must be based on the average rate for United States 10-year treasury bills in the previous calendar year.
(c) If the projected compensation period is the claimant's lifetime, the life expectancy must be determined by using the most recent table of life expectancy as published by the United States national center for health statistics.
(6) A dispute between a claimant and an insurer regarding the conversion of biweekly payments into a lump sum is considered a dispute for which a mediator and the workers' compensation court have jurisdiction to make a determination.
(7) If an insurer and a claimant agree to a settlement or a lump-sum payment but the department disapproves the agreement, the parties may request the workers' compensation court to review the department's decision without requesting mediation.
(8) The legislature does not intend to allow settlement of undisputed medical claims under subsection (2)(f) unless all parties willingly agree to the settlement. The failure of the parties to willingly agree to a settlement does not constitute a dispute concerning benefits.