OLYMPIA — A key piece to the puzzle of making changes to the state's workers compensation system came from Rep. Matt Shea, who suggested negotiators drop the idea of “lump sum” payments in favor of structured settlements.
Shea, R-Spokane Valley, suggested a system that is more common in settlements over tort claims, or lawsuits involving damages. Rather than giving an injured worker the full amount of any agreed payment all at once, the state could give workers the money over time through a structure set by statute.
Rep. Cary Condotta, R-East Wenatchee, complimented Shea during floor debate on the bill and explained later in a prepared statement the suggestion became a key to negotiations because House Speaker Frank Chopp had refused to consider lump-sum agreements that were included in other bills. “It's an innovative suggestion that gained acceptance among negotiators and it was a key piece of the puzzle that allowed us to move forward on needed workers compensation reform.”
Shea, an attorney, said he talked with other attorneys and labor representatives about the concerns with lump sum settlements, that some workers wouldn't have money left for later. He suggested a system used in damage lawsuits that pays out a settlement over time. “The governor accepted the idea and it was written into the agreed conference legislation.”