You’ve fallen and you can’t get up…and you’re at work.
What next? Once the dust settles with this whole incident, there are going to be some questions you want answered.
What are your options? Do you need a workers compensation attorney? How long do workers comp settlements take?
Let’s shed a little light on the subject, shall we? We’ll cover answers to some of the important questions, and by the end of this article you’ll have an idea on where to start.
Let’s get into it
Workers Comp Options
What happens when you bring a workers comp case against your employer? Typically, the insurance company’s first move is to make the employee an offer.
Oftentimes they will offer a payment plan to cover the cost of medical bills, as well as disability coverage for the duration of time you are out of work. As the employee, it’s up to you at this point.
If you are happy with their settlement offer, you can choose to take it. Your other option is to bring the company to court which we know as a workers comp settlement. If you decide to go for a settlement, you’ll need to consult with your attorney and they will negotiate with your employer’s insurance company on your behalf.
Some people choose the settlement option because of the potential of a larger payout. While there is the potential to receive more money, there are also more moving parts and you can expect to wait much longer to receive your settlement.
Steps of A Workers Comp Case
Here is a brief rundown of what a workers comp settlement entails:
First, you attorney will draft a legal list of demands known as a Settlement Demand.
This document moves along to the insurance company, and it outlines what you are expecting from the insurance company and why.
Once you approve the list of demands your attorney has drafted, the negotiations will start.
The insurance company will counter your offer, and negotiations will begin to back and forth in this manner. Depending on the type and scope of the case, negotiations can either be direct with the insurance company, at a settlement conference in court, or at mediation involving both parties.
If both parties can’t agree on settlement terms, then the case would escalate to a workers comp hearing.
Before a settlement happens, the State will send you a disability rating. This rating will help you and your attorney to figure out how much disability benefit you have a right to by State law, based on the injuries you’ve sustained. After reviewing the disability benefits proposed by the State, you and your attorney may want to ask for more if the disability is permanent, or if you may need future medical treatment.
It’s up to you and your lawyer to decide how much the workers comp payout should be. Here are some things you should take into account:
- Ambulance rides, other medical costs
- Lost pay or future lost pay
- Any future treatments or surgery you may need
Once you, your attorney, and the insurance company reach an agreement, it will need to go off to the State workers comp agency. At this point, the State will decide on approval.
How Long Does A Workers Comp Settlement Take
Now that negotiations have concluded, it’s up to the State to approve your workers comp settlement. The settlement agreement will undergo at a State workers comp hearing. A judge will ask if you agreed to the settlement voluntarily, and the judge will then decide if the settlement is in your best interest.
The good news is: the judge could possibly reject the settlement if they feel you aren’t don’t receive enough money.
Two factors determine settlements. First is the amount of workers comp benefits you may receive in the future. And second, is the probability of you receiving those benefits. These two factors are generally how settlements are calculated, but it’s always a good idea to check with your State’s rules on calculating workers comp.
In addition, they are also calculated based on whether or not your case will remain open to pay for any future medical bills, or will it be closed. And the calculation will also be based on whether or not your case includes any pay advances for permanent disability that have already been collected by you.
If you haven’t already collected any permanent disability benefits, then the settlement will be viewed as “new money” and could be calculated differently.
The whole settlement process will take anywhere from 12-18 months depending on if an attorney is involved. When an attorney is involved, the settlement will take longer but settlements awarded have shown to be up to 33% higher.
If you bring in an attorney to help you negotiate the settlement, the process can take upwards of 17 months. If you take the first offer from the insurance company, however, the process can be wrapped up in about 15 months.
What Affects The Length of My Case
There are several factors that can affect the length of your workers comp case. For starters, an employer or their insurance company may “drag their feet” throughout the process. They will sometimes use this as a tactic to get you frustrated, in the hopes that you will just settle for a lesser amount and be done.
Attorney selection will be key to your case. You want someone accomplished in the field of workers comp, but you don’t want someone who is too busy. Sometimes if your attorney is busy down with too many cases, it can affect the duration of your settlement case.
Something often overlooked is the recovery from your injuries. If your injuries are severe to the point where you need bedrest/hospital recuperation, this may cause your case to drag on longer than anticipated.
Also, related to your injuries, your case may take longer if you are claiming to be permanently disabled. It may take a lot to prove that you are permanently disabled from injuries sustained in the workplace. If you and your attorney are trying to claim permanent disability, the insurance company may try to fight you on this, causing your workers comp case to run on longer.
The choice to use an attorney or not, accepting the first offer made to you, and whether or not there are any appeals are all additional factors that will affect how long do workers comp settlements take.
As you probably guessed, there can be a lot of paperwork involved with a workers comp settlement. It’s best to let your attorney handle the paperwork for you(if you have one), but it helps to know the basics of what type of paperwork or forms to expect:
- A confidentiality agreement
- An indemnification agreement
- A document regarding Medicare status or social security disability
- Medicare set-aside agreement
What is the purpose of these documents? Well, the insurance company would want you to sign a lot of these documents, as it waives your right to any future claims. Some of these documents also require you to keep your claim confidential, as well as pay money to the insurance company if you violate certain rules.
Do you have to sign them? No. However, if you don’t sign them, the insurance company may decline your claim.
Do I Need An Attorney
The truth is: No. You don’t need an attorney. But, as we said earlier, workers comp settlements are typically 33% higher when handled by an attorney.
Really it boils down to your personal preference. Would you rather it be over and done with quickly? Are you ok with sacrificing a little bit of money for that to happen?
If that’s the case, then you may want to handle it yourself and take the first offer given to you. It’s up to you to decide.
A lot of times, however, people need to live off of this money for the entire time out of work. In that case, it makes sense to deal with an attorney and wait longer for more money.
If you choose to go with an attorney, you are going to want to choose wisely. One of the biggest delays in workers comp cases is when an attorney becomes unresponsive.
Having someone who is busy to a degree is great. You know that they are competent enough at their job to gain a large number of clients. However, if they are in court all day, they may have trouble getting to your case in a timely manner. And with workers comp cases taking 12-18 months as it is, any additional delays can be costly.
We hope you’ve learned all you needed to about how long do workers comp settlements take. Now you can go forth, armed with new information, to select the best option for you in your pursuit of a workers comp settlement.
For advice on more legal matters, be sure to check out our blog, or contact an attorney in the specialized area you’re looking for.