Our law office often receives phone calls from injured workers who have been contacted by an insurance adjuster asking if the injured worker would like to settle their workers’ compensation claim. In some cases, the adjuster will even make an initial settlement offer. These injured workers ask us whether they really need an attorney to settle with the insurance company or whether they can settle the case on their own and save themselves the attorney fee.
While an injured worker can settle a claim on their own, but there are many reasons why doing so is not a good idea. Perhaps the most important benefit an attorney can provide to you in the settlement process is to ensure that you fully understand the impact of the settlement on your entitlement to benefits both under the Workers’ Compensation Act as well as other benefit programs such as Social Security Disability. You should not settle your claim unless you understand the ramifications of the settlement because once your settlement is approved by a Workers’ Compensation Judge it generally cannot be undone.
Here are a few examples of the valuable services our experienced workers’ compensation attorneys will provide to you:
Explain what “settling” means.
When most injured workers’ think about settling a workers’ compensation claim, they are generally thinking about receiving a lump sum of money in exchange for giving up their entitlement to weekly or bi-weekly workers’ compensation benefit checks. However, in most cases settling a claim is more involved than that. In addition to settling your entitlement to wage loss benefits, most insurance companies will also want to resolve your entitlement to the payment of future medical benefits.
There are a number of different ways that both the wage loss and the medical benefits can be settled. Discussing these options with a workers’ compensation attorney will help you clearly understand what settlement would mean given the specific facts of your claim.
In most cases, when you settle your workers’ compensation claim you will also be required to resign as part of the settlement. If you have a pension, health or other benefits through your employer what happens with those benefits will have to be taken into consideration.
It is also important to understand what a settlement does not include. In a workers’ compensation case, pain, suffering, and various other components of what you might think are taken into consideration are not part of what you can recover. Knowing what is recoverable and emphasizing the value of those items is what is important.
Help you weigh the pros and cons of settling.
The first question an injured worker should ask themselves—and their attorney—is, does settling my workers’ compensation case make sense for me? Each worker and each workers’ compensation claim is unique. It is important to consider your current medical condition, your future medical treatment needs, and the likelihood that you will be capable of returning to work with your time of injury employer or some other employer now or in the future. You also need to understand the current legal status of your claim, and what litigation is likely to occur in the future, as well as the possible outcomes of any litigation that is currently pending.
Our experienced workers’ compensation attorneys will review your unique situation and explain to you what potential benefits you can gain through resolving your claim as well as what rights you will be giving up. They will help you evaluate whether now is the right time for you to settle, or whether it may be prudent to wait until some later date to pursue a settlement.
Calculate the value of your workers’ compensation claim.
Once you have determined that settlement of your claim is the right option for you, the next step is to determine what your case is worth. There is no “one size fits all” method of determining what your claim is worth. The value of your case will depend on a number of factors, including: the current legal status of your claim, your compensation benefits rate, the severity of your medical condition, your ability to return to work, the strength of your medical evidence, the strength of the employer/carrier’s medical evidence, the identity of the insurance carrier as well as numerous other factors.
Our workers’ compensation attorneys will take the time to fully understand your unique situation and, after considering all of the available information, draw on their many years of experience to provide you with estimates as to the value of your claim.
Negotiate the settlement to maximize your recovery.
After you have an understanding of the potential value of your claim the next step is to communicate your desire to settle your claim to the insurance carrier. Our experienced attorneys will work with you to determine exactly what benefits you are looking to receive through a settlement and will then chart a course of action to help you achieve your goals.
Our attorneys use their many years of negotiating experience to determine the best time and manner in which to approach the insurance carrier in order to reach the most favorable settlement possible for our clients. For example, our attorneys may recommend holding off on making a settlement demand to ensure that you do not come across as “too eager” to settle. We will also make recommendations as to the amount of the settlement demand to ensure that your demand is not too low nor so high that the insurance carrier determines that your case cannot be settled. In most cases our Attorneys are able to negotiate a higher settlement offer with the insurance carrier than what an injured worker is able to achieve on their own. This is because we are able to justify the value that we have placed on the injured workers’ case based on our thorough assessment of the injured worker’s condition and prognosis as well as the insurance carrier’s potential liability.
Review the workers’ compensation settlement documents.
After a settlement has been negotiated with the insurance carrier it must be put into written form on a document called a Compromise and Release Agreement by Stipulation. This is where hiring one of our experienced workers’ compensation attorneys can really pay off. The actual wording of the Agreement is very important both in terms of making certain that the Agreement reflects the actual terms of the deal that was struck, but also to ensure that your rights are protected. For example, if your settlement agreement is not worded in certain terms your entitlement to other benefits, such as Social Security Disability, may be negatively impacted.
Our attorneys will carefully review the Compromise and Release Agreement to ensure that your rights are protected and that you will receive the benefits that you are entitled to receive by virtue of the settlement.
Represent you at the final workers’ compensation hearing.
After the settlement has been formalized in writing the final step is to have the agreement approved by a Workers’ Compensation Judge. Prior to the hearing our experienced attorneys will sit down with you and review all of the settlement paperwork to ensure that you understand the terms of the settlement and how it will impact you going forward. Our attorneys will take the time to answer any questions that you may have and will also prepare you to testify about the settlement before the Workers’ Compensation Judge.
At the hearing the Judge’s sole role is to determine whether or not you understand the terms and conditions contained within the Compromise and Release Agreement. Our experienced attorney will present your testimony to the court to demonstrate to the Judge that you have a full understanding of the Agreement so that the Judge will approve the Agreement.
If you have received a phone call from an insurance adjuster seeking to settle your claim, or if you are interesting in settling your workers’ compensation claim, give our experienced workers’ compensation settlement attorneys a call today at 724-225-9130 for a free consultation.