If you are considering settling your workers’ compensation claim, you obviously need to try to maximize the amount of the settlement that you will be receiving. Following your settlement, you may be limited to a fixed income from other sources, forced to work at a lower-paying job to make ends meet, in need of funds to retrain for another line of work, or simply need money to cover ongoing medical expenses.
Here are five things that you should consider in terms of maximizing your workers’ compensation settlement:
1. What is your average weekly wage and compensation rate?
Your average weekly wage at the time of your injury, and your compensation rate that is based upon your average weekly wage, are very important in determining the amount of settlement that you may be able to obtain for your work injury. What is referred to as wage loss or indemnity benefits, in other words, the compensation check that you receive for being out of work, is based upon your average weekly wage. Put simply, the more you were earning before your injury, the more value your case has at the time of settlement.
Workers’ compensation payments in Pennsylvania are primarily based upon lost wages. What the insurance company is likely to be willing to pay to settle your case largely depends upon what it will otherwise cost them if they don’t settle, so the more they are responsible for in weekly payments, the more they are likely to pay in a settlement.
2. Will you require permanent versus temporary restrictions on your ability to work due to your injury?
An injury that only requires temporary restrictions on your ability to work is often not likely going to lead to any settlement, although there can be some exceptions to this general rule. Only if you have permanent restrictions as to your ability to perform your preinjury job is there likely to be any significant settlement of your workers’ compensation claim.
If the restrictions are only temporary, it may be better for your employer, you, or both parties to simply wait until you have recovered the ability to do your job again and return to work. On the other hand, if you are never going to be able to return to your regular job again, that typically will lead to a situation where a potential settlement should at least be considered.
3. What are your future treatment expenses going to be for your work injury?
The second primary factor in terms of maximizing your workers’ compensation settlement will be the reasonably anticipated future medical treatment expenses that will be needed for your work injury. Again, the responsibility of paying these medical expenses is a significant factor for the insurance company in determining whether they are willing to settle your case and for what amount.
If you are settling your workers’ compensation claim and giving a full and final release on that claim, you will be personally responsible for future medical bills related to your work injury from that point forward. It is therefore very important to know what your future treatment expenses are likely going to be.
It is also important to determine whether you can legitimately use other types of insurance to cover future medical treatment for your injury in such situations.
4. Does your employer typically provide light duty work for a work injury?
Most employers are unable or unwilling to provide light duty work, at least on a permanent basis, for a work injury. However, if your employer is willing to offer you light-duty work, this will substantially reduce or eliminate the amount of any wage loss workers’ compensation benefits you might be entitled to receive, and obtaining a settlement of any significance is generally going to be difficult in such a situation. Where light duty work is not available, however, a settlement always remains a potential option.
5. Have you retained the services of an experienced and knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney?
Often it is tempting to try to go it alone and settle your workers’ compensation claim without retaining an attorney who is experienced and knowledgeable in handling workers’ compensation claims. You may think, and at times your claims representative or others may tell you, that you can get more money that way because you’re not paying an attorney fee.
The reality is that most people who settle their case without having a knowledgeable and experienced attorney end up with less money in their pocket, even after considering attorney fees that might be paid, than those who have proper representation. Numerous studies have shown this, and insurance companies know this, which is why they often try to discourage you from retaining counsel.
When you have an experienced attorney representing you, all the various factors mentioned above – as well as many other relevant factors such as your age, where you live, the type of work you performed, whether alternative benefits are available to you, and other factors that are unique to each situation – should be considered in determining a proper settlement amount for your claim. Furthermore, it is often very easy to unknowingly make mistakes in the handling of your own workers’ compensation claim if you are not represented which can significantly impact the ability to then get the maximum workers’ compensation settlement out of your case.
At YCL law, we have been representing injured workers since 1961, and all of our workers’ compensation attorneys have decades of experience handling and settling workers’ compensation claims. Not only can we assist you in attempting to maximize your workers’ compensation settlement when the time comes, prior to that we can help make sure your case is best positioned to get the maximum workers’ compensation settlement for your claim, by recommending the best course of action each step of the way as your claim is developing. If you have permanent restrictions from the work injury and want to maximize your workers’ compensation settlement call us at 1-800–964–COMP for a free initial consultation.