If you have been injured at work and have filed a workers’ comp claim, you will most likely have to handle the process of negotiating with the insurance company that is handling your claim. They may offer you a lump sum of compensation, but before accepting, you should consider several factors. Find out what you need to know to determine if your settlement offer is fair.
What is the Purpose of Settling?
Settling a claim in a single, lump sum is what insurance companies prefer. It can make an unknown factor—how long your treatment will last and how much they will pay over the course of it—and turns it into a single quantity. If insurers have to keep paying you while you continue your recovery, they will end up paying you more in the long run than they would have if you accepted a single payment for all your damages. If your healing progress is nearly complete and you will be able to work again soon, it may make sense to settle and gain closure. If your case is under dispute, settlement may also be a wise plan, since you can guarantee that your claim will receive compensation, rather than risking your claim by pushing for more.
What is the Value of Your Claim?
In order to decide if the amount offered is a fair one, you will need to know the total value of your claim. If your claim’s value is close to the settlement offer, you may be inclined to accept the settlement. Your workers’ comp attorney can help you determine the total amount of your claim.
What is the Value of Your Extended Claim?
You claim may be eligible for an extension if your current benefits run out before you are completely healed and able to return to work. Your lawyer can help you determine if you are eligible for extended benefits, and if so, what the total value of those benefits may be.
What is the Possibility of Continuing Benefits?
You are only eligible for benefits while you are unable to work. If you will be healed and returning to work soon, it may be in your favor to accept the settlement. If you return to work without accepting the settlement, you may lose out on any remaining benefits. If you are unable to work still, you will be closely watched for signs of malingering. Insurance companies will want to ensure that you are truly disabled and incapable of returning to work. Accepting a settlement may mean that you are not receiving your full benefit amount, but you will put an end to the insurance company’s monitoring.
Are You at Risk of Becoming Permanently Disabled?
If your injuries are severe, you may be in a holding pattern while you wait to learn if you will ever be able to return to work. If you are eligible for permanent disability, the insurance company will try to settle your claim before permanent disability benefits are ordered. If there is a chance that you will not recover enough to return to work, accepting a settlement can deny you the lifetime benefits you deserve.
Do You Understand What Settling Means?
If you settle your claim for one lump sum, you will no longer receive weekly checks. Your claim will be closed permanently and you will have no recourse if your condition worsens or becomes permanent. If the insurance company is paying for your medical treatment, however, settling will not interrupt your medical treatment.
What is a Reasonable Settlement Amount?
It can take some work and time to come to an agreement regarding a settlement amount that both you and the insurance company are happy with. A reasonable settlement amount should be enough to support you and pay any necessary expenses for your recovery until you are able to return to work. It is also unreasonable to expect an amount far greater than the value of your claim. You attorney can help you weigh the insurance company’s exposure, your condition, and your prognosis to determine if the settlement offer is a reasonable one. Settlements may be up to 80% of the total value of your claim.
What is the Cost of Settling?
When you settle, you will need to pay your lawyer and any outstanding costs for pending or lost litigation. Your attorney can take 20% of your settlement as a fee. Your other costs may include litigation costs, filing fees, and independent medical analyses. You may lose thousands of dollars from your claim in fees and other expenses.
What Happens After You Agree to Settle Your Case?
Once you have agreed to settle your claim, you will need to go before a Disability Income Advocate (DIA). This may be the same judge you saw before, or it may be a conciliator or another judge. The DIA will work for you and will ensure that you understand and agree with the settlement. They will also go over what rights you are giving up by settling and what rights you are retaining. If the DIA is satisfied with your understanding and feels that the settlement is in your best interest, they will approve it. Once the settlement is approved, your weekly benefits checks will end, and the settlement amount must be paid within 14 days.
If you are considering settling a workers’ compensation claim, you should consult our Bakersfield workers’ comp attorneys. Our team is dedicated to protecting the rights of injured workers and ensuring that they receive fair settlements. Berry, Smith & Bartell, a Professional Law Corporation can help you determine your settlement value and can negotiate for your best interests. Contact our offices today by calling (800) 848-6288 to request a free consultation.