If you have been injured on the job, you may be weighing your options and wondering if you should settle your workers’ compensation claim. You may negotiate a settlement with your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company if you were injured at work. What is important to understand is that only a small portion of California workers’ compensation cases end up going to a hearing before a judge. A majority of workers’ compensation cases in California are resolved through settlement.
It is quite likely that you will have a number of opportunities to negotiate with your employer and their insurance company as your claim progresses. However, this process is neither simple nor straightforward. You need an experienced California workers’ compensation lawyer on your side who will not hesitate to speak up on your behalf, fight for your rights and help you secure maximum compensation for your losses.
To Settle Or Not to Settle
The first thing to realize is that whether you choose to accept a settlement or not is entirely up to you. Often, accepting a workers’ comp settlement depends on a number of different factors including the settlement amount, the severity of your injury and your financial situation. If the settlement offer is satisfactory and if you need the money right away, you may want to settle, even if it is a lower sum than you expected. It could save you the hassle and stress of attending and preparing for a workers’ comp hearing.
On the other hand, if the insurance company disputes the severity of the disability and you have strong medical evidence supporting your claim, it may be a good idea to go forth and go through with the hearing. It would also be in your best interest to wait until you have reached what is known as the maximum medical improvement before considering the settlement offer. This is essentially when an injured employee reaches a state where his or her condition cannot be improved any further. Once you reach this stage, you will know if you have a lasting impairment, which could result in a permanent disability award.
Types of Workers’ Comp Settlements
There are two ways to settle your workers’ compensation case:
Compromise and Release: In this type of settlement, you agree to settle your case in exchange for a lump sum payment. This also means that if you incur any medical expenses in the future that is related to your workers’ compensation case, it will not be covered by workers’ comp and you will not be able to reopen your case even if your condition worsens. But, on the other hand, you will receive a larger, lump sum payment upfront and you won’t have to go through a hearing.
If you are considering a compromise and release, it is best to make sure that your condition is stable and that you won’t need any more treatment or rehabilitation. If you anticipate incurring additional medical expenses, the cost of such treatments should be included in the lump sum payment. Remember, a compromise and release is final. If you sign the agreement, you cannot take it back, even if you need money later for medical expenses related to your work-related injuries.
Stipulated Findings and Award: The second type of workers’ comp settlement is known as a Stipulated Findings and Award. In this type of settlement, you and the insurance company come to an agreement regarding your disability rating and the amount of benefits you should receive. As opposed to a lump sum payment, you will get paid biweekly, unless you can show a financial need for a portion or all of your benefits to be paid up front. With this type of settlement, your future medical treatment will be covered but you still need to seek treatment from doctors who are approved by the workers’ comp insurance company. One more advantage with this type of settlement is that your case can be reopened, should your condition worsen within five years of your injury.
Pros and Cons of a Settlement
If you don’t wish to accept a settlement with your workers’ comp insurance company, you have the option to either accept what the insurance company is offering or take your weekly permanent disability payments. You could also proceed to a hearing or trial if you believe that could help you receive a higher lump sum payment or weekly payments. If you go to trial, you could end up getting less.
But, one of the advantages of a settlement is that it guarantees you the benefits without the risk of a trial. Yet another advantage of accepting a settlement is that it saves you the time it takes to wait for the hearing and the anxiety of going through a hearing. You can also receive money from the insurance company in exchange for giving up rights to future benefits you may not really use.
There are, of course, disadvantages when you give up your right to future medical treatment for your injury. If you know that you will need surgery or costly treatment in the future, you may not want to give up your rights by settling for a certain preset amount. If you do agree to the settlement and end up needing medical care in the future, you may have trouble getting your health insurance to cover it. Also, when you take a lump sum payment, there is the temptation to spend it right away as opposed to weekly payments where the money comes in installments.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
If you have suffered an injury on the job, you need an experienced Los Angeles workers’ compensation lawyer who will help you make the decisions that could have an impact on your financial future. The amount of compensation to which you are entitled often depends on a number of factors that are peculiar to your situation and your case including the severity of your injury and the impact it has had on your ability to work. Our attorneys are here to help you navigate what can be an extremely challenging and complex process. At the ODG Law Group, our priority is to secure the benefits and compensation you need and rightfully deserve. Call us for a free consultation and comprehensive case evaluation.