Serious workers compensation back injuries often require substantial medical treatment. You may need physical therapy, medication management, and injections. You could also require back surgery.
As a result of the pain and limitations from a back injury, many people have difficulty going back to work. This difficulty is increased if you work in a job that is physically demanding.
Settlement provides a way that you can resolve your workers compensation back injury case. This article will talk about what a settlement is and some of the things you should consider if you are thinking about settling your case.
A settlement is an agree to accept an agreed upon amount of money in exchange for signing away your potential rights to future benefits in your case. The amount of the settlement is something that is negotiated with the workers compensation insurance company.
The most important thing to understand about settlement is that no one can force you to settle. If you do not ever want to settle your case, then you do not have to settle.
Many times, settlement provides a good option for you to receive a lump sum amount of money in exchange for closing your case. At some point in your case, you will probably want to consider the option of settlement.
When is the “right time” to consider settlement of my case?
There is no certain “right time” to settle your case. But, it is usually important to make sure you have a good understanding of your injury and the treatment you need before considering settlement.
If you settle your case too soon, you risk not fully understanding your injury. Because of this, you could agree to settle your case for too little. Because a workers compensation settlement is almost always final once the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation approves it, settling your case for too little could be a very bad mistake.
I usually suggest that my clients wait until maximum medical improvement (MMI) before they consider settlement. MMI provides a good opportunity to have a better understanding of your injury and how it will affect you in the future.
While it is often best to wait until you reach MMI, there are certainly situations where you would should consider settlement of your case before reaching MMI. It will all depend on the particular facts of your case.
What should I consider when settling my back injury case?
Settlement of your case means giving up your potential right to future benefits for your injury. So, I think it is best to consider what benefits you are giving up.
Under Georgia workers compensation law, there are three basic types of benefits you can receive:
- Medical benefits
- Wage loss benefits (temporary total disability and temporary partial disability)
- Permanent partial disability benefits
Each one of these benefits will likely have some value to you in the future if you do not settle your case. For example, the workers compensation insurance company might have to pay for more doctor’s appointments and physical therapy for your back injury if your case stayed open. They might also have to pay temporary total disability benefits if your back injury keeps you out of work.
How much should I settle my case for?
The answer to this question will definitely depend on the particular facts of your case. When I value a workers compensation case, I look at what benefits the insurance company will have to pay you in the future if you do not settle. Based on this, I determine what settlement amount I would recommend.
You want to make sure to consider all factors in settlement, but it is easy to leave something out. I developed a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that we use when evaluating cases for settlement that helps us make sure we consider all factors in the cases of our client.
Do I have to settle my back injury case?
No. You never have to settle your workers compensation case.
You may decide that it is best to just leave your back injury case open and not settle. If you choose to do that, the insurance company cannot force you to settle.
What happens if I do not settle my case?
If you do not settle your case, your case stays open. You may receive benefits from the workers compensation insurance company in the future. Or, you may not receive any more benefits.
Whether you receive additional benefits will depend on what happens in your case. Your case staying open means you are eligible for future benefits if you are entitled to them. But, it is not a guarantee that you will receive additional benefits.
If you leave your case open, you need to be aware that there are a number of limits and deadlines that can affect your case. I discuss a number of those deadlines and limits in this article.