Many people ask me good questions about workers compensation settlements. Some of the common questions people ask me include the following:
- How long does it take a workers compensation case to settle?
- Does the time it takes to reach a settlement affect the amount of the settlement?
- If I wait too long to settle my case, will I miss a deadline?
To understand settlements better, you first need to understand one very important thing: you never have to settle your case. But, you also have to understand that the insurance company does not necessarily have to settle your case either.
Even though neither you nor the insurance company have to settle, a lot of workers compensation cases do settle. But, there is no certain time for a workers compensation settlement to occur.
Although there is no specific time for settlement, there are some times that it may be better to consider settling your case. In this article, I will discuss the timing of settlements and deadlines that you may want to consider in deciding if and when you should settle your case.
How long does it typically take a case to settle?
Unfortunately, the answer is, “It depends”. Some cases settle in a few months. Some take years to settle.
You can settle your case whenever you want. You just have to agree with the insurance company on an amount an the language of the settlement. So, you could potentially settle your case a week after you injury.
But, you probably do not want to settle your case that early. If you settle too early, you will probably lose in the long run.
Many people settle too early when they do not get all the medical treatment they want or need. They may settle before the doctor accurately diagnoses their injury. Because it is too early, they do not really know for how much they should accept to settle their case.
Can I wait too long to settle my case?
I can think of a few different reasons why you do not want to wait too long to settle. First, Georgia’s workers compensation law is full of tricky deadlines.
Sometimes, these deadlines will end your entire workers compensation case. In that situation, the insurance company will likely offer you nothing or very little to settle because your case is probably already over.
Other times, these deadlines will take away your right to receive certain types of benefits. For example, you might lose your eligibility for temporary total disability benefits because you had too long of a gap in receiving those benefits. This can happy with a tricky deadline in Georgia’s workers compensation law called the change in condition statute of limitations.
You might lose eligibility for medical treatment because of the change in the law limiting medical benefits to 400 weeks in some cases. The settlement value of your case will probably decline any time you lose eligibility for benefits.
Why else might I not want to wait as long to settle?
Many serious injuries prevent people from returning to physical jobs. If you are in that situation, your injury may prevent you from returning to work with your employer.
Hopefully, you will be able to return to some sort of different job in the future. Many people find it difficult to return to work after being out of work for a long time.
Your potential future employers may wonder about a long gap in your work history. A long time between your injury and your settlement could create a gap in work history, especially if your employer terminates your employment. Because of this, you might find it better to settle sooner rather than later.
What is the right time to settle my workers compensation case?
I wish there was an easy, correct answer to this question. Unfortunately, there is not. But, you should consider a number of important factors in deciding when to settle.
Maximum medical improvement is one of the most important factors. Doctors use this term to describe when your injury is basically as good as it is going to get.
When you reach maximum medical improvement, you often have a good idea of how your injury will affect you in the future. You can fairly accurately determine what future medical treatment you will need.
Also, you may have a good idea of whether you can return to work or not and what type of work you will be able to do. This makes maximum medical improvement a good time to consider settlement.
But, you should remember that a doctor saying that you are at maximum medical improvement does not necessarily mean that you are. Doctors do not always get things right. A good time to consider settlement is when you feel you are at maximum medical improvement and do not need or want more medical treatment.