Settlement of a workers’ compensation case is a big decision. Once the settlement is signed and approved by the State Board of Workers’ Compensation, it is final. You cannot go back and change it later. Because settlement is such an important decision, you should make sure that you are ready when you consider settling your case.
Some attorneys have information on their websites telling you an amount you should be entitled to for a settlement. Some ask you to send an e-mail to them so they can evaluate your case and give you a “settlement value”.
It is going to be difficult to come to an accurate number about when you should settle your case or what you should settle it for based on the calculations on these websites. Every workers’ compensation case is different and unique. There are very few hard and fast rules that apply to every case.
However, there are some “rules” that do apply most of the time. Here are two things that are usually important to do before you settle your case:
Get the medical treatment you need
You need to get the medical treatment you need to know how you will recover from your injury. If a surgery is recommended that you believe you will need to have, you probably should have it before settling your case.
If you get your major medical treatment before settling your case, you will then know if that treatment is going to help you or not. This knowledge will help you better understand how your injury will affect you in the future. We will discuss that in more detail below.
Understand how you injury will affect you in the future
A workers’ compensation settlement ends the insurance company’s responsibility for paying you benefits. To make a good decision about settlement, it is important to know how your injury will affect you in the future. Here are some of the questions that you may have:
- Are you going to be able to go back to work? If so, will it be at a job that pays you as much as you made before?
- If you think you will be able to go back to work, how long is it going to take you to find a job?
- Are you going to need more medical treatment in the future(surgery, injections, medications, etc.)? If so, how much is that medical treatment likely to cost?
There is nothing that prevents you from settling your case the day after you injury. But, it would not be smart to do that. As I mentioned earlier, settlement cannot be changed. This makes it very important to know how your injury will affect you in the future before you settle your case.
Usually, you need to let a little time pass before considering settlement. Sometimes, the amount of time needed is months. Other times, it is years. It really depends on the specific facts of your case.
How should I approach settlement of my workers’ compensation case?
As I mentioned above, there are no hard and fast rules that always apply to settlement of your case. In fact, even the two rules mentioned above do not apply to settlement of every case.
Sometimes, I have recommended that a client settle a case before surgery for reasons very specific to that client’s case. Other times, I have recommended that a client consider settlement even though waiting another six months might provide a little more information about that client’s future. Again, it just depends on the particular facts of the case.
There is at least one rule about settlement that probably always applies: Make sure you know what you are doing because you do not want to settle your case for less than you should.
You only get one shot at this. Chances are you knew very little about workers’ compensation before your injury. Also, you are going to live with the effects of your injury for the rest of your life. Because of those things, I think it always makes sense to talk to someone who specializes in workers’ compensation. Their knowledge could be invaluable to you.