Atlanta Workplace Injury Attorney
Atlanta Workplace Injury Attorney: Should You Settle Your Workers’ Compensation Case?
If you have a workers’ compensation claim, you might be considering settling it and trying to work out how much money you should get. You should understand both what you gain—and what you give up—by settling. A workers’ compensation settlement provides a large sum of money upfront, but be sure you understand what you are giving up. Therefore, it is a good idea to consult with an experienced Atlanta workplace injury attorney who specializes in workers’ compensation law to find out if the settlement offer is fair.
Often, a workers’ comp attorney can negotiate a higher settlement with the insurance company than you could do on your own. In that case, you will still come out ahead after the attorney’s fee is taken out of your settlement, because workers’ comp lawyers generally charge a percentage of what you receive.
Here is some useful information that might help you decide whether to settle your workers’ compensation case.
No More Weekly Benefits
The first thing to know is that, if you settle your workers’ compensation case, you can never again receive any weekly benefits for that injury. Settling a workers’ compensation case closes that part of the case.
Medical Payments Might Continue
Some states require the insurer to continue paying medical benefits after settlement, but other states allow insurers to terminate medical benefits upon settlement of a workers’ compensation case.
You should check with your state’s workers’ compensation agency or a workers’ compensation attorney in your state to find out whether your state requires medical payment benefits to continue after a settlement.
Even in a state where medical benefits are supposed to continue after settlement, be aware that if you settle your workers’ compensation case, the insurer will likely be reluctant to continue paying for your medical benefits.
You might find that your medical bills don’t get paid quickly or even at all. If this happens, you will need to file a claim with your state’s workers’ compensation agency to force the insurer to pay your medical bills.
The Settlement Must Be Approved by the State Workers’ Compensation Agency
Just because you, your lawyer, and your insurer agree to settle the case does not mean that it will be settled. Most, if not all, states require that you and the insurer submit the proposed settlement to the state workers’ compensation agency for approval.
The agency will hold a hearing, and the workers’ compensation judge or hearings officer will review the proposed settlement with you. Only if the judge or hearing officer is satisfied that you voluntarily agreed to the settlement, that you understand the settlement terms, and that the settlement is in your best interests, will the settlement be approved.
It is not unusual for judges or hearings officers to reject the settlement if they believe that the injured employee didn’t get enough money from the settlement.
How To Determine The Amount of a Workers’ Compensation Settlement
Because workers’ compensation benefits have nothing to do with pain and suffering (unlike a personal injury claim), calculating the value of a workers’ compensation settlement is based primarily on two things:
- the amount of workers’ compensation benefits that you might be entitled to in the future, and
- the likelihood of actually receiving those benefits.
Estimate the Amount of Future Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Your future workers’ compensation benefits are based on the medical evidence in your case and how long your state’s workers’ compensation laws allow you to receive those benefits.
As an example, let’s say that you are on temporary total disability, that all of your doctors, as well as the insurer’s doctor, agree that you will be totally disabled for another two years and that you’ll then be fully recovered from your injury, with no permanent impairment.
In that case, you would be entitled to another two years of temporary total disability benefits, so it wouldn’t make sense to settle your case for a lump sum less than the value of two years of temporary total disability benefits unless you really need the money right now.
Even then, if you have an Atlanta workplace injury attorney, it might not make much sense to settle the case at all because your attorney’s fees will come out of the settlement.
Consider the Likelihood of Receiving Your Benefits
Let’s change the above example a little. Let’s say that the insurer’s doctor thinks that you can return to work now, and you have a hearing coming up next week in which your benefits might be terminated.
Now, your future entitlement to benefits could be anywhere from one week to two more years of weekly compensation.
Let’s also say that you and your lawyer agree that the insurer’s doctor’s opinion is stronger than your own doctor’s opinion. In that case, it is more likely than not that you will only get another week of benefits, and so you might want to settle your case before the hearing for an amount that reflects your likelihood of having your benefits terminated at the hearing.
What If You Are on Permanent Total Disability?
Estimating the value of a settlement is more complicated if you are on permanent total disability because your weekly benefits might continue for decades. Thus, an estimate of the settlement value must consider the present value of your future entitlement to benefits.
Present value is a financial concept that involves determining the value of a future stream of income (for example, future weekly workers’ compensation benefits) as if it were all in a bank account today.
In other words, how much money does the insurance company need in a bank account today to pay you weekly benefits for, say, the next twenty years? This is a complex financial calculation.
If you are on permanent total disability and do not have a lawyer, you should not consider settling your case without speaking with an Atlanta workplace injury attorney.
The actual wording of the settlement can be important to protect your right to other types of benefits in the future. This is where the fee for a workers’ comp attorney can really pay off.
For example, say you apply for and receive Social Security disability benefits. Those benefits could be lower because of your workers’ comp settlement—if it wasn’t worded in a certain way.
Also, before you sign any settlement agreement, make sure you know the answer to these two questions:
- Will your workers’ comp claim be completely closed following the settlement, or will it stay open (or can it be reopened) to pay for future medical costs?
- Does the settlement amount represent all new money, or does it include permanent disability advances that you’ve already received?
The details of a workers’ comp settlement can be tricky. Unless your permanent disability is rated 10% or less, you should strongly consider speaking to an experienced workers’ comp lawyer about your options for settlement and what a fair amount would be for someone with your medical impairments.
Judge’s Review of the Settlement
In most states, a workers’ comp judge will have to review your settlement before it becomes official. This will take place at an informal conference.
If you are not represented by a lawyer, the judge may attempt to make sure the settlement is fair to you. But without knowing your medical history, the judge is limited in helping you.
Atlanta Workplace Injury Attorney
If you need an experienced, professional, reputable, and dedicated Atlanta workplace injury attorney to represent you, contact Bobe & Snell Law Office LLC today. We will fight aggressively and tirelessly for you so that you settle your case in a way that ensures you get the workers’ comp benefits that you need and deserve.
Call us now at (470) 268-5802 or get in touch with us online to schedule a FREE, NO-OBLIGATION case review and consultation.
Atlanta Workplace Injury Attorney