When your employer offers to settle your workers’ compensation case, you may feel tempted to take the money. Immediate access to a large sum of cash is an attractive proposition, especially when you are injured and unable to work. As tempting as the offer may sound, seek expert advice to make the best decision possible for you and your family. Although most cases should settle at some point, settling right away may not be the best strategy for your specific situation.
Weighing a Workers’ Compensation Settlement
The ideal settlement covers income you lost by missing work, income you may miss in the future, and the past, present, and future costs of your injuries and medical bills. Lost income in workers’ compensation is a percentage of your wages and generally not taxable. When considering whether or not a settlement amount is in your favor, your lawyer considers a long list of factors, including:
- The nature of your injury - What part of your body was injured? Did you have past lost wages? Will the injury interfere with your ability to earn income in the future?
- The extent of your injuries - How severe are your injuries? How long will you be away from work?
- Whether you required surgery - How much did the surgery cost? What has been the cost of your past medical treatment, including out-of-pocket expenses, co-pays, medical bills, and medication?
- The cost of your injury moving forward - Will you require additional medication, therapy, or other medical treatment in the future as a result of your injury?
- Lost wages - How many days of work have you missed because of your injury? Will you miss more work in the future?
- Your age - How many more years do you plan to work before retiring?
- Other insurance and other sources of income.
You and your lawyer should consider the total projected cost of the surgeries, physical therapy, medication, and past and future anticipated days missed from work along with your family situation, other insurance, and sources of income when discussing settlement numbers.
Imagine you slipped on a wet floor at work and injured your spine. In addition to missing work to recover, you require surgery, physical therapy, and pain medication. If that surgery is successful, your doctor believes you could go back to work without any restrictions.
In this case, the ideal settlement covers the cost of surgery, physical therapy, pain medication, and time away from work. However, you may also want to consider what happens if your surgery is unsuccessful. A botched surgery may mean going under the knife again at an additional cost. If your settlement lacks funds for future medical expenses and future wage loss, you may miss out on assistance to pay for additional medical bills and wage loss related to your injury. However, if you have other insurance, that could be a factor that plays into your consideration.
Insurance Companies and Workers’ Compensation Settlements
If you decide not to settle right away, know that the insurance companies will continue to fight. Insurance companies have entire teams of lawyers dedicated to preventing benefit payouts and large settlements for injured workers. The longer it takes to settle, the longer the insurance companies try new tactics to reduce or cut off benefits. These strategies include:
- Using the professional opinion of an Independent Medical Examiner (IME) to push you back into the workforce even when your treating physician says you are not ready yet.
- Sending monthly workers’ compensation act reporting forms (LIBC 750, 756, 760). If an injured individual fails to complete and return one of these forms, the insurance companies may slash or cancel benefits.
- Assess you an earning capacity or an impairment rating evaluation, or they may develop new ways to limit their liability.
An experienced workers’ compensation attorney shields you from the insurance company’s tactics until they propose a favorable settlement.
Find a Pittsburgh Workers’ Compensation Attorney
At Dugan & Associates, we fight for the check you deserve. We push back against the insurance companies to protect you from slashed workers’ compensation benefits. To learn more, contact us.