It can be a tough decision when it comes to determining whether it is best to go to court on a workers’ compensation case or settle out-of-court. For many individuals, coming to an out-of-court settlement is the best options, but situations do exist where it is best to just let the case go to trial.
We have asked attorney, Alaina Sullivan, and here is what she had to say:
Advantages of Going to Court
Several advantages exist for taking a case to court rather than accepting a workers’ compensation settlement out-of-court, including the following:
- Structured Payments: For one, a settlement normally involves one lump-sum payment paid to the injured employee, but a court order will involve a structured, weekly payment. Many clients receive that first lump sum payment and will blow through the money, not saving it for needed expenses that will occur later on down the road. A court order will provide a more structured process and will disburse those payments in a more reliable manner.
- Future Medical Expenses: Another advantage is the individual leaves himself or herself open for payment for future medical expenses. By taking a settlement, the person waives right to receive payment for future surgery or other medical expenses. Depending on the type of injury the person incurred, it can be a better idea to keep that option open.
- The Judge’s Discretion: One of the advantages of going to trial is the person can often end up getting more than he or she would have received had the settlement offer been taken. Many times, the award from court can be much more than that settlement offer, although the reverse can be the same, as well.
- The Possibility of an Appeal: While, yes, the possibility exists that the administrative judge can deny the client’s claim, he or she has the potential for an appeal, if not more than one. That first denial should not be a sign that the claim will not be successful down the line.
Disadvantages of Going to Court
While advantages do exist to taking the matter to the judge, settling also has its advantages, including the following:
- Settlement is Quicker: While the time to take to settle a case could potentially be quicker, one thing that should be kept in mind is the insurance company could be pushing the client to take the settlement, knowing that the amount being offered is a low-ball offer. The process is longer for going to court, but if it means the client walks away with the compensation he or she deserves, that waiting period will be worth it in the end.
- The Possibility of Getting More: It is possible the judge will not award the client what is being offered by the insurance company. It is possible the insurance company is offering an amount, and the judge will not offer anything at all. However, that gamble is one that has to be taken if the client decides to go to court with the matter.
- Settlement Approval: One matter that clients are not always aware of is even if the parties are able to come to a settlement agreement, that agreement still needs to be approved by the workers’ compensation judge. It is possible the judge will look at the offer and argue that it is not fair, and the parties will end up in a hearing anyway.
- Lump-Sum Payments: Many individuals want to go the route of settlement because these cases result in lump-sum payments instead of structured weekly payments. While the lump-sum can seem appealing, if the person has a hard time budgeting money, that amount can quickly be depleted, leaving the injured employee left to cover all future medical expenses without any financial assistance.
The Issue of Legal Fees
Many clients will be hesitant to go to court for fear of having to hire an attorney and incur high legal fees. However, the beauty of workers’ compensation cases is that attorney’s fees can be part of the issued award.
How it works is the attorney will receive payment directly out of that first workers’ compensation payment, which is normally larger since it will be retroactive to the date the injury occurred.
The attorney will receive payment from the insurance provider and not the client. The reason for this payment method is it gets rid of that concern with incurring legal fees and allows clients to pursue workers’ compensation claims freely.
Contact an Attorney Today
If you are in the process of pursuing workers’ compensation and have questions whether it is better to settle your case or go to trial, a workers’ compensation attorney can help review your case and discuss your options.
An attorney can listen to the facts of the case and can best advise you on how to proceed. Contact an attorney experienced in workers’ compensation law to schedule a consultation today.