When it comes to a workers’ compensation case, many decisions need to be made by the injured client. The most important of these is often the decision of settling the workers’ compensation case now or letting the matter go to trial.
It is not an easy decision to make, and several factors play into making this determination. We have asked attorney, Alaina Sullivan, and here is what she had to say:
Money Now or Later?
One of the biggest considerations is whether the injured client needs the money immediately or can wait until a later date, such as after trial. If the client wishes to receive the money sooner, rather than later, a settlement is the way to go sometimes.
Keep in mind that this settlement will come in more of a lump sum payment than weekly benefits, but it can give the client that immediate cash now if that is the case.
Weekly Benefits Do Not Continue
One factor to keep in mind is that if someone settles a workers’ compensation case, that person can no longer receive weekly benefits for that injury. For all intents and purposes, the workers’ compensation case closes upon settlement.
That means the individual will need to weigh the benefits of settling and receiving the money immediately or in letting the weekly benefits continue.
Will Medical Payments Continue?
While the weekly benefits will not continue, this does not mean that medical payments will stop. Some states require the insurer to keep paying medical benefits even after settlement, while others allow insurers to end medical benefits.
Each state is different, and it is important that the client consult with his or her attorney or research the given state’s law to figure out whether medical payments will continue.
Even if the state allows for medical benefits to continue after settlement, the insurer may still not want to continue paying for medical benefits after it pays out the settlement. If that happens, the individual will need to file a claim with the state’s workers’ compensation agency to ensure that the medical bills are paid.
Even if the settlement has been approved by all parties, the state’s workers’ compensation agency will still need to approve the proposed settlement. The state agency will hold a hearing to review the proposed settlement with the client, and this review will be with the workers’ compensation judge or hearing officer.
They will ask if the parties agreed voluntarily to the terms of the settlement, that they understand them, and that they ask that the settlement be approved.
If the judge or hearing officer does not believe that the injured person got the correct amount of money that is right in this situation from the settlement, he or she can reject the settlement completely. At that point, the parties can then go back to the drawing board with the settlement or proceed to litigation.
Is the Individual on Permanent Total Disability?
One factor that also can delay settlement involves whether the individual is on permanent total disability. If someone is on permanent total disability, the weekly benefits they receive may continue for decades.
The reason for this is it can be hard to estimate what the present value of the client’s future entitlement to benefits will be. What the “present value” involves is the value of what the future income will be, meaning the person’s future weekly workers’ compensation benefits.
It can involve a complex financial calculation and expert opinion as it can be hard to predict what type of weekly benefits an injured person may need for the next ten or twenty years.
A workers’ compensation attorney can sit down with a client, go over the facts of the case and help prepare this calculation, but be prepared for a dispute to arise as the insurance company will likely also have a calculation, at a much lower figure.
When it comes to these calculations, a dispute over what a proper estimate for future entitlement to benefits will be can keep the case held up for months if not years.
Contact an Attorney Today
If you are in the process of pursuing workers’ compensation and have questions about whether you should settle or go to trial, an 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.