No hard and fast rule works for determining how long it will take for an injured employee to settle his or her workers’ compensation claim. Rather, many factors go into why some cases may take longer than others to settle.
Below are a few of these factors to help explain a bit about the process in determining how long it takes to settle a workers’ compensation claim. We have asked attorney, Alaina Sullivan, and here is what she had to say:
Receiving Immediate Benefits
The injured employee may need to receive benefits immediately after the injury, and in that situation, the employee should be able to begin receiving payment from either the employer, the insurance company or the state when it comes to medical expenses.
This payment should be available even if the employee has not filed officially for workers’ compensation. However, the payments are limited to medical expenses and do not include missed wages. A workers’ compensation claim will need to be filed for additional benefits.
Determining the Claim
When it comes to workers’ compensation claims, courts cannot accurately determine the outcome of the claim until the injured employee has reached what is known as maximum medical improvement (MMI).
MMI is when the claimants injures have been stabilized to the point where the person is not expected to make any further medical improvement in them. MMI can mean a number of things, including temporary total disability, temporary partial disability, permanent total disability or permanent partial disability.
Getting to the point of MMI can take up to a year or more, and even after that point, it can still take approximately a year for the court to fully settle the case.
If the injured employee wishes to pursue the claim in the court system, he or she is bound by the laws and rules of procedure for his or her given state. The other side has a certain length of time, normally 30 days, to respond to the complaint and will normally have around 21 days to dispute it if the company wishes to file an answer.
How quickly the case gets to the court depends on the court’s calendar but also discovery, obtaining all of the needed evidence to prove the disability and lost wages and more.
If the injured employee has an attorney, that certainly helps push things along, but even having an attorney does not guarantee that the case will get before a judge quickly. The injured person could be waiting at least a year before even seeing a judge, let alone getting a judgement.
Keep in mind that the above proceedings discuss pursuing a workers’ compensation claim via the legal system. Many times, the injured employee could choose to pursue the matter through a settlement outside of the court room.
This settlement can be a structured settlement or a lump one. An actual settlement can resolve itself quicker than the court system, depending on the circumstances of the case. It is important that the claimant understand that if he or she chooses to take a lump payment, he or she will no longer be receiving weekly payments in the future.
How quickly the settlement takes depends on what the injured employee is requesting. If he or she has met with an attorney and has prepared a reasonable settlement proposal, it is possible that the matter can be resolved fairly quickly.
If the client has done his or her homework and has already gotten the needed paperwork, including medical records reporting the diagnosis, the process can go quickly, as well.
If, however, the injured employee has not made the request for medical records to prove his or her disability or inability to work, it could take at least 30 days if not more to get the information the employer or insurance company.
If the demands being requested of by the employee are not reasonable either, it is unlikely that the other side will be willing to work with the injured employee in coming together for a settlement.
Many other factors can affect how quickly the claim process goes, including how serious the injury is, if the disability is temporary or permanent and how much the employee is requesting. This can affect not only the litigation process but also the settlement process.
Contact an Attorney Today
If you are in the process of pursuing workers’ compensation and have questions about the process and how long it will take, 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.