It is difficult to predict how long it will take to negotiate a workers’ compensation settlement since numerous factors—including the severity of your injury, its expected long-term effects, and the insurance company’s willingness to negotiate—might affect the timeline. However, it often takes at least a year to settle your claim.
Forms of Compensation Available Immediately
The insurance company should begin to pay for your medical care as soon as you notify your employer of your injury and file a workers’ compensation claim. According to the California Department of Human Resources (CHR), an employer must pay up to $10,000 for treatment, even if the insurance company eventually denies your claim.
If a physician states that you will be temporarily unable to work because of your injury or illness, you might qualify for temporary disability payments. You will have a short waiting period before you become eligible for benefits.
Reasons Not to Accept a Settlement Offer Right Away
The insurance company may offer you a settlement soon after you file a claim, but you should not automatically accept it. The amount offered may not adequately cover your injuries. Insurance companies generally make low initial offers because they want to pay out as little as possible. Many people who have suffered workplace injuries do not know what amount of compensation is fair.
Wait Until You Understand the Long-Term Implications of Your Injury
In the days and weeks after an injury, you won’t know how it might affect you down the road. You could make a full recovery, or you might continue to experience chronic pain, limited range of motion, and difficulty lifting even moderately heavy objects. You may have no idea what forms of medical care you will need in the years ahead.
You might return to work part-time or on light duty, or your injuries could make it impossible for you to return to your old job. Your company may offer you another position that pays less than your old one, or you might have to find a new job. This development could lead to a substantial loss of income.
You should not accept a settlement until you have achieved maximum medical improvement (MMI), meaning that your condition is unlikely to improve significantly beyond that point. Once you have reached MMI, doctors could determine what types of care you will likely need in the future and how your injuries will affect your ability to earn a living.
An attorney can review your claim at this point and estimate how long it will take to negotiate a workers’ compensation settlement. They also will use this information to determine what amount of compensation would be fair.
The insurance company may offer a settlement in the form of a compromise and release (C&R). You would receive a lump sum that will include permanent disability benefits and money for projected future medical costs. Accepting a C&R settlement will permanently close your case; you will be unable to request additional funds later, even if your condition deteriorates.
If the insurance company offers a stipulated finding and award (stips) settlement, you will receive regular payments for your permanent disability. Payments for medical treatment would still process through the workers’ compensation system. You will have five years to reopen the case if your condition worsens.
How an Attorney Can Help
A workers’ compensation lawyer can send the insurance company a demand letter requesting a settlement in an amount that the attorney considers appropriate. The insurance company might make a counteroffer. The two sides might reach an agreement quickly, or negotiations could drag if the insurance company does not believe that your injuries are as severe as you, your doctors, and your attorney claim.
Once your lawyer and the insurance company have reached an agreement, the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) explains how you would file your paperwork with a workers’ compensation administrative law judge. The judge will hold a hearing pursuant to California Labor Code (LAB) §5502 to make sure you understand the terms before approving the settlement.
Contact a Los Angeles Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
It typically takes at least a year to negotiate a settlement in a workers’ compensation case. Sometimes, insurance companies stall the process. They know that people who have suffered injuries and cannot return to work may struggle financially. These financial woes make them more likely to settle as quickly as possible. Insurers may stretch out the negotiations to encourage an injured person to accept an offer—even an unreasonable one—just to close the case.
Pintas & Mullins Law Firm has represented clients across the United States who suffered workplace injuries and helped them seek justice. We understand your eagerness to reach a settlement and receive compensation as quickly as possible, but accepting an offer right away might backfire on you. We can work to obtain a settlement that fairly compensates you for your losses, even if it requires several rounds of negotiations. Call our office today at (800) 529-9122 to discuss your case with a team member.