If you file a workers’ compensation claim, the insurance company may send you an offer letter explaining the benefits it believes you are due. Thankfully, you can reject the offer if you believe it is unfair and a workers’ compensation lawyer can negotiate for more compensation on your behalf.
Types of Workers’ Compensation Settlements
Workplace injuries happen far too often. According to the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR), employers in California reported more than 466,000 non-fatal workplace injuries in 2017 alone.
In California, workers’ compensation cases can be settled in two ways. The insurance company may offer you a compromise and release settlement or a stipulated findings and award settlement.
A compromise and release settlement will permanently close your workers’ compensation claim in exchange for a lump-sum payment. The settlement will include funds that are intended to cover the cost of medical treatment you may need in the future. But if you need more care later and do not have enough money left from the settlement to cover the bills, you will not be able to seek additional funds from the insurance company.
If you agree to a stipulated findings and award settlement, you will have more flexibility. Instead of receiving a large sum of money all at once, you will get regular payments to compensate you for your permanent disability. If you need additional medical care after you accept a settlement, the workers’ compensation insurance company will continue to pay the bills. If your medical condition deteriorates after you reach a settlement, you will have five years to reopen the case and seek additional compensation.
Why You Should Not Automatically Accept an Offer
A workers’ compensation offer is just that. You do not have to accept it, and it may be in your best interest to speak with a lawyer before you respond to any sort of offer. Even if you think the amount of money the insurance company is offering seems generous, your feelings may change after you discuss it with a workers’ compensation lawyer. Many people who are hurt on the job underestimate the seriousness of their injuries, the long-term costs for medical care, and how their injuries will affect their ability to earn a living.
You may receive the best care available and still suffer from limited mobility and chronic pain that requires ongoing care for years. You may have to take medications to help you deal with complications from the accident, need an aide to come to your home several times a week to help with household chores, or even require 24-hour care in a nursing home. If you do not need these types of care now, they may become necessary in the future if your health worsens.
The injuries you suffered may also keep you from returning to work full-time or you may not be able to handle the duties of your old position at all. Perhaps the company can find another job for you to do, or you may have to look for a position with a different company. If the type of work you did before the accident was physically demanding, you may have to seek employment in a completely unrelated field—and if you are required to go back to school, it could cost thousands of dollars.
You May Be Entitled to More Compensation than the Insurance Company Offered
If you or your lawyer believe the amount offered is not enough to fairly compensate you for your losses now and in the future, you may decide to attempt to negotiate a larger settlement.
In most cases, the two sides can reach an agreement without going to court. If you agree to a settlement offer, a judge will have to approve it before it will go into effect. A judge may hold an informal hearing to make sure that you understand the terms of the proposed settlement and that the arrangement is fair to you. If those criteria are met, the judge can approve the settlement.
Your lawyer may not be able to reach an agreement with the insurance company if they do not believe that your injuries are as serious as you say they are. In that case, you may choose to go to court. In a workers’ compensation hearing, your lawyer can present your medical records, testimony from your doctors and independent medical experts, and other forms of evidence. The insurance company will also be able to call witnesses and present evidence, then the judge will make a decision.
Get Advice from a Los Angeles Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
A settlement offer from an insurance company may not be as generous as it appears. A lawyer who has experience handling workers’ compensation cases can review the offer in relation to your injuries and how they will affect your health and ability to work in the future. This analysis may indicate that a larger amount of compensation would be appropriate.
Pintas & Mullins Law Firm has represented thousands of workers’ compensation clients across the United States. We can review your settlement offer, explain your legal rights, and advise you on how to proceed. Contact us today at (800) 529-9122 for a free consultation.