As we all know, workers’ compensation policies are there to protect employees in case of work-related injuries or illness and their employers from lawsuits. Should something happen to you at work, the most likely course of action is to file a workers’ compensation claim and wait for the company to reimburse your medical bills, lost wages, and more. However, filing a claim is no guarantee for success. In some cases, claims end up in the rejection pile. Sometimes, the employer disputes the claim. The last thing you needed right now is to experience the ordeal of an accident/injury while waiting for a fair amount to cover your expenses. For this reason, a workers’ compensation settlement might be the best thing ever. However, you should know its pros and cons before you decide when to settle and when to fight.
Filing for a Workers’ Compensation Claim: The Risks
In the past months, things have become downright confusing for employees and their protection, given the pandemic. Many states are drafting and passing virus legislation to offer businesses more substantial liability shielding in case their employees or clients get the new coronavirus. Now, employees have to sign waivers promising not to sue the company if they get the infection while at work. On the other hand, other states issue executive orders for the workers’ compensation policies to help essential employees in case they get the COVID-19 while at work.
It is a mad, mad world out there, and it seems it will get even crazier in the months to come.
Traditionally, workers’ compensation claims protect employees’ interests in case of accidents in the workplace, damages caused by the dangerous materials they worked with, slip and fall injuries, and more. The detractors of the system argue that such policies, while beneficial to some extent, present plenty of limitations and downsides.
One of the key risks related to a workers’ comp claim is the state’s timeframes, deadlines, and rules of filing. You can get a claim rejection simply because you passed the time limit of the application. Moreover, failing to deliver all the documentation necessary to support your claim can also lead to rejection. Overall, filing a workers’ comp claim is an exhausting and lengthy process. Sometimes, after all that pain and suffering, all you want is to take the money they offer you and move on with your life.
It is where the workers’ comp settlement comes in. Workers’ comp cases and claims vary tremendously, depending on your state rules, types of injuries, the validity of your request, and more. There will always be a time to settle and a time to fight. If you consider workers’ compensation settlements, you should know that the first thing you need is an experienced lawyer that can negotiate in your best interest. Do not take the path of payment alone because eventually, you will face a great dilemma: is a settlement the right thing for you? Is it fair to you?
Workers’ Compensation Settlements: The Pros and Cons
Workers’ compensation settlements, when accompanied by a lawyer who knows the state’s lawn inside out, can prove very beneficial. Nevertheless, they do not come without disadvantages. Let’s break them down for you!
PRO: The settlement puts an end to your waiting and the litigation process. Once you agree to a fair amount (paid in lump or on a schedule), you can start collecting right away. You will receive the benefits and reimbursements without going to trial. In case of a dispute, by the time the entire process ends (and it can be years), you might have spent all your savings;
CON: You might forfeit some of your rights. Even if a settlement ends your case and gives you fast access to financial resources, you might still have to give up some rights. For instance, when you sign the settlement, you might also have to agree not to pursue any further legal action. It can be tricky because some illnesses contracted at work might develop into fatal conditions twenty years from now. In a couple of decades, you might want to sue for pain and suffering or punitive damages. Still, the settlement of this year might prevent the future you to gain compensation for your excruciating suffering. Also, most insurance companies will try to prevent you from requesting workers’ compensation benefits again in the future for the same injury.
PRO: When you collect, you can revisit the terms of the settlement. You will need an excellent workers’ compensation lawyer to pull this off, but it is possible. While collecting, your lawyer can start a renegotiation process of the settlement to obtain a higher amount for you or turn a lump sum into monthly payments (or vice versa).
CON: The settlement negotiation rounds can take a toll on your or your family. When you are at the settlement table, insurance companies will make the lower offer possible, hoping you will accept it, start collecting, and move on with your life. However, if you have a good lawyer on your side, your initial settlement will go through multiple rounds of negotiation. It takes time, effort, and money until you reach the compromise that works the best for you.
PRO: You can obtain a lump sum. If you go to court with your case, you will learn that judges are reluctant to offer lump sums. Instead, they establish regular installments for a couple of months or years. In a settlement, your lawyer can obtain you a lump amount that can cover quickly major medical or recovery bills that have accrued while you were waiting for your resolution.
One of the issues you need to clarify before you sign the settlement is whether it ensures you a secure future. Even if your lawyer negotiates a hefty lump sum for you, will it cover the future prescription refills, recovery treatments, and potential surgeries? Can you stretch that sum for a lifetime? On the other hand, are you sure you will leave the courtroom with an amount large enough to provide for your needs? No matter what you saw on T.V., real life does not work like legal dramas. You may leave the courtroom without that million dollars you dream of or, worse, empty-handed. Before you decide whether to settle or fight, talk to a workers’ comp lawyer to review your case and give you an honest opinion about your real chances.