If you’ve never had to use workers’ compensation insurance before, the concept seems rather simple. You get hurt at work. You report your injury. You get some help covering lost wages and medical expenses. How hard could it be?
Of course, like many things in life, it’s not as simple as it seems on the surface. For most people, once the process of filing a workers’ compensation claim begins, they quickly realize that there are a great number of things they never considered and they are amazed by the number of questions they suddenly have floating through their heads.
Many worker’s compensation questions are about settlements. The word “settlement” tends to get thrown around a lot when talking about workers’ comp but most people don’t really know what a settlement is or how it works. In fact, one of the first questions we tend to hear from new clients is, “Do you always get a workman’s comp settlement?”
The quick and easy answer to the question is, quite simply, no. That doesn’t tell you very much though. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons you may or may not get a settlement when you file a workman’s compensation claim—or if you should ask for a settlement at all.
Why You May Be Offered A Workers’ Comp Settlement
Your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company will offer a settlement for your case if they believe that it will save them money in the long run. Their goal, after all, is to try to save as much money as possible while still meeting their obligations.
If your injury and compensation claim is small, they may opt to just pay whatever medical bills you’ve incurred and reimburse you for any lost wages. If, for example, you got a minor burn that will completely heal within a few days and only required one quick visit to the hospital and a couple of days off work, the insurance company isn’t going to offer a settlement. The quickest and cheapest route for them is to just pay your bills and close the claim.
On the other hand, if you broke a bone in two or three places and it’s going to require multiple surgeries, physical therapy, and months or years off of work, your case is going to cost the insurance company a lot of money. With this type of case, they will almost certainly offer some sort of settlement in an attempt to cut their losses and pay out as little as they possibly can.
When You Should Accept A Workers’ Comp Settlement
Even if you are offered an attractive settlement, it may not always be in your best interest to accept it. In the majority of cases in Virginia, when you accept a settlement it is final and will close your case. That means that if any other costs should arise as a result of your injury, you would not be able to reopen the case or make another claim to have those costs covered.
It is generally considered unwise to accept a settlement for your workers’ compensation claim before you have reached what is known as maximum medical improvement. This means that your doctor has determined that your health is stable and will not improve with any further medical treatment. If you accept a settlement before this time, you run the risk of encountering future problems that could cause expenses beyond what your settlement can help you to pay.
Of course, before accepting any settlement offer you should also make sure to discuss it with a competent workers’ compensation lawyer and make sure that you fully understand everything you are agreeing to. Even if you have reached maximum medical improvement, you want to make sure that any settlement you take will give you all of the benefits that you are rightfully entitled to.
Finalizing A Virginia Workers’ Compensation Settlement
In the state of Virginia, all workers’ comp settlements must be approved by the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission. Once you’ve discussed everything with your lawyer and decide that you’ve come to an agreement with the insurance company, you’ll need to present several documents to the commission.
Required documents include:
- A petition outlining the terms of the settlement arrangement including the injury that is being settled and how payment will be made
- A notarized affidavit which confirms that you understand the settlement terms
- A medical report that summarizes your current state of health
- A detailed statement of your attorney’s fees
- A proposed settlement order
The commission will usually just review your documentation and make a decision on whether or not the settlement appears to be in your best interest. In all but very few cases, settlement agreements are generally approved, especially if the claimant has hired a workers’ compensation attorney.
Do you have questions about your own workers’ compensation case? Has your employer or their insurance company offered a workers’ comp settlement that you’re not sure about? Contact us today for a free consultation. We’ll look over the details of your case and explain exactly what we can do to make sure you get everything you should.
About the Author: Michele Lewane
The Injured Workers Law Firm is a Richmond, Virginia based firm solely focused on serving clients with workers' compensation claims in Virginia. If you have questions about your benefits or if you would like more information on the Virginia workers’ compensation system, order our book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia” , or call our office today (804) 755-7755.