“Help, my adjuster called and offered me a settlement and she said I have to respond to her by tomorrow or she’ll close my case!”
I get calls like this from injured workers all the time. The injured worker is panicked because they don’t know if it is a fair settlement offer (most of the time it’s not!), they’ve been told they have a very limited time to respond, and so, in their mind, they have very little time to get some information and make a very big decision. Insurance adjusters love to use this ploy to pressure injured workers into taking a low ball offer by using their reliance on the injured worker’s resulting fear and panic.
Here is what I tell folks in this situation:
1) Settlement is a mutual agreement. The adjuster cannot force you to settle if you don’t want to and you cannot force the insurance company to settle if they do not want to.
2) No time limit for settlement. Because settlement is a mutual agreement that can take time, compromise, and negotiation, there is no set time limit for this process. Workers compensation claims can settle at various stages of the claim process depending on an injured worker’s particular situation. There are several other time limits that govern a workers compensation claim (reporting the injury, filing the claim, requesting additional body parts be covered, requesting lost wages or permanent partial disability), however, reaching a settlement agreement is not one of them.
3) The adjuster cannot “close” your case. If you have an Award Order granting your benefits, then you are protected. The adjuster may close their file but this does not mean that your claim is closed or that you are no longer entitled to future benefits. The Award Order states that your claim is open for as long as necessary (the medical portion). Make sure you understand what an Award Order is and if you have one so you don’t fall victim to this empty threat.
4) Workers compensation is a slow process. When injured workers tell me the adjuster needs an answer about settlement “tomorrow” it makes me see red flags! Workers compensation is a slow process and adjusters typically move at their own pace so when I hear about this 24 hour time limit I always caution people: What is the rush? Is there a legitimate reason this decision has to be made so quickly or is it just the insurance adjuster trying to save some money by pressuring an injured worker into a hasty settlement?
If you would like more information on the Virginia workers compensation system, the workers compensation time limitations, or the settlement process, order my book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia” by clicking this link, or call our office today (804) 755-7755.