Have you been offered a workers’ comp settlement that you’re not sure about? It’s not uncommon for insurance companies to offer settlements in some types of claims before you’ve even had the chance to speak with a lawyer.
You might also be in a situation where you’ve been representing yourself, planning on taking the regular payments and benefits when suddenly you’ve been offered a settlement that you didn’t expect.
When you’re offered a workers’ compensation settlement that you’re unsure about or unhappy with, it’s not always easy to decide what to do. So that leads us to the question… If you’re unhappy with your workers’ comp settlement, should you settle?
Above All, Know Your Rights
First and foremost, you should know that an insurance company offering you a settlement and your acceptance of any settlement offered are two completely voluntary acts. The insurance company is under no legal obligation to offer you a settlement and you are under no legal obligation to accept it if they do.
If you are offered a settlement during your workers’ compensation case, you can accept it, reject it, or try to negotiate for something else. The final decision is yours.
Before you make a decision, however, it’s crucial that you understand one more thing about settlements. In the state of Virginia, once you accept a settlement it will virtually always terminate your rights to make any further claims regarding your injury, lost wages, medical benefits, etc. and it can not be undone.
The following are some things you should consider to help you determine, first, if you are being offered a fair settlement, and second, whether or not you should accept it.
The Workers’ Compensation Settlement Amount
Unlike regular workers’ comp payments, there is no set formula for determining the amount of a settlement. Your employer or the insurance company will look at a number of factors and use them to put together an offer amount. They will consider things such as:
- The severity of your injuries
- If there is any permanent disability
- If you will be able to return to work
- Current medical bills
- Probability and amount of future medical bills
Some people prefer to wait until they’ve reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) before considering any type of settlement. Taking this route will give you a better understanding of your future medical needs, so you’ll have a better idea of whether or not a settlement will be giving you what you need for the future. This will most likely lower the amount of any settlement offered, however. Here’s why…
The Value Of Your Case From A Settlement Standpoint
The insurance company will offer a settlement based on what they consider to be the overall value of the case from their point of view. That is, they’re going to look at how much money they think the case will cost them from beginning to end and then make an offer that they hope will make you happy and save them some money at the same time.
If you wait until most of your wage and medical benefits have been paid out, the insurance company has most likely already paid out the bulk of what your case would cost them. At that point, since your case now has a lower value, they’re going to offer a lower settlement—if they offer one at all.
A settlement that is offered at an earlier point in your case is most likely going to be for a larger amount because that’s when your claim has the highest value from the insurance company’s perspective. Accepting a settlement early on comes with more risks for you, though.
For example, your injuries could turn out to be worse than you first thought or your treatment could be more expensive than you anticipated. If you’ve already accepted a settlement at that point, you would have to cover any new or extra expenses yourself.
Consider Your Decision Carefully
Before you make a final decision about any settlement offer, you should first speak to a qualified workers’ compensation attorney. An attorney with experience in workers’ compensation claims will be able to tell you if your settlement offer is worth considering or if you might be able to negotiate for something better.
Once you know that the offer you’re receiving is a good one, you should think carefully about what will happen if you accept it and what will happen if you don’t.
The Scope Of Your Injuries
If you know that you’ll only be out of work for a short time, accepting a settlement can alleviate a lot of the stress involved with your claim. The same could be said for an injury that results in a permanent disability but doesn’t require long-term treatment. Getting a large, lump-sum settlement will allow you to move on faster and do things like getting training for a new job or buy items to help deal with your disability in day to day life.
On the other hand, if your injury is going to require long-term treatment, taking regularly scheduled payments may be the better way to go. You’ll have the security of knowing that your bills will be paid and you won’t have to worry about them exceeding what you got from an earlier workers comp settlement.
The Prognosis Of Your Injury
If your injury is expected to heal quickly and completely, there’s most likely little risk in accepting a fair settlement offer. If the future is uncertain, or doctors think there is a chance that your condition could deteriorate, however, settling early and giving up your rights to ask for any future benefits could turn out to be a big mistake.
Speak With A Qualified Virginia Workers’ Comp Lawyer
At Injured Workers Law Firm, we work exclusively with Virginia worker’s compensation claims. Our team has extensive experience fighting for the rights of people injured on the job. You can count on us to be behind you every step of the way, working hard to make sure you get everything that you’re entitled to.
Consultations are free and confidential. You can contact us online anytime or call (866) 610-0254 to schedule an appointment. We’d be happy to go over the details of your case and discuss what we can do to help you with your workers’ comp claim.
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.