The workers’ compensation benefits you may be entitled to when you’re injured on the job include medical treatment, wage replacement, disability compensation, and more. In some cases, your employer may offer you a settlement to resolve the claim instead of ongoing benefits. That settlement can be a lump sum only, or it can include other offerings.
Keep in mind that you’re under no obligation to immediately accept the first workers’ comp settlement offer that you receive. It’s an important decision, and you have the right to stop and think it through. When you’re considering a workers’ comp settlement offer, there are lots of factors to take into account.
The Severity of Your Injury
The severity of your injury is the number-one factor in deciding whether to accept a settlement offer. Whether your injury is minor or severe enough to require ongoing medical treatment, you need to carefully evaluate any offer you get against your anticipated long-term costs to ensure that it will cover the full extent of your damages.
Your Future Medical Expenses
Although workers’ comp insurance usually covers medical expenses related to your injury, the coverage amount may be limited. Your injury may require ongoing treatment that could include surgery, medication, physical therapy and rehabilitation. With the help of a workers’ comp attorney, you can and should estimate and factor these significant expenses into any settlement offer. You should be ready to negotiate and—if necessary—reject offers that don’t adequately compensate for your projected future medical expenses.
Your Wage Losses
If your injury prevents you from going to work, your settlement offer should include wage loss benefits.
Your Permanent Disability or Impairment
If your injury results in permanent impairment or disability, you should work with an experienced workers’ comp attorney to evaluate the long-term impact of your impairment, and to ensure that any settlement offer you receive adequately compensates you. An experienced attorney can help you assess the potential impact of a permanent impairment or disability and negotiate a settlement offer that is fair and reasonable.
Your Injury Management
Managing consistent treatment for yourself is also important. Insurance companies read any missed doctors’ appointments as indications that your injury isn’t that serious. Your consistent and visible management of your own care shows that your injury is serious and you need help.
The Strength of Your Case
You should also consider how strong your case is when you consider any settlement offers. If you’re likely to win in court, there is less risk rejecting a lower settlement offer and pursuing a trial. But if you have a weak case and aren’t likely to win a trial, it may be in your best interest to accept a reasonable settlement offer.
Your Age and/or Career Phase
Your age and the phase of your career also factor into whether you should accept a settlement offer. Life expectancy plays a big role in determining the value of future medical care expenses. If you’re young, you will have many years of future medical care costs to consider and your future medical expenses will be greater than in advanced age. Often lump sum settlements are not available to people that are still employed with the same employer. The employer or insurance company will not want to buy out future medical expenses if they could be required to pay medical treatment for a new injury later on to the same body parts.
Your Time and Stress Tolerance
As you weigh your options, you should factor in how much time it can cost and stress it can cause you to pursue a potential court trial to contest your workers’ compensation settlement. There’s no shame in wanting to avoid the consistent uncertainty and spent time that a trial can create—especially if you need funds for your medical expenses and lost wages sooner rather than later. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you weigh the risks and benefits of litigating your settlement.
Tax and Public Benefits Implications
You should also consider the tax situation of a settlement offer vs. ongoing benefits. The bottom line: workers’ compensation benefits and settlements are typically tax-free. Public benefits like Social Security Disability, Medi-Cal, Medicare, and other public benefits may be affected by a settlement. It is important to discuss settlement with a workers’ compensation attorney to ensure a fair settlement and to discuss methods to protect public benefits.
Contact Tichy Law Inc.
If you have received a workers’ comp settlement offer or want to be prepared when you do, contact the workers’ compensation attorneys Tichy Law Inc. at (916) 444-0321 for a free consultation. We look forward to hearing from you.