Can I settle my Workers’ Compensation Case?
You can settle some workers’ compensation cases, but not the way you might imagine. Workers’ compensation claims are not like a personal injury case. There is no judge or jury at the end assigning a final value to the case. A workers’ compensation case might never settle, and there is no way to force the other side to settle, in part, because there is no threat of a jury verdict at the end.
Workers’ Compensation Claims can be a Never Ending Journey
Start by thinking of workers’ compensation claims as just that – a never ending insurance claim.
If you hurt your back at work the workers’ compensation insurance company is essentially on the hook to pay for your back treatment and time lost from work until you a) die, or b) hurt the back outside of work. The insurance company examines your claim and makes an educated guess as to how long you will live and how much money they have to shell out over that time.
For example, the insurance company may determine that your claim will cost them $1,000.00 over the next twenty-five (25) years. Settlement becomes a factor of how much money the insurance carrier will save by closing the case. If they believe that settling will save them money they will generally do so. Demanding $1,000.00 to settle doesn’t save them money, it costs them money. Remember a dollar today is more valuable than a dollar tomorrow. So, settlement might look more like $350.00.
Other Workers’ Compensation Settlement Factors – Who is Paying?
Settlement can also depend on who has to foot the bills. Some employers are “self-funded” meaning that the money they settle a claim with is not “insurance carrier money” but comes out of their own pocket. Municipal and state employees often run into difficulties because settlements may have to meet with town approval. These distinctions create difficulty in getting fair value for a case and in some instances prevent settlement altogether.
One more wrinkle – generally speaking if you continue to work for the employer who is responsible for the workers’ compensation injury you will not be able to settle your workers’ compensation claim.
Think of it like this – if they settle your back claim they are in effect paying you money to never bother them again with back complaints. You then hurt your back two years after the settlement. Your employer is again paying an attorney to show up at a workers’ compensation commission hearing to argue about whether the back injury is an aggravation of the old or a new injury making them responsible again.