Will Workers Comp Offer Me A Settlement?
Often, a workers’ compensation insurance company will offer to settle a case, in the hopes of avoiding a lengthy trial. Accepting the Workers Compensation settlement offer is an important decision for you that you need to make with the guidance of your Minnesota Workers Compensation Attorney.
Generally, injured workers have several questions about the settlement process, such as how long workers comp settlements take, how the settlement process works, and when to expect your settlement check. Another common question is whether the injured worker can be fired after a workers compensation settlement. The bottom line is, it is against the law for employers to retaliate against an injured worker who has filed a work comp claim or is seeking work comp benefits.
Once you and your attorney have discussed your case and weighed your arguments against the insurer’s defenses, it will be easier for you to make your decision. If you don’t already have a Minnesota workers’ compensation attorney, Fields Law Firm would be happy to review your case, answer any questions you may have about how to maximize your Workers Compensation benefits and help you understand the Workers’ Compensation settlement process.
Workers Compensation Settlement Process
Your workers compensation attorney will typically attempt to negotiate a settlement for you that’s in your best interest. Your attorney will draft a Settlement Demand to the insurance company that outlines all of the different components of exposure for the insurance company.
After you approve of the initial demand, the negotiation process starts. It’s very important to make sure no exposure is missed, such as future wage loss, job retraining costs, future medical expenses, QRC costs, and so on.
The insurance company will typically make a counter offer and the back and forth negotiation will begin. Settlement negotiations can occur at a settlement conference at the court, at mediation with both parties involved, or occasionally just directly with the insurance company. If no settlement can be reached, then you and your attorney will need to decide if you want to go to hearing.
When you go to hearing, the finder of fact is the judge, and he/she alone has the power to determine if you get your workers comp benefits or not. What most people don’t realize is that, in worker’s compensation, the judge can not award your future benefits in a lump sum. The judge can only determine what you are owed as of the date of the hearing, and can order ongoing weekly benefits unless another event occurs that could terminate your benefits.
Most people decide to settle when they weigh their options and decide that the Workers’ Compensation settlement amount they would receive is enough to make them not want to risk going to a hearing and potentially losing. Going to hearing can be a gamble, but your attorney can tell you what they think your chances of success are at hearing.
Workers Compensation Settlements
To-Date Settlement vs. Full, Final and Complete:
There are two types of settlements in worker’s compensation claims: to-date settlements and full, final and complete settlements. A to-date settlement means you are only settling “to the date of” the award on the settlement. In other words, you have the right to bring future claims unless limited by the terms of the settlement. These types of settlements are appropriate when you have a claim that was picked up by the worker’s compensation insurer, but they perhaps didn’t pay for a few bills or you only have a limited claim.
A full, final and complete settlement, on the other hand, is appropriate when you have a denied claim, or a more involved claim with several disputed issues or you cannot return to work for the date-of-injury employer again. To determine what type of settlement is best for you, consult with your work comp attorney.
Medical Open vs. Medical Closed:
If you decide to settle, one of the terms of settlement may be whether medical is left open or if it is closed out. What does that mean?
Medical open means that you have the right to pursue future claims for medical treatment against the worker’s compensation insurer. It DOES NOT mean that they will pay for everything you need for the rest of your life. This is a common misconception.
You can ask for the medical treatment benefits after you settle, and they can either approve or deny it, which is the same as if you had not settled. If they approve it – great! But if they don’t, then you need to have your work comp attorney file a medical request for the recommended treatment.
Medical closed means that part of the money you receive in settlement is payment for potential future medical treatment. However, most people have their own private health insurance pay for treatment down the road when they have medical closed. The other consideration when deciding whether to leave medical open or closed is whether you are Medicare eligible or a Medicare recipient, because closing out medical can be trickier if you are receiving Medicare.
How Long Does it Take After You Settle to Get Your Settlement Check?
The biggest question that most people have after agreeing to settle is how long does it take to get a workers’ compensation settlement check. Once you’ve settled, the attorney for the Employer/Insurer usually has the job of drafting the settlement paperwork, or what we call the “Stipulation for Settlement“. This document is usually fairly long and contains the terms of settlement, including how everyone gets paid.
Your medical providers and your private insurance will usually be paid back as set forth in this document. Your work comp attorney will have to approve it, and then it can be circulated to you and all of the providers, insurers and other parties with an interest in the case. Once everyone approves and signs off on the document, the document is sent to the Office of Administrative Hearings for an award letter from a judge.
The judge reviewing the document will only issue an award if everything in the document appears to be fair and all of the appropriate parties’ interests have been dealt with. Once the judge issues the award, the Employer/Insurer only has 14 days to issue your check. That means it has to be in the mail in 14 days of the judge’s filing the award letter and serving it on the parties. Checks are usually issued via regular mail to your preferred address as indicated in the Stipulation for Settlement.
In addition, payments received for worker’s compensation benefits are typically not considered taxable income, so you may not need to report this on your income taxes. Always consult with a tax professional to ensure you file your income taxes appropriately.
How Do I Pay My Bills Until The Settlement Check Arrives?
Many of our clients find themselves unable to pay their bills during the Settlement process. Unable to work and faced with mounting medical bills and credit card debt, some injured workers feel they will go bankrupt before their case is settled. If you are in this situation, our Minnesota Debt Settlement Lawyers may be able to help. We can review your situation, explain your options and help you understand the consequences of debt settlement vs. bankruptcy.
If you were hurt at work in Minnesota, or disabled and unable to work, our work injury and disability law firm is here to answer your questions and help you understand the Workers’ Compensation settlement process.
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