If you have been injured on the job and have filed a worker’s compensation claim in Georgia, at some point, you may look toward settling your claim. Settlement is an important part of the process. It is voluntary. You do not have to settle. You can resolve the matter in a hearing instead. However, if you would like a lump sum recovery, a settlement is the only way to get that lump sum.
The question of whether you should settle your case is an important part of any worker’s compensation claim. The process can be complex. If you are in the process of navigating a worker’s compensation claim, you should always work with an experienced and trusted workers’ compensation attorney.
Here are four important considerations to cover with your attorney.
A Settlement is An Advance Of Future Possible Benefits
Timing a settlement can be critical. When you settle with a workers’ compensation claim, you are trading a lump sum now against the possibility of future benefits later, including disability benefits, medical payments, and future vocational rehabilitation benefits. If you settle too soon, you may settle for less than you should; if you attempt settlement too late, the insurance company may have less incentive to settle.
You want to wait until your condition has stabilized and until you have a good idea of what future benefits you may be giving up. This requires that you understand how long you would be receiving benefits in the future. It also requires that you know whether the insurance company owes you any back benefits.
When a worker has longer-term needs for medical care and benefits, the injured worker and insurer may agree to a structured settlement rather than a lump sum payout. A structured settlement will consider these future benefits as part of the settlement. Structured settlements are complex and require an experienced attorney to help negotiate them to ensure that the injured worker is taken care of.
Settlements Include Liability and No-Liability Settlement Types
Settlements can be divided into two primary groups: liability and no-liability. In a liability settlement, the insurer is not arguing about whether an injured worker is entitled to benefits. The only question is how much the worker is entitled to. In a no-liability settlement, the insurer is disputing an injured worker’s right to benefits. The settlement is meant to “make the case go away.” This has an impact on the settlement amount. Both types of settlements require approval by the Georgia Board of Workers’ Compensation.
Changing Your Mind
Changing your mind about a settlement is possible—up to a point. You can pull out of a settlement until the Workers’ Compensation Board approves the settlement. You cannot pull out of a settlement after it has been approved.
All too often, workers have second thoughts about a settlement but sign the settlement agreement anyway without consulting with an attorney. Always consult with an attorney before approving a settlement or when thinking about pulling out of an agreement. Also, know that once you have pulled out, an insurer may not be willing to go through another round of negotiations. Make this choice carefully.
Determining How Much to Settle For: A Complicated Analysis
The issue of how much to settle for can be a tricky one. Settlements are complex and must weigh several factors into the settlement including:
- how much a worker will be owed in future permanent disability benefits
- the nature of the injury
- the age of the worker
- future care and medical bills required by the worker
- any unpaid or outstanding medical bills of temporary benefits owed to the worker
- the relative strengths and weaknesses of a worker’s case
Negotiating a settlement can make a significant difference in the amount of that settlement. Many take the first offer that an insurer makes. This can often prove to be a costly mistake. It is almost always better to have an attorney or representative negotiate a settlement.
Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation with a Georgia Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
Every client is unique and valued at the Gearhart Law Group. We represent injured workers with diligence, compassion, and personal service. Get a free initial case evaluation by contacting us at (404) 445-3960 or email us directly using the form on this page.
Workers’ Compensation FAQ
Do I Need an Attorney?
You may want to manage this on your own, but the reality is that these cases are complex, and handling a claim on your own may end up costing you more in the long run. An attorney can often get you more in a settlement and make sure that your needs will be met.
Will Worker’s Compensation Benefits Be Enough to Live off of Now That You are Injured?
Unfortunately, the answer is probably no. Workers’ compensation benefits total approximately 2/3rd of your weekly salary and are capped at $675 a week.
Should I take the Insurance Company’s First Offer?
The short answer is almost always “no.” Anytime you are considering a settlement, always have an attorney look at it first. Remember that an insurance company would like to settle every case for as little as possible.