How long does it take for settlement in a workers comp case? The answer to this question depends heavily on the facts of a particular case. Some settlements can happen quickly. Other settlements can take years to come to fruition. This article will discuss some of the common variables that affect the timing of workers comp settlement.
How Surgery Impacts the Timing of Workers Comp Settlement
A main factor in the timing of workers comp settlement is surgery. The full value of a case is not realized until an injured worker has undergone all recommended surgeries. Authorized surgery is undeniable evidence of the severity of a worker’s injury. Surgery also requires significant follow-up medical care. The insurance carrier will factor the cost of future life care/maintenance care into settlement value. For an injured worker who suffers severe injuries requiring multiple surgeries, settlement is often delayed. In such cases, a viable settlement discussion may not take place until years from the date of the accident. This is because settling a case before all needed surgeries are completed can strip the injured worker of settlement value. An injured worker’s decision to undergo surgery is a serious one. It is a medical decision that can be life changing. The worker should consult with his or her doctors and attorneys before deciding to go under the knife. The impact of a surgery on workers comp settlement is undeniable.
The Board will address the issue of permanent damage from the accident in every case. This will happen when the worker is at maximum medical improvement (MMI). MMI means that the worker’s medical condition has hit a plateau and conservative treatment measures will not improve it further. The insurance carrier or the Board will raise the issue of permanent injury approximately one year from the most recent surgery. If no surgery, it will be raised sooner. Without surgery, the Board will typically address permanent injury between six months to a year from the accident. The parties will often engage in workers comp settlement talks at the time the Board is addressing permanent injury. This is because permanent injury impacts future awards. Once doctors give opinions regarding permanent injury, the parties then have a better idea as to the injured worker’s level of disability. The carrier can better predict its future exposure on the claim at that time.
Sometimes, a workers comp claimant will also bring a civil lawsuit in connection with the same accident. In such a scenario, the workers comp insurance carrier may delay settling the workers comp case until the conclusion of the civil lawsuit. Essentially, the carrier may want to settle both cases at the same time to cut costs. This also occurs because the workers comp insurance carrier asserts a lien on any recovery from the civil lawsuit. Thus, the structure of a workers comp settlement can change if both cases are being settled at the same time. For example, the workers comp carrier may agree to a lien reduction instead of a lump sum payment to the worker in exchange for waiver of the claim. However, if the injured worker litigates a civil case for several years, this position by the carrier may delay settlement of the workers comp claim.
An experienced workers comp attorney understands the importance of settlement timing. Timing directly impacts value. The above factors, plus other variables specific to a given workers comp case, dictate when the claim should be settled. There is no set formula for when settlement negotiations should begin. An attorney must rely on his or her judgment and experience when initiating workers comp settlement discussions. Contacting an attorney who understands this importance is what will make your case more valuable.