How And Why Do Workers’ Compensation Cases Settle?
In personal injury lawsuits, there is a beginning of the case, and the end. But that isn’t the case with workers’ compensation. Technically, there doesn’t have to be an end to your case—at least, no end to your treatment with the workers’ compensation doctors.
Legally, injured workers are allowed to continue treating with their doctor, even after the doctor has determined that the worker is at maximum medical improvement. Many injured workers choose to do just this—they are concerned that they may get worse, or exacerbate their injury. So long as the injured worker keeps going to the doctor at least once a year, the worker can continue to go.
But that presents problems, because you are going to the doctor “just in case.” Additionally, you are still subject to the workers’ compensation doctor’s opinion.
The alternative—a settlement, which may involve a lump sum payment from workers’ compensation—is often more desirable for a worker, especially if the worker feels that at the moment, their medical condition has plateaued.
Settle Your Case?
That is the heart of a workers’ compensation settlement. The workers’ compensation company is saying that it no longer wants to be responsible for your case all the time. So, to be relieved of that obligation, it is paying you, and essentially saying “here, you take this money, and you budget for your long term care or for worsening of any of your injuries, with any doctor you want and leave us alone.”
The Amount of the Settlement
How much should you settle for? This is almost impossible to say because one size doesn’t fit all. But it is an example of why it is so important to have a workers’ compensation attorney, who can advise you as to whether you are undervaluing or overvaluing your case.
Calculations aren’t so easy to make. Your settlement is accounting for any future surgeries, medicines, in-home care, or other expenses that could develop as a result of your injury.
Some things that aren’t included in workers’ compensation settlements include payment for anything that isn’t economic—that is, anything you can’t count. Think of pain and suffering, anxiety or loss of the quality and enjoyment of life. You can recover these damages in a personal injury lawsuit, but not in workers’ compensation.
Additionally, future lost wages can’t be recovered, unless you have sustained an injury that is considered to be so severe, that you won’t ever be able to work again.
Of course, once you do receive a settlement, it is on you to put that money away, or budget it, so that it is there for you if and when you ever have another medical problem.
Remember that your settlement only covers injuries from the workplace accident related to your settlement. If you were to sustain another, separate workplace accident, you would still be allowed to make another claim and, if need be, to sue.