You have probably heard about workers’ compensation settlements from friends or relatives who were hurt on the job. The settlement value of a workers compensation case can range from a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on a variety of factors, including:
- the severity of your injury
- whether there is a dispute about whether the injury happened at work or not
- the potential cost of future medical care
- your “compensation rate” – which is based on your average weekly wage
- whether your case is “catastrophic”
- how long you have been receiving temporary total disability benefits
- whether you have been released to full or light duty
- your doctor’s calculation of your PPD (permanent partial disability) rating
However, you need to understand that nothing in Georgia’s workers’ compensation law requires your employer or their insurance company to offer to settle your case for a lump sum. Further, we do not have the option to asking for a hearing to have a judge award you a lump sum.
Workers Compensation Claims Totally Different from Negligence Claims
Workers’ compensation in Georgia is fundamentally different from negligence cases like car accidents, medical malpractice or products liability. These types of cases are heard in state or federal court and fault is an issue. You have the right, for example, to file a negligence lawsuit against a negligent automobile driver and ask for a verdict that includes payment for outstanding medical bills, missed time from work, and pain and suffering.
Under the workers’ compensation law, pain and suffering is not an issue, nor is negligence. That’s why you can collect workers’ compensation benefits even if you were at fault in causing your own injuries.
Under Georgia workers’ compensation law, you do not have the right to sue your employer for pain and suffering damages or anything else related to negligence. Instead, your only option is to ask for a hearing before a State Board of Workers’ Compensation judge asking for a ruling about a particular issue. Examples of issues that come before the State Board include:
- whether your case is compensable at all – i.e., did you get hurt in the course of employment
- whether you are entitled to TTD (weekly wage) benefits
- whether you are entitled to a change in treating physician
- has your medical condition changed such that you are no longer entitled to TTD benefits
- whether the insurance company can discontinue paying for medical care
- whether the insurance company has to pay for care of a particular body part
What you cannot do, unfortunately is ask a State Board judge to award you a lump sum payment to close out your case.
Why Your Employer and Their Insurance Company Would Agree to Settle Your Workers Compensation Claim
We can, however, approach your employer and their insurance company about settling your claim for a lump sum. Often both you and your employer (and their insurance company) have reason to settle.
- The insurance company might want to settle to get your claim off the books and does not have to worry about unknown future costs for medical care or lost wage benefits
- You might want to settle so you don’t have to worry about the insurance company trying to cut off your lost wage and medical benefits.
Understanding the motivations of both you and the insurance company help me know when to commence settlement negotiations. You want to avoid approaching the insurance company too early or too late. If you start negotiations too early you may get stuck with paying for medical care or surgery that would otherwise be paid by the insurance company. If you start negotiations too late, your case could be “stale” with no uncertain factors and the insurance company will offer little or nothing.
As you can see, the timing of settlement negotiations is key and that’s where my 25+ years’ of experience benefit you.
What if the Insurance Company Refuses to Settle
Although not common, your employer and their insurance company may refuse to make any settlement offer and there is nothing we can do about that. This can happen if your case gets stale and the insurance company determines that they have little or no future financial exposure.
In a case like this, the insurance company will stop paying TTD benefits, then cut you a check for your PPD rating then close their file.
I have reviewed case filed from workers compensation claimants who have hired and fired multiple attorneys and who realize to their horror that their case has lost all settlement value. Even if the insurance company made a $50,000 or $75,000 offer two years ago that you rejected, they can now refuse to offer even one dollar today. Obviously you don’t want this to happen to you.
Why You Need to Understand How Workers’ Compensation Settlement Works
I want my clients (and potential clients) to understand the dynamics of settlement in workers’ compensation claims so they will have realistic expectations about their claims and so they will keep in mind the importance of communicating regularly with me about what is happening at doctor’s visits and how their recovery from injury is proceeding.
If you are a Georgia resident who was hurt on the job and is currently interviewing lawyers, I would be happy to speak with you. My direct number is 770-351-0801 and all communication between us will remain 100% confidential.