Common Questions About Workers’ Comp Settlements
Nearly every Pennsylvania employer is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance, but do not expect your employer or its insurer to look out for you if you are injured at work. It can be an uphill climb to journey through the workers’ compensation system successfully. In some circumstances, rather than fighting in an appeal after your claim is denied, it can make sense to take a settlement offer from your employer’s insurance company.
Laputka, Bayless, Ecker & Cohn, PC, has handled workers’ comp claims for decades, and our attorneys have a clear understanding of the factors that can impact your claim. If a settlement is in your best interest, we will aggressively and skillfully negotiate for a fair and equitable amount. However, we are also able to represent you during the appeals process, if that is what is best for your medical recovery or post-injury future.
Here are answers to some common questions our office receives about workers’ comp settlements, and how they figure in the claims process as a whole.
How is a settlement different than receiving regular workers’ comp benefits?
If you and your employer’s workers’ comp insurance company agree to a settlement, it is known as a “compromise and release agreement.” This means the insurance company pays you a lump sum of money in exchange from being released from paying you standard weekly workers’ compensation benefits. You will either receive the funds in one large transfer or several installments if you have catastrophic injuries and your compensation is meant to last for years. This installment approach is known as a structured settlement.
What is the advantage of taking a lump-sum settlement over weekly benefits?
Settlements can be in your best interest if it looks as if there will be an extended denial and appeals process needed to obtain weekly benefits. This can happen when your employer or their insurer is questioning the extent of your injuries. Additionally, Pennsylvania’s workers’ comp laws do not require insurers to pay for vocational retraining. If you do not expect to be able to return to the same type of work, a lump-sum settlement may allow you to pay for schooling or training for jobs that suit your current medical conditions.
What if I want to hold onto my workers’ comp medical benefits?
You can ask for what is known as a “commutation of compensation.” This is a lump-sum payment of your income benefits through workers’ comp, but it does not take away any of your other benefits, including medical ones.
When is the earliest I can settle a workers’ compensation claim?
By law, you cannot settle a workers’ compensation claim earlier than four months from the date of injury. The timing of the settlement is crucial – if you settle before you have finished healing, it is often less clear how much you will need from your claim to recover and move on with your life. The ideal time to settle is after you have reached what doctors call “maximum medical improvement.” This means you have healed as much as you are likely to from your work accident, and additional treatment is unlikely to be helpful.
Are there any downsides to a full and final settlement?
When you sign a compromise and release settlement, you are releasing the insurance company from ALL future liability related to wage loss or medical treatment. If the claim you file is not sufficient to cover those financial needs, you will not be able to make additional claims.
Why is it important to work with a lawyer during the workers’ compensation settlement process?
Many factors play a role in decisions about workers’ compensation settlements, including an employee’s age, general health after the accident, and eligibility for Social Security Disability, Medicare and public assistance programs. Your lawyer can explain whether a settlement offer is in your best interests, help you file the proper paperwork within program guidelines and build a strong case for your claim, no matter how it is resolved.
Trust Our Reputation And Advice – Every Step Of The Way
The workers’ compensation attorney at Laputka, Bayless, Ecker & Cohn, PC, can help you understand all your options in the workers’ comp system. Call 570-861-5905 or email us today to set up a free consultation. We work with clients in Hazleton and throughout northeast Pennsylvania.