By Ryan Bliss
At some point, most injured workers receive a phone call from the workers’ compensation insurance company asking whether they’re ready to settle their case. Maybe you’ve already received that call…
If so, it’s probably a good time to consult a James Scott Farrin workers’ compensation attorney. More than half our workers’ comp attorneys are NC Board Certified Specialists in Workers' Compensation law. This is the highest level of specialization available in N.C., and only a small percentage of N.C. attorneys can make that claim. Very small.
Navigating the twists and turns of the North Carolina workers’ compensation system is hard enough while your case is still open. But when you receive that phone call, you’ve got a whole new set of issues to consider. This is your livelihood we’re talking about. You don’t want to make any decisions you later regret. And when it comes to determining the “value” of your case, Facebook said it best:
Do all workers’ comp cases settle?
First thing’s first. It’s important for every injured worker in North Carolina to understand that not all workers’ compensation cases settle. There is no requirement that your case should eventually settle, and you can’t force a workers’ compensation insurance company to offer a settlement. In fact, based on my experience, some injured workers are better off leaving their cases open. That being said, many cases do eventually resolve by “clincher” agreement. This means the insurance company offers a lump sum of money to an injured worker in return for a full and final settlement of their case. A clincher (or settlement agreement) typically closes the case in full, including all medical treatment and wage replacement benefits.
If you find yourself considering a settlement, BE CAREFUL!
Before making any big decisions, there are two important issues you should examine.
Is it a good time to settle your case?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Every workers’ compensation case is different. Based on my opinion, however, for most cases, the best time to settle is after your major medical treatment has concluded. If the insurance company pushes you toward a settlement too quickly, they may be unable to reasonably evaluate the value of your case. This can result in lowball settlement offers, which typically do more harm than good.
Additionally, there are many other benefits you may or may not be receiving, which can adversely affect (or be adversely affected by) a workers’ compensation settlement. Social Security Disability benefits, Medicare, Medicaid, and even private disability/health insurance plans can cause complicated legal issues when it comes time to settle your workers’ compensation case. All of these issues must be carefully considered in order to determine whether settlement is a good idea, based on your particular set of circumstances.
What is the “value” of your case?
Once you decide it’s a good time to settle your case, there’s still another looming question that will need to be answered: How much?
My job as a workers’ compensation attorney would be a lot easier if there was a magic “settlement calculator,” but unfortunately, it doesn’t exist. In order to determine the reasonable value of your claim, an experienced professional will typically consider the following:
- The cost of your future medical treatment
- The likelihood that your injury will prevent you from returning to work in some capacity down the road
- Any decreased earning potential resulting from your injury
Additionally, you may be entitled to an award for a permanent partial disability rating to your injured body part or parts. This is typically determined by your doctor. The calculation associated with this potential award is set by statute in North Carolina.
James Scott Farrin workers’ comp attorneys are trained to help you weigh the pros and cons of settling your case. If you decide to move forward with settlement, your attorney can then help you negotiate with the insurance company in order to try to maximize the amount you could potentially receive. Regardless of whether or not you decide to retain an attorney, when it comes to settling your workers’ compensation case, proceed with caution.
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