If you have a serious work injury, you are likely to be removed from work and could potentially spend a significant amount of time going to doctor visits and therapy to rehabilitate your injuries. You may have faced a lengthy recovery following a surgical procedure. During this time, you may have thought your case was going great. After all, your benefits are coming in regularly, your medical treatments are being paid on time, and maybe your employer is even working with you by providing light-duty work. They’ve given you no reason so far to doubt that when it comes time to settle, they’ll also take good care of you.
So why worry about settling your claim without a lawyer’s advice?
Beware when it comes time to settle
What happens when your doctor releases you and you are not able to go back to your job? Maybe you were released but you are still having pain, swelling, or other symptoms that make it difficult for you to perform your previous duties. What happens to your workers’ compensation benefits?
It’s at this stage when employers and insurance companies might put pressure on the injured worker to close out or settle their claim. Insurance companies might suggest that you get a second opinion. Yet, they might also tell you which doctor you should see. Sometimes without seeming regard for whether the doctor has the expertise, you may need. I know of a situation where an injured worker had a severe wrist injury, an operation which resulted in an extended healing period. She wanted a second opinion and the workers’ comp insurance company sent her to an allergist!
Settlement Time is When You Must Fish or Cut Bait
A settlement is a complete end to your rights for further workers’ compensation benefits. This means the insurance company would not have to pay for any further medical care or benefits, even if you cannot return to work due to your injury.
You want to make sure you have strong legal representation during settlement negotiations.
Based on my experience, the goal of some insurance companies when settling is to try to cut their liability to the injured worker for as little money as possible. If you don’t have good legal representation fighting for you, one who knows workers’ comp laws and its many interpretations and nuances, this could mean you could be left without adequate health care protection and without enough money to cover your living expenses until you find another suitable job. We’ve seen situations where people have settled on their own, not realizing the consequences, put entire families in a downward spiral.
North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Laws Provide Protection
While our state’s workers’ compensation laws provide some protection, it can take a workers’ compensation lawyer who really understands these laws to try to make sure you are adequately and properly protected.
For example, the law says you are allowed to obtain a second opinion with a physician you can choose. If you need further treatment, you can apply for medical care even if the doctor your workers’ comp insurer sent you to release you from medical care.
Your other doctor may point out that your injury has made it more likely you will need further surgery. Let’s say you injured your knee. It may now be more likely that you will need a knee replacement at some point as a result of your work-related injury. This could be a surgery that workers’ compensation insurance would be responsible for covering. Whether that replacement occurs two months after the initial injury or two years. If you do not have medical doctors that are able to adequately explain any future complications you may face because of your injuries, there is no way to receive compensation for those potential medical needs.
You may not be able to return to the type of job you had before you got hurt. In any case, where a worker has permanent work limitations or restrictions, it is important to understand how that could impact their ability to return to a full-time job. A settlement in those cases must take into account those potential benefits because of the long term difficulty the worker may face getting back to the wages they earned before getting hurt.
The law also states that consideration must be given concerning the possibility for re-training, further education, or vocational rehabilitation before injured employees return to a job suitable to their new restrictions. North Carolina workers’ compensation laws make these and other services available to injured workers if they cannot return to their pre-injury position.
The purpose of the workers’ compensation system is to try to help restore an injured worker as near as possible to their pre-injury earning capacity. This means both medically and in terms of their ability to return to a job.
A settlement for a discounted amount could potentially leave that injured worker and their family in a financial spiral, facing long-term financial difficulties because their interests were not adequately addressed by the insurance company or potentially protected by an experienced workers’ comp lawyer.
If you are considering settling your claim or have been contacted about settling your workers’ comp claim, we strongly urge you to have an experienced North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney review your case to determine whether thorough consideration has been given to the complexities of your injuries and their impact on your ability to return to work at your same wages.
The Law Offices of James Scott Farrin Workers’ Comp Lawyers Offer FREE Case Evaluations
Why us? What makes us different? There are many good workers’ comp lawyers here in North Carolina. So why us? Click here for five heartfelt reasons that don’t have a lot to do with fancy credentials and memberships in organizations or affiliations. Click here for reasons that do have to do with the credentials and memberships in organizations or affiliations. We think both of these are important to consider.
If you've been injured at work, don't think you will necessarily get the medical and future benefits with your workers' comp insurance company just because your insurance company obeyed the law and provided you with out of work benefits.
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