When Should I Consider Settling my Workers' Comp Case?
In most cases, we do not recommend you agree to a settlement until your doctor says that you've reached what's usually called “maximum medical improvement” (MMI). This is the stage in your recovery when your condition has plateaued, and you're not likely to improve with further treatment. In other words, you're as good as you're going to get. This is the point in time when most cases are at their maximum value.
The reason for waiting until this point is simple: You won't be able to estimate the value of your case accurately until you know the full impact of your injuries. What percentage of disability has you doctor given you? Will you be able to return to work? Will you have full use of your injured body part? Will you need future medical care? All of these questions must be answered before you can decide whether the settlement offer is fair. Part of what we do as Hartford, Connecticut workers comp lawyers is help you answer these questions and work for you to maximize your monetary recovery under the Connecticut Workers Compensation Act.
In Connecticut, your temporary disability benefits will continue until you're ready to return to work or reach MMI. If you settle your case before this point, you may be cutting your temporary disability benefits short, and the settlement offer might not account for the full value of those benefits.
You might also consider the possibility that your medical condition could change after your settlement, even if your doctor has said you've reached MMI.
What Are the Benefits of Settling a Connecticut Workers' Comp Case?
There are several potential advantages to settling your workers' comp case, including:
- A settlement removes the uncertainty that comes with a hearing—especially if there's a legitimate dispute about the extent of your injuries. For example, suppose your treating doctor gave you a 50% permanent disability rating (a measurement of the extent of your limitations resulting from the injury). In response, the insurance company has you attend a Respondents Medical Exam and the examining physicians says that you're only 20% disabled. Assuming both doctors are reputable and have all of the relevant information, going to a hearing could be risky for both you and the insurance company. In that case, you may want to agree to a settlement that's based on a disability rating somewhere in the middle.
- You can agree to a lump-sum settlement rather than weekly payments as part of a permanent partial disability award.This can be helpful if you have a lot of bills to pay and need the money now—though it may be tempting to spend the money before you need it later.
- You can ask the insurance company to pay for a portion of future medical treatment that you might not ultimately need. For example, say your doctor finds there's a 25% chance that you'll need surgery on your back, and insurance company agrees to pay for a portion of the surgery as part of the settlement. If you don't end up needing the surgery (which is 75% likely), you'll get to keep that money.
- Settling your case will save you the time, energy, and stress involved in preparing for and testifying at a workers' comp hearing. It may also provide closure or peace of mind.
What Are the Drawbacks to a Workers' Comp Settlement?
Once you've signed a settlement agreement, you've entered into a binding contract. This means that you can't change your mind a few weeks or months down the road and go back to the insurance company for more money. In some cases, the insurance company will agree to pay for any future medical expenses that come up after you settle. More often, however, it will insist on a full and final release of all claims, including the right to future medical care.
Because of the finality of a settlement, you should be confident that your condition isn't going to get worse after you settle your case. And you shouldn't let your employer, the insurance company, or even the Commissioner pressure you to settle when you're not ready.
Consult With a Workers' Comp Lawyer
Whether a particular settlement offer is good for you depends on several factors unique to your circumstances, including how much is being offered, whether there's a dispute about the extent of your permanent disability, and whether you're likely to need future medical care related to your injuries. It's important to understand all aspects of your workers comp settlement agreement and all of its potential consequences. For that reason, we suggest you consult with us before entering into any settlement negotiations in your Connecticut work injury case. As an experienced Connecticut workers comp attorney, we will be able to evaluate the offer, let you know whether it will fairly compensate you for all of your losses, and negotiate effectively with the insurance company . Surveys have shown that injured workers will receive more compensation, on average, when they hired a lawyer than when they went through the process on their own—even after the attorneys' fees were taken out of their settlement.