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Although there is no single or simple answer to this question, I have posted it because this is one of the most common search requests I see from people visiting our blog. Every day, I see search requests which involve some form of the question: how much is a work comp settlement in Minnesota?
It is perfectly understandable to wonder if you will receive a settlement for your claim and how much it might be. After all, we all know someone who has settled a work comp claim, or we have heard rumors about how much someone received for an injury claim. Now that you have been injured and are “in the system", you probably have the same questions and concerns.
In a previous blog post, I discussed when, or if, you might get a settlement in a Minnesota work comp case. I explained that a “settlement" is not a guaranteed part of every claim. (See this previous post, When Do You Get a Work Comp Settlement in Minnesota?) In today's post, I will discuss how a claim is valued for settlement purposes.
As I pointed out in my earlier post, not every case results in a settlement. In addition, every settlement is different, based upon a variety of factors which will be different in every case. The only way to put a value on your individual case, is to look at all of the factors which affect how much the insurance company might be willing to pay to settle your claim. Some of the factors considered are:
Average Weekly Wage and Compensation Rate. Every claim starts with the basic determination of your average weekly wage on the date of injury. Any wage loss benefits you are paid after that are based upon the average weekly wage. The higher your average weekly wage, the more value your claim will probably have. It stands to reason that if the insurance company is paying you wage loss benefits at the maximum rate of $850 per week, your claim has more value than someone who was working part-time at minimum wage and is receiving work comp benefits of $175 per week.
How Many Weeks Have You Been Paid and How Many Do You Have Remaining? There are limits on the number of weeks that you can receive certain benefits. Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits are limited to 130 weeks (104 weeks for injuries occurring before 10/1/08). Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) benefits are limited to 225 weeks and are not available if more than 450 weeks have elapsed since your date of injury.
Keep in mind that these are not guaranteed weeks of wage loss benefits. Your benefits might end long before 130 or 225 weeks, for a variety of reasons – these are simply the maximum number of weeks you can receive. So, if the insurance company has already paid you most of the available weeks of benefits you can receive, they don’t have much exposure in terms of future benefits. Or, if your weekly wage loss benefits are about to end for some other reason, your claim may have limited value for settlement purposes.
On the other hand, if you have only been paid a few weeks and it appears that you will be eligible for long-term, ongoing wage loss benefits, then your claim would have significantly more value.
How Serious Was Your Injury and What Are Your Restrictions? If you are permanently unable to return to a high-paying job, your claim has more value. The insurance company will likely be paying you weekly wage loss benefits for many months. Or, they may realize that you need vocational retraining, which can also be very expensive. Your claim would have more value under those circumstances.
On the other hand, if your injury is only temporary and you can return to your previous job at your regular wage, the insurance company may not consider the claim as having long-term financial exposure. They may simply wait for you to return to work at full wage and just pay future medical expenses related to your injury, without wanting to make any type of settlement.
How Strong or Weak Is Your Claim? Has your entire claim been denied by the work comp insurance company? If so, they may be willing to take their chances at a hearing. If the insurance company wins, they don’t have to pay you anything.
In a medical dispute, the strength or weakness of the medical evidence is a key factor. If you have a strong, supportive medical report from your doctor, your claim will have more value than if you have weak medical evidence.
What Issues Are Being Disputed? If the only dispute is over a small medical bill or a few weeks of wage loss benefits, the claim probably won’t have much value. If the dispute involves Permanent Total Disability (PTD) or retraining, the insurance company is looking at a lot more exposure for future benefits and the claim will have more value, assuming you have a strong claim based upon solid medical and vocational evidence.
How Old Are You, How Disabled Are You and What Are Your Plans for the Future? If you are a younger person with a serious injury, a high wage and plans to work for many more years, you might have a claim that could cost the insurance company a lot of money. Those types of claims, if supported by strong medical evidence, can result in significant settlements. On the other hand, if you are near retirement age, are only temporarily disabled or have a minor injury, your claim will be valued much differently.
These are only some of the factors that are considered when trying to put a value on a claim if the insurance company wants to make a settlement. There can be other factors that come into play, including previous injuries or pre-existing conditions, credibility issues, your cooperation with vocational rehabilitation, the quality of any job search you might have done and many others.
If the insurance company proposes a settlement of your work comp claim, you should immediately contact an experienced attorney for advice or representation. A claims adjuster or defense attorney will have far more experience than you in evaluating the claim. Obviously, they will try to settle your claim as cheaply as possible. Even though a settlement must be approved by a work comp judge, the judge does not represent you and cannot give you any advice about whether it is a fair settlement.