We get calls all the time from people wanting to know the amount of money their claim is worth. Whether a worker's compensation claim should settle at all is an important factor at the outset to determine. We firmly believe that too many cases get settled too quickly. There are many reasons for this. Here are a few:
The injured worker did not understand the seriousness of their injury and its long term effects on wage earning capacity in the future.
The claim was not reviewed by an attorney and the claimant did not understand the true value of the claim.
The Insurance Company was pushing for a settlement and told the injured worker this amount was the only amount payable under the Worker's Compensation Act.
Financial considerations weighed heavy on the injured worker's mind and debt needed to be paid off.
The injured worker assumes nothing else can be done medically to improve their physical outcome and improve physical capacity.
The injured worker is tired of dealing with all the delay and hassle that worker's compensation sometime brings.
Before asking what your claim is worth, you should seriously consider the factors mentioned below. Before approaching settlement of your claim consider asking for a legal consultation. Determine whether the timing is right for a settlement. There are many factors that are not readily apparent in a claim simply because you are not familiar with all of your legal rights. An attorney really cannot assess the value of a claim effectively by just getting a few facts. Most claims are far more complex and require a substabtial amount of time analyzing medical records and vocational reports. A thorough review of your work history should be conducted. And depending on the seriousness of your injury, second opinions or IME's may be necessary. Medical depositions of physicians may be necessary and are critical in some cases. Hiring expert Life Care planners may also be necessary.
Some claims should not be settled or settlement should wait until all medical treatment possible has been provided.
We have some claims that involve such serious health conditions that the claim should not be settled. And it may never settle. In these cases it is safer to just leave the claim open for years or at least until more can be known about future medical expense. You may have treated with a physician that for whatever reason didn't fully diagnose your condition. For that reason, expensive medical procedures may not have been offered to you. It may take an attorney a long time to get you the correct medical treatment for your condition, but that is better than settling the case and learning later an expensive medical procedure is necessary. Sometimes future medical treatment costs far outweigh the amount of money being offered by the insurance company. The insurance companies have an unfair advantage because they handle these types of claims day in and day out. You likely have never been through this before. Get good advice both medically and legally before you even think about settling your claim.
Some injured worker's underestimate the long term effects of the injury on wage earning capacity.
It is okay to be an optimist and in many life circumstances that can be an advantage. Your livelihood and ability to feed your family is one area where you should proceed cautiously. Plan for your future change of career so that you have money to get additional training or education that will allow you to earn wages that will pay the bills. Some injuries take an injured worker out of a vocation they have been in for a number of years. It is precisely those number of years that allowed them to earn the wages they did. If physical limitations arise from the injury, a new career path may be necessary. Make sure you have mapped this out and thought about new career options before you settle the claim. Have a plan. A vocational expert may be helpful. However, be warned that the vocational expert hired by the insurance company may not have your best interests at heart. Seek legal counsel. They know more about this process and kind guide you through this to make the transistion successful.
In the final analysis, the question may not be what my claim is worth but rather whether the claim should be settled or not? Once you determine the answer to that question, a guided approach to settlement is best. Otherwise, you may settle for too little and have no money for medical treatment or to pay the bills if you have difficulty finding a good paying job.