If an on-the-job injury has left you injured and disabled, you may be eligible to receive permanent disability benefits from your employer's workers' comp insurer. If you accept the amount the insurance company has decided to pay you, then you will receive weekly checks for a certain period of time.
However, if you don't agree with the amount of money you should receive or if you would like a different payment setup, you have the option to negotiate a settlement with your employer's insurance company or go to a hearing or trial in which case a judge will rule on the dispute. While there are advantages to settling, there are potential issues with that as well. Before you agree to any type of settlement, it is important that you explore all your options with an experienced Los Angeles work injury lawyer.
Types of Workers' Compensation Settlements
In most cases, you may be able to negotiate a settlement that will provide you with a lump sum payment rather than continuing weekly permanent disability payment. Depending on the terms of the settlement, you may get money for future medical care as well as money the insurer may owe you for overdue temporary disability benefits and unreimbursed medical expenses. Injured workers may also be able to negotiate a structured settlement that will provide them with payments over a period of time. Such settlements will not require that you waive your rights to future medical care.
Understanding the Pros and Cons
There are both advantages and disadvantages to accepting a workers' comp settlement. If you go to trial or opt for a workers' comp hearing, there is the risk of the judge making a determination that you should get less money than what the insurance company offered. While this is not common, it is a possibility. The hearing itself could take a long time and the work injury claim process could be complicated, which is why a lot of workers' comp cases are settled out of court.
In a settlement, the insurance company may agree to pay to money in exchange for giving up your right to future benefits that you may not use. For example, if your doctor says there is a small chance you may need shoulder surgery in the future, you could ask the insurance company pay you part of the surgery expenses now. Since there is only a small chance that you may need the surgery, you are likely to gain financially with such a move.
Sometimes, agreeing to a settlement could have a potential downside. Some people who get a lump sum permanent disability payment may end up spending it right away, often out of necessity. In such cases, they may not have enough money to help with ongoing expenses. If you need medical treatment in the future, the money you received as part of a settlement may be long gone or may simply not be enough to cover your medical expenses.
What a Workers' Comp Settlement Should Include
Here are some of the types of benefits that could be part of your workers' comp settlement:
Permanent partial disability: Workers who suffer major injuries at work such as finger or limb amputations will probably be entitled to receive permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits because their loss limits what they can do on the job. Prior to settlement negotiations, the insurance company will send you what is known as a permanent disability rating.
This could essentially be converted into the amount of benefits workers are owed. In California, for example, if you have a 40% permanent disability rating, the insurance company will owe you 280 weeks of permanent partial disability payments at two-thirds of your average weekly earnings.
Permanent total disability: If you have total permanent disability, it would be in your best interest to seek the counsel of an experienced work injury lawyer because your case may be more complex. A permanent total disability means your injuries make it impossible for you to get back to work and make a livelihood.
Medical treatment: Your work injury settlement should include any unpaid bills for past medical treatment. There are two ways to deal with future medical costs. You may be able to settle your right to disability payments but still retain your right to have the insurance company pay for your future medical treatment needs. You may also choose to settle on a lump sum payment now for future medical treatment in exchange for giving up your right to have the insurance company pay the bills when they come up.
It is critical that you go over the settlement structure and terms of the settlement with your lawyer in order to protect your right and future benefits. Before you sign any settlement agreement it is important to know if your workers' comp claim will be completely closed after the settlement or if will stay open to pay for future medical costs. You also need to know if the settlement amount represents all new money or if it includes the disability advances you've already received. In almost all cases, a workers' compensation judge must review the terms of your settlement before they become official.
Exploring All Your Options
Our work injury lawyers at Greenberg and Ruby can help evaluate your case and determine if you may have a third-party claim as well. If your on-the-job injury was caused by a party other than your employer, you may also be able to file a third-party claim seeking compensation for your injuries, damages and losses.
Examples of third parties include general contractors, sub contractors, property owners, and product liability. In cases where workers have suffered disabling injuries, third-party lawsuits can help compensate for damages including lost future income, cost of future treatments and therapies, pain and suffering and emotional distress – which are all not often covered by workers' comp benefits. Workers are often able to file a third-party lawsuit in addition to receiving workers' comp benefits.
At Greenberg and Ruby Injury Attorneys, APC, we understand that a workplace injury can turn lives upside down and upend livelihoods. We are here to help you understand your legal rights and explore all of your options so you receive the maximum possible compensation for your losses. If you have been injured at work, please call us at (323) 782-0535 for a no-cost consultation and case evaluation.