In Pennsylvania, injured workers can settle their workers’ compensation cases through a process called “Compromise & Release.” There are many reasons to settle a workers’ compensation case; each individual to the specific injured employee. One reason is if the employer and/or insurance carrier are fighting whether or not the injury occurred. Sometimes, depending on the facts, it is in the best interest of the injured worker to settle the case rather than leaving the decision as to whether or not they get benefits to the Judge.
Another reason to settle is that often times, an injured employee is left with a permanent condition that will continue to impact the employee’s earnings for years to come. This may cause the injured employee to change jobs with an earnings loss or need some kind of retraining to enable the worker to return to the work force at all. It is important to remember that, under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, the insurance carrier is NOT required to pay for any type of education or job retraining. A settlement in this type of situation would give the injured worker money to pay for retraining or schooling to obtain new work skills.
Changes in the Workers Compensation Act over the last 20 years have made it more difficult to remain on Workers’ Compensation for long periods of time, regardless of whether or not the injured worker can return to the work force; this is another reason one may want to settle. As such, depending on the facts of the individual case, it may make sense to settle when the injured worker’s case is worth the most amount of money to maximize total recovery. This allows the injured worker to move on with his or her life and hopefully obtain some type of employment.
A Compromise & Release (settlement) can include settling out the entire case including medical coverage or could just settle the wage loss portion of the case. In this 1st situation when a “full” Compromise & Release is done, the workers’ compensation insurance carrier is released from all liability including both future wage loss and future medical treatment. In this type of settlement, the injured worker is personally responsible for future medical treatment. In the 2nd situation the injured worker would no longer receive weekly or bi-weekly checks, but would still have access to medical treatment for the injury as long as it is reasonable, necessary and related to the accepted work injury.
Whether or not to settle a worker’s compensation case along with when to settle the case is not as simple as it may seem at first thought. A balance needs to be found when considering factors such as earning power, future medical treatment needed, other benefits available, and status of any present or future litigation in the front the Workers’ Compensation Judge.
This process is further complicated by some other benefits an injured worker may receive, such as Medicare, Welfare, Social Security Disability and age related Social Security. Some of these forms of benefits must be accounted for in a Compromise & Release. If a settlement is done without addressing some other benefits, most notably Medicare, there can be dire consequences for the injured worker.
The amount of a settlement in workers’ compensation cases is difficult to calculate. There is no magic formula. Remember that workers’ compensation does not address pain and suffering, but only wage loss and medical treatment. Every case must be evaluated differently, based on many factors including but not limited to the employee’s earnings before the injury, the employee’s work history and educational background, the employee’s age, the employee’s medical condition (both work-related and not) and the expected future medical treatment.
As indicated above, when a settlement is appropriate will vary from case to case. Some cases may be able to settle within a year, while other injured workers may remain on workers’ compensation benefits for years. Both the amount of a settlement and the timing of a settlement, are complicated issues, which are best handled by attorneys with the skills and knowledge developed from years of experience primarily handling workers’ compensation cases. Since helping injured workers with workers’ compensation matters is all we do, our attorneys are able to handle these issues and do so on a daily basis.
It is highly recommended that all injured workers consult with a qualified workers’ compensation attorney before attempting to settle out their case. Do not forget that the insurance adjuster has the benefit of an attorney answering all their legal questions about your case before they make an offer to settle. You need to have the same knowledge before you decide if a settlement is right for you.
A consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney is always free at Brilliant & Neiman LLC. Email or call Brilliant & Neiman LLC before you make any decisions that could affect your workers’ compensation rights permanently.