Should I Settle My Illinois Workers’ Comp Case?
If you get injured at work, you should be able to count on workers’ compensation insurance to cover your medical bills, lost income, and potential disability payments. However, these cases can become incredibly complicated. If you have an ongoing workers’ compensation claim, you may be considering settling the case. At Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates, our Chicago workers’ compensation attorneys understand how difficult this process can be. Here, we want to talk about the settlement process, as well as some of the benefits and drawbacks of settling your case.
How to reach a settlement
In general, it is never advisable to reach a settlement with a workers’ compensation insurer until your doctor says that you have reached what is called “maximum medical improvement” (MMI). This is the point recovery at which your condition has reached the best possible outcome, and you are not likely to improve with further treatment. This does not necessarily mean that you have reached the condition and health you had before the injury occurred. MMI simply means that a doctor thinks this is as good as you are going to get.
Waiting for MMI is important. Until you reach the point of maximum medical improvement, there is no way to accurately calculate the value of your entire workers’ compensation case. Until MMI is reached, you will not be able to answer any of the following questions:
- Will you be able to return to work?
- What are your total medical and out-of-pocket costs related to the injury?
- Will you have full use of the injured part of your body?
- Will you need any medical care in the future related to your work injury?
Reaching a settlement with a workers’ compensation insurance carrier is going to involve negotiation. It is important to understand that insurance carrier employees are trained negotiators, and they have a goal of paying as little as possible for claims. That is why it is important for you to consider seeking assistance from a skilled and experienced Chicago workers’ compensation attorney.
What are the benefits of settling?
There are various potential advantages to settling an Illinois workers’ compensation claim. This includes:
- Removing any uncertainty that comes with a workers’ compensation hearing, particularly if there is a legitimate dispute about the extent of the injuries. For example, suppose the treating doctor gives you a 50% permanent disability rating. Perhaps the workers’ comp carrier sends you for an independent medical exam, and the examining physician says you are only 15% disabled. This can create a potential conflict that would leave the outcome of the workers’ comp hearing unclear.
- A settlement can result in a lump-sum payment as opposed to weekly payments as part of a permanent disability award. This could be beneficial if the injured party has bills that they need paid immediately.
- A settlement could involve asking the insurance company to pay part of the future medical treatment that may be needed. For example, if the doctor says there is a 30% chance you will need neck surgery due to your injuries at a later date, a settlement could result in the insurance carrier agreeing to pay for part of the surgery.
- Settling a case can save the time and stress that is involved in preparing and testifying at a workers’ compensation hearing.
What are the drawbacks of settling?
The biggest drawback to settling these claims is that workers’ compensation settlements, like other settlements related to personal injury claims, are final. The injured person (the claimant) is waiving their right to a workers’ compensation hearing. After an arbiter approves the settlement contract, the terms of the settlement will be final. If the injured worker is unhappy with the final dollar amount of the settlement, the case cannot be reopened to get more money.
There are situations where a claim is settled, but medical payments are left open. However, if the medical rights are also closed as part of the settlement, the case will not be reopened to cover future medical treatment that may be necessary for the work injury.
Under Illinois law, it is possible to reopen a workers’ compensation case if the claimant’s condition worsens due to their injury within 30 months of the settlement approval. However, most settlement contracts include a waiver of a person’s right to reopen their cases for this purpose.
Determining whether or not a workers’ compensation claim is fair can be difficult, and you should always speak to a trusted Chicago workers’ comp attorney before making any decisions.
Who qualifies for workers’ compensation in Illinois?
Nearly every business in Illinois with employees is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. This includes employers who have only part-time employees. Illinois law requires employers to purchase a policy through an insurance carrier or to provide evidence of the ability to self-insure. Employers who failed to carry workers’ compensation insurance in Illinois can face a range of penalties. This can include tremendous fines for each day they do not carry this type of insurance coverage as well as misdemeanor or felony charges in certain situations.
Let an attorney help with your case today
If you or a loved one have been injured at work and have an ongoing workers’ compensation claim, you should speak to an attorney about your case as soon as possible. Please understand that you are dealing with aggressive insurance carriers that have the goal of paying as little as possible for your claim. At Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates, we are going to work on your case and strive to secure all compensation you are entitled to, which can include:
- Compensation for any medical bills related to the workplace accident
- Any lost income and benefits you have incurred
- Coverage of any lost future earnings
- Compensation for loss of earning potential=+
- Disability payments when applicable
If a third party caused your injury, we will even pursue damages beyond what workers’ comp would typically cover. When you need a Chicago workers’ compensation attorney, contact our team today.