The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported recently that more than 2.5 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses occurred in the US. This rate means that for every 100 full-time workers, three of them were injured and eligible for workers compensation. In Florida, the average workers compensation settlement payment is roughly $18,000.
What a lot of these injured workers learned through the process is that they don’t have to accept their employer’s worker’s comp offer if that offer doesn’t meet their ongoing medical needs. Workers compensation settlements are an employee’s opportunity to make sure the outcome meets all of their expectations.
You can read more here on how worker’s compensation settlements work and what you can expect in the process. Learn all about this process so that you can protect yourself and your future.
Worker’s Compensation Defined
Workers compensation is a group of state regulations that guarantees a worker hurt on the job will receive repayment to cover their medical expenses. Workers compensation helps an employee avoid suing their employer to recover their costs.
Worker’s compensation covers workers injured on the job site. Under the law in most states, every business must have some form of workers’ compensation insurance to cover injured employees. Current worker’s compensation laws prohibit companies from operating until they obtain this kind of insurance.
All 50 US states have their own individual workers’ compensation regulations. Some states have special workers’ compensation laws for federal government employees. Other states have special requirements for employees in specific industries like railway workers.
In recent years, federal and state workers’ compensation laws covered over 135 million workers. The total wages paid to these covered employees was more than seven trillion dollars.
First Steps in the Workers Comp Claim Process
Since every state has its own group of laws, it’s easy to get confused about how the system works. Each workers comp law, however, contains a basic form of these important routine steps:
1. Report Your Injury to Your Employer
Make sure you alert your employer about your injury. This notification can be oral or done in writing. Check to see if your employer has special procedures in place for reporting these kinds of injuries.
Florida’s workers compensation laws have statutory deadlines after your incident for you to let your employer know that you were injured. You must report your injury no later than 30 days after you are aware of your job-related injury. If you don’t file workers comp within this time frame, your claim can be denied.
2. Contact a Workers Comp Attorney
These professionals are also sometimes called an accident lawyer or personal injury attorney. A workers comp attorney represents injured victims who need help proving that their injuries occurred on the job.
Workers comp lawyers help victims negotiate with their employer’s insurance providers. They can also help guide their clients on how to file a workers comp claim.
3. File Your Formal Workers Compensation Claim
You have thirty (30) days from your accident or thirty (30) days from your doctor’s diagnosis that you are suffering from a work-related injury to notify your employer that you plan to seek workers compensation.
Some employers may give you all of the official claim forms you need to submit your claim. Other employers may file your claim with their insurer for you. Once you have the necessary forms, be sure to list the following details on your workers comp claim forms:
- Types of injury and the damaged areas of your body
- Day, time, and address where your injury took place
- Any other witnesses involved in the injury
- How the accident happened and
- All medical treatments received to date.
Once your claim is reviewed, an insurance representative will notify you to tell you if your claim has been approved and for what amount.
Your employer has seven (7) days from the time you notify them of your injury to contact their insurance provider. The insurance carrier will then decide how much you should receive. The carriers review of your claim may include:
- Assessing your medical records
- Researching your work experience, education, and wages
- Requesting a medical examination with their appointed physician to evaluate your condition, and
- Requesting you to perform a functional capacity evaluation that tests your abilities to perform your expected job duties.
The injured party can decide, at this point to accept the insurance company’s offer. If the offer doesn’t meet the injured party’s long term needs, they can try to negotiate a settlement with the employer.
What are Workers Compensation Settlements?
A workers compensation settlement is an agreement between the injured worker and their employer where the injured party agrees to end their legal recourse in exchange for a payout.
Accepting a settlement effectively “ends” a claimant’s rights to future review and consideration of their case. That’s why its important that injured parties considering a settlement should have firm estimates for their costs. These estimates should include current medical costs as well as any they may incur in the future due to delayed onset injuries caused by their original injury.
Types of Settlements
There are two main types of workers compensation settlement agreements. Each settlement arrangement varies according to when injured parties receive their settlement funds. These settlement arrangements include:
Lump-sum or commutation settlements are payouts in a single, large payment. Lump settlements cover all agreed-upon amounts for current or future benefits.
If a lump sum settlement is reached, the injured worker terminates their future rights to benefits that stem from the current injury.
Structured settlements provide injured workers with payments over an agreed-upon length of time into the future. With a structured settlement, injured parties keep their future rights to reopen their workers comp claim. For example, your case can be reopened if certain circumstances exist such as errors or miscalculations within the original agreement.
Types of Workers Comp Benefits
Injured employees are entitled to these following types of benefits:
Medical treatment includes any reasonable and necessary costs to cure the worker’s injuries. These costs can range from medications and therapy to doctor’s bills.
Temporary disability payments provide injured workers with a portion of their lost wages that they would have earned if it weren’t for their on-the-job injury.
Temporary disability payments are usually around two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly paycheck.
If injured workers don’t recover from their on-the-job injuries completely, they are entitled to permanent disability. Permanent disability tries to compensate for the injured worker’s lost ability to remain competitive in the labor market. Other factors considered for a permanent disability includes the employee’s age and wages earned at the time of their injury.
Vocational rehabilitation benefits cover costs to help injured workers find and qualify for another job if they can’t return to their previous job. These costs might include resume writing, employment counseling or other job-seeking expenses. Vocational rehabilitation benefits can also be replaced if the current employer offers a different job with the company.
Advantages to Accepting Settlements
There are some benefits to negotiating a workers comp claim settlement. If you decide to litigate your claim because your employer’s offer doesn’t seem fair, you’ll have to endure the expensive and long court process for a judge to hear your case. Chances are that a judge might decide you deserve less than what your employer originally offered you.
Some settlement offers may include money for the medical care you may never need. Your employer may agree to provide lump sums for potential delayed onset injuries that might occur in the future. If those injuries never materialize, you still have the funds to defray other expenses.
Disadvantages of Accepting Settlements
Certain amounts from both lump sum and structured settlements are subject to taxation. These amounts include attorney’s fees as well as other damages. If you aren’t aware of what these tax levels are, your agreed-upon settlement amount could be lower than expected.
Settlement payments are also subject to other changes in the economy such as recession or inflation. Both of these economic impacts could reduce your workers comp settlement payments to levels that aren’t high enough to meet your ongoing costs.
Thinking about negotiating with your employer over your recent workplace injury? If so, you’ll need the skill level of a workers comp attorney who can guide you through the process. Studies show that injured workers represented by workers comp attorneys receive 30 percent more for their workers compensation settlements than their counterparts who try to negotiate on their own.
When you’re ready to meet with a workers comp attorney, bring detailed records of your doctor’s visits and recovery. These records may dictate which amounts you should negotiate for in case you expect delayed onset injuries in the future.
Give us a call for more helpful information on the top reasons a workers comp attorney is your best first move. You can speak to us for free. Call 904 LAW-1212 anytime, day or night.