Settlements in Georgia workers’ compensation cases are much different than settlements in personal injury car accidents, medical malpractice or other negligence matters.
In a negligence case, such as a car accident, you would submit a settlement demand to the insurance company, and if the insurance company does not make a reasonable offer, you can file suit for damage arising from your out of pocket costs as well as your pain and suffering. Your personal injury lawsuit would eventually go to trial and a judge or jury would issue a cash award in the form of a verdict.
Georgia Workers’ Compensation – No “Pain and Suffering” Damages Available
Workers’ compensation operates under entirely different rules. Firstly, there are no pain and suffering damages available to you in a workers compensation case. At the same time, negligence is not an issue either. All you need to do is prove that you were injured while on the clock while performing a task for the benefit of your employer. This is the trade-off: you do not need to prove negligence, and in exchange your employer does not have to pay for pain and suffering.
The Georgia workers’ compensation law sets out your employer’s obligations under the law. These obligations include:
- providing medical care
- paying lost wage benefits
- paying associated costs arising from your injury such as transportation, home health care and prescriptions
Workers’ compensation insurance companies are willing to pay you a lump sum in settlement to close out their obligations arising from your claim. However, the insurance company does not have to settle at all – they could simply decide to pay what the statute requires them to pay over an extended period of time, wait for you to improve, then close your case without having to pay any lump sum settlement at all.
Fortunately, insurance companies usually want to settle because doing so closes what could be an open ended obligation. From the insurance company’s perspective, it is preferable to write a lump sum check today as opposed to taking the risk that:
- you could have tens of thousands of dollars of future medical expenses that they would have to cover
- you could be out of work for an extended period of time, thus obligating the insurance company to pay thousands in weekly wage benefits
- your case could be deemed “catastrophic” which removes the limits on weekly wage benefit payouts
Knowing When to Settle
In a best case scenario, you will maximize the settlement value of your case when you sense that your medical condition is or soon will be stabilized, but the insurance company still believes that it has significant exposure to cover your medical and lost wage costs.
After over 20 years of looking at medical records, speaking with clients and gauging the actions of insurance companies I can help you identify the right time to settle. If you settle too early you could find yourself unable to work and facing tens of thousands of dollars in medical expenses that your workers’ comp carrier should have covered. If you look to settle too later, your case can grow stale and you could lose tens of thousands of dollars in settlement value.
If you have any questions about when or how to settle your workers’ compensation case, please call me at 770-351-0801 or email me by clicking on the link.
Here are some of the most common questions I get about settlement: