We have written quite a few articles that talk about the pitfalls and advantages of settling a workers' compensation case. This is yet another article, and in it, I share some thoughts on things that clients and I will discuss in deciding whether to settle a workers' compensation case, and for how much.
We write a lot articles on this because one of our most frequently viewed articles deals with settlement of Oregon Workers' Compensation claims. We know this is an important issue because many insurance companies will provide an injured worker with a settlement agreement, but little explanation as to what the agreement actually means. To get a basic idea of what these agreements involve, check out these two articles that deal with settlement of denied claims and accepted claims. Whether you should settle a case as a whole different issue. Of course, I would not and could not answer that question for every injured worker in a brief article. But we can give you some things to think about.
First, you should look at what happens if you decide to settle and what happens if you decide not to. For example, if your claim has been denied, and you have been approached with a disputed claims settlement, it's a good idea to know what kind a evidence you have that would overcome the denial. If your doctor feels that your medical condition is work related, and can explain it in a clear and well reasoned manner, then you may be able to prevail on the claim. If you do, you have the right to seek significant benefits, including medical services, wage replacement or disability, permanent partial disability, and possibly even vocational retraining. When we evaluate a claim for settlement, we have to get a good idea of what the chances of prevailing at hearing are before we can advise our client on settlement.
If you are considering settlement of your accepted claim, you should know what it is that you are giving up in exchange for a sum of money. For example, if you enter into a claims disposition agreement, which is the settlement of an accepted claim, you are giving up all benefits except for the right to request medical coverage in the future. Some people come to our office in say that they resolved their claim, but have "medical coverage for life." This is not really accurate. Instead, an injured worker who enters into a claims disposition agreement has the ability to request that the insurance company pay for future medical care, but that insurance company can deny that request. You can appeal this denial, but that can be a challenge in some cases.
Here is something else to think about with claims disposition agreements. If you settle your case with a claims disposition agreement, you still have the right to request medical care. However, if you require significant care, like a surgery, which will keep you off work, you will not be entitled to any wage replacement while disabled from work. This is because when you settled your case, you gave up the right for any wage replacement if you are disabled as a result of medical care. Depending upon the nature of your injury, that can be a significant benefit.
Whether your case involves settlement of an accepted claim, a denied claim, or both, the overall consideration is the long-term. For example, if you suffered a significant injury and are not able to return to the job you worked on the date you are hurt, then you have to figure out a way that you're going to earn a living in the future. Sometimes, the only way you will earn a wage comparable to the wage at date of injury is to undergo vocational training. If you decide to resolve your case, and you need help with retraining, you should at the very least have some kind of plan on what kind a career you intend to pursue with the funds you recover as a result of the settlement.
We are not saying that all settlements are a bad thing. A settlement of a workers' compensation claim in Oregon can be a great thing. It gets the insurance company out of your life, and gives you some control over your future. However, it is a big decision, and there is a lot to think about.
If you have an accepted claim, and you wonder if it makes sense to enter into some kind of settlement agreement, call us at 503-325-8600. We can review your claims file, and advise you on your best options for settlement. And best of all, we do not charge a fee unless we are able to resolve the case in your favor.