Do You Need a Lawyer for a Worker’s Compensation Settlement in Florida?
Injured workers in Fort Lauderdale often receive offers to settle their workers’ compensation claims, usually for a lump sum amount. While the offer may be tempting and the amount may seem more significant than expected, claimants need to understand what they are giving up before accepting that lump-sum award.
It is so critical, in fact, that Florida workers’ compensation laws prohibit settlements in many situations unless the injured employee is represented by a knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney or undergoes a full hearing so the worker is made entirely aware of their rights. While settlements differ in each case, below, we offer some basic guidelines.
Workers’ Compensation Settlements Differ From Settlements in Lawsuits
When a Fort Lauderdale workers’ compensation lawyer talks about a settlement, they are referring to something a little different from a settlement in a lawsuit. In a personal injury lawsuit, a settlement is usually an all-or-nothing deal. Injured individuals often accept a settlement for the security of a guaranteed award. They trade the possibility of a higher award in court for the certainty of receiving the settlement amount.
In workers’ compensation cases, however, the situation is often different. The insurer or employer may make the settlement offer after the employee has already begun receiving medical and income benefits. In such cases, someone in authority has usually already ruled on the claim and determined that it is valid and the employee is entitled to compensation. The worker often does not gain as much certainty by accepting a settlement in a workers’ compensation claim as in a lawsuit. Instead, the insurer or the employer frequently benefits most from certainty with a settlement. However, for some claimants, the guarantee of a large amount upfront can be beneficial.
How to Calculate Your Potential Settlement
There is no specific formula for calculating the amount of a workers’ compensation settlement. Insurance companies and employers look at several factors that could include:
- The type and severity of the injuries
- The degree of permanent disability involved
- The age of the employee
- The expected duration of medical benefits if the case is not settled
- Outstanding medical bills
- Conflict regarding eligibility
Because traditional workers’ compensation benefits are often paid out for many months or years, a lump sum payment could seem much more significant. It is a good idea to have an experienced attorney review the settlement amount and the factors involved to see whether the settlement is fair in the long run.
Seeking a Lump Sum Settlement for Your Workers Compensation Claim
Unlike ordinary workers’ compensation benefit payments, a lump sum settlement allows you to receive full benefits upfront. Not only does this mean that you will have money available to pay your bills as they come due, but it also means that you won’t have to worry about your employer (or its insurance company) terminating your benefits prematurely.
For these reasons, seeking a lump sum settlement is a preferable option for many Florida residents. At Maus Law Firm, we have extensive experience representing injured employees in workers’ compensation settlement negotiations, and we can use this experience to seek a favorable settlement on your behalf.
However, it is important not to automatically assume that a lump sum settlement is your best option. In some cases, it can be challenging to determine how long an injury will last or how long it will take to recover from an occupational illness. If it is not possible to clearly determine an appropriate settlement amount due to the nature of your injury or illness, then it might not make sense to seek a lump sum settlement—at least not right away.
Breaking Down Lump Sum Settlements
Can I Try to Negotiate My Own Lump Sum Workers’ Comp Settlement?
While you can try to negotiate a lump sum settlement on your own, we do not recommend it. There are a couple of reasons why. First, you need to know how much you are entitled to receive. If you don’t calculate your settlement amount correctly, you could end up with far less than you deserve. Second, dealing with workers’ compensation insurance companies isn’t easy. They will use various tactics to reduce or deny your benefits, and they might not even take your negotiation efforts seriously if you don’t have an attorney.
If I Accept a Worker’ Compensation Settlement, Can I File for More Benefits Later?
No, when you accept a settlement, you will waive your right to receive any additional benefits for your injury or illness. As a result, before you accept, it is extremely important to ensure the settlement amount provides adequate coverage for your financial needs.
What if My Employer’s Insurance Company Won’t Offer a Fair Lump Sum Settlement?
If your employer’s insurance company won’t offer a fair lump sum settlement, then you should not accept. Instead, you should collect the weekly benefit payments you are owed—perhaps while your attorney continues to negotiate on your behalf. If the insurance company refuses to pay at all, then your attorney may need to file a claim with the Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation.
What is the Difference Between a Lump Sum Settlement and a Structured Settlement?
A lump-sum settlement involves a one-time payment, while a structured settlement involves a series of payments made over time. Depending on your individual circumstances, a structured settlement may be an option as well. You will want to consult with a \ lawyer to make sure you consider all of the options you have available.
Workers’ Compensation Settlements are Final – Seek Guidance From a Skilled Fort Lauderdale Workers’ Comp Attorney
While an insurer or employer may offer a settlement soon after an employee suffers an injury in the workplace or receives a workplace illness diagnosis, it is often wise to wait before accepting. To gauge the full extent of an injury or illness, the worker may need to wait until a doctor determines they have reached the stage of maximum medical improvement, also known as MMI. Once an injured employee accepts a settlement, they cannot file another claim for further benefits if it turns out their condition requires more medical treatment than anticipated.
A consultation with a Fort Lauderdale workers’ compensation lawyer is a good first step for any employee who has been offered a settlement for their workers’ compensation claim. To talk to one of our knowledgeable attorneys, call us at 954-784-6310 or contact us online for a free consultation.