No matter where you work, there's a possibility that you'll suffer an on-the-job injury or illness. While some professions, such as construction and custodial work, carry more risk than others, you can fall, get caught in machinery, or be exposed to a toxic substance at almost any job.
When this happens in Missouri, you're entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits cover the cost of medical care, time away from work, and more. You can collect these benefits in weekly installments or in a lump sum settlement. Before accepting a lump sum, you should be aware of the limitations this may impose.
Understand the Basics of a Settlement
Before agreeing to a settlement offer, you should understand that once you accept a settlement, your workers’ comp case will be closed. This means you cannot appeal for additional benefits or try to negotiate for a higher settlement. If you had been receiving weekly workers’ comp benefits, those will also end once the lump sum amount is agreed upon.
Finally, even if you're happy with the settlement offer, you'll have to go before a judge for final approval. The judge will make sure the settlement offer is fair and that you're not being coerced into accepting it.
To protect your interests throughout this process, consider hiring a workers’ compensation attorney who will negotiate on your behalf.
Factors to Consider When Negotiating a Settlement
It's important to remember that your employer’s workers’ comp insurance company is not likely to give money away. When the insurance adjuster offers you a settlement, it's probably because it will cost his company less than ongoing benefits.
Before agreeing to a dollar amount, consider the following factors:
- Ongoing costs. Full medical recovery from your injuries may take many months or even years. Even after you return to work, you may have continuing physical therapy or other treatment. These costs must be considered when agreeing to a settlement amount. An experienced workers’ comp attorney will have a good idea of what the total cost of recovery is and negotiate for no less than that amount.
- Doctor’s diagnosis. The amount offered by the insurance adjuster will be based on his company doctor’s assessment of your injury or illness. If you or your attorney believes the medical evaluation is inaccurate, you may request an exam by another one of the insurance company's doctors, or pay for your own exam out-of-pocket. Without a thorough exam by a qualified specialist, you can't count on a settlement that covers all of your expenses.
- Closure. Accepting a settlement can provide you with a sense of closure and peace of mind. You have the money in the bank and can continue the treatment you need as long as required. Weekly benefits, on the other hand, can be stopped at any time. The insurer can require you to submit to frequent medical exams to determine if you're still injured and, if its doctor decides you've recovered, stop your payments immediately. This process can be stressful and could hurt your recovery.
- Permanent disability. If you're on permanent disability, your weekly benefits could continue for many years. You may not be able to negotiate a settlement that would even come close to the lifetime benefits you could be entitled to. It's also difficult to calculate the value of your earnings if benefits extend decades into the future.
Whether a settlement is in your best interest depends on your individual circumstances. It's important that you weigh all of these considerations before agreeing to a settlement.
Don’t Negotiate Without an Attorney
If you've been seriously injured at work or are suffering from a chronic injury because of exposure to a toxin in the workplace, don't consider a settlement offer without talking to an experienced workers’ comp attorney. The attorneys at Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys understand the value of your case and won't let you settle for less than you deserve.