Suffering an injury at work brings with it more than physical pain and discomfort; there are significant financial factors to consider as well. From medical bills and prescriptions to lost work to covering your normal obligations, your situation can seem overwhelming. Workers’ compensation is designed to help employees bridge the gap until they are able to get back on the job. But what happens when your injury is long-lasting or permanent? What is the average workers’ compensation settlement – and is it enough to cover your expenses?
WHAT ARE WORKERS COMP SETTLEMENTS?
Let’s back up first. What is a workers comp settlement? When you suffer a lasting impairment that restricts your ability to work, you may be able to receive permanent disability benefits through workers comp. You will get weekly checks for a specified period of time (depending on the location and severity of your injury, as well as other factors).
In Florida, as in many other states, you can also seek a settlement instead of weekly benefits. This may be a lump-sum, in which you receive a one-time payment, or a structured settlement, where you receive payments over time (e.g. one year, five years, 10 years). Structured settlements are less common; they are typically used in cases where someone received a devastating injury and needs to carefully manage their settlement in the long term.
Remember, settlements are purely voluntary. Your employer and/or their insurance company cannot compel you to accept a settlement offer. Likewise, they do not have to agree to a settlement with you. When you do accept a settlement, generally, you give up any right to pursue additional workers’ compensation benefits.
THE PROS AND CONS OF A WORKERS COMP SETTLEMENT
Reaching a settlement can be beneficial for you:
- You avoid a trial. While uncommon, a judge could decide to reduce your benefits.
- Hearings take time, and the process is stressful. You’ll save time – and a great deal of anxiety.
- You may receive money in exchange for giving up future benefits that you might never use. If, for example, there is a 20% chance you will need surgery to treat your foot injury, you can negotiate so that part of the cost is given to you with your settlement. If you don’t need the surgery (and likely, you don’t), all the better.
There are some downsides to consider though:
- It can be risky to give up your right to pursue future benefits: what if you need surgery, your condition worsens, or you require ongoing treatment? The settlement may not be enough to cover all this and your normal bills. Or it may simply be gone by that point.
- It can be very difficult to manage a lump-sum payment. If you spend the money too quickly, you are left without weekly payments.
It is certainly important to weigh the pros and cons carefully – and with the help of an experienced workers comp lawyer.
TYPICAL WORKERS COMP SETTLEMENT AMOUNTS
Another critical question: what is the average worker’s compensation settlement? The good news is that the majority of workers (73%) receive a settlement or award. According to an intensive study, the average settlement or award was $21,800. The majority of workers (68%) received between $2000 and $40,000.
As you can see, there is a tremendous difference between $2000 and $40,000. Why such a gap? Part of it is because workers comp offers relatively smaller payouts than, say, personal injury settlements or awards. It is the nature of the beast: you don’t have to prove fault, so you can receive benefits even if your injury was technically caused by your actions.
Another factor is the wide array of injuries; they can range from sprains and strains to devastating injuries (e.g. burns, amputation). These figures reflect a broad spectrum of accidents.
What is interesting, however, are the differences in compensation received by people who approached the settlement process differently. For example, the average workers’ comp settlement amounts for those who accepted the first offer was $10,700. For those who hired a lawyer, it was $23,500.
CONTACT THE EXPERIENCED WORKERS COMP ATTORNEYS AT THE LABOVICK LAW GROUP
Hiring a lawyer makes a significant difference – as do those extra settlement funds. It can mean the difference between struggling to make ends meet and being more comfortable as your work towards your recovery and figure out a “new normal.”
Workers compensation attorneys work on a contingency basis, so we are not paid unless we negotiate a settlement that is acceptable to you or we win a judgment at a hearing. In either case, fees are taken from these monies – not out of your pocket. We understand this is a trying time; you do not need one more bill to pay.
Having an experienced lawyer on your side better positions you for a successful outcome. The LaBovick Law Group has decades of experience in this area of law. Do not hesitate to consult with us before you accept a settlement.