You may hear a lot about settlements when it comes to Workers’ Compensation claims. You may also be asking yourself “Do all workers’ compensation cases end in a settlement?” No, not all North Carolina Workers’ Compensation cases end in settlement, but some should.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that more than half of private workplace injuries in North Carolina were severe enough to require time off from work, job transfers, or work restrictions.
Severe workplace injuries can redefine the way you support your household, and you should have financial options in those cases.
If you have been injured in a work incident and are unsure if you should let your claim run its course or settle, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you decide.
What Can a Workers’ Compensation Settlement Cover?
You have up to 30 days after you get hurt at work to notify your employer of your accident. If your employer accepts your work injury claim, you could be entitled to a number of benefits, including:
- Partial replacement of lost wages due to injury;
- Compensation for permanent impairment;
- Compensation for disfigurement;
- Vocational rehabilitation services; and
- Injury-related medical care.
A settlement should cover all or some of the benefits mentioned above.
Are There Different Kinds of Settlements?
Yes, there are different kinds of workers’ compensation settlements in North Carolina. Depending on the facts of your claim, you may want to enter into a full or partial settlement.
Full and Final Settlement of Your Claim: The Compromise Settlement
Perhaps the scariest, but sometimes the most useful, settlement you can enter is a compromise settlement. This kind of settlement has the nickname “the clincher” because you give up your rights to receive workers’ compensation benefits after the settlement is approved.
A compromise settlement can be risky if you are not certain that your injury will not require additional medical treatment in the future. It is also never certain that you will not have additional injury-related wage loss in the future.
However, this kind of settlement can help you avoid the uncertainty and burdensome restrictions of the workers’ compensation system. Hiring an experienced attorney greatly reduces the risk in a compromise settlement.
An attorney knows how to negotiate for maximum recovery and they have the expertise to steer you away from settlements that are not worth the risk.
Settlement of Only Your Permanent Impairment Benefits: The Form 26A Settlement
If you think that all workers’ compensation claims end with healthcare providers completely curing injured workers, you are mistaken. In many cases, the medical benefits only bring an injured worker to “maximum medical improvement.”
This means that the injured worker’s condition has become stable after treatment. If you reach maximum medical improvement without making a full medical recovery, you receive a disability rating. Your employer’s insurance pays you based on that rating.
However, there is a chance your medical provider will not give you a fair rating. Once you receive a rating from your authorized treating physician, you also have a right to receive a second opinion on that rating from a physician of your own choosing, paid for by your employer.
Once you have received a rating, you may wish to resolve only the indemnity portion of your claim via a Form 26A settlement that pays for and closes the permanent disability portion of your claim.
After entering a Form 26A settlement, you still have the right to receive medical care. If your condition changes, you have two years from your last compensation payment to request additional medical care.
Settlement of Only Your Temporary Disability Benefits: The Form 21 Settlement
One of the hardest parts of dealing with a work injury is not being able to do what you did before. This change in abilities can include your ability to work. If your work injury requires that you work fewer hours, or no hours, during treatment, you can receive temporary disability benefits.
A Form 21 settlement allows you and your employer to settle on the amount of wage-loss compensation you receive. Once again, if you need additional medical compensation, you need to apply for it within two years of your last compensation payment.
Why Settle a Workers’ Compensation Case?
While helpful for many, the workers’ compensation system can be unpredictable and restrictive. In an accepted workers’ compensation claim, your employer and their insurance carrier chooses the doctors who will treat you for your injury, and their decisions can affect what kind of disability payments you receive.
If your employer denies your claim, or if you do not agree with the decisions of your authorized treating physician, a hearing may be required to make any changes.
A hearing can be time-consuming and stressful and the Industrial Commission might rule against you. With a settlement, you have more freedom to decide the course of your healthcare. A settlement can also protect you from the risk of an unfavorable ruling at a hearing.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me with Settlement?
An important factor in receiving a fair settlement is understanding the full value of your claim and the right timing for entering into a settlement.
You should not settle your claim until you know what your future medical and financial needs will likely be. Experienced attorneys know when the time is right to settle, and how to obtain the maximum value for your claim.
Reach Out to an Attorney for Help
Do all workers’ compensation cases end in a settlement? No, but you should contact an experienced attorney if you’re thinking about settling your case. At Mehta & McConnell, PLLC, our attorneys have over 30 years of combined experience.