Most workers in Georgia are covered by workers’ compensation through their employer. Workers’ comp pays for medical expenses and helps replace a portion of lost wages if the employee cannot return to work right away.
Workers’ compensation cases can, like personal injury lawsuits, end with a settlement–and they often do. The amount of your settlement will depend on several factors, including how well you present your case. The outcome also depends on the severity of your injury and how it affects your ability to perform your job.
Do You Need to Hire a Workers’ Comp Attorney for Your Case?
You should consider hiring a workers’ compensation attorney for your case so you can have the lawyer look over all the paperwork and ensure you are agreeing to a settlement that is fair compared to the injuries you suffered and the costs you have incurred as a result. An attorney can also deal with the insurance company on your behalf so you don’t have to worry about feeling intimidated into settling for less than you deserve. Plus, because most workers’ compensation attorneys work on contingency, so you won’t have to worry about paying attorney fees until you receive your settlement.
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Many Workers’ Compensation Cases End in a Settlement
Many workers’ comp cases end in a settlement when your work injury leaves you with a permanent or partial disability. If you return to work soon after your accident and do not have a disability resulting from your injury, you might not get a settlement offer. Otherwise, there is a potential to settle for the current and future costs of your injury.
The workers’ compensation laws in Georgia encourage settlements. A fair settlement is advantageous to you if it provides enough compensation to cover your immediate and ongoing costs. If your injury impacts your ability to work into the indefinite future, you will also need to make sure your settlement accounts for those losses.
Be Careful When Accepting a Settlement
Settling a workers’ comp case means you are essentially forfeiting your ability to seek further compensation. Many workers are advised to wait until they have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) before considering a settlement. MMI refers to a state you reach when your condition has improved as much as it’s going to with medical treatment.
Before accepting any settlement, you should ensure it is fair to you and your needs. It’s best to get a Georgia workers’ compensation lawyer on the phone to discuss your options.
How Do Section 32 Settlements Work?
A Section 32 settlement happens when you agree to settle your workers’ comp case for a set amount of money. In these situations, you are typically paid all of your settlement in one lump sum, though some agreements allow for payment in installments. The latter agreement is rare, though, inasmuch as insurance companies would much rather pay you all at once and close the case out rather than keep it ongoing.
The only way insurance companies will typically agree to installment payments is if you have severe injuries that result in complete and permanent disability. However, while that might sound just fine in the moment, by accepting that settlement you are forgoing your chance to collect any monies in the future toward additional medical treatments you may need. Therefore, before you agree to a Section 32 settlement, you should seriously consider discussing your case with a workers’ compensation attorney.
How Workers’ Compensation Settlements Work in Georgia
In Georgia, there two types of workers’ comp settlements:
- Liability settlements where there is a resolution of a claim the insurance company has agreed to pay
- Non-liability settlements where there is a disagreement about how eligible you are for benefits
Most of the time, injured workers receive their settlement as a lump sum from the insurance company. Sometimes, often in cases where injuries are very serious and disabling, an agreement is reached for a structured settlement paid out for months or years. The options will vary depending on the worker’s situation, the severity of their injuries, and whether or not they work with an experienced attorney.
Accepting or Fighting For a Settlement
The timeline for settlement typically begins with your decision. If the insurance company offers you a settlement, you can either accept or refuse it. It might be tempting to take the first offer, but we almost always urge clients to wait until they are more fully healed. It’s difficult to accurately determine what your total costs are if you are still in active treatment.
If you accept a settlement offer, you may receive your money more quickly. However, if the settlement is not fair to you, you will want to seek an amount that actually covers your expenses. At this point, the claim turns into a legal proceeding, and you will need to work with a good workers’ comp lawyer in your area.
Factors That Determine the Value of Your Workers’ Compensation Settlement
The full value of your settlement will depend on several factors, such as:
- The severity of your injuries
- Whether or not you are able to return to work
- Any conflicting evidence
This is where a workers’ compensation lawyer can be invaluable. They can look at your settlement offer and compare it to the details of your case. A lawyer will help you calculate a fair settlement by taking every factor into account.
What Happens at the Hearing
When you refuse a settlement, there might be a hearing where both parties present information before a judge. A court reporter will record what was said during the hearing, and you will need to provide testimony (under oath) about your accident and injuries. The defense will also cross-examine you.
Documents will be presented and employees, supervisors, or witnesses may be called to testify. It all depends on the details of your case. When both sides have presented their information and evidence, the judge will decide how much workers’ compensation you are owed based on what they saw.
Unlike other types of hearings, there is no verdict in a workers’ compensation case because fault does not play a role in the decision.
Finalizing Workers’ Compensation Settlements in Georgia
Before a settlement can be truly finalized, the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation (SBWC) must approve it (OCGA §34-9-15). After both you and the insurance company providing workers’ comp have agreed on your settlement terms, you will need to submit certain documents to the board for them to review. These documents may include:
- Medical records regarding your condition
- Past and future medical expenses
- A stipulated settlement agreement
- Your employer’s report of your injury and other claims forms
- Lawyer fee-related documents
If you are organized and present the right documents, the board will likely approve your settlement after reviewing everything.
Remember, finalizing a workers’ comp settlement indeed makes it final. To make sure you are accepting a settlement that will benefit you (now and in the future), contact a workers’ compensation lawyer who can help you with your case.
A Georgia Workers’ Compensation Attorney Can Help You Today
While not all workers’ compensation cases end in a settlement, many do. Workers are more likely to get a fair settlement offer if they work with an experienced workers’ comp lawyer. That is where John Foy & Associates comes in.
For over 20 years, our attorneys have been helping injured workers get the benefits and compensation they not only need, but also deserve. We can help you, too, and there is no risk. We don’t get paid unless we win you money, and the consultation is always FREE.