For those injured on the job, workers' comp provides a valuable way to stay home and get better while earning a portion of your salary. Additionally, there is no need to worry about those expensive medical bills while you are healing and hoping to return to work soon. In most cases, you will be able to return to work soon, but things don't always work out that way. Read on to learn about what could trip you on your way back to work.
Initial Benefits for the Injured
Your injury is likely not that unique, and in fact the insurance carrier likely has a lot of data about your type of injury and how long you can be expected to be out of work. Workers' comp coverage is not a government benefit; it comes from a for-profit company that must keep an eye on the bottom line. Every moment you are out of work, it costs both your employer and the insurance carrier money.
With this in mind, the insurance carrier may request that you undergo a special medical exam to find out more information if you have not been able to return to work soon enough to suit them. In some cases it may turn out that you have an injury that will never heal, leading to the ruling of being permanently disabled.
Permanent Injuries Earn Different Benefits
Once you have spent several weeks, or even months, out of work and unable to heal, this ruling comes down (referred to as maximum medical improvement) and your normal weekly payments of a portion of your salary will be replaced by an offer for a settlement. It's important to take special care during this time, since the amount you get should be enough to provide for you for the remainder of your working life. It may be a lump sum offer or it may be broken up into payments, but you will likely need a workers' comp attorney to help you negotiate for the best deal.
The Quick Offer
While the above scenario is the common one, there is an emerging trend that all workers' comp recipients need to be aware of: the quick settlement offer. In a effort to save money, you may be offered a settlement before your injury has even had an opportunity to heal. Now, in some instances, the full result of your injury is so obviously permanent that a timely offer to settle should not be surprising.
For example, if you have a catastrophic and serious injury where the end result can easily be seen, such as an amputation or spinal injury, you should expect an offer early on. The quick offer, however, happens for injuries where the results are unknown. For example, a back injury could heal or it may not, only time will tell. Quick offers are nearly always much lower than what you will need for permanent injuries, and you will be leaving money on the table if you sign and accept it.
Be sure to speak to a workers' compensation attorney right away, and don't sign any offers without advice from a legal professional.