Florida Job Injury Question – Back Injury SettlementFebruary 25, 2010
The following is an expert answer given by Florida job injury lawyer, Joseph M. Maus, and taken from AllExperts.com, a free Q & A service on the internet:
Question: I was hurt at work and had surgery on my back – disc surgery. I got paid for time off and now I’m back to work. I am working normally with slight pain. The workers comp insurance called me and sent me mail to settle the case. They are offering me $49,999 to settle my case without lawyers. I did not ask for anything – they called me and offered me a settlement.
What should I do? Can I settle it myself? How do I go about getting the money and would that be the best solution for me without risking my employment? Is it better to get a lawyer and why?
What can I do to improve my case with the workers comp insurance? Do I have to settle the case? Would I get a better deal if I hired a lawyer to represent me?
Answer: The most important factor affecting the answer to your questions was left out. That is, what state you live in. Workers compensation laws, and the benefits you may be entitled to, vary from state to state. I am a Florida attorney specializing in serious injury and accident claims, including workers compensation. I can only tell you how the laws work in a Florida job injury, so my advice to you is to speak with an accident injury lawyer in your area to get specific advice.
There are many factors that affect a workers compensation settlement. The primary issue is how much exposure the insurance company has in the future if your claim were to remain open. For example, what exposure does the insurance company have for future medical care, wage benefits, vocational retraining, is there any exposure to permanent total disability benefits, etc. Without having a chance to review your medical records, it would be next to impossible to give you an accurate estimate of the settlement value for your case.
Your email indicates the insurance company has offered you $49,999 to settle. Most likely, the insurance company is referring to "impairment benefits" which are paid out to a claimant based upon the impairment rating given to them by the doctor. At least in Florida, an insurance company is required to pay these to you once you receive the impairment rating from your doctor, so their offer to pay them to you as a settlement offer seems a little ridiculous.
The best advice I can give you is do speak with an attorney that specializes workers compensation. He can advise you what the law is in your area, and what your options are. Workers Comp in most states is entirely a creation of the State’s statutes and as such, all rights you have, and obligations the employers insurance company have, are set out in the Statutes. You may, and I emphasize may b/c I don’t know your State’s laws, have rights different than what we have in Florida. The settlement value of your claim would be based in part upon options that still exist for you within the WC laws of your state.
Most attorneys specializing in workers compensation claims handle the claims on a contingent basis,i.e. their attorney fees are a percentage of any money they recover for you. In a Florida job injury, it is usually about 25% of the gross settlement amount. Most workers comp attorneys also offer a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss whether you have a viable case. So you really have nothing to lose by speaking to an experienced workers compensation lawyer. If you don’t like what you hear, you’re not obligated.
I get asked quite often whether it is best to hire an injury accident lawyer to settle a claim. My response is always – absolutely yes. In 17 years of doing accident injury claims, I have yet to have a client come into the office with what I considered to be a fair offer from an insurance company, without the assistance of an attorney. I wouldn’t attempt my own dental or medical work, do a serious repair on my car, or re-wire my house on my own. Leave it to the experts. The old saying is don’t be penny wise, but pound foolish.
If you are an injured worker in Florida, I would tell you that there really is no way to give you an accurate answer to all your questions without spending some time with you speaking about your case, your employment history and job skills, your age, and looking at your medical records and doctor opinions. You do not have to settle a workers compensation claim in Florida, so you should be careful about negotiations directly with the insurance company.