How Long Does a Workers’ Comp Settlement Take?
If you have been injured at work and need to make a workers’ comp claim, you may be wondering – how long does a workers’ comp settlement take? The answer may vary, depending on the circumstances of your case. A settlement can take anywhere from 6 weeks to two or more years. Around half of the workers’ comp cases are settled within 13 to 24 months. Less than 20 % of cases are settled within 6 months.
Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance provided to employees for injuries sustained while at work. It provides compensation for the cost of medical care and rehabilitation for workers injured while on the job. It also provides benefits for temporary or permanent disability, or certain permanent injuries such as blindness, deafness, or the loss of a limb, and death benefits for dependents of an employee who is killed in a work-related accident. In return, the employee loses the right to sue his or her employer for any form of fault that may have led to the injuries.
In the United States in 2021, there were approximately 2.6 million non-fatal injuries and illnesses reported, with 5,190 fatal work injuries reported. In that year, there were 2.7 non-fatal injuries for every 100 employees, with 3.6 fatalities for every 100,000 employees. These injuries can be covered by workers’ comp. If you have been injured while on the job, you cannot file a personal injury lawsuit like you would after a car accident, or a slip and fall accident. You must seek compensation through a workers’ comp claim.
What Is the Typical Timeline of a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
While the process may vary from state to state, your claim will likely use the following process:
- Report your injury to the manager or employer. In Illinois, you have 45 days to report the injury to your employer. If you take longer than 45 days, the insurance company will likely deny your claim. They will probably argue that your injuries could have happened between the date of the accident and your report, or that your injuries worsened because of your decision to wait so long.
- Get medical care and evaluation. After receiving notice, your employer should refer you for medical evaluation and care. A physician can evaluate the extent of your injuries and provide an opinion regarding when or if you are able to return to work. Your doctor will also determine when you have reached maximum medical improvement, meaning that you have reached a state where your condition cannot be improved any further. This is important in determining what compensation you are seeking.
- File your workers’ comp claim. You as the injured worker,together with your attorney, will need to fill in the application forms, send a copy of the application to your employer, and deliver the application to the relevant state agency. In Illinois, you deliver copies of the signed application to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. You have 3 years from the date of your injury to file your workers’ comp claim.
- Your claim is approved or denied. If your claim is denied, you can appeal. If your claim is approved, you will be offered an amount as compensation. This can be structured payments over a period or a lump sum.
- Negotiate a settlement. You do not have to accept the first offer for compensation if you feel that it is too low. You can negotiate for a higher amount. It is helpful to have a workers’ compensation attorney to negotiate a fair settlement. If you cannot agree on a settlement amount, you can take your case to trial.
- Receive payment. In Illinois, how long it takes to get a workers’ comp settlement check is about 14 days from the time that your claim is finalized.
Factors That Can Impact the Workers’ Compensation Timeline
Every workers’ comp claim is unique, so the timeline differs depending on the circumstances. Common factors that can influence the time that your workers’ comp claim takes include:
The Severity of Your Injury
You need to reach maximum medical improvement (MMI) to determine the compensation that you can receive. MMI means that you have recovered as best you can and have reached a plateau in your medical treatment and recovery.
Once you have reached MMI, it will be possible to determine what your past medical bills are, and what ongoing treatment you may need. Your doctor will be able to determine whether you have suffered any sort of disability, and how your ability to work and earn in the future has been impacted. These factors affect the settlement amount.
If your injuries are severe, it is likely to take longer to reach MMI than if you have relatively minor injuries that heal quickly.
Your employer might want to keep his or her premiums low, which may require as few claims as possible. The insurer might also dispute your claim. They could dispute the severity of your injury, whether your injury was work-related, the lack of notice, or the amount of compensation you can claim.
This will slow down the process, as it will lead to a delay because you must overcome these disputes.
The Settlement Amount
The more severe the injury, and the more compensation that you are claiming, the longer the claim is likely to take. This is because for larger claims, there is more at stake for the insurance company, so they will want to investigate properly. There are also more technicalities involved in calculating your settlement.
For example, if you have suffered some form of disability, your doctor will need to determine if it is temporary or permanent, total, or partial. If it is partial, your doctor will give an impairment rating as a percentage, for the amount that you have lost the use of a particular limb. Illinois has a schedule for payments for loss of use of limbs. This also determines how long worker’s comp lasts.
Your benefits can last from weeks to several years, depending on the recovery time and whether you have suffered a disability. In some cases, if you have suffered a permanent disability, it can even last for the rest of your life.
This involves technical reports and calculations to work out your compensation, which takes time and slows down the process.
If you accept the first settlement offer, the process will be much quicker than if there is back and forth in negotiations. If you cannot agree on an amount and go to a hearing or trial, then the time for the trial must be added on.
When You Hire a Lawyer
If you hire a lawyer immediately, you are likely to have all relevant forms completed correctly, the required evidence, and thus fewer disputes and a smoother process. If you do not have a lawyer upfront, you are more likely to have incorrect paperwork, face more disputes, and possibly not have the evidence that you need. All of these will take time to overcome, slowing the process.
How a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Can Help
A workers’ compensation attorney will help you handle your claim effectively and help with any concerns that you may have. He or she will help you to focus on your own recovery, by saving the time and effort that you would have had to put into filing your own claim. Your attorney will be able to handle much of the process, including:
- Collecting evidence pertaining to your accident and injury, including contacting witnesses and collecting testimony.
- Determining the amount of compensation that you are entitled to receive.
- Filing your claim.
- Negotiating a fair settlement on your behalf with the insurance company.
- Handling any disputes, or legal processes, such as taking the matter to a hearing or trial.
- Handling communications with the insurance company.
The best workers’ compensation lawyers pursue every angle to ensure success. Your lawyer will know what evidence and arguments go to present, to overcome any disputes that the insurance company might present, as he or she will know the legal principles involved.
The insurance company might require you to use a doctor of its choosing, or from a predetermined list. You may end up with a medical report that is biased in favor of the insurance company by finding as little damage as possible. The doctor has reason to give the insurance company incentive to keep using him or her. An experienced attorney will know how to counter such a medical report.
You may even need disability after a workers’ comp settlement, in which case you will need a lawyer to help you pursue further compensation.
If you have a workers’ comp attorney from the start, the process is likely to be far smoother and quicker, you are more likely to have your claim approved, and will probably receive a higher settlement amount. You will also have a lawyer ready to represent you, should the case have to go for a hearing or to trial.