You have suffered an unfortunate injury on the job. You have been to doctors, physical therapy, etc. You’re done. You’ve had it with the adjuster, your employer, this crappy system. Or, the adjuster has approached you and suggested that you settle your case. Either way, you now want to consider settlement of your case. Whether you have hired an attorney or are trying to go through the process on your own, there are some important factors to consider before you jump into any settlement.
The first thing that you must know, is that if you settle, the insurance company will insist that you sign papers which will forever bar your right to any future benefits in the workers compensation system as a result of your injury, and likely, any work-related events that have occurred before the day the papers are signed. That will likely include any other injuries, but also your right to pursue any other actions against your employer….ever. Once you sign these documents, your case is over. You can never come back later and say that you didn’t understand, you settled too quickly, or you didn’t realize that more medical care was going to be necessary. Once you sign the settlement papers, barring some very rare circumstances, you are done. Your case is over. So….you better be sure that settlement is in your best interest, and you really should settle. Unfortunately, there are many attorneys out there that will tell you to settle, but in your heart, you do not want to close your case. A lot of attorneys just want to get paid. However, it is your case, not theirs. Do not settle until you are ready. Now, there are situations where settlement may be in your best interest, and your attorney is trying to explain that to you. Just make sure that understand that you are giving up all of your rights to any future benefits. Make sure that the final decision is yours.
Next, if you understand your rights, and want to proceed with settlement, is there a best way to accomplish it? Settlement discussions happen many ways. You can talk to the adjuster directly and reach an agreement. Your attorney can speak to the insurance company’s attorney and settle it through phone or email communications. Or, you can mediate your case. No matter which way, make sure you understand exactly how much you are going to get in your pocket, after all attorneys fees and costs are paid. You do not want to be surprised later.
So, what is mediation? Mediation is an informal meeting between the parties, overseen by a mediator; a neutral third party who can help the parties to the claim understand each side’s position. Typically, the parties start in a room together with the mediator and each side makes an opening statement outlining their position in the case. Then usually, the parties split into different rooms, called caucuses, so they can privately meet with the mediator to discuss their case without the presence of the other side. This gives the party a chance to be more open with the mediator about their case, and they can say things that they want the mediator to understand, but not the other side. This can include case strategy, case strengths or even weaknesses. This is all used to get the mediator in the best position to help you reach a resolution. If the parties can reach a mutual agreement, a settlement can be accomplished.
It is highly recommended that you not try to settle without the assistance of counsel. The insurance company handles thousands and thousands of claims, and they know how to save money. Even if the adjuster is really nice to you, they have a job to do. They are not your friend. You should absolutely have someone in your corner with extensive experience in settlement negotiations.
At Matheson Horowitz & Devonmille, the attorneys have nearly 80 years of experience combined. Every attorney in the firm has handled hundreds or thousands of mediations. Olivia Devonmille, in fact, is a former workers compensation judge, and a mediator that has mediated many, many cases in the trenches. The MHD attorneys know every trick, every tool, to maximize settlement value. Most importantly, they have a reputation that if the carrier isn’t fair, they are willing to take the case to trial in front of the judge. If you have questions about settlement, do not hesitate to call us for a confidential, free consultation.