Injured workers have several options when it comes to settling or resolving their workers comp case:
1. Fully Litigated Case / No Settlement: Full litigation means we go to the hearing with a Labor Commission judge; the injured worker testifies and is cross-examined; the judge decides the facts of the case and obtains an opinion from a Labor Commission Medical Panel; and the judge renders a decision. The injured worker or the insurance company may then appeal to the Labor Commissioner (or to the Appeals Board), then to the Utah Court of Appeals and then to the Utah Supreme Court. This process typically takes many months.
2. Direct Referral to a Medical Panel: In this situation, the insurance company’s lawyer and the injured worker’s lawyer type up the facts of the case–we all agree what happened. We just disagree on what medical treatment is needed. So, the judge then skips the hearing and moves on to the medical panel phase. This speeds up the litigation by about three months and saves the injured worker from having to testify at a hearing.
3. Settlement of Indemnity Only with Medicals Left Open: “Indemnity” means “compensation for loss”; it is the money that goes to the injured worker, not to the doctor. Workers Comp cases typically involve claims for indemnity (money to injured worker) and for medical benefits (money to doctor). Indemnity is usually classified as Temporary Total Disability benefits or Permanent Partial Disability benefits. Sometimes the injured worker and workers compensation insurance company decide to settle the indemnity portion of the case and let the medical issues go to the Medical Panel and the Labor Commission judge for resolution. This type of settlement is the best way to go in certain situations.
4. Settling the Current Claim Only: Occasionally we will settle only the current claim and leave open the possibility of future claims in case the injured worker has some future medical problems due to the industrial accident. Settling only the current claim is fairly rare.
5. Full & Final Settlement: Here, the injured worker agrees that she cannot bring any future claims stemming from a particular accident even if her medical condition worsens in the future. Insurance companies like full & final settlements because it allows them to close the case file forever. These settlements typically happen before the hearing, so the shortest amount of time to get to a settlement is about four months from the time we file the claim with the Labor Commission.
Some of the factors we discuss when contemplating settlement are: the severity of the client’s injuries and loss of function; the client’s age, education and future work prospects; the strength of the evidence in the case; whether the injured worker has access to healthcare through private insurance or Medicaid / Medicare, and the client’s financial situation. If you have any questions about settling your workers comp case, feel free to call Tim Daniels Law Services for help.