In Georgia, workers injured on the job may be eligible for workers' compensation benefits, including coverage of reasonable medical expenses related to the workplace accident and temporary total disability payments. State workers' compensation laws strongly encourage claimants to settle their cases—and doing so allows many claimants to receive compensation quickly, while avoiding workers' compensation hearings.
However, while there are benefits to settling a workers' compensation claim fast, settling too soon can be a mistake, especially if you're still experiencing ongoing medical issues.
If you were injured in the workplace and your medical problems aren't resolved yet, here's what you need to know before settling your Georgia workers' compensation case.
The Give and Take of Early Workers' Compensation Settlements
In Georgia, after settling a workers' compensation claim, the claimant usually receives payment in a lump sum. But in cases where the injured worker suffered permanently disabling injuries requiring long-term care, the insurance carrier may agree to a structured settlement. Under a structured settlement agreement, workers with disabilities might receive payments once a month, once a year, or once every few years.
Settling a workers' compensation claim with your employer's insurance company means you'll relinquish the right to pursue the claim further—even if your work-related medical issue worsens in the future. This is why it's so important to wait until your injuries are fully understood and documented before accepting a settlement for your claim.
Maximum Medical Improvement
Many workers' compensation attorneys recommend clients wait until they've reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) before settling their claims. How long it takes to reach MMI varies dramatically between workers and injuries.
In most cases, injured workers are determined to reach MMI if their medical issues have stabilized. This means they're no longer expected to get any worse or better.
Understanding and Documenting Your Injuries
When seeking workers' compensation benefits for injuries sustained during the regular course of employment, carefully documenting the accident or exposure and the resulting health problems with your treating physician can serve as powerful evidence. Working closely with your doctor is also important to ensure that your job-related injuries are correctly diagnosed, and the effects of which are fully understood, before you agree to accept a settlement in your workers' compensation case.
What You Should Know About the Settlement Approval Process
Once you and your employer's workers' compensation insurance provider negotiate a settlement, the agreement, along with a series of documents and forms outlining terms, is submitted to the Georgia Workers' Compensation Board for a judge to review. After the judge approves the settlement agreement, payment should arrive within 20 days.
It's important to note that some fees and costs—such as attorney's fees, unpaid child support, or unpaid medical bills—will need to be deducted from the final settlement amount. In some cases, Medicare or Medicaid recipients may also be required to set aside some of their settlement money to pay for future medical treatment related to their work injuries. The funds put into a Medicare Set-Aside (MSA) are not subject to attorney's fees.
Consult an Experienced Workers' Compensation Attorney
If you were seriously injured in a workplace accident, you may be eager to settle your Georgia workers' compensation claim and receive a lump sum payment.
Unfortunately, settling your workers' comp case too soon can put you at a disadvantage. Waiting to settle until your injuries reach MMI helps ensure you won't be caught unaware by future medical needs related to the injury. However, there are situations where it is in the injured worker's best interest to settle their claim before reaching MMI. It is very important to have an experienced workers' compensation attorney giving you advice, so you can make the best decision on when to settle your claim.
Do you have questions about your claim? The knowledgeable workers' compensation attorneys with Rechtman & Spevak can help you understand your rights, explore legal options, and fight for the benefits you need and deserve. Call our Atlanta-area law office today to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation with a member of our legal team. Our seasoned attorneys are eager to assist you.