Thursday, March 24, 2011

Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Settlement: How Much Will I Get?

Some of the most common questions I hear from injured workers are:
  • When will the insurance company offer me a settlement on my workers’ compensation case? 
  • How much will I get for a settlement of my work injuries?
  • When will my workers’ compensation trial be?
  • How much will the insurance company give me for my bulging disc, carpal tunnel, fusion surgery, or broken ankle?
The answers to these questions depend on a lot of different variables in Minnesota workers’ compensation cases. The most important thing to remember in a workers’ compensation case, is that there is no “settlement” per se, nor is there necessarily a trial in a Minnesota workers’ compensation case.

A Minnesota workers’ compensation case is different than a personal injury case. A personal injury case is resolved by settling or going to trial, and you receive a lump sum of money to compensate you for your medical expenses, your wage loss, and your pain and suffering. A personal injury settlement or jury verdict also accounts for your future medical expenses, your future wage loss, and your future pain and suffering. It’s a one-shot deal. Whatever you settle for or whatever the jury awards is the amount you get in compensation for your injuries. Period.

In contrast, in a workers’ compensation case, if your claim is admitted, the workers’ compensation insurance company simply makes payments as your expenses occur, like medical bills, or weekly wage loss benefits. We often say that an injured worker is then “in” the workers’ compensation system. If there are no disputes on your workers’ compensation case, there is no trial.

If there are disputes on your workers’ compensation case, whether the workers’ compensation insurer has flat-out denied primary liability on your case, or refused to pay your medical bills, refused to pay certain benefits, or refused to authorize certain treatment, once your attorney files a claim, you will ultimately get a trial date.

A workers’ compensation trial is very different than a personal injury trial.
  • First off, there is no jury – a workers’ compensation judge makes a decision on your case.
  • Second, workers’ compensation trials are much less formal than personal injury trials in terms of procedure. 
  • Third, and most importantly, a workers’ compensation judge will make a determination only as to the issues currently in dispute on your case. For example, if the workers’ compensation insurer is denying pre-approval for surgery, and that’s the only dispute on your case, the judge will make a determination only whether or the workers’ compensation insurer must pay for the surgery. If there is a dispute regarding your entitlement to permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits, the judge’s decision will address only this issue. If your case involves a dispute as to your entitlement to wage loss benefits, a judge makes a determination as to your eligibility for wage loss benefits only up through the date of the hearing. At a workers’ compensation trial, the workers’ compensation judge will not make a determination as to your entitlement to future benefits.
Even if you win a trial on whatever issues are in dispute, it’s entirely possible for the insurance company to turn around the next day and refuse to pay for something else, and you have to start the dispute process all over again. In fact, we have a number of clients where we’ve gone to trial on their cases a number of times.

Sounds depressing to be stuck in this “system,” right? The good news is that in most workers’ compensation cases, we are able to procure a settlement on behalf of our client, regardless of the type of dispute involved. Depending on the issues at dispute, there are any number of ways to “settle” a workers’ compensation case.

A few examples might include:
  • There is a dispute over an injured worker’s wage loss benefits. The parties might enter into a “to-date” settlement where the employee receives a partial settlement for an underpayment of wage loss benefits through the date of the settlement, and the employee is entitled to claims for future benefits.
  • There is a dispute over payment of an employee’s medical bills. The parties agree to settle those bills with the medical provider for a compromised amount as part of a “to-date” settlement. The employee doesn’t receive any money as a result of this type of settlement, but he or she is entitled to ongoing benefits. 
  • There is a dispute over an employee’s wage loss benefits. The parties agree to settle an employee’s case on a full, final, and complete basis, which closes out both past and future monetary benefits in exchange for a lump sum payment, but leaves open entitlement to future medical care to be paid by the workers’ compensation insurance company. 
  • There is no dispute on an employee’s workers’ compensation case. The parties agree to settle an employee’s case on a full, final, and complete basis, for a close out of the employee’s entitlement to future wage loss benefits in exchange for a lump sum payment, leaving open entitlement to future medical care. 
  • The insurance company denies primary liability on an injured workers’ case. The parties agree to settle all claims, including entitlement to future medical care, in exchange for a lump sum payment. 
  • The employee previously entered into a settlement, closing out his or her entitlement to monetary benefits. A dispute arises regarding the employee’s entitlement to medical care. The parties enter into a settlement agreement whereby the insurance company pays a compromised amount to the employee’s medical providers. The employee’s ongoing medical care remains open.
I often hear from clients statements like “my uncle got X dollars for the same injury I had,” or “my neighbor only got X dollars for the same injury I have, is that all that I will get?”

The biggest variable that comes in to play in calculating a “demand” for purposes of settlement negotiations on a Minnesota workers’ compensation case is not necessarily the type or severity of the Employee’s injury. It is usually the amount of the injured worker’s Average Weekly Wage (AWW). The AWW determines the compensation rate for both temporary total disability (TTD) benefits and temporary partial disability benefits (TPD). Other factors that come into play is the type and severity of the injury, how long the employee has been and/or is expected to be off work, what the employee’s projected earning capacity is, whether the employee is currently working, whether the insurance company has admitted or denied primary liability, the strength of any defenses the insurance company may have to the claim, whether the employee is 90 days post-MMI, and how long the insurance company has paid benefits to the employee. Things like pain and suffering you've experienced, loss of enjoyment of your previous lifestyle, and the stress of dealing with an injury do not factor in to the value of your workers' compensation claim, because these types of intangible losses are not compensable under the Minnesota workers’ compensation system.

So, the long answer to the question “How much will I get for my Minnesota workers’ compensation settlement?” is:

It depends on the specific facts of your case! At Meuser & Associate, we’ve tried hundreds of workers’ compensation cases, and settled thousands of cases. We can help make sure you get the benefits you’re entitled to, whether it be by trying your case, or by settling your case.

For a free, no-obligation consultation regarding your workers’ compensation case, call us at 877-746-5680, or click here to send us an email to speak with one of our Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyers.

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1 comment:

  1. Arshad Ramji is not just a Houston injury attorney specializing in personal injury law,
    but a licensed chiropractor who can understand your pain and injuries.
    Houston Personal Injury Attorney


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