The Ohio workers’ compensation system is structured to provide ongoing payments to an injured worker while he or she is unable to work and to pay for necessary medical care. However, in some cases, the employer, the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) and the injured worker will reach a settlement agreement and the injured worker will receive a lump sum payment.
How is a Workers’ Compensation Settlement Calculated?
Unlike some states, Ohio does not have a specific formula or schedule of values that are applied in calculating a workers’ compensation settlement. Rather, BWC assesses the likely future compensation under the claim, weighting values depending upon the likelihood that the expenses will be incurred.
For example, a workers’ compensation claimant has been told definitively that he or she will need follow-up surgery in 18 months, and will be unable to work for six weeks following the surgery, will generally receive more compensation than a claimant with other factor equal who has been told there is only a 40% chance that the surgery will be required.
A workers’ compensation settlement does not provide compensation for intangible damages that might be compensated in a personal injury lawsuit, such as pain and suffering.
What if the Settlement Offer is Insufficient?
If the injured worker and his or her workers’ compensation attorney do not feel that the settlement offer is adequate, the attorney may continue to negotiate on behalf of the claimant. However, it is important to keep in mind that settlement is a voluntary process. The claimant cannot be compelled to settle the claim.
Is it a Good Idea to Settle a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
The wisdom and desirability of settling a workers’ compensation claim must be decided on a case by case basis, preferably in consultation with an experienced Ohio workers’ compensation attorney.
Some factors are objective.
For example, it is usually not in the employee’s best interest to settle a workers’ compensation claim while there is uncertainty about his or her future medical needs or ability to return to work. A workers’ compensation settlement typically resolves the claim entirely. That means that if the claimant later discovers that he or she needs an additional expensive surgery or that his or her ability to work is more limited than anticipated, no additional compensation will be available.
Other factors depend on the priorities of the claimant. A workers’ compensation settlement typically represents less than the full value of the claim if paid out over time. For some claimants, the discounted value of the settlement and the risk of unanticipated future costs arising is an acceptable trade-off for getting cash in hand in a lump sum and having greater control over his or her own financial future and medical care.
How Long Does it Take to Settle a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
The timeline for settlement of a workers’ compensation claim in Ohio varies.
First, it is important to note that where serious injuries are concerned, it is usually not appropriate to begin negotiating a settlement immediately: the injured worker will typically want to wait until a clearer picture of his or her future medical needs and earning capacity emerges.
Once settlement negotiations commence, working out and finalizing a settlement may take anywhere from a few months to a year or more. After the agreement is executed, there is a mandatory 30-day waiting period, during which either party may withdraw from the settlement.
Talk to an Experienced Attorney about Your Ohio Workers’ Compensation Settlement
While you aren’t required to work with an attorney in negotiating and executing a workers’ compensation settlement, the considerations are complex. A simple misstep could leave you without access to critical medical care in the future, or short on funds for living expenses if you are unable to return to work or experience a loss of earning capacity as a result of your injury.
An attorney experienced in negotiating Ohio workers’ compensation settlements can help ensure that nothing is overlooked and that you enter into a settlement only if it is in your best interests.
To review your settlement options call your family’s lawyer at Dworken & Bernstein to discuss and review this or any of your legal concerns or issues.