Understanding Workers’ Comp Settlements in California
No one deserves to suffer a workplace accident in California. Unfortunately, accidents are an inevitable part of life. Fortunately, there are legal options available to injured employees in the workplace to help them make a full recovery and get back on their feet.
A common means of financial support during the recovery period is to file for workers’ compensation benefits. In this blog, we’ll explore some key concepts about workers’ comp and answer four essential questions regarding workers’ comp settlements for injured employees in California.
5 Questions to Ask About Your Workers’ Comp Settlement
As an injured worker in California, understanding the ins and outs of your workers' comp settlement is crucial. Navigating the complexities of the legal process can be overwhelming, but being armed with the right knowledge can help you stay up-to-date and prepared to make informed decisions in your case.
Below are 5 important questions for injured employees to ask about their workers’ comp settlement in California:
#1. Am I eligible for additional benefits later on?
A common question asked by injured employees is whether or not they will be eligible for additional benefits later. To understand this, it’s first necessary to establish how the workers’ comp benefits will be structured. For example, should employees expect a series of regular payment installments or a single lump-sum payment?
In California, workers’ compensation claims can be settled in one of two ways:
Compromise & Release (C&R)
A C&R settlement is a lump-sum agreement between an injured worker and the workers’ compensation insurance company. It occurs when involved parties agree on a specific amount of money the injured worker will receive to resolve all present and future claims related to their workplace injury. This type of settlement typically covers various aspects, such as medical bills, disability benefits, vocational rehabilitation, and future medical care.
Once the C&R settlement is finalized and approved by the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB), the injured worker receives a single lump-sum payment. However, the injured worker forfeits their right to any future claims or benefits related to the specific injury the settlement covers. C&R settlements are often preferred when the injured worker opts for lump-sum payments for immediate financial needs or desires more options for medical treatment.
A stipulation settlement is an agreement between an injured worker and the workers’ compensation insurance company outlining the benefits the injured worker will receive for their workplace injury. Unlike a C&R, stipulation settlements do not provide a lump-sum payment. Instead, they establish ongoing benefits for the injured worker.
Stipulation settlements typically cover benefits like temporary disability payments, permanent disability payments, and medical expenses. The injured worker can continue to receive benefits periodically, such as weekly disability payments or medical treatment, as outlined in the settlement agreement.
Keep in mind that stipulation agreements don’t resolve all future claims related to the injury, but establish ongoing benefits, meaning that future disputes can require further legal proceedings. Generally, stipulation settlements are favored when an injured worker needs access to ongoing medical treatment and/or requires periodic financial support.
#2. What determines my workers’ comp settlement amount?
Various factors determine the monetary amount of any workers’ comp settlement. Primarily, it depends on the severity of your injury and its impact on your ability to work. The nature of your injury, the extent of medical treatment required, and any permanent disabilities or impairments can also be considered, and an employee's average wage before the injury can also play a role.
Workers’ comp benefits are intended to replace a portion of the injured worker’s lost earnings, typically around two-thirds of the pre-injury amount. If the employee cannot return to work or has limited work capacity, the settlement amount can reflect that. Negotiating a fair settlement after a workplace accident can be complex, and securing sound counsel from a skilled attorney is imperative to protect your rights.
Qualified representation can mean the difference between fully covering injury-related expenses, such as hospital bills or medical treatment costs, and walking away without a job. It's vital for injured workers to fully understand the legal options available to them by collaborating with a trusted representative. A good lawyer can help workers assess the potential value of a settlement and navigate the legal proceedings as painlessly and efficiently as possible after deciding to file for workers’ comp.
#3. How long do workers’ comp settlements take to process?
The duration of a workers' comp settlement process can vary depending on several factors. The complexity of your case, the cooperation of all parties involved, and the workload of the workers' comp court system can all affect the timeline.
In general, once you reach an agreement with the insurance company or employer, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months for the settlement documents to be prepared, reviewed, and finalized. However, it's important to keep in mind that sometimes disputes or disagreements may arise during the negotiation process, which can prolong the settlement timeline.
Your workers' comp attorney will guide you through each step of the process and provide an estimate based on the specifics of your case. Their expertise and knowledge of the system will help ensure your settlement is processed as efficiently as possible.
#4. When should I settle in my workers’ comp case?
Determining the right time to settle your workers' comp claim is a critical decision that should not be taken lightly. It's essential to assess your medical condition and the impact of your injury on your ability to work both now and in the future.
Sometimes, settling early can be advantageous if you require immediate financial support or believe your condition is unlikely to improve significantly. However, settling too early could leave you with inadequate compensation if complications arise later.
On the other hand, waiting until your condition stabilizes and you clearly understand any permanent impairments may lead to a more accurate assessment of your future medical needs and potential lost earnings. Your workers' comp attorney will evaluate your specific circumstances and advise you on the best timing for your settlement.
#5. Does my settlement require a judge’s approval?
Yes. Under California law, all workers’ comp settlements must be approved by a WCAB judge. Settlement negotiations typically occur between the injured worker, their attorney, and the insurance company or employer's representative.
If your settlement involves a C&R agreement, which permanently resolves all aspects of your claim, it must be reviewed and approved by a workers' comp judge to ensure it is fair and reasonable.
It's crucial to work with a qualified attorney with sufficient experience in this particular area of the law. An experienced workers’ comp lawyer can help guide you through the complexities of the legal process and prepare necessary documentation and supporting evidence to present to the judge when necessary.
Experienced Counsel for Injured Workers in CA
At Alvandi Law Group, our experienced workers’ comp attorneys take pride in defending the rights of hardworking employees throughout Southern California. With over half a billion recovered in settlements for our clients, you can count on our trusted firm to safeguard your rights and pursue the justice you rightfully deserve after a workplace accident, injury, or illness. Reach out to our dedicated legal team today to consult with a qualified workers’ comp lawyer in the Golden State.
Injured in the workplace? Our dedicated attorneys can fight for the maximum compensation you deserve. Call (800) 980-6905 to request a consultation.