I get asked this question virtually every day. When should I settle my case? It’s a great question and there isn’t an easy answer. The answer is, simply put, “it depends”. That sounds conveniently lawyer-like,huh?
Before anything else, the most important thing is to retain a Certified Pennsylvania Work Comp Specialist. This is a special designation, recognized by the Pennsylvania Bar Association as authorized by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania- for attorneys who have demonstrated mastery of a Pennsylvania Work Comp Practice. Attorney Michael Cardamone sat for, and passed, the very first exam for this specialty, several years ago.
You will turn on your TV and see firms wanting you to call them for a work-related injury. Many of the firms handle personal injury cases and other types of legal matters, with very little, or zero, workers’ compensation. Some of these firms will merely take your call and farm out the case to a specialty firm like ours. Don’t fall victim to slick advertising- ask trusted friends or family or co- workers for a referral. And research the firm’s website- are they a “Jack of All Trades” or do they focus on work comp? This is your earning power at stake!
Ok, once you’ve “lawyer’d up”, there are a constellation of factors to consider. An important factor is leverage. What I mean by this is whether there is any litigation threatening your benefits? Is there a Termination, Modification, or Suspension Petition that’s in court, which if successful for the insurer/employer, could lower or eliminate your checks? If the answer is yes, this is a real consideration to factor into the equation. Whether you like it or not, a Workers’ Compensation Judge may not see things your way. Many cases will involve doctors who have different opinions, and the Judge has to pick one side over the other. Who is the Judge? Do they tend to be more claimant or employer oriented in close-call cases? How have any depositions gone?
Another critical factor is whether there is a need for future medical treatment. Is surgery being contemplated? If the case settles for a lump sum and medical benefits end on the hearing date, who will pay? Medicare? Private insurance? Generally, if a client has reach MMI- maximum medical improvement, which essentially means a plateau has been reached, it’s a better situation to consider resolving a claim versus one where invasive procedures like injections or surgery are on the horizon.
An injured worker will also want to consider their future vocational possibilities. Can the worker find a job within his or her restrictions soon after a settlement? Will the amount of settlement allow the client to go back to school or train for another type of job? What’s the game plan for re-entering the work force if the client hasn’t been working? Many employers, in fact most, want a resignation signed with a lump sum settlement (Compromise and Release) which means the employee agrees to not re-apply for a position with the employer.
What about other benefits like Social Security Disability, Long Term Disability, Unemployment Compensation? How will settling the workers’ compensation case affect these benefits? Careful consideration should be made to coordinate benefits to maximize them for an injured worker. For example, with respect to Social Security Disability, we incorporate language in the Compromise and Release Agreements to maximize our clients’ entitlement to SSD after a settlement is approved by a Work Comp Judge.
These are just a few of the important factors to consider when deciding when to settle a workers’ compensation case in Pennsylvania. Note that every case is different and this article is not intended to be legal advice. You are not a client of Cardamone Law unless you sign a Fee Agreement with our firm.
For more information about Workers’ Compensation in Pennsylvania, call Attorney Cardamone 7 days a week at (215) 206-9068 or email Michael@CardamoneLaw.com