Whenever our Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyers discuss a settlement for a workers’ comp claim with their client, they often hear the same question. Our clients want to know what happens if they settle their case and then find out they’re still hurt a year or two later.
When we tell them that there is very little chance that they will be able to access additional care, they get scared. They want to put their settlement off. They say they would rather collect workers comp benefits as long as possible to drag their workers’ comp claim out.
What they don’t realize is that, once the doctor has determined that they’ve reached maximum medical improvement, their benefits will end. At that point, any settlement they may collect could be a lot smaller than what they hope for. Our Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyers have handled enough cases to know that timing is everything when it comes to a workers’ compensation settlement.
Here, we will explain what happens once your Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer settles their case. We will also describe the ways in which your attorney can include language in their settlement to protect them.
If you still have questions about your workers’ comp claim, give us a call. We offer new clients a free initial consultation.
Generally, You Cannot Request Medical Treatment Once Your Case Settles
Years ago, it was common for workers comp claim settlements to allow for some time in which additional medical care could be sought. The wording could allow further medical treatment for up to two years from the date of the settlement. Or more restrictive language would state that only certain types of medical care will be available for that two-year period.
The Georgia State Board of Workers Compensation doesn’t look favorably on these open medical settlements, and they are rare today.
Insurance companies don’t want to take all the time to hash out a settlement only for your Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer to ask for more money in a year or two. The insurance companies have complained that these settlements leave too much uncertainty as far as further exposure is concerned.
Your Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Lawyer May Ask for an “Open Medical” Settlement
As mentioned above, “open medical” settlements seem to be a thing of the past. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. It is theoretically possible that your Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer can still negotiate this type of settlement. They are still sparingly used and are still legal. The question is why the insurance company would be willing to negotiate this type of settlement.
There are certain situations in which it is nearly impossible to settle a workers’ comp claim without having an open medical clause. For example, imagine that an employee works for a demolition company. They learn in 2020 that they have developed nodules in their lungs due to exposure to asbestos.
They file a worker’s comp claim and undergo treatment. Their doctor tells them that there is a good chance that they may end up being diagnosed with lung cancer in the next five years. Their Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer isn’t going to negotiate a settlement that doesn’t address future medical care.
Since there is no way of knowing whether the injured workers will actually develop lung cancer, a settlement can be tricky. In cases like this, it may be necessary to include an open medical clause in the settlement agreement.
Your Settlement Can Include a Portion of Money Designated for Future Medical Care
One other option available to your Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer is setting aside a portion of your settlement for future medical care. Usually, when you settle your workers’ comp claim, a good chunk of the money will be intended for future medical treatment. If your injury or illness is of the type that will get worse over time, this portion may be quite large. It all depends on how much you made while working and what body part was injured.
You Shouldn’t File Your Workers Comp Claim Until You’ve Met with an Atlanta Workers Compensation Lawyer
Most people don’t think twice when they file a workers’ compensation claim. They trust that their employer will take care of them. The truth is that it all comes down to money. The more money the insurance company has to pay out for your claim, the higher your employer’s premiums will be. The last thing they want is a long, drawn-out fight over your workers’ comp claim.
Sometimes, a settlement is the best solution for everybody. The problem is that, with most settlements, you aren’t allowed to come back later and demand additional medical care. Your employer will argue that you have already received money to cover this care.
That’s what your settlement is for. Of course, your Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer will demand extra money to cover future medical care. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to know with any level of certainty how much your future medical treatment will cost.
We recommend that anyone who’s been hurt in a workplace accident contact our office right away. It’s never a good idea to file your workers’ comp claim before you talk to an Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer. They will help you every step of the way. They will also ensure that any settlement you accept is large enough to cover any future medical care you may need.
We offer new clients a free, initial consultation. You will want to schedule this as soon as possible after your workplace accident. The last thing you want to do is miss your filing deadline. You also don’t want to wait until your consultation to report your work injury.