Injured workers ask us this question all the time. We can never specify an exact Ohio workers’ comp settlement amount.
Some workers’ compensation claims settle for several hundred dollars. A rare few settle for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Most settlements fall between the extreme low and high ends.
Understanding why such a vast range exists starts with recognizing exactly what a settlement is. In the context of a workers’ comp claim, a settlement is money paid by the injured worker’s employer and/or the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) in exchange for the closure of the claim. Most settlement agreements require the injured worker to renounce the right to continue seeking reimbursements for medical treatments and to stop receiving other monetary payments that had been authorized because of the claim.
Typically, the sole motivation an employer or the BWC has to settle is their desire to close the claim out now so they can avoid paying more money later.
For all practical purposes, the amount of a settlement reflects what the employer or BWC believes an open claim would cost them in the future. Knowing this allows a workers’ compensation attorney to set the terms of the claim settlement negotiation process with an estimate of their client’s need for ongoing treatment. out-of-work benefits like Temporary Total Disability or Permanent Total Disability, and other monetary awards such as Permanent Partial Disability, Loss of Use, and Violation of Specific Safety Requirements.
Workers’ comp settlement negotiations formally begin when the attorney for the injured worker sends a letter to the employer or BWC that lays out each predicted expense and suggests how much the employer or BWC could pay if they kept the claim open. The letter will also suggest that the employer or BWC should settle the claim for the requested amount to avoid greater expenses.
Representatives for the employer or BWC will then respond, usually with much lower estimates of claim costs. Remember: They are trying to save money and settle the claim for as little as possible. Because of this, it is often necessary to engage in extended negotiations to arrive at a settlement amount that both sides can accept.
As you and your Ohio workers’ comp attorney move to settle your claim, you must understand that a settlement is a compromise. You should not expect to receive the maximum amount for each projected future claim cost. Neither your employer nor the BWC will be motivated to settle for the highest total number you can justify.
Given a choice between only agreeing to a maximum settlement or only keeping your claim open, your employer or the BWC will feel better about rejecting the settlement offer and attempting to deny future treatment reimbursements or benefit payments. At the same time, you have no obligation to accept a counteroffer for a settlement amount that falls significantly short of foreseeable future claim costs. Faced with a lowballed settlement offer, you would almost always be better off keeping your claim open and appealing reimbursement and benefit denials as they come.
It is also important to remember that your settlement will not necessarily correspond to the severity of your injury or to what the injury has cost you. In fact, the opposite can be true.
Settlement amounts depend on what the employer or BWC can expect to pay in the future. When doctors and other health care providers determine that no further medical treatment for a severe injury is expected to help you recover more physical or mental function, your employer or the BWC will probably not offer much to settle your open claim because no reimbursements for ongoing medical care are likely to be approved. In this situation, they won’t be concerned about you costing them much money in the future and will think hard about how just leaving your claim open could save them money.
Last, insurance issues often affect whether your employer or the BWC feels motivated to settle your claim. They base their settlement negation moves on actuarial figures such as “claim reserves” and “maximum value” that are not made immediately available to you and your workers’ comp attorney. Your employer and the BWC will also consider how paying out on a settlement will affect their insurance rates year by year.
As Columbus-based workers’ compensation lawyers, we cannot guarantee how much one of our client’s will receive when they request a settlement. We can, however, use our knowledge of how the workers’ comp system operates and of what motivates employers and the BWC to determine when is the right time to settle in order to maximize your settlement amount.
Although it is possible to settle a workers’ compensation claim on your own, you should know that your employer and the BWC will assign experienced attorneys and claims representatives to the case. Those individuals’ goal will be to settle your claim for as little as possible. Hiring your own attorney to advocate for a larger settlement evens the playing field and increases the likelihood that you will receive a fair settlement.
To schedule a free consultation with an Agee Clymer workers’ comp lawyer, call (614) 221-3318 or connect with us online. We are available to advise and represent workers all across Ohio.