I have met with several new clients lately who have come in to meet with me strictly to settle their workers compensation cases. Now, this is perfectly acceptable both practically and legally, it’s just not the usual course of things. Generally a client comes in to file a workers’ compensation claim when there is a new accident, a need for treatment, a problem with medical bills getting paid or some other issue with their case. We then file the claim petition and start working on their case, requesting treatment, collecting records, filing motions, all depending on what is needed in a particular case.
In these recent cases, however, the petitioner has already completed all of his/her treatment and all I have to do is settle their case. Sounds easy enough. Well it is, but it still involves some work. Once I meet with the client, I have to file a claim petition with the Division of Labor. Then I need to collect all of their medical records for the injuries related to the work accident. This is often the longest part of the process. If the treatment was authorized by the workers’ compensation insurance carrier, we request the records from them directly. If not, we have to write to each medical provider and request the records from the doctor’s offices. Many doctor’s offices are notoriously slow at responding to requests for medical records. Once we have all of the medical records we set up an evaluation with an independent medical evaluator for a permanency exam. Generally these doctors schedule their exams two to three months in advance. Then we write a summary of the medical records to send to the evaluator along with some information about your accident and the job you were performing at the time of the accident.
It can take a month or more to receive the report from the independent medical evaluator. When we have that report, giving a percentage of disability, we are ready to go to court and begin settlement negotiations on your behalf. Of course, the insurance company has to send you to their independent medical evaluator for an exam too and this can take an additional few months to complete. Often though, the insurance company is able to set up their exam first since they have all the medical records to start with.
Now that both sides have permanency evaluations, the parties can go to court and begin negotiating towards settlement of your case. We have to wait for the case to come up on the court list and this happens in 3 week intervals. The petitioner’s attorney makes a demand to the insurance company and most of the time the respondent attorney has to bring the demand back to their client and seek authority for settlement. Then the respondent’s attorney comes back with authority and presents their offer of settlement. The petitioner’s attorney is obligated to relay any settlement offers to their client. We always call our clients in to the office to meet face to face and review the settlement offer. That way we are better able to review medical records with you and answer any questions you may have about the proposed settlement. If we feel that the settlement offer is fair and appropriate we will recommend that you accept it. If not, we will suggest that you turn it down and either go to trial or see if we can re-negotiate the settlement, possibly with the input of the Judge of compensation.
Once all of that is complete, the case is ready to be settled in court before the Judge. So even though these clients came in at the end of their case, there was still a lot of work to do and it can take six months or longer to get it all done and the case ready for settlement.