One of the main benefits of the workers’ compensation system is that you can get benefits within a matter of days from the date of your work injury.
These benefits include both medical care and payments for your lost wages. However, getting your benefits and settling your workers’ compensation case are two very different aspects of your claim.
If you simply get benefits until you cannot get them any longer (at least according to your employer or its insurance company), then you may never enter into a settlement.
There are situations, however, where you may be able to get a lump sum settlement instead of getting ongoing benefits. You could also be awarded lump sum benefits after a contested hearing as well.
Every case is different, and the workers’ comp settlement process is unique in each situation. However, every case will follow a similar outline, and working through that process can take a considerable amount of time.
How Long Do Workers’ Comp Settlements Take?
That short answer is—it depends. Cases can sometimes settle shortly after an injury (within a few weeks or a couple of months), or it can take years to settle a case.
The average workers’ compensation case will be resolved within about 16 months. A resolution may result in a settlement agreement or a hearing with a judge. Under 20% of cases will be resolved within the first six months. About half of all workers finished up their claims in between 13 and 24 months.
Workers’ compensation cases differ from personal injury. In most workers’ comp claims, an employee will get receive some type of benefit before their case is resolved or settled. This is not the case in other personal injury claims, such as car accidents or slip and fall cases.
Employers are motivated to provide some benefits, even if they disagree with how much should be provided because they may be penalized if they do not at least provide you with some bare minimum benefits while your case is pending.
How Long Does a Workers’ Comp Case Take to Settle if I Don’t File a Lawsuit?
If you can get the case settled without filing a lawsuit, that will often significantly speed up the whole process. Settlements without litigation can take just a few months.
Remember that workers’ compensation claims include any request for workers’ compensation benefits. You can still have a claim for benefits if you have not filed a lawsuit yet.
In many situations, workers (and their attorneys) will try to negotiate with the insurance company before they file a lawsuit. This approach is often effective, but it can take additional time if it does not work because it delays the filing of your workers’ compensation lawsuit.
However, just because settling without filing a lawsuit is faster does not mean that it is always the best course of action. In many situations, it will take actually filing suit to get the money that you deserve to compensate you for your work injury.
What Factors Affect the Average Time to Settle a Workers’ Comp Case?
Many factors affect the length of time between your work injury and getting a workers’ compensation settlement.
Some of those factors include:
- The type of injury that you have
- How long it takes you to recover from that injury
- Whether you can recover completely from the injury
- Whether you involve a lawyer in the process
- If you want to negotiate or simply accept the funds that the insurance company offers (which you should never do without talking to a lawyer first!)
- Whether you have to take the case to a hearing
- Whether you need to file an appeal
Longer cases will often lead to higher settlements or awards. While this is not always the case, it is important to remember that sometimes having a longer workers’ compensation case is not a bad thing in the long run.
How Does an Insurance Company Affect How Long Workers’ Comp Settlements Take?
Because the insurance company pays the bills for workers’ comp benefits in most cases, their actions have a huge impact on how the case progresses.
If an insurance company (or its attorney or the employer) is slow to review the case, follow up, or set deadlines, that can significantly affect the timeline of the case.
Cases will generally take longer if an insurance company contests the rate of permanent impairment that you have been assigned, for example. If your doctor says your impairment is 15%, but an insurance company’s doctor says the impairment is 5%, the length of the case can change drastically.
The impairment rating has a big impact on how much you are entitled to receive in workers’ compensation benefits, so it is the main focus for insurance companies. It will often add nearly an additional five months to a case if the permanent impairment rating is disputed.
Do General Delays Affect How Long it Takes to Get a Workers’ Comp Settlement?
In most cases, a worker will feel like a delay (not caused by them) was part of the reason that their case took so long. Insurance companies take time to investigate a claim, and they are dealing with many claims at once. Having to process all of that information takes time and can cause significant delays to the process.
Delays may be caused by:
- General slow response times
- Problems getting in to see a particular doctor or specialist
- Slow response times from hospitals and clinics to get medical records
- Ignoring requests for medical treatment
- Lack of response from an attorney
- Delays in scheduling important events (like independent medical examinations or depositions)
While many of these delays are simply part of a typical workers’ compensation case, there are situations where an insurance company will deliberately delay a case. They may do this to frustrate the worker in the hopes that they will give up their claim or settle for a lower amount.
Get an Experienced PA Workers’ Comp Attorney on Your Side
Krasno Krasno & Onwudinjo has been helping injured workers for decades. We can work to get you benefits as quickly as possible and cut down on delays that the insurance company may cause.
Contact our team by using the form on your left to schedule a free case review.