In Wisconsin, employees who are eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits typically receive these benefits on a weekly basis. But, what if this doesn’t work for you? What if you need money up front to pay bills you couldn’t pay while you were waiting for your benefits to come through? What if you don’t want to worry about your employer (or its insurance company) terminating your benefits prematurely?
In these scenarios, it might make sense to try to negotiate a workers’ compensation settlement.
What is a Workers’ Compensation Settlement?
A workers’ compensation settlement is an agreement to resolve your claim for a specific amount—typically in one lump-sum payment. If you and your employer (or your employer’s insurance company) can agree on the amount you are rightfully owed, then you can enter into a settlement agreement that results in payment and termination of your claim.
While this might sound better—and can be better—than receiving weekly benefit checks, there is one critical factor to keep in mind: Once you accept a workers’ compensation settlement, you can’t go back and ask for more. Even if you discover later that your injury is worse than you thought, you will still have to live with the amount you accepted in your settlement.
Can You Get a Workers’ Compensation Settlement in Wisconsin?
Settling is an option in Wisconsin. If you have a workers’ compensation claim and it is in your best interests to settle, then you can attempt to negotiate a settlement with your employer (or its insurance company).
Note that we said you can “attempt” to negotiate a settlement. Even if you are clearly entitled to benefits, your employer (or its insurance company) is not obligated to enter into settlement negotiations. You can try to convince your employer (or its insurance company) that settling is best for everyone, but you shouldn’t expect it to listen—or make a reasonable settlement offer—unless you have an attorney on your side.
When Should You Consider a Workers’ Compensation Settlement?
So, should you consider a workers’ compensation settlement? As we recently discussed, settling too early can be disastrous, as it can leave you without the money you need to cover your medical bills, rent, utilities, and other expenses. Generally speaking, you should not consider accepting a workers’ compensation settlement if:
- You are still receiving treatment and do not yet have a clear understanding of your full medical needs;
- You have not determined your weekly disability benefit rate (rather than relying on your employer (or its insurance company) to calculate your benefits for you); and/or,
- You have not consulted with an attorney to make sure it is in your best interests to accept a workers’ compensation settlement.
On the other hand, if you have recovered as much as you are going to recover (or if you have a clear understanding of your path to recovery), and if you have consulted with an attorney to make sure you know how much you are entitled to receive in disability, then it might make sense to ask your attorney to enter into negotiations on your behalf. But, even then, you will need to consider the potential tax implications, your eligibility for Social Security disability (SSD) and other benefits, and various other factors before deciding whether to accept a settlement.
How Do You Negotiate a Fair Workers’ Compensation Settlement?
Let’s say it is in your best interests to settle your workers’ compensation claim. How do you negotiate?
Theoretically, workers’ compensation settlement negotiations should be fairly straightforward. If you know how much you are entitled to receive and for how long, then determining the value of your claim involves a simple math calculation.
Unfortunately, this isn’t how it works in real life. If you enter into settlement negotiations, your employer (or its insurance company) will take advantage and try to pay you as little as possible. Rather than simply paying what they owe, they will offer less (perhaps much less) hoping to entice you into a quick—but unfair—settlement.
With this in mind, negotiating effectively requires clear proof of the value of your claim. It also requires the ability to withstand and overcome these companies’ aggressive negotiation tactics. You need to know what your claim is worth, and you need to be prepared to say, “No,” even if there is money on the table.
As a practical matter, negotiating a fair workers’ compensation settlement requires legal representation. Many companies won’t even take your negotiation efforts seriously if you don’t have an attorney. On the other hand, hiring an attorney shows that you are serious, and hiring an experienced attorney is one of the best things you can do to improve your chances of obtaining a fair settlement.
Should You Wait to Seek a Workers’ Compensation Settlement?
Given everything we’ve discussed, you might be wondering if you should wait to seek a workers’ compensation settlement. Simply put, the answer could be, “Yes.” In many cases, it will make sense to delay settlement negotiations until you have had the opportunity to learn more about your situation.
With that said, you should not delay your workers’ compensation claim. While you technically have up to two years to file a claim in Wisconsin, the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) recommends filing your claim within 30 days, and it is in your best interests to file your claim as soon as possible. Not only does filing a claim start the process in motion, but it also helps avoid many of the issues that can lead to workers’ compensation denials.
Discuss Your Claim with a Madison Workers’ Compensation Lawyer for Free
Were you injured on the job? Do you have questions about seeking a workers’ compensation settlement in Wisconsin? If so, we encourage you to contact us for more information. To discuss your claim with an experienced Madison workers’ compensation lawyer at Mays Law Office in confidence, call us at 608-257-0440 or request a free consultation online today.