In every Illinois workers’ compensation case, when you are all better and back to work, you want a settlement. Getting an offer is exciting, but the lure of money in your pocket can often lead to mistakes. If you get a settlement offer, these are things you shouldn’t do in most cases.
1. Don’t say yes right away. Even if your case is ready to settle, you almost never get the best offer on a first offer. So while getting an offer of $50,000.00 might sound great, if you can get to $70,000.00 by countering and having a little patience, it’s worth it.
2. Don’t worry that the offer is going away if you don’t accept. It is against the law for a settlement offer to be made and withdrawn. Often an insurance company as part of their “tough” negotiation strategy will tell you that you have until a certain date to accept. The reality in Illinois is that even if they take it away, they’ll almost always give it back. They want the case to be over or they wouldn’t make an offer. The only times we see this not happen is when new information comes to light that gives the a defense. For example if they discovered a Facebook post you made stating you pretended to be hurt at work, they’d surely take the offer away.
3. Don’t think about settling until you are ready. Insurance companies like to close cases because it gives them a fixed cost. As a result, one of their new, sneaky strategies is to make an offer soon after you are injured. Once you settle the case, your medical rights get closed out. So if you are going to need any additional medical care or miss any time from work, thinking about settlement is a bad idea.
4. Don’t settle as soon as your doctor sends you back to work. You can start thinking about settlement when released to work, but if an offer was made I’d suggest you respond by saying “I want to see how things go at work for the next two to three months. If I’m feeling good then, I’d be happy to start negotiating.” If you settle right away and your injury flares up, you might not have any way to pay for your medical care. Make sure you can work without problems. Also, if you settle quickly and then discover you can’t do the job, you might lose out on hundreds of thousands of dollars of value on the case.
5. Don’t forget to think about future medical needs. If you had a major surgery, are still taking pain medication, going to periodic therapy, etc., you can settle your case, but the insurance company has an obligation to pay for anticipated future medical care. This is done through a Medicare Set Aside. It takes some time, but this is additional money that should go in your pocket and can be tens of thousands of dollars if you had a major injury. For smaller cases it’s not needed.
6. Don’t get so excited about the offer that you forget what else you are owed. We take over a lot of cases where people call us and say that they haven’t received TTD benefits for over a year and that their lawyers hasn’t done anything about it. In some cases those people come to us after an offer has been made. We’ve had a lot of calls where the worker has been offered a fair settlement for the injury itself, but nothing for the $40,000 in TTD they never got paid or outstanding medical bills. If you are owed 40k in TTD, getting a 40k settlement isn’t likely a good thing. Maybe the case is reasonably disputed, but before settling I’d certainly want to at least negotiate the money that you might be owed if the case went to trial and you win.
7. Don’t forget to call all of your medical providers. If there are any unpaid medical bills, you want them either paid before you sign the contracts or entered in to the contracts themselves. Call EVERY medical provider you’ve been to and see if there is an outstanding balance. Get this done before you sign because if something turns up after the fact, you could be stuck paying the bill.
I hope this helps, if you have any questions please contact us for free at any time.