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I had an online chat with someone recently who asked a good question. She wanted to know if there was a time limit for settling your work comp case.
This is a different question than is there a time limit to bring a case. That is known as a statute of limitations and generally speaking is three years from your accident date or two years from the last payment of compensation, whichever is later.
What the chatter was referring to was a case that’s already filed, but is taking forever. She told me that she has a lawyer who she considers to be very lazy. She’s been discharged from medical care for almost a year and settling the case is the only remaining issue as all of her medical bills and time off work have been paid. Pretty soon it will be three years since the case is filed.
While there is no time limit to settle, once a case has been filed for three years, it is considered “above the red line.” Basically that means that every time it is set for status before an Arbitrator (every 90 days) it has to be set for trial unless either party can give a good reason as to why the case is still open. A good reason would be because you are still receiving medical care. This rule exists to prevent uninterested attorneys like this one from not doing their job. It’s usually a kick in the pants to get things done.
Even with this rule and especially with Covid, there is no guarantee that you will actually get a trial. There is no good reason for the lawyer not to be trying to resolve this case. If the worker stopped treating a year ago, a settlement demand should have likely been made around nine months ago. If there was no response or the offer made was garbage, the attorney should be pushing for trial. In this case it sounds like they haven’t even made a settlement demand.
It certainly appears that the worker hired a lawyer who either doesn’t care or doesn’t know what they are doing. The good news is that since an offer to settle hasn’t been made, they can switch lawyers if they want and a more aggressive law firm can likely get this case to the finish line rather quickly.
My tip to people in these situations is to ask your lawyer why a settlement demand hasn’t been made and ask them to lay out their strategy. If one has been made and not responded to, ask their strategy for going forward. Some cases you don’t want to take to trial, but when all other benefits have been paid, there usually isn’t a good reason not to.