It is a question that nearly every injured worker at some point asks — what is my case worth? The simple answer is — it depends. And it really does depend on several factors. So what are those factors?
- Are you currently receiving wage loss benefits? That is a big factor. Why? When an insurance company is evaluating a case for settlement purposes, one of the biggest factors, from their perspective, is current, ongoing liability. When an injured worker returns to work at the same rate as pre-injury, then the insurance carrier is no longer incurring significant liability in wage loss benefits, outside medical treatment. That devalues the case. Payment of weekly and bi-weekly wage loss benefits keeps the potential value of your case higher.
- The type and severity of your injury. Let’s face it, generally, but not all the time, a back injury is going to be worth more than a finger injury. An injury is an injury though. Well, that is true. However, back injuries, neck injuries, and cervical injuries can be very expensive if surgery and significant rehabilitation is required. Likewise, the severity of the injury will impact case value as well. A lumbar strain will not reach the values of a herniated disc with diagnostic proof or surgical confirmation. The severity of your injury is always evidence based and that is why it is important for you to have an experienced workers compensation attorney on your side that understands medical records and medical evidence. Severity of injury is always an argument in workers compensation litigation.
- How much are the future medical costs? This is a big question for both the injured worker and the insurance carrier. If you do not settle your case, what type of and what value is the expected future medical treatment you made need for your work injury? See above. It more than likely is tied to the severity of the injury. Insurance companies spend a lot of time trying to determine future medical treatment liability when evaluating a case for settlement purpose sand how much they are willing to put on a case. Has your doctor advised you that you will need a surgery, or perhaps an additional surgery? Do you still have significant post-surgery physical therapy and rehabilitation? These are important questions for the injured worker as well. Mooney & Associates looks to what future medical treatment is potentially out there in evaluating a workers compensation settlement for our clients. It is too important to just skip over.
- What is the status of your case? Was your work injury denied by your employer and you are currently involved in the litigation? Are you getting paid benefits and your employer has a Modification, Suspension, or Termination Petition filed against you? Do you have an accepted injury or have recently won your case and are receiving weekly wage loss benefits? The status and posture of your case is important in determining case value.
- What Judge has been assigned to your case? Believe it or not, that is important. It is not unique to Workers Compensation either. Just like in any court and any area of law, there are Judges who may side with one side more often than the other side. In other words, there are some Workers Compensation Judges (WCJ) that have more sympathy toward injured workers. There are WCJ’s that won’t hesitate to side for the employer and it’s insurance carrier. Perhaps the WCJ previously worked for a law firm representing workers compensation insurance carriers. Additionally, it is important to know that WCJs only hear workers compensation cases. They are not Court of Common Plea judges that sit in each County. Workers Compensation has it’s own judicial system.
- What is your personal situation? Are you receiving wage loss benefits? Are you out of work and not getting paid any benefits? Even if you are receiving wage loss benefits, does the reduction in pay (either 90% or 2/3 of your average weekly wage) have a tremendous impact on your family budget? Have you been offered a better job and feel you can perform that job, despite your work injury? There is much that goes in each and every case that is really personal to the injured worker. Those factors do factor in to case evaluation for the injured worker. We certainly discuss it with our clients.
- What does your doctor say? Does your doctor believe that your ongoing pain and symptoms are related to the work injury? Has he mentioned to you that perhaps your ongoing symptoms are related to a degenerative condition, such as arthritis. Has your doctor advised you that you need a second opinion because he/she can’t determine why you are in pain? What is your doctor’s reputation with the WCJs? Is your doctor credibel to those WCJs? These questions are tremendously important. That is why it is critical for you to have expert advice from an experienced workers compensation attorney. This factor can play a much bigger role than you may believe.
- What was the type of work you performed? What type of job did you do when you were injured? Was it a heavy job? What about your injury? Did you have surgery? Is your injury severe enough that you can never return to your pre-injury job? Is your injury severe enough that you can never do a job that requires special skills you have, such as welding? Is your injury severe enough where you may never work any job again? Does your employer offer light duty? Have they offered you light duty? Is light duty only available for a limited time? All these types of job availability issues come into play when factoring case value.
- Finally, what is your benefit rate? This is perhaps the most important factor of all. Everything about settlement will be based off your weekly compensation rate. The higher the compensation rate, the higher the settlement value. By way of example, consider two injured works, both with shoulder injuries, both with surgeries, and both are recovering well. Same injury, same pain, and same recovery. However, injured worker #1 receives weekly wage loss benefits of $775 while injured worker #2 receives $385. These rates are based on your average weekly wage prior to your injury. The higher the paying job, the higher the compensation rate. The value of these two cases, despite case similarities, will vary because of the different wage rates.
So what is your case worth? One way to find out. Call Mooney & Associates today for a FREE consultation. Call today at 717-200-HELP. You can meet us in any one of our convenient fully staffed offices in Chambersburg, Shippensburg, Carlisle, Harrisburg, York, Gettysburg, or Hanover. We have 16 office locations and you can pick the one closest to you. Check them out here. Our consultations are FREE and there is no charge to you. We only receive a fee if we recover FOR YOU!