If you are hurt on the job, the insurance company does not have to offer you a settlement. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Almost every case is worth something, and if you wait too long to take action, you will lose your rights to compensation. If you have an attorney, that can make this process happen by getting you a trial date before an Arbitrator.
If you have received a settlement offer, you’re probably either relieved or angry. Some injured workers just want to settle because the lump sum sounds fine and they want it to be over. Some want to go to trial because they feel that they deserve much more than the insurance company is offering. Either way, it can be a tough decision.
So, should you take the settlement, or reject it and go to trial? The truth is, while the dollar amount matters, there are other factors to consider before making this important decision. Here are some things an experienced, caring attorney will consider in advising a client about what to do:
Settlement offer amount – We said this isn’t the only consideration, but it’s still important. An attorney will use their experience to decide whether the amount offered is anywhere near fair. Does the amount properly compensate the worker for the permanent nature of their injuries? Does the settlement cover disputed medical bills or other medical needs? Does it take into account the amount of money that the worker is losing by not being able to work, or not being able to make as much money as before? How will the injury impact you in the future. These are just some questions an attorney will ask. They will also consider whether they have enough leverage to negotiate a larger amount. If the settlement amount is very low, your attorney may first try to negotiate a fair amount. If that fails, they’ll likely advise you to take it to trial.
Timing – Even if you and your attorney think you could get more money at trial, you may decide that settling is better because you get compensated now instead of later. Perhaps you desperately need the money and can’t wait out a trial. Settlements can happen quickly – much more quickly than trial, which requires waiting for a court date and lots of preparation. Or maybe the whole process has been hard on your health and you need it to end. There are definitely situations where less money now is better than more money later. On the flip side, you never want to settle your case until you are at maximum medical improvement which means that you don’t currently need more treatment for this injury. Most Illinois work injury attorneys we know will only settle a case if their client no longer needs treatment and has shown that they can work without physical problems. A good attorney will always consider the client’s needs both long term and short term, rather than making a decision based on what will get the lawyer paid more quickly.
Chance of success at trial – There are probably disagreements between you and the insurance company on how much your case is worth and possibly as to whether or not your injuries should be covered under Illinois work injury law. When helping you decide whether to settle, your attorney will consider the disputed issues in your case. Are they likely to be resolved in your favor? If you have good evidence on your side, perhaps you should go to trial and show the judge. On the other hand, if you don’t have solid evidence on your side, maybe you don’t want to risk a trial – maybe you should settle. In settlement, you know what you’re going to get – a guaranteed result and definite closure. There is no chance of appeal after a settlement is signed. Sometimes going to trial is really a roll of the dice; you might end up with way more, you might get nothing.
Future medical rights – When you settle, you sign a settlement agreement. This is a contract, and it has several important consequences. One is that you agree to give up all future medical rights for treatment related to that accident. In other words, if your injury gets unexpectedly worse next year and you need major surgery, it will not be covered under workers’ comp. If you have a new accident in the future then that would be a new case. But if you take your case to trial and win, your medical rights as they relate to this injury stay open for life. In other words, if you had a neck fusion and it needed to be re-done ten years from now, the insurance company would still have to pay for it. If you had a back injury and wake up one day with back pain, if your doctor relates it to the original work accident, the insurance company would have to pay for it. You don’t get a lump sum settlement, but you still get paid your permanency, just over a period of weeks instead of a lump sum.
There’s no simple answer to the question of whether to settle or go to trial. This is why having an experienced attorney is so important. They will draw on their years of experience – in both settlements and trials – and advise you on the best strategy for your specific case.
We only recommend experienced, honest attorneys who will tell you what the best advice is for your situation. If you would like our help please contact us. We can’t promise you a result, but do guarantee that we will not suggest a lawyer for you if we would not recommend the same law firm to a family member or friend.