Among the most important decisions that an injured NC worker may have to make is whether to accept an NC Workers’ Comp Settlement. Very often an “adjuster” for the applicable workers’ comp insurance carrier, or even an insurance defense attorney working for an employer and insurance company, will contact an injured worker to discuss the possibility of settlement. If this happens, the injured workers would be wise to contact an experience NC workers’ comp attorney.
In many (perhaps, most) workers’ compensation claims in North Carolina, the case will eventually settle by compromise settlement, or “clincher,” agreement. A “clincher” is a full and final NC workers’ compensation settlement. A clincher agreement resolves any and all of the issues in a NC workers’ compensation case, including all wage-loss (disability) benefits and medical compensation. A clincher or settlement agreement ends all compensation and is intended to resolve the claim in a full and final manner.
There is no requirement in North Carolina that a workers’ compensation case settle. In fact, certain cases should not be resolved through compromise settlement at all. For example, a badly injured worker who will require medical treatment and disability compensation for the remainder of his or her life may be best served to allow the workers’ comp claim, as a legal matter, to continue, while coordinating workers’ comp benefits with other available forms of entitlements (like social security disability benefits, among numerous others).
The decision as to whether to accept a NC workers’ comp settlement by way of clincher requires an analysis of the value of the benefits the injured worker is choosing to forego. For this reason, he or she must be very careful in settling a workers’ compensation claim in North Carolina before all necessary medical treatment is completed and the injured employee has reached the end of the “healing period.” The conclusion of this period is often referred to as “Maximum Medical Improvement,” or “MMI.” Prior to MMI, it is difficult, or impossible, to accurately calculate the likely cost of medical treatment for the remainder of the injured workers’ life. For the same reason, settlement of the claim may be difficult.
In order to determine the value of a NC workers’ compensation settlement by way of clincher, the injured party should first evaluate the the likelihood and extent of future medical treatment related to the injury, and then assess the likely cost of such treatment. For example, this sort of treatment may include future medications/prescriptions, medical appointments, physical therapy, orthopaedic treatment, and revisions to any medical hardware already surgically employed, such as revision shoulder or knee replacements.
The injured worker must also take into account remaining wage-loss, or wage replacement benefits. This evaluation should include any “disability rating” assigned by the injured workers’ authorized treating physician, as well as the likelihood of continuing temporary total disability or temporary partial disability payments over the duration of the workers’ comp claim as a legal matter.
Whether settlement of an NC workers’ compensation case is appropriate–and what dollar amount would render it so–is an inevitably complex question. If you have questions about whether you should accept a North Carolina Workers’ Comp Settlement, please feel free to contact an experienced North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Attorney without delay.