A Santa Rosa workers’ compensation lawyer can help injury victims maximize their workers comp settlements
Clients often ask their workers’ compensation lawyer about the expected value of a workers’ comp settlement. An experienced attorney can answer that question, but only on a case-by-case basis. Since every case is different, there really is no “average” settlement.
When a Santa Rosa attorney evaluates a Sonoma County workers’ compensation claim, the attorney will consider several factors. Understanding those factors will help victims of on-the-job injuries understand what to expect in a worker’s comp settlement.
Temporary Disability Benefits
These payments replace a part of an injured workers’ income while the injured worker is recovering from an injury and before she returns to work. Temporary disability payments are available when an injured worker misses more than three days of work due to a work-related injury and when the employer does not offer modified or light duty work that the injured worker can perform while recovering.
In most cases, temporary disability payments are easy to calculate. The general rule is that temporary disability payments are two-thirds of the gross wages that the injured worker would have earned if she had not been injured. However, that calculation is subject to a cap (a maximum weekly benefit) and a floor (a minimum weekly benefit) set by the California legislature.
Temporary disability payments can be difficult to calculate, and are more likely to be disputed, when an injured worker’ income varies from paycheck to paycheck or when she was expected to receive a raise that was placed on hold because of the injury.
In most cases, temporary disability payments will be paid as the law requires and are not factored into a workers’ compensation settlement. In some cases, however, the employer refuses to pay temporary disability benefits, or does not pay enough.
When temporary disability payments are disputed, a workers’ compensation attorney can correctly calculate the payments that should have been made. The injured workers’ lawyer will then fight to have the total of all unpaid benefits included in a settlement.
Settlements occur when an injured worker is entitled to permanent disability benefits. If an injured worker has suffered some degree of permanent disability as a result of a work injury, the employer and/or its insurance carrier will be required to pay the injured worker money as compensation.
Injured workers are entitled to permanent disability benefits when a physician determines that the injured workers’ medical condition has become “permanent & stationary” (P&S), and has suffered some degree of permanent functional limitations as a result of their injuries. This essentially means that the injured workers’ medical problems which occurred as a result of the injury are permanent and will likely never improve.
The nature and extent of permanent disability can vary, depending on the person and the injury. Even the date of injury plays an important role in the equation, as it determines how the injury is properly analyzed when calculating the level of permanent disability. Since factors such as age, occupation, and earnings, all contribute to calculating the nature and extent of one’s permanent disability, it is impossible to talk about an “average” workers’ compensation settlement. As workers’ compensation lawyers in Santa Rosa well know, every case is different.
Once an injured workers’ level of permanent disability is calculated, the monetary value of the benefits are established by California law. The degree of permanent disability, the date of the injury, and the injured workers’ wages at the time of the injury, are all factors that determine the value of permanent disability benefits.
Workers’ compensation lawyers help clients maximize their settlements in various ways. We review the medical reports to make sure they are accurate. We may arrange for a Qualified Medical Evaluator (QME) to provide a second opinion. We make sure the QME has all the information that is required to gain a full understanding of the injured workers’ limitations, her condition before the work accident, and the cause of the injury.
A workers’ compensation attorney can also help an injured worker prepare for an evaluation. Injured workers have often lived with their injuries for so long that they lose track of important information. An injured worker’s lawyer can review the facts of the injury and the injured worker’s medical history with her to make sure that everything is fresh in her memory before the evaluation takes place.
Workers’ compensation attorneys in Santa Rosa also challenge inaccurate permanent disability ratings that are proposed by insurance claims administrators. The insurance company’s objective is to pay as little compensation as possible. A workers’ compensation lawyer, on the other hand, fights to protect the rights of the injured worker. That means negotiating for a fair disability rating or, when a claims administrator refuses to be reasonable, making a persuasive case for a more favorable rating before a workers’ compensation judge.
Since every case is different, each case must be evaluated on its own merits. An experienced worker’s compensation attorney at Santa Rosa’s Kneisler & Schondel can help you to understand how your workers comp disability benefits might be valued. To talk to a dedicated professional about your case, call us at (707) 542-5132 or complete this online contact form.