How Much Is My Workers Comp Case Worth?
This is one of the most common questions asked of attorneys practicing in workers compensation, or any personal injury type of law. For someone who has sustained a work-related injury, with potentially career ending consequences, this is often times their primary concern. Are they going to be able to get enough money to support themselves going forward?
Section 48 of Chapter 152 provides that the parties to a workers’ compensation case may enter into an agreement to “settle” the claim by the payment of a lump sum amount. In other words, the parties can agree to “close out” the case by a payment of a certain sum of money to the Employee. As mentioned above, the main question on the Employee’s mind is usually, “how much am i going to get?”.
Unlike personal injury cases like a motor vehicle accident, or a products liability case, workers’ compensation cases are valued in a very specific way. The two main components to determining the monetary value of a workers compensation case are 1) the Employee’s compensation rate, and 2) the amount of time the Employee could remain on workers comp weekly benefits. With some limited exceptions, these are often the only two factors that will go into determining a settlement amount.
To explain further, a person who is disabled from working is entitled to receive a weekly workers comp check so long as they remain disabled, in some degree, from their previous job. The weekly rate is determined by the Employee’s pre-injury wages. This amount is usually set in stone, and subject to very little debate. Sections 34, 35, and 34A of Chapter 152 set the amount of time the injured Employee could potentially collect a weekly check. Determining the value of a case involves figuring out the remaining exposure to the Insurer. This is simply the result of multiplying the Employee’s compensation rate by the amount of time he/she has left on weekly benefits.
For example, if an Employee were partially disabled collecting Section 35 benefits at the rate of $500 per week, and had about 3 years left of potential weekly benefits, the remaining exposure to the insurance company is $78,000 (500 x 52 weeks x 3 years). If that same person were 46 years old, and was determined to be permanently and totally disabled (Section 34A), that person could potentially collect workers’ compensation for the rest of their lives. Based on a life expectancy chart, this Employee has a remaining “life expectancy” of 32.45 years, or 1,687.4 weeks. Thus, the remaining exposure to the Insurer, in this particular example, is $843,700 (500 x 1,687.4). This assumes the same compensation rate of $500/week. (Please note: There are numerous sources of life expectancy figures, which all differ. This particular figure is being used for and as an example)
What about pain and suffering? What about all the stress I’ve endured? What about all the hassle the Insurer put me through? These are very common questions asked of Employee’s attorneys. Unfortunately, these factors do not get factored into a settlement. To do so would add a subjective component to any case. There are no sections under Chapter 152 which provide enhanced benefits based on the severity of the injury, or the incidental side effects of a work injury. Therefore, these aspects of an injury do not get factored in. A person who breaks their leg on the job may have a case that is valued less than someone who sprains their wrist. It all depends on their particular compensation rates, and the amount of time they could potentially remain on weekly benefits.
“But I had a friend who got much more money and he/she had the same injury.” This is another common “question” asked of attorneys. The bottom line is that every case is unique and specific. Though cases may seem similar at first glance, there are numerous factors, specific to each case, which may affect the potential “value” of a workers’ comp case. More often than not, the friends case is quite different than the case at issue.
There are other factors which may increase or decrease the potential remaining exposure. To ensure that a case is properly valued, from a monetary standpoint, it is crucial that you have an experienced workers comp attorney. Please visit our web site at https://www.troupelawoffice.com for more information. Or, call us at (978) 531-7401. We offer free consultations for all cases. We look forward to working with you.