In Indiana, as in most states, the vast majority of employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. This insurance is a vital protection for workers who are injured on the job. Benefits can include medical coverage, wage benefits, vocational rehabilitation, and more.
However, in some cases, injuries sustained on the job lead to permanent disabilities – referred to as a permanent total disability or a permanent partial impairment (PPI) in Indiana – that make it impossible for workers to continue in their previous jobs.
When this happens, injured workers may be able to pursue settlements that are designed to compensate them for their impairments. That said, settlements take time and can be an extremely frustrating and stressful process.
If you are in the midst of a settlement negotiation, or if you have any questions related to your workers’ comp benefits, we recommend getting in touch with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney at the Karl Truman Law Office as soon as possible for a free consultation.
Below, we explain how long workers’ compensation settlements generally take, what contributes to lengthier settlement negotiations, how settlements are determined, and what you can do to maximize your workers’ comp settlement.
Generally speaking, settlements aren’t offered until you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). This is the point at which your medical provider states your condition is not going to improve further, regardless of additional medical treatment. From there, you will be assigned a PPI rating and offered a settlement based on this PPI rating.
While this process may sound relatively straightforward, insurance companies are not quick to provide settlement offers, in part because extending the process makes it more likely that injured workers will accept their initial offers. Hence, getting to this point generally takes at least a year.
If you decide to decline their initial offer and enter into negotiations, the process can take even longer, often stretching to 18 months and beyond. However, that might be the best way to receive the settlement you deserve, which we will explain in more detail below.
When pursuing a settlement, you are working with a highly bureaucratic insurance company that has one goal in mind: minimizing payouts. Hence, they will do what they can to delay the process, frustrate you, and offer lowball settlements.
Unfortunately, in Indiana, this is made more challenging for injured workers since they are required to go to a medical provider of their employers’ insurance companies’ choosing. This medical provider may give you a PPI rating that you don’t agree with, resulting in a much lower settlement offer than you might deserve.
At this point, you can request an Independent Medical Examination (IME) for a second opinion, though insurance companies can also request IMEs. If different physicians give different opinions, it can lead to a frustrating situation.
Ideally, insurance companies agree to provide a fair settlement offer through negotiation. However, if they refuse, the Worker’s Compensation Board of Indiana will mediate an informal dispute where the Board will attempt to resolve the claim.
If an agreement cannot be made through an informal dispute, you can file a formal dispute that will lead to a hearing. At this hearing, both sides will present evidence and a determination will be made.
However, at this point, there is still the option for either side to appeal the ruling, which will extend the process even further.
We understand the anxiety most injured workers feel when pursuing a settlement, but the most important thing you can do to maximize your settlement is to have patience. Contesting a claim when you believe you deserve a higher amount will extend the process – but it may be the only way to receive a fair settlement offer.
Secondly, we recommend working with an experienced workers’ comp attorney who understands the process and knows how to negotiate with insurance companies to pursue an appropriate settlement offer. Having an experienced, trusted advocate by your side can give you confidence that your rights are being protected and you are being treated fairly.
Being injured on the job, especially when it leads to long-term impairments, can be extremely stressful for you and your family.
At the Karl Truman Law Office, we understand what you’re going through and we’re here to help. Our goal is to put our knowledge and experience to work for you, giving you the peace of mind you need and the legal representation you deserve.
To speak with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney at the Karl Truman Law Office, call our Jeffersonville, Indiana office today at (812) 282-8500 for a free consultation.