HOW LONG DOES WORKERS’ COMP TAKE TO SETTLE?
A serious injury at work can have long-term effects on your ability to support your family. While you recover from your injury, it’s likely that you won’t be able to earn an income. However, filing a workers’ compensation claim can help you get the financial relief you need to stay on top of your expenses.
How long does it take to settle a workers’ comp case? Our workers’ compensation lawyers share what you need to know about filing a claim.
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What Is Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation, also known as “workman’s comp,” is a state-run program that provides monetary support to injury victims who are hurt at work. Workers’ comp coverage requirements vary from state to state. However, the basic process is the same. A business can purchase workers’ compensation insurance to protect itself from civil lawsuits after an employee is injured on the job.
In general, workers’ comp provides compensation to injured employees for:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Rehabilitation costs
- Death benefits to families of employees killed on the job
Almost all states require businesses with employees who are not owners of the business to purchase workers’ comp coverage to protect themselves and their workers. If they fail to obtain coverage, they may face consequences such as:
- Out-of-pocket payment for claims
- Government fines
- Possible prison time
- Losing the ability to conduct business
How Does Workers’ Compensation Work?
When an employee is injured during the course of their duties, they may qualify to file a workers’ comp claim. Whether the employee is at fault for the injuries or not, workers’ compensation will pay a portion of any missed wages and cover most medical expenses that resulted from the accident. However, the worker must qualify for the benefits by meeting these eligibility requirements1:
- Must be an employee of the business (not a freelance contractor)
- The employer must have workers’ comp coverage
- It is a work-related injury
- The employee meets reporting and filing deadlines
- The worker attends all medical appointments and exams and follows treatment plans
If injured workers meet these qualifications, they can file a workers’ comp claim to receive benefits while they recover.
What Is the Timeline to Settle a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
Workers’ comp is designed to give injured employees swift financial relief after a work accident. However, some claim settlements take longer than others. Here’s the typical timeline for workers’ comp cases to settle.
1. The Injured Worker Files a Workers’ Comp Claim
In some cases, the employer doesn’t deny that they owe you workers’ comp. They don’t contest what you’re asking them to pay. In those cases, you begin to receive payments very quickly. In only a few weeks, you start getting payments. The start of getting the workers’ comp payments isn’t your final settlement, though. You might receive periodic payments for some time before you get a lump sum settlement.
2. Lump Sum Settlement
The lump-sum settlement doesn’t happen until you reach the maximum medical benefit from treatment. Of course, how long it takes to reach the maximum medical benefit from treatment varies greatly based on your injuries. Once you reach the maximum medical benefit from treatment, you have to wait a few months before they process the paperwork for your lump sum payment. The settlement amount you receive depends on the type and severity of your disability.
3. Request a Pre-Hearing and Settlement Discussions
When you disagree with the decision of the insurance company about coverage, benefits, or your lump sum payout, you can request a hearing. Before you have the hearing itself, you have a pre-hearing conference and settlement discussions. You talk about issues in the case and the production of any records that may facilitate settlement. It’s possible that your case will settle at this stage of the proceedings.
It takes a couple of months to request a hearing and wait for your pre-hearing conference date. That means, if you have to take your case through the pre-hearing process, it will add a couple of months to the timeline to resolve the case. If you use the pre-hearing process and then settle your case, it can take as long as six months to settle your Denver workers’ comp case.
4. Hearing Before a Judge
If you don’t resolve your case in the pre-hearing process, your case goes to a hearing before a judge. You may request an expedited hearing, which takes place within 45 days of the request. If the hearing isn’t expedited, it could take 80-100 days from when you make the request. After your hearing, you wait for the judge’s decision.
The complete process can add up to four months to the time that it takes to receive your settlement. At this point, it’s probably between eight months to a year from the time that you reached your maximum medical improvement and began to pursue settlement negotiations.
5. Petition for Review
If you’re not happy with the result of the hearing, you can still pursue additional court reviews. You have 20 days after the judge’s decision to file a petition for review. You must order a transcript. The documents that you submit to the court include a legal brief that outlines why you believe the judge made an incorrect decision. Then, the Industrial Claims Appeal Panel hears your appeal and issues a decision within sixty days. This process can take several months.
6. After the Appeal
When you’re unsatisfied with the decision of the appeals panel, you may take your case to the Colorado Court of Appeals. You can even take your case all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court, but the Supreme Court can decide whether or not to hear the case.
Filing the case with the Court of Appeals means filing transcripts, preparing legal briefs, waiting for a hearing date, and arguing your case. Taking your case all the way to the Colorado Court of Appeals can mean that the case takes two years or more to resolve.
What If I’m Permanently Disabled From a Work Injury?
If you’ve suffered a work-related injury, you may discover that the severity of this injury has caused permanent damage. When this happens, you may qualify for permanent disability benefits2. However, it may take some time before you learn that your injury has left you with an ongoing medical issue.
In order to get permanent disability benefits, you must follow all the steps to file a workers’ comp claim. Then, you must also go through the medical and legal process that proves your condition is unlikely to change after reaching a recovery plateau. Essentially, you must demonstrate that this permanent medical condition limits your ability to work or prevents you from working at all.
How Long Does the Average Workers’ Comp Case Take To Settle?
Reading about the average settlement times for workers’ comp cases may leave you feeling discouraged. Two years can seem like a lifetime to wait when you need benefits now. Rest assured that the vast majority of cases don’t take two years to settle. Most cases fall somewhere in between the fast resolution of sixty days and a drawn-out appeals process of a couple of years.
Carefully documenting your injuries and taking the right steps can go a long way to getting you the resolution that you deserve quickly. It’s also important to act quickly if your worker’s comp has been denied.
Contact Our Denver Workers’ Comp Attorneys
Each workers’ comp case is unique. It’s impossible to tell the amount of time it’s going to take to resolve your case based on other cases or based on what’s typical. Do you want to know how long it’s going to take to settle your workers’ comp case? Contact our Colorado personal injury lawyers for a free consultation. We offer legal advice and full-service representation to ensure you get the maximum benefits for your claim.
1Jackson, T. (20 April 2022). Workers Compensation Eligibility & Requirements. Workers Compensation Experts (workerscompensationexperts.org). Retrieved 16 June 2022.
2Laurence, B. When Can I Get Permanent Disability Benefits After a Workers’ Comp Claim? Nolo. Retrieved 16 June 2022.