When workers’ comp offers a settlement depends on several factors, like the severity of your injuries and the response time of your employer’s insurer. Consequently, workers’ compensation settlements can take a few weeks or even years. On average, workers’ comp cases take 12–18 months to settle. Whatever the timeline, the most important factor is that the settlement you receive should cover all your needs stemming from the work-related accident or exposure.
Steps in the Workers’ Compensation Claim Timeline
Injured victims should take the following steps when filing a workers’ compensation claim:
- After sustaining a work-related injury, report the incident to your employer. In Nevada, you’re required to report the injury within 7 days.
- You must seek the necessary treatment from an approved medical provider. Your employer or workers’ compensation lawyer can help you find eligible providers.
- To make a claim for workers’ compensation in Nevada, you’ll need to fill out a C-4 form within 90 days of the work-related accident or when you first noticed the onset of the injury. You’ll need to have the treating doctor sign off on the form. After receiving a copy of the form, your employer will have to file this claim with its insurer within 6 working days.
- When you file a claim, the insurance company may make its first settlement offer. Alternatively, your workers’ compensation lawyer may draft a demand letter including the settlement amount you need and send it to the insurer. The insurer will make a counteroffer on receiving the letter, starting the negotiation process.
- You and your lawyer will have back-and-forth negotiations with the insurance company until you reach an agreement on the settlement amount. If negotiations are successful, you’ll receive the payment. You may have to take your case to court if you can’t reach an agreement.
How Long Does It Take for Workers’ Comp to Offer a Settlement?
It’s challenging to put a definite timeline of days, weeks, or months in response to the common question, “When will workers’ comp offer a settlement?” The timeline to settle workers’ comp cases varies depending on a number of factors.
Workers’ comp insurance companies can make a settlement offer within a few days or weeks of receiving a claim. Insurers can make quick settlement offers in cases involving relatively minor workplace injuries or if the extent of injuries suffered is clear, making the calculation of the compensation owed relatively straightforward.
Insurance companies may also offer to settle your case quickly to minimize the time and money they spend on your claim. Your employer’s insurer may give a quick settlement offer that doesn’t account for your total losses, hoping you’ll accept it and close the case before you realize the full extent of your injuries or potential benefits.
Workers’ comp insurance companies can take about a year or more to offer a settlement in certain cases. This is common when your medical expenses are uncertain. For instance, you may have suffered a severe injury requiring extensive medical treatment. The insurance company may wait for you to reach your point of maximum medical improvement (MMI). At this point, it will be easier to determine your level of impairment and restrictions to the type of work you can do and project your future medical costs.
Sometimes, insurance companies deliberately delay their response to cases. They may do this to increase the chances that the pressure of your financial situation will cause you to take a lower settlement amount.
Insurers may fail to offer a workers’ compensation settlement entirely. You’ll not need to receive a settlement if you only suffer an injury that doesn’t require treatment, as opposed to a more serious injury that leads to a partial or permanent disability, such as hearing loss caused by the workplace. In such a case, you’ll have your medical bills paid and lost wages compensated. Self-inflicted injuries and injuries suffered while committing a crime or while impaired by alcohol or drugs are unlikely to lead to a settlement.
The entire process, from filing the workers’ compensation claim to receiving the settlement, typically takes 12–18 months. The settlement process may take 12–14 months if your injury doesn’t cause a permanent disability, you have no legal representation, and you don’t negotiate with the insurance company. The process usually takes slightly longer if your injuries are severe or the insurance company resists a fair settlement.
Early Settlement vs. Fair Settlement
Speeding up the workers’ compensation timeline doesn’t mean you’ll receive a fair settlement. The initial settlement offers you receive from insurers rarely cover your injuries and losses adequately. Therefore, your willingness to accept a lower settlement amount than what you should be entitled to speeds up the timeline. You’ll receive the settlement more quickly, but it likely won’t be enough to cover all your losses.
In the long run, it’s not a terrible thing for your case to take longer if it means you are getting a fair settlement. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer will guide you on how to win a workers’ compensation claim. He or she will know what a fair settlement amount for your case should be and negotiate for as long as it takes to recover as much will fairly compensate you for your damages. While the process may take longer by negotiating, you may receive a more favorable settlement.
Factors That Change the Workers’ Compensation Timeline
The following factors can have a significant impact on the timeline for workers’ comp payments:
Insurance Company’s Response Time
The response of an insurance company will affect the time taken to settle a claim. Insurance companies sometimes intentionally delay responding to your queries and sending a settlement offer. They do that to frustrate you to the point of you becoming willing to accept a smaller offer to settle your case sooner.
Insurance companies that give fair settlement offers help quicken the settlement process. However, many employers choose insurance companies that provide lower payouts because these insurers usually charge lower premiums. Cases involving such insurers take longer because they make low settlement offers, forcing your workers’ compensation attorney to go through several rounds of negotiation to reach a fair settlement.
The Extent of Your Injuries
The injuries you sustain determine the type of treatment you require. If you need specialized or extended treatment, such as spinal fusion or multiple surgeries, it will take longer to reach maximum medical improvement. Consequently, your case may be prolonged.
Disputes over specific facts of your case can drastically change the workers’ compensation timeline. An insurer or employer may dispute your claim if there is evidence suggesting your injury wasn’t work-related. Medical care expenses are common causes of disputes. Your doctor may recommend that you undergo a specific medical procedure. On the other hand, the insurance company may deem the treatment as not being medically necessary. An insurance company can also contest the impairment rating you’ve been assigned, which may impact when workers’ comp offers a settlement. These disputes can take months or years to resolve.