In Ohio, the workers’ compensation system provides medical care and wage replacement benefits for employees who suffer job-related illnesses and injuries. Typically, these benefits are distributed in the form of bi-weekly payments.
For some injured workers and their families, however, compensation every two weeks is not the most beneficial arrangement. In certain situations, it can be more advantageous to agree to a lump sum settlement. In a settlement, the injured worker, the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC), and the employer reach an agreement that provides one large sum of money to the worker, rather than the bi-weekly disbursements. (The BWC is not involved in settlements where the employer is self-insured.) How much a claim is worth, however, is often hotly debated among parties, and it can be difficult for the injured worker to know if she is getting a fair deal.
Types of Workers’ Compensation Settlement Agreements in Ohio
In Ohio, there are two main types of settlement agreements. Both must be negotiated with and approved by the BWC (again, unless the employer is self-insured), and they are:
- Full settlement – In a full settlement, the injured worker agrees to give up all rights to future workers’ compensation benefits relating to a specific injury in exchange for a specified sum. Depending on the amount of the settlement, the injured worker may be required to establish and administer a Medicare Set-Aside account pertaining to future medical expenses.
- Indemnity-only settlement – This form of partial settlement is much rarer in Ohio, but it allows an injured worker to settle part of the benefits, while leaving another part open. Typically, a worker will settle the wage replacement compensation but maintain the ability to obtain further medical care.
Most Ohio settlements are paid out in a one-time lump sum, though there are some situations where a structured settlement will pay the compensation in installments over a specified time period.
Is a Workers’ Compensation Benefits Settlement Right for You?
Workers’ compensation settlements are far less common than weekly payments in Ohio. Of the more than $1 billion of compensation paid to injured Ohio workers in 2016, lump sum settlement payments amounted to about $21 million. In the right situation, however, settlements can be beneficial to both employers and injured workers. Employers and the BWC can fix the cost of the claim and move forward, while injured workers are able to obtain compensation all at once. However, determining whether or not a settlement is right for you can be difficult. Some important factors to consider include:
- What type of benefits are you receiving? Different kinds of benefits carry different implications in a settlement. Permanent disability benefits are more complicated, as they are likely to continue and affect an injured worker and his family well into the future.
- Is it likely that your benefits will continue? In some cases, it may become apparent that the benefits are likely to be discontinued. A settlement might be most beneficial for the worker to obtain the maximum amount of compensation.
- Do you have specific needs right now? Is there a compelling reason to want or need a settlement? For many people, weekly benefits serve their purpose, but there are circumstances in which a settlement can help address immediate, necessary issues.
- Are you good at managing money? Receiving a large lump sum requires a certain amount of self-control and successful money management. To ensure your future stability, it is necessary to use the lump sum responsibly. For some, a weekly paycheck is a much easier way to do this.
Ensuring Your Ohio Work Injury Settlement Is Fair
Once an injured worker determines that a settlement of benefits may be the best way forward, negotiating an appropriate amount can be a challenge. Employers and insurance companies such as the BWC are out to protect their own interests. They may try to pressure you with an unfair offer or provide unreliable information. Often, they will attempt to push a quick but low settlement offer to save as much of their money as possible, so it is important to understand your rights and the compensation to which you are entitled. While every situation is unique, some key considerations include:
- Future medical needs – Your needs may change as your condition develops, either for the better or worse. Will you be taken care of if you require continued or more invasive care?
- Earning potential going forward – The type and severity of the injury can impact a worker’s ability to work and earn income in the future. What will your earning potential be?
An Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorney Can Help
The answers to these questions can be difficult to determine, as they involve long-term calculations, medical opinions, and the uncertainty of the future. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help injured workers understand how these factors influence a settlement and decide what constitutes a fair offer. While the BWC does not require injured workers to retain an attorney, settlement agreements are binding. It is not possible to revisit the terms of the settlement once it has been finalized and the guidance of a lawyer can ensure that your rights are protected as fully as possible right from the start.
If you have suffered a work injury in Ohio, you may be eligible for compensation. At Monast Law Office, our experienced legal team can help you examine your options and find the best way forward. Take a moment to fill out the contact form on this page, and you will hear back from a member of our team promptly.