Georgia's workers' comp laws strongly encourage settlement. Settling your case means that you'll get compensation quickly and avoid the hassle and uncertainty of a workers' comp hearing. However, you typically must close out your claim for good.
In Georgia, there are two types of workers' comp settlements. A liability settlement resolves a claim that the insurance company has agreed to pay. A non-liability settlement ends a claim where there is a legitimate dispute about your eligibility for benefits.
Most settlements are paid in a lump sum. However, the insurance company might agree to a structured settlement instead. Structured settlements are typically used when a worker has serious injuries that are permanently disabling and require long-term care. Instead of a single lump sum payment, you might receive payments each month, annually, or every few years.
Typically, insurance companies demand a "full and final" settlement of your claim. This means you'll be giving up all rights to your workers' comp claim, including future medical care. In other words, you won't be able to ask for more money if your condition gets worse later on.
Occasionally, the insurance company will agree to a more limited settlement. For example, it might agree to settle your disability benefits, but continue to pay for your future medical treatment. However, these limited settlements are relatively rare, because insurance companies would rather close out cases.
The State Board of Workers' Compensation in Georgia must approve all workers' comp settlements. The approval processes for liability and non-liability settlements are relatively similar. Once you and the insurance company agree on the terms of your settlement, you will need to file documents with the board, which might include:
The board will review these documents without holding a hearing. If your documents are in order, the board will typically approve your settlement.
Workers' comp settlements do not become final until they are approved by the board. So you can always cancel your settlement before then, even if you've already signed and filed the settlement paperwork.
Because of the finality of settlements, you should strongly consider contacting a Georgia workers' comp lawyer before you sign anything. Many workers underestimate the value of their workers' comp claims or settle their claims too early. A lawyer will evaluate your claim, negotiate a fair settlement, and ensure that your documents are completed correctly.
Calculating settlement values is an art—you can't simply type a few numbers into an online settlement calculator. Instead, your claim's settlement value will depend on a variety of factors, including the severity of your injuries, whether there is conflicting evidence in your case, and whether you can return to work. To get a general idea of how much you might be entitled to, see our article on Georgia workers' comp benefits. However, only a lawyer familiar with your case can tell you whether a particular settlement offer is fair.
Certain items will be deducted from your settlement check, depending on the nature of your claim. These costs may include:
To learn more about these deductions, read our article discussing how much of your settlement you will get to keep.
You can settle your workers' comp claim at any time. However, it can be difficult to properly value a settlement while you are still healing. That's why most workers wait to settle their claims until they reach maximum medical improvement—the point at which your condition is stable and will no longer improve with treatment.