While there are many benefits to settling your workers’ compensation case, you will also likely be giving up significant rights. Because settlements are typically final, it’s wise to consult with a West Virginia workers’ comp lawyer before you sign any agreements. (To learn how much that might cost you, see our article on attorneys’ fees in West Virginia workers’ comp cases.) Below, we explain the settlement process in West Virginia.
A settlement is a voluntary agreement between you and the insurance company to resolve your workers’ compensation case. In exchange for an agreed-upon sum of money, you give up some or all of your rights in your workers’ compensation case.
West Virginia allows lump sum settlements of workers’ comp claims. A lump sum settlement is where the insurance company makes a one-time payment to close out your workers’ comp case for good. This often requires you to give up your right to all future benefits, including medical coverage. The one exception is that employees with non-orthopedic occupational diseases cannot settle their right to future medical care unless they are represented by a lawyer.
In some cases, the insurance company might agree to an alternative arrangement. For example, the insurance company might agree to make periodic payments instead of a lump sum or continue to cover future medical care.
It’s important to understand the full the extent of your injuries before you settle your claim. For that reason, settlements generally happen after the worker reaches maximum medical improvement. This is when your doctor finds that your condition has stabilized and assesses whether you have any permanent disability.
The settlement agreement must give you five business days to revoke the agreement. After that, it is final and binding. If you were represented by a lawyer, the settlement cannot be undone, except in rare cases, such as when you can prove that the insurance company engaged in fraud.
If you did not have a lawyer, you can ask the Insurance Commissioner to set aside the agreement within 180 days. However, the Insurance Commissioner will only do so if you can prove that the agreement is unconscionable—meaning extremely one-sided and unfair to you. This can be very difficult to do, though, so it’s best to consult with a lawyer before signing a settlement to make sure your interests are protected.
The amount of the settlement varies widely based on the severity of your injury, your ability to work, and your pre-injury wages. Conflicting evidence in your case—for example, as to whether your injury is work-related or whether you are permanently disabled—will also impact your claim’s settlement value.
To get a general idea of how much you might be entitled to, see our article on West Virginia workers’ comp benefits. However, a claim’s settlement value depends on many factors, which can only be evaluated by a workers’ comp lawyer familiar with your case.