Laid off Boise Cascade Employees May Have Workers’ Compensation Claims

If you are an employee of Boise Cascade in International Falls who recently lost your job due to the layoffs, you may be surprised to learn that you have work comp claims. We have represented people in similar situations over the years following major layoffs at Blandin Paper Company and LTV Mining, to name a couple of examples.

In our experience,  employer’s generally do not notify employees about potential work comp claims following a layoff. The simple reason for this is that it would cost your employer money if it had to pay ongoing work comp claims. For this reason, many laid off employees simply collect unemployment compensation and then move on to another job without any idea that they may be eligible for work comp benefits.

Under what circumstances might you have a work comp claim following a layoff?  These are a few examples:

1. You suffered a work related injury at some time during your employment before the layoff;

2. The injury was accepted by the work comp insurer and medical or wage loss benefits were paid;

3. At the time of the layoff, you still had some limitations or restrictions as a result of the work injury (even if you were working at full wage at the time of the layoff);

4. Your previous work injury resulted in a permanent impairment under the work comp disability schedules, but the disability was never rated by your physician or paid by the insurance company;

5. You have a gradual or repetitive type injury which you haven’t yet reported but which is related to your work activities up to the time of the layoff;

6. Depending upon how much time has passed since your injury, you may be entitled to vocational rehabilitation assistance or retraining;

What type of benefits might be available? Again, some examples:

1. Partial wage loss benefits if you find a new job which pays you less than you were earning before the layoff;

2. Compensation for a disability rating;

3. Total wage loss benefits if you were off work and receiving work comp benefits at the time of the layoff;

4. Wage loss and vocational rehabilitation benefits if you have what amounts to a “new” injury which has not yet been reported;

What should I do now?

1. If you have an old work comp claim and were represented by an attorney, contact the attorney to find out if you have any claims which remain available to you after the layoff;

2. If you have an old work comp claim but never had an attorney, contact an experienced work comp attorney to see about your options;

3. If you believe that you have suffered a gradual or repetitive type injury as a result of your work activities which you haven’t reported to the employer, contact an experienced work comp attorney immediately. Work comp claims in Minnesota have notice and filing deadlines – if you miss one of these deadlines your claim will be barred forever.

Our Recommendation

If you have an old claim, think that you have a new claim, or just have questions about work comp benefits following a layoff, contact an experienced work comp attorney for consultation. At Bradt Law Offices, there is no charge for an initial consultation over the phone, in your home or at our office. A layoff is a traumatic, life-changing event. While you may be entitled to unemployment benefits in the near term, you may be surprised to find that you have claims for work comp benefits to help you through this transition in your life. Feel free to contact us at any time with your questions – you will always get our honest opinion and we will help you in any way that we can.

We have been helping your friends and neighbors with work injury claims across all of northern Minnesota for 30 years. Let us help you.

Thank you for visiting our blog and/or our website.

Can I Get Minnesota Work Comp Benefits after a Layoff?

If you have ever been laid off from a job, either on a temporary basis or permanently, you know the gut-wrenching fear of suddenly being without a job and without income.  What will you do about house payments, truck payments, groceries, school expenses and tuition?  What about health insurance or other benefits that your employer may have provided?

Suddenly, you are scrambling to find other sources of income or ways to make ends meet. Obviously, you begin with a job search. You might also check into available benefits through unemployment or other sources.  At the end of the day, however, you are facing a major change in your life both personally and financially.  A possible benefit that most people tend to overlook might be workers’ compensation benefits.

Over the years, we have helped many people in northern Minnesota with work comp claims after they were permanently laid off following shutdowns or downsizing at LTV Steel, Potlatch and Blandin Paper, among other large employers.  Another large layoff has recently been announced for Boise Cascade in International Falls.

How Can I Get Work Comp Benefits after a Layoff?

There are several situations where you might be eligible for work comp benefits after you have been laid off from a job.  These situations might include if:

-You had a prior accepted work injury which resulted in surgery;

-You had work restrictions from a prior accepted work injury at the time of the layoff;

-You had a prior accepted work injury which requires additional medical care;

-You have a recent work injury that has not been reported;

-Your job duties right up until the date of the layoff have contributed to an injury or disabling condition;

The term “accepted work injury” means an injury that was reported to the employer and work comp insurer and was accepted, or admitted, by the work comp insurer as a work injury.  Typically, the insurance company would then pay medical bills or wage loss benefits depending upon the nature and extent of the injury.

If you had injuries during the years of your employment which were not reported or which were denied, the statute of limitations might prevent you from bringing claims at this time.  Consulting with an attorney would help you to establish whether it’s too late to file a claim.

You Had a Prior Accepted Work Injury Which Resulted in Surgery

If at some point during your employment you had a work injury and received work comp benefits, including surgery, you may have some ongoing claims.  If you had surgery, you may have been given a permanent partial disability rating (PPD), for which the insurance company paid you some money.  Or, maybe you have a PPD rating from a surgery and the insurance company never paid you – that claim is probably still available.

A prior surgery might also support a claim that you have ongoing restrictions related to the work injury, even if no formal restrictions were ever given to you by your treating physician.  Sometimes a friendly doctor will simply tell you to “take it easy” or “just do what you can”, without writing out specific restrictions on how much you can lift, how often you can bend, etc.  Your treating physician might be able to put some restrictions on you now, which would support a claim for wage loss benefits while you try to find a new job.  Under those circumstances, you may have a partial wage loss claim if you find another job which pays you less than you were earning when you were laid off.

You Had Work Restrictions from a Prior Accepted Work Injury at the Time of the Layoff

Even if you were working at full wage on the date of the layoff, if you had restrictions from a prior work injury, you might be able to claim partial wage loss benefits now if you find a new job that pays you less.  You may also be eligible for vocational rehabilitation services to help you find a new job.

You Had a Prior Accepted Work Injury Which Requires Additional Medical Care

In my twenty-nine years of experience handling work comp claims in northern Minnesota, I have seen many, many men and women who are “working hurt”.  These are people who suffered an admitted work injury and chose to go back to work without any formal work restrictions even though they were still suffering from back, neck, shoulder, knee, etc. pain and limitations.  Often, the work environment can be very intimidating for someone who claims an injury or needs work restrictions.  For that reason, many people simply tough it out and continue working to avoid being ridiculed by coworkers or supervisors.

However, if the medical records document that you had a legitimate work injury and there is current medical support for work restrictions, it may not be too late to file a claim for wage loss benefits now that you are laid off.  The key is to have solid medical support from a treating physician who will relate your ongoing difficulties to a work injury that was accepted at the time you reported it.

You Have a Recent Work Injury That Has Not Been Reported

If you have very recently suffered an injury at work but have not yet reported it to your employer, you should do so immediately. There are strict deadlines for actually reporting an injury once you are aware that it is related to your work activities.  If you fail to report the injury quickly enough, the claim might be barred forever.  Reporting an injury after a layoff will automatically be viewed suspiciously by the insurance company, but if you can prove that the injury is work related, you should definitely pursue it.

The notice of a work injury should be given in writing to a supervisor, human resources person or anyone else in a position of authority with the employer and should specifically state the nature of the injury and how it is related to your work.  You should also follow up right away with a doctor to document the nature of the injury and obtain treatment.

Your Job Duties Right up until the Date of the Layoff Have Contributed to an Injury or Disabling Condition

Not all work comp injuries are the result of one specific incident.  If you fall off a ladder and break your arm, that’s pretty clearly a work comp injury which occurred at a certain time on a certain date.  However, if your work activities over a period of time have gradually resulted in a painful or disabling medical condition, that can also be a work comp claim.  A good example might be someone who spends all day, everyday, bent over shoveling or lifting.  Eventually, that person develops back pain and requires medical care.  If his work activities contributed to the development of his disabling  back condition, that would be a repetitive injury work comp claim.  Another example might be someone who develops carpal tunnel syndrome from repetitive work activities involving the hands and wrists.  These types of claims are called repetitive, or Gillette injuries.  A Gillette injury can involve any body part which is subjected to repetitive stress in the course of employment.

The date of injury for a repetitive use  (Gillette)  injury, can be the first date you see a physician, the first day you become disabled or limited from the injury, or the last day you work, among other possible dates.  If you suspect that you have such a claim from your work activities, you should give written notice to your employer immediately, explaining that you have a medical condition which you believe is related to your work activities.  Again, follow-up with your physician right away and describe in detail what your job duties were and how they seemed to cause or increase your symptoms.

Deadlines and Other Limitations

As mentioned above, there are deadlines which apply to giving notice of an injury and there are additional deadlines for actually filing a work comp claim. If you had an injury at some point in the past that you didn’t report or which was denied, it may be too late to pursue any claims at this time. However, if you had an injury that was accepted by work comp, no matter how long ago, you may still have some benefits available to you, including wage loss, permanent impairment, medical or vocational rehabilitation and retraining.

There are also limitations or “caps” on certain types of benefits, so not all benefits would be available after a certain amount of time has gone by. Either way, it’s probably worth looking into now that you’ve  been laid off and will be looking for a new job.

Our Recommendation

If you have been laid off from a job and have a work related injury or disabling medical condition related to your work activities, consult with an experienced work comp attorney to see if you have any rights or claims available to you. You can be assured that the employer will not follow up with you after the layoff to remind you about any available work comp benefits.

We have been representing injured workers across all of northern Minnesota for nearly 30 years. You can contact us at any time for an absolutely free consultation.  We will always give you nothing but our honest opinion about your possible claims and will be happy to help you in any way that we can.  Call us with questions at any time.

Thank you for visiting our blog.

Are Work Restrictions Important in a Minnesota Work Comp Case?

The simple answer to this question is: Heck Yes!!

As you progress through a typical work comp claim in Minnesota, you will likely be given work restrictions by your treating physician.  You may be off work completely for some period of time or you might be able to continue working within  restrictions.  At some point, your treating physician might release you back to work with “no restrictions”, thinking that he is doing you a favor.  Unless your injury was very mild and temporary, a release to work with no restrictions can create many problems for you.

What Are Work Restrictions and Why Are They Important?

Following a work injury, it is often necessary for your physician to give you restrictions, in order to allow you to continue working without further injuring yourself.  While this sounds like simple common sense, it can be a confusing issue for someone who’s never been through the work comp system.  Also, many doctors are not familiar with the work comp system or prefer not to get involved, so this can also create problems.

An example of a very simple restriction might be “no lifting more than 50 pounds”.  Maybe you sprained your back or have a sore shoulder but don’t require surgery and just need a little time to heal.  If you have a job that is not too physically demanding, you might be able to continue working with the restriction until you are fully healed.

On the other hand, if your injury is more severe, your physician may need to limit how much you can lift, how many hours a day you can work, or how much bending, twisting and turning you can do.  Other injuries might require restrictions on the use of your arms, hands or knees. You might be limited to no use of ladders, no working at heights, no use of power tools, no exposure to dust or fumes……….. the list of possible work restrictions is almost endless, depending entirely upon the nature and extent of your injury.

Why Are They Important?

Again, the common sense answer is that they are important to prevent you from aggravating your injury or re-injuring yourself as you recover. The goal of the work comp system is to return you to work at your date of injury job without wage loss.  That can’t  happen if your job duties make your injury worse.

However, the other reason why work restrictions are important is that they provide you with the ability to recover wage loss benefits under the work comp system in Minnesota.  Without restrictions related to your work injury, you do not have a claim for wage loss benefits.  The restrictions do not have to be significant, but you need some restrictions related to the work injury or the insurance company will not have to pay you a wage loss benefit.

So, if your physician releases you back to work with no restrictions and you are then laid off or the employer does not have a job for you, you don’t receive wage loss benefits.  I know this sounds crazy and unfair, because you are clearly out of work as the result of a work injury.  However, no restrictions = no wage loss.

How Significant Do the Restrictions Need to Be in Order to Get Wage Loss Benefits?

The restrictions do not have to be significant at all.  For example, if you had a minor low back injury and you are now limited to lifting no more than 75 pounds, this would be a restriction.  Your actual job might never require you to lift anywhere near 75 pounds, so you would be perfectly capable of performing all your job duties within those restrictions.  However, if the job ends or you are laid off for some reason, that 75 pound lifting restriction might allow you to claim wage loss benefits from work comp while you search for another job – or, if you find a job that pays you less than you were earning when you were injured.

What If the Insurance Company’s IME Doctor Says I Have No Restrictions?

This is very common.  The insurance company may send you for an Independent Medical Examination (an IME) in order to get opinions they can use to cut off your benefits.  The report from the IME doctor may say that you are capable of working full time without any restrictions.  The insurance company may then attempt to discontinue your wage loss benefits and refuse to pay for any future vocational rehabilitation or medical treatment.  At that point, it is very important to have a supportive treating physician who will write a letter for you or your lawyer, explaining that you still have some work restrictions which are related to your injury.  The dispute would then be decided by a work comp judge at a hearing.

What If My Employer Won’t Take Me Back to Work Unless I Have No Restrictions?

Unfortunately, some employers have a “no light duty” policy and will not take you back unless you are released to full duty with no restrictions. This obviously can put you in a very difficult situation, particularly if you have a good job with benefits and  the usual monthly financial obligations which most working people have.  Under those circumstances, I have had many clients over the years feel that they were in an impossible situation.  They felt as if they had no alternative but to ask their doctor for a release to work with no restrictions.  Usually, they then returned to work and suffered at their job, often making the underlying injury worse or aggravating their symptoms.

To make matters worse, a work comp judge in Minnesota has no jurisdiction or authority to order an employer to create a light duty job or take you back to work with restrictions.  In that situation, the employer holds all the cards and the employee has few options.

What If I Have Permanent Work Restrictions and My Employer Can’t Take Me Back?

If you have permanent restrictions from a work injury which has been accepted by the work comp insurance company, you may be eligible for a variety of work comp benefits. These would include wage loss benefits, compensation for permanent impairment, vocational rehabilitation services or even vocational retraining.  For more information on the various types of benefits which might be available to you, please see some of our previous blog posts:

-What Is Permanent Total Disability in Minnesota Work Comp?
-Retraining in a Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Case
-How Long Do Work Comp Wage Loss Benefits Last in Minnesota?
-How Much Is a Permanent Partial Disability Rating Worth in a Minnesota Work Comp Claim?

Our Recommendation

If you have any questions or concerns about the issue of work restrictions, we are happy to answer your questions at any time with a completely free, no obligation consultation.  We will meet with you in our office, in your home or on the phone to help you understand the work comp system and your rights.

Always be sure to let your doctor know about any difficulties you are having following an injury.  While it is important to be able to return to work, your doctor should understand what your job duties are and how they might affect your injury and recovery.  Simple, common sense restrictions from your doctor will protect you from re-injury on the job, but will also provide you with protection if you can’t work and need to claim wage loss benefits.

We hope that you have found this information helpful.  Please don’t hesitate to contact us if we can be of assistance or answer any questions for you.  Attorney Steve Bradt has been representing injured workers all across northeastern Minnesota and the Iron Range for nearly 30 years.  If you’ve been injured, we can help.

Thank you for visiting our blog.

How Much Is a Permanent Partial Disability Rating Worth in a Minnesota Work Comp Claim?

This is a very common question for someone who is in the work comp system and has been assigned a disability rating by a physician. The rating might come from your own doctor or from a doctor you have seen for an Independent Medical Examination (IME)  at the request of the insurance company. Either way, the dollar value will be the same. In most cases, however, you can pretty much assume that the insurance company doctor will give you the lowest possible rating he can find under the disability schedules.

As we have explained in some previous posts, the Minnesota work comp laws have changed pretty dramatically over the past 30+ years. The date of your injury controls most of the benefits to which you may be entitled, so if you have an older injury your benefits will be based upon the older laws which were in effect on the date  you were injured. In order to keep this post relatively short and to provide a basic understanding of the issue, we are discussing  injuries which have occurred since about 1995.

What is a disability rating?

A disability rating (sometimes also called an impairmant rating) is a percentage (%) rating given under the disability schedules which is intended to compensate you for some loss of the permanent use of a specific body part. It is referred to as a Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) rating or an Impairment rating. It is not intended to represent “pain and suffering”, nor does it necessarily reflect how the permanent impairment has negatively affected your life or your ability to perform certain activities. In other words,  a 10% disability does not necessarily mean you can still do 90% of everything you could do before, which is a common misconception. In fact, there are some fairly serious injuries which don’t have any disability rating at all.

Where do disability ratings come from?

A disability rating comes from the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry Worker’s Compensation Disability Schedules. The actual schedules are in the Minnesota administrative rules, chapter 5223, and can be found here.   (The schedules for injuries occurring on or after July 1, 1993 begin at 5223.0300)  A doctor will look at the specific portion of the disability schedules which relates to your affected body part and find the category or categories which best describes your condition. There will be a percentage listed for each category and that is where the rating comes from.

How much do I get paid for a disability rating?

This has changed somewhat over the years, but the current compensation system for disability ratings has been in place for all injuries occurring on or after October 1, 2000. It is a schedule which multiplies your disability/ impairment rating (a percentage) by a particular dollar amount. It is not tied to your average weekly wage, so a 10% rating is the same for everyone, regardless of whether you are a high wage earner or a part-time minimum wage employee.

For example:  a 10% disability rating is multiplied by $80,000, resulting in a payment of $8000.

Higher disability ratings are multiplied by higher dollar amounts to reflect more serious disabilities.

Therefore, in another example:  a 25% disability rating is multiplied by $95,000, resulting in a payment of $23,750.

You can find the chart which explains these dollar values here (see Subd. 2a.)

 

Do I have to accept a disability rating from the insurance company doctor?

No. If the insurance company is not disputing your claim, they are required to pay you, as a minimum, whatever rating their doctor gives. However, you can file a claim for any additional rating which is supported by another doctor. So if your own doctor or surgeon gives a higher rating, you can file a claim for that percentage and take the issue before a compensation judge for determination. The ratings can be very complicated and are open to some amount of interpretation, so the insurance company’s doctor will always give the lowest possible rating. That is, after all, what the insurance company is paying him for.

Conclusion

There can be a number of other issues which arise relating to disability ratings and compensation, particularly with older claims or injuries to multiple body parts. This was only intended to give a general overview of the issue and answer some fairly common questions.

If you have any questions about a disability rating or any other aspect of your claim, please feel free to contact us.  We provide an absolutely free consultation for any injury claim. We will always give you our honest opinion about whether you need a lawyer or whether there is anything we might be able to do for you. Insurance companies have experienced claims adjusters and attorneys working for them and they are not interested in paying you any more than they have to. In a work comp claim against a huge insurance company, it can be very helpful for you to have a good understanding of the benefits available to you and your rights within the work comp system.

If you found this post to be helpful, please share this site with your friends and co-workers as a good source of work comp information for the working men and women of northern Minnesota and the Iron Range.

Thank you for visiting our blog.

An Independent Medical Exam In Your Minnesota Work Comp Case

If you have been involved in a Minnesota work comp case lasting more than a few months, you may have had the experience of being ordered to attend an Independent Medical Examination (usually referred to as an IME).  Not everyone with a work comp claim will be subjected to an IME.  If your claim involves a relatively minor injury or you make a quick recovery, the insurance company may not spend the time or expense to have you examined by their own doctor.

However, in my experience, the longer your claim remains open, the more likely it becomes that the insurance company will send you for an independent medical examination.  If you are reading this article,  you probably have some questions.  Let me try to help.

What Is an Independent Medical Examination (IME)?  First of all, at Bradt Law Offices, we refer to these exams as AME’s, not IME’s.  In my world as  an employee’s attorney, AME stands for an adverse medical examination.  After representing injured workers for over 28 years, I have come to the conclusion that these examinations are anything but “independent”.  They are simply an opportunity for the insurance company to hire a doctor to give an opinion which favors the insurance company.

But I digress.  An independent medical examination is an evaluation performed by a physician chosen by the work comp insurance company. Because the majority of work injuries involve the back, neck, bones and joints, the physician will often be an orthopedic surgeon.  If your injury is something more unusual, the insurance company may have you seen by some other type of specialist.

Do I have to attend an IME?  As a general rule, yes.  The law in Minnesota states that  “The injured employee must submit to examination by the employer’s physician, if requested by the employer, and at reasonable times thereafter upon the employer’s request.”  (Read the actual statute here).  If you fail to attend a scheduled IME, unless you have a good reason (such as illness or an emergency) you could jeopardize your claim.  The insurance company will argue that you have failed to cooperate with them and will probably attempt to discontinue your wage loss, medical benefits or both.

How far do I have to travel for an IME?  The general rule requires that the examination must be scheduled within 150 miles of your residence.  However, you may be ordered to attend an IME beyond the 150 mile range if:

  • You are already treating with a doctor of your choice beyond the 150 mile range, or
  • The insurance company can convince a compensation judge there are no specialists available within the 150 miles, or
  • The insurance company can persuade a  judge that some other good reason exists to schedule the exam beyond 150 miles

Does the insurance company have to pay my mileage and expenses for traveling to the IME?   Yes

Why does the insurance company need an IME?  An insurance company is always trying to pay as little as possible on any injury claim. Even though your treating physician or surgeon may be in the best position to give opinions about your case, the insurance company might not agree with your doctor’s opinions.  For that reason, they need a contrary medical opinion which will allow them to cut off your benefits, limit your medical care, deny a surgery, establish more lenient work restrictions or give a lower permanent partial disability (PPD) rating.  For that contrary opinion, they hire an “independent” (adverse) doctor to examine you and write a report.

How do I fight against an independent medical examination report?  An experienced work comp attorney will usually be able to get reports from your treating doctors to support your claim.  Your treating physicians will generally have more credibility than the insurance company’s  “hired gun” at a workers’ compensation hearing.  In some cases, your own attorney may even send you to a medical specialist for an independent medical examination and report, if necessary,  to combat the insurance company doctor’s opinions.

If a deposition is taken of the insurance company doctor, your attorney will get a chance to cross examine him and point out how frequently he does examinations for insurance companies and how he almost never writes a report which supports the injured employee.

What We Recommend

If you have a work comp claim and receive a notice from your insurance company that you are being scheduled to attend an IME, that might be a good time to touch base with a lawyer. A workers’ compensation claim can be a confusing, frightening and frustrating ordeal.  Please don’t be afraid to contact us,  anytime,  if we can answer some questions for you.  It won’t cost you anything and we will give you our honest assessment about whether you need a lawyer to represent you.

You are dealing with an insurance company which handles hundreds or thousands of claims every day.  They have experienced claims adjusters and attorneys managing their files.  Even if you don’t need a lawyer at the moment,  a little information about  the work comp system  can make a big difference for you in your dealings with the insurance company.

If you decide to hire us,  whether now or at some later time, there are no costs or expenses to you.   We don’t ask for any money up front and we only get paid if we win.  For more information about hiring us and how we get paid,  please see this earlier post.

As always, thank you for visiting our blog and please tell your friends that we are a source of good work comp information for workers injured in northern Minnesota and anywhere on the Iron Range.

Was this post helpful?  Did it answer your questions?  If you would like to contact us for a free consultation or to send us an emailCLICK HERE.

Or, leave a comment below.

Thanks again for visiting our blog.

When Do You Get a Work Comp Settlement in Minnesota?

We probably all know someone who was hurt on the job,  filed a workers’ compensation claim and eventually received a settlement.  In the 28 years that I have been handling work comp claims,  I have come to learn that most people assume  a “settlement” is a standard, guaranteed and inevitable result in a Minnesota work comp claim.   It isn’t.

What, no settlement?

Let me explain.  In the majority of cases where a lawyer is involved or there are disputes,  there will eventually be a settlement  –  but not always. There is no guarantee or entitlement to a “settlement” in a Minnesota workers’ compensation claim.  Instead,  settlements occur at some point in a claim because the parties mutually agree to settle their disputes in exchange for a certain amount of money.  In that regard, it’s no different than any other type of legal action where the parties agree to compromise and end their dispute.

Many claims  just run their natural course and will end,  without any type of  “settlement”.   For example,  let’s assume that you injured your shoulder at work, had successful arthroscopic surgery and missed 3 months of work.  The work comp insurance company  voluntarily paid your wage loss benefits and  all medical and vocational rehabilitation expenses.  You return to your previous job at your previous wage.  Your surgeon then gives you a 6% Permanent Partial disability (PPD) disability rating and the insurance company pays that.  The claim would end at that point without any additional payment of benefits and no “settlement”.   If you need additional medical care or lose more time from work at some point down the road,  your claim could be reopened and additional benefits paid at that time.

When, how and why do work comp settlements happen?

To understand why a case might end with a settlement,  you’ll need at least a basic understanding of the benefits available in a Minnesota work comp claim.  As I explain to my clients during our first meeting, there are only four basic types of monetary benefits that you might receive under  Minnesota workers’ compensation laws (these are very brief descriptions, you can find more details in some of our other blog posts or here).

Temporary Total Disability benefits (TTD).  These are benefits paid to someone who is off work completely because of a work injury.  (I won’t go into more detail  about TTD benefits for the purposes of this article – this topic will be a separate future post).

Temporary Partial Disability benefits (TPD).  These are partial wage loss benefits paid to someone who is working after an injury, with physical restrictions, but earning less than his or her pre-injury wage.

Permanent Total Disability (TTD).  These are benefits paid to someone who is off work completely because of a work injury and is permanently unemployable.  (See this previous post for details)

Permanent Partial Disability (PPD).   This is compensation paid if you have suffered a permanent impairment which can be rated (as a percentage) under the workers’ compensation disability schedules.

Every case and every injury is different,  so some or all of the available types of benefits might be payable in any given case.  There are limits on the number of weeks you may receive TTD and TPD  benefits and there are also triggering factors and events which  might allow the insurance company to discontinue wage loss benefits.   (That’s also the subject for another post.)

In addition to these monetary benefits,  an injured worker can also be reimbursed for certain travel expenses related to medical treatment or vocational rehabilitation and job search,  including retraining.  There is no payment or compensation for pain and suffering in a Minnesota workers’ compensation claim.  The benefits mentioned above are set by law and strictly limited.  So, with that basic benefit explanation,  here are some situations where settlements frequently occur:

Shortly before a workers’ compensation hearing

In my experience, this is the most common time for a case to settle.   If there is a hearing scheduled before a compensation judge,  it means that there are disputed issues.  The disputes might involve compensation benefits, medical issues, vocational rehabilitation issues or a combination of many issues.  If a judge decides the case, someone will win and someone will lose.  In a work comp case, because the available benefits are clearly defined, the value of most claims can be relatively easy to calculate.  Therefore, both the employee’s attorney and the insurance company attorney will usually have a pretty good idea as to what the “best case” and “worst case” outcomes might be.  Obviously, everyone likes to win and nobody wants to lose.  A compromise settlement at that point often makes sense for both parties.

At a settlement conference or mediation

If there are disputed issues and the case is proceeding toward a hearing, the Office of Administrative Hearings will usually schedule a  settlement conference.  A settlement conference involves the attorneys, the employee and a workers’ compensation settlement judge.  The conference may be held in person or by telephone, depending upon where the parties and attorneys reside.  Participation is voluntary and the settlement judge will assist and encourage the parties to reach a settlement of the disputed claims.  If they are able to do so, the claim (or at least the claim in dispute at that point) is settled.

A mediation is simply a different format for attempting to resolve disputed claims.  The parties will usually select an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to serve as a mediator.  A meeting is held, typically at the mediator’s office, and the parties exchange settlement proposals and offers back and forth through the mediator.  Again, if the parties can agree to reasonable terms, the case is settled.

While an appeal is pending

Sometimes the parties are unable to resolve the disputed claims and the case proceeds to a hearing.  After a compensation judge issues his or her decision, the losing party might file an appeal to the Worker’s Compensation Court of Appeals.  Cases are sometimes settled while the appeal is pending but before a decision is made by the Court of Appeals.

After an injured employee has returned to work

Many cases are settled after the injured worker has completed medical care and treatment and returned to work.  At that point, the parties may be able to project the potential future and ongoing wage loss benefits that might be payable to the employee.  If the employee has returned to work, with physical restrictions, but at a job which pays less than he was earning when injured, the insurance company may have to pay partial wage loss benefits into the future.  In this situation, the insurance company is often interested in paying a lump sum to settle out potential future benefits.

These are only some of the many situations where a settlement might be reached in a workers’ compensation claim.  Every settlement will have its unique terms and conditions, depending upon what the issues are and what claims are in dispute.  There are also many factors which affect the amount and terms  of a settlement, including:

  •  The employee’s average weekly wage on the date of injury
  •  How many weeks of benefits have been paid and how many weeks are potentially remaining?
  •  How strong or weak are the insurance company’s defenses?
  •  How strong or weak is the medical or vocational evidence?
  •  How old is the employee and what are his or her employment plans?
  •  And many other factors and circumstances specific to an individual case

Summary

This post was not intended to discuss how much your claim might be worth or whether you should settle it.  As mentioned above, every case must be evaluated based on its particular facts.  An experienced attorney would need to evaluate the medical evidence, the history of the claim, the nature of any disputed issues, your credibility and a number of other factors before coming up with a fair settlement value.

If you have been offered a settlement of your work comp claim,  I would strongly recommend that you contact an experienced attorney before you ever agree to settle.  A claims adjuster or insurance company attorney is far more knowledgeable than you are about the value of a workers’ compensation claim.  Even though any settlement has to be approved by a work comp judge, you should always consult with an attorney regarding the possible settlement of any  portion of your claim.

If you have questions about a settlement or any other aspect of your northern Minnesota work comp claim,  please feel free to contact me at Bradt Law Offices  with any questions.  I am happy to speak with you anytime about your claim or make an appointment for a free consultation in our Grand Rapids office or wherever it would be convenient for you.

Was this post helpful?  Did it answer your questions?  If you would like to contact us for a free consultation or to send us an email, CLICK HERE.

Or, leave a comment below.

Thanks again for visiting our blog.