Many injured workers find themselves going to a workers comp settlement conference and can find the whole process intimidating.
Workers Comp Settlement Conference – Will you have to testify? What will the Judge do or order? Don’t worry! With an experienced lawyer you’ll be prepared and hopefully, come to an agreement you can accept.
Does every work injury go to a workers comp settlement conference?
The answer is no, not all work injuries in Colorado go to a settlement conference. Sometimes what happens is you may settle informally with the adjuster. In other words, the adjuster contacts you and your attorney then the three of you work it out without going to see a Judge. But of course, the alternative way to settle your case is to meet at a settlement conference.
What should I expect to happen at a settlement conference?
Many people find going to a settlement conference intimidating. You may worry that you will have to present evidence, or that you may have to testify but that’s not the way it is. We want you to understand what to expect if your case goes to a settlement conference.
The first thing that happens is you set a date for the settlement conference and decide if it’s going to be in person, a video conference, or over the phone. Before you attend the settlement conference, it’s good to at least have an opening offer. That way, the insurance company bears more of the weight by having to respond to your offer and this alleviates some of the pressure off of you.
The Judge starts off the conference with an opening introduction. The Judge is going to explain that it’s a voluntary process and that if you don’t settle your case you will have to take your case to court where another Judge will decide the outcome for you. It’s important to understand that this is your chance to reach a settlement where you get to have some control over what you will receive from your workers’ comp claim.
The Judge is going to ask the attorneys for an explanation of what’s going on in the case, what are the issues, what’s happened in the past, what could happen in the future. You might be called upon to clarify some dates or what kinds of surgeries you had. The Judge is going to ask whether or not there have been prior settlement discussions. If you’re working with us at Kaplan Morrell, hopefully, we’ll be able to say, “Yes, your honor, we’ve made this offer and we are waiting for the insurance company to respond.”
At that point, the Judge is going to separate the parties into different rooms, whether physical or virtual. The Judge will talk with the insurance company and listen to their case, which could go something like this: “Here’s why we think the injured worker and his or her attorney are just mistaken and we don’t think it’s going to be as serious as they say.” They’re basically going to do everything they can to explain to the Judge why your case isn’t as great as you and your attorney are presenting.
Do I have to accept a counteroffer?
The insurance company’s attorney is going to give what’s called a counteroffer. For example, you and your attorney have decided that you’re willing to settle for $75,000, and then the insurance company lawyer is going to talk with the Judge and say, “We’d be willing to offer $15,000.”
Sometimes the Judge, who has a lot of experience in workers’ compensation, will give his or her opinion in private. But what’s important for you to understand is the Judge doesn’t have any power whatsoever to order you, the injured worker, to accept less than you want. In turn, the Judge doesn’t have any power to force the insurance company to offer you more than they want. The Judge is simply there to help people get closer and closer to reaching an agreement.
We’ll listen to the Judge and maybe we’ll come down from $75,000 to $65,000 instead. Back and forth it goes with the Judge meeting with each side lowering and upping their offer. Eventually, one of two things is going to happen. Either we’re going to reach a number that you are willing to accept and the insurance company is willing to offer and we’ve got a finished settlement or there’s no agreement and we’ll be looking at court dates.
What if I don’t accept the insurance company’s offer?
Sometimes our clients are unwilling to accept the offer and the insurance company is also unwavering and we just can’t find an agreement in the middle. But that’s not always bad news. It could mean that with some time we’ll come back to it and there might be some movement on the insurance company’s part.
Another thing that’s helpful is if you can’t reach a settlement, you can still get information from the other side, sort of like a preview of what they may argue in court. At the very least, if we can’t settle then at least you can go to court knowing, “I heard their best offer, I thought it was bad and I was willing to take the risk to win or lose in court.”
We can help you to get the best outcome
Going to a settlement conference should be stress-free on your end, other than you’re having to make an important decision. You’re in good hands if you’ve got an attorney who knows the law and can recommend what areas are reasonable and what areas are not. Ultimately, we want to help you make an informed decision based on your risk tolerance.
If you or a loved one has been injured on the job in Colorado and you’d like to be informed on your rights regarding workers comp, feel free to meet with one of our attorneys at Kaplan Morrell Attorneys for a free consultation. Visit our website at https://kaplanmorrell.com or contact us at 970-356-9898.
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