If my injury is permanent, am I entitled to a workers comp settlement?
UPDATED: February 14, 2011
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You may be entitled to a worker's comp settlement, but it may not always be in your best interests to take one. Instead, you may wish to qualify for workers' comp benefits and to remain eligible for ongoing payment of your medical bills and disability benefits.
When you are injured in any manner arising as a direct result of your work duties, your employer is probably going to be liable for workers' comp benefits. This is true even if you weren't physically at a "job site" when the injury happened, i.e. - if you'd been sent out on a required errand or made to attend a company gathering. It is also true even if your employer wasn't negligent and you were, as long as you weren't drunk or doing something you clearly shouldn't have been doing (based on company policy).
When you are hurt at work, you must notify your employer and make a claim with the workers' comp insurer. If your claim is accepted, you can begin receiving ongoing benefits. These benefits include payment of medical bills and payment of lost wages if you are unable to work. If you become permanently unable to work, you may also be entitled to either partial or total disability benefits.
If you opt to "settle" your workers comp claim instead of receiving these ongoing benefits, then you are essentially agreeing to take a lump sum of cash and to release the employer and insurer from any of the future obligations they would otherwise have to you. This may be done if they are disputing your claim entirely or if you don't want to go through a long appeals process, but before you opt to settle your claim, you should talk to a lawyer. An attorney can let you know what benefits you might be giving up by settling and can help you to assess whether a settlement offer is fair and in your best interests.