If you have been injured on your job and you are currently receiving pay from workers' compensation, you may be approached by the insurance company about entering into a settlement agreement. This is a contract between you, your employer, and their workers' compensation insurance company. While the amount the insurance company offers may seem to be sizable, there are deductions that must be paid out of it. Knowing what these deductions are upfront will help you to calculate the net amount you may actually see.
Most workers' compensation attorneys will accept your case on a contingency fee. This means that although you will not have to pay anything out of pocket up front, they are entitled to receive a certain percentage of any settlement money that you ultimately receive. The amount that your attorney is entitled to is normally governed by state laws and regulations. This is normally referred to as the Workers' Compensation Act of your state. The amounts of these fees can greatly vary from state to state.
For example, in California, a judge can award your attorney a fee of 10, 12, or 15%, depending on how difficult or complex your case is. Florida, on the other hand, allows an attorney to claim 20% of the first $5,000 you are awarded, 15% of the next $5,000, and then 5–10% of any remaining amount based on the time they have invested in your case. If you live in Missouri, you may have to pay up to 25% of any benefit you receive, while New York allows the judge to determine a fee that can range from 10–20%.
In addition to your attorney's fees, you may also be responsible for other legal costs that are involved in preparing your case. These costs may include some of the following:
- Medical records
- Medical reports
- Deposition fees
- Travel expenses
- Filing fees
- Expert opinion fees
Although the final amount of your attorney's fee may have to be approved by a judge prior to you receiving your settlement, you should have an agreement in writing with your attorney at the time they accept your case. This agreement should include a general outline of anticipated costs and fees you may incur.
If any of your injury-related medical bills have been paid for by Medicare or Medicaid, you may have to pay them back prior to receiving your settlement. If this is the case, Medicare or Medicaid will often establish a medical lien against any settlement you may receive. All medical liens must be satisfied by your attorney prior to any funds being distributed to you.
In addition to any medical liens that may be levied against any settlement you receive, you may also have to pay outstanding child support from your settlement. For the purposes of calculating child support, workers' compensation is considered to be income. This is because these payments have replaced the income that you were receiving prior to your injury. If you fall behind in your child support while you are receiving workers' compensation, your wages can be garnished up to a certain amount.
Once you enter into a workers' compensation settlement agreement, many states will require your attorney to make an inquiry to the state agency that handles child support payments. This inquiry will verify whether or not you owe any outstanding child-support payments or have an outstanding balance. If it is found that you are in arrears, these funds may be deducted from any settlement monies you receive.
A workers' compensation settlement agreement can be a very complex and confusing process. This is not something you should attempt without the advice of an experienced workers' compensation attorney. They regularly draft these agreements and will know how to maximize the amount you can get from the insurance company. This will help you take home more money even after any deductions are calculated. Find an attorney through a firm like Daniels Long & Pinsel.