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Will Workers' Comp Offer a Settlement Without a Lawyer?

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A portrait of Atticus Client Advocate Kerry O'Shea.
Kerry O'Shea
Client Advocate
May 24, 2024  ·  4 min read

Workplace injuries can impact almost every area of your life. One silver lining is that workers’ comp insurance can pay for your medical bills and lost wages. In many cases, that payment is in the form of a lump-sum settlement.

The insurance company won’t always offer to settle, and having a lawyer could affect how much you get through a settlement. Not only are payouts much higher, on average, with a lawyer, but having legal representation could help you get other benefits throughout the process.

Can you get a settlement offer without a lawyer?

Yes, your workers’ comp insurance company will offer a settlement regardless of whether or not you have a workers’ comp lawyer. Settlements are a common part of the workers’ compensation process and having a lawyer doesn’t necessarily affect whether you can get one.

However, a lawyer can help you understand whether negotiating a settlement offer is the right option at a given time. For example, insurance may offer to settle early in the process as a way to avoid paying you for more complicated or expensive medical treatment later on. An experienced workers’ comp lawyer will recognize when in the process is best to negotiate based on your injury, medical history, and other personal circumstances.

Do you always get a settlement from workers’ comp?

Not all workers’ compensation claims end with a settlement, though you or the insurance company could request to negotiate one at any time.

After you file for workers’ comp, you’ll get wage replacement payments and the insurance company will pay for all necessary medical care. Those payments continue until you return to work, recover as much as possible, or sign a settlement agreement. Since most work injuries heal relatively quickly, a settlement isn’t necessary.

Settlements are common for cases that involve months away from work, significant medical bills, or a permanent disability. You could get regular benefits, reach MMI, and then transition to permanent benefits without ever getting a settlement offer. However, insurance usually looks to avoid long-term payments by negotiating a lump-sum payout.

When could workers’ comp offer you a settlement?

If your injury won’t leave you out of work long and should result in a straightforward recovery, you may never get a settlement offer. And while an offer could technically come at any time, it’s most common right away or when you reach maximum medical improvement.

  • Early in the process: Insurance companies are ultimately trying to save themselves money, so they could offer a settlement right away if they think they can avoid the possibility of a long or unpredictable recovery. It may not be in your best interest to settle at this time since you could negotiate a deal that looks good but proves to be too little when unexpected or expensive medical bills come up.

  • As you approach maximum medical improvement: Insurance companies often offer to settle when you have recovered as much as possible but haven’t returned to your pre-injury condition as a way to avoid paying you permanent benefits.

Other factors like the time of year could also affect your case. For example, an insurance company may push harder to settle your claim near the end of the year or before the end of their fiscal year in order to close out your claim before the next tax season starts.

Learn more about when workers’ comp settles claims.

How much is a workers’ comp settlement?

The total value of your settlement depends on multiple factors, like the type of injury you have, how much medical care you need, what types of treatment or surgery you need, the amount of work you’ll miss, and your state’s workers’ comp laws. We have covered average settlements for different body parts, but no two cases are the same.

Generally speaking, you should settle for an amount that will cover:

  • Medical bills for past, future, and ongoing care

  • Lost wages from the date of your injury into the future

  • Other costs related to your claim, like retraining expenses

You can calculate a reasonable settlement estimate on your own, but we recommend talking to a professional. A local workers’ compensation lawyer will know how to estimate the future cost of your injury and negotiate a fair settlement for you. 

Even if you think that an offer from insurance sounds good, it’s worth taking a free consultation with a lawyer. You never want to sign a contract now to find in six months that treatment cost more than you expected and now you need to pay medical bills out of pocket.

Get a free consultation with an Atticus lawyer today. There’s no obligation to sign anything and if you agree to work with us, you don’t have to pay anything until after you get a settlement.

How to increase your workers’ comp settlement

The best way to increase your workers’ comp settlement is to negotiate. The first settlement offer you get is usually too low because the insurance company is a business that’s trying to maximize its profits. Negotiating isn’t very easy, though. It’s a technical process and the insurance company will have its own lawyer (if not a whole team) whose job is to help it pay you as little as possible.

The best way to get a payout that accurately covers the cost of your injury is to work with a workers’ comp lawyer. A workers’ comp lawyer’s job is to help you get your full benefits. That’s one reason the average settlement with an Atticus lawyer is twice as high as what people get when negotiating themselves.

Experienced lawyers will also help you fight for more and better medical care. In some cases, like during the California settlement process, you can only choose your workers’ comp medical examiner if you have a lawyer — otherwise insurance can choose which doctor diagnoses your injury.

Get help with your claim today

Atticus is a law firm with local workers’ comp lawyers across the country. We’ll take the lead on negotiating a fair settlement so that you can spend your energy on more important things, like recovering and moving on with your life.

Start the process by filling out our 2-minute workers’ comp quiz (or calling us at the number below). A member of our team will reach out to learn more about your situation, answer your questions, and connect you with an experienced lawyer who’s a fit for your case. Talking to Atticus is always free, the initial consultation with your lawyer is free, and you never pay the lawyer fee until after you get a settlement.

Get workers' comp help today.

Frequently asked questions about workers’ comp settlements

Do all workers’ comp cases end in a settlement?

Not all workers’ comp cases end in a settlement, but many do. Claims that will continue after you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI) may especially lead to a settlement. Injuries with short recovery times are less likely to result in a settlement, but you can still request one.

When will workers’ comp offer a settlement?

You can receive a settlement offer at any point in the process, but settlements commonly happen either early on or around the time you reach maximum medical improvement. Read more in our guide to when workers' comp will offer a settlement.

Should I accept a workers’ comp settlement?

We recommend getting a lawyer’s opinion before you make any decision related to a workers’ comp settlement. It’s important that you negotiate enough to cover your current and future medical expenses, plus enough to cover your other bills when you’re out of work. Knowing how much to ask for and how to negotiate for the highest amount are things a lawyer can help you with.

How much does workers’ comp pay if I don’t settle?

People on workers’ comp receive payments equal to a percentage of the wages they earned before their injury (usually two-thirds). Here’s how much workers’ comp pays by state.

How long after a workers’ comp settlement do I get paid?

You should plan to wait at least one to three months after a settlement before you actually get your payment, but that timeline depends on multiple factors. Your lawyer or the insurance company will have a more specific answer for your settlement.

Are workers’ comp settlements taxable?

No, workers’ comp settlements aren’t taxable. Other workers’ comp benefits aren’t taxable either, with rare exceptions.

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Related resources:

When Will Workers' Comp Offer a Settlement?

Learn more

Average Workers’ Comp Settlements by Body Part

A portrait of Atticus Client Advocate Kerry O'Shea.

Kerry O'Shea

Client Advocate

Kerry O'Shea is an Atticus Client Advocate, helping injured workers to navigate the workers' compensation process and get the benefits they deserve.
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