How Much Are Workers' Comp Head Injury Settlements Worth?
January 31, 2024 · 4 min read
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More than 83,000 workers experienced head injuries at work in 2020 according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. About 13% of them needed at least a month out of work to recover.1 If you hurt your head at work, the good news is that you can likely tap your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. It will cover your medical bills and pay for lost wages while you recover.
The average workers' comp head injury settlement
The average settlement for injuries to the head or central nervous system is $94,285, according to 2023 data from the National Safety Council (NSC). That includes $60,722 allocated to medical care and $33,563 as an indemnity payment. The data shows that of all body injuries, head injuries resulted in the highest settlement amounts by a large margin.2
However, your personal settlement will vary based on the severity of your injury, the medical care your doctor recommends, how long it keeps you away from work, and your state workers’ comp laws. Injuries that affect multiple body parts could result in higher payouts. So while the average settlement for a concussion is only about $33,700, other injuries that impact the spine could be worth closer to $100,000.
You deserve a fair workers' comp settlement. Atticus can help.
Do all head injuries qualify for workers’ comp?
Any head injury can qualify for workers’ compensation assuming it happened while you were actively engaged in your job duties. It doesn’t matter whose fault the injury was. It could have happened because of a one-time accident or from repeated strain over time, like from exposure to unsafe work conditions.
Even if your condition first shows symptoms outside of the workplace, but it happened because of your job, you could qualify for benefits. For example, if you hit your head at work, felt fine in the moment, and then experienced side effects when you got home or days later, you could still get worker’s comp because your health issues resulted from doing your job.
You do need to report your injury to your employer within your state’s reporting deadline. Missing that deadline will make it hard or impossible to file a claim.
Unfortunately, freelance employees, gig workers, and other independent contractors, don’t qualify for workers’ comp through their employers. That’s true even in cases of severe injury.
Examples of workers’ comp head injuries
Assuming these happen in the course of your employment, all of these head injuries and their side effects could qualify for workers’ comp:
Cognitive issues related to a head injury
Difficulty thinking or remembering
Diffuse axonal injuries
Facial injuries or disfigurement
Mental health conditions resulting from a head injury
If you have a secondary head issue — like a hematoma that develops because of a skull fracture — workers’ comp covers that. Injuries that affect other parts of your body, like your neck, shoulders, back, muscles, or nerves will also qualify.
When will workers’ comp give a settlement for head injuries?
Not every workers’ comp case results in a settlement, even for serious head injuries. Sometimes the insurance will opt to pay your medical care and lost wages until you can return to work. Because head injuries can get serious fast, though, insurance companies may choose to offer a lump-sum settlement in place of ongoing benefits.
A settlement offer is most common either immediately after you file your claim — so insurance avoids the potentially expensive care that comes with many head injuries — or around the time you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI). MMI is the point where you’ve recovered as much as possible, even if you don’t return to your pre-injury state. By waiting until that point, the insurer will have a clear sense of your medical condition and how much more treatment you’ll need.
Other factors could also play a role in when you get a settlement. As an example, insurers may offer a settlement toward the end of the year so they can close the books on that claim before starting a new fiscal year.
What should I do if I get a settlement offer?
There are three basic options after you receive a settlement offer:
Accept the offer as is.
Negotiate for a higher settlement amount.
Reject the offer to continue receiving your existing benefits.
Any of the three options could be right for you, so it’s important to consider each one carefully. Once you sign the settlement contract, your claim is closed and you can’t receive additional workers’ comp payments for that same injury.
To ensure you get a fair settlement, we recommend talking with an experienced workers’ comp lawyer. They’ll explain your options and talk to the insurance company’s legal team for you. A good lawyer will also have medical experts they trust to give a diagnosis of your condition and estimate how much future medical care could cost you.. This is especially important for head injuries, since side effects are hard to predict and might not crop up until weeks or months later.
Besides helping you negotiate a settlement, a lawyer also helps throughout the process by filing paperwork, scheduling medical care, and handling conversations with your employer or the insurance. Learn more about what workers’ comp lawyers do.
How much does workers’ comp pay if I don’t settle?
The insurance company will also pay for all necessary medical care. How much that is worth depends on your situation. The more care your doctor recommends — from computed tomography (CT) scans to prescription medications to a neck brace — the higher the medical bills will go. Insurance should aso cover copays, coinsurance, and potentially travel expenses.
Payments and medical coverage usually last until you return to work, reach MMI, or sign a settlement contract. If you reach MMI but don’t fully recover, your workers’ comp will give you an impairment rating (ranging from zero to 100) that is used to determine the value of your long-term (permanent disability) benefits. If you are receiving permanent benefits, you may also want to consider applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which offers monthly payments and free or low-cost health insurance.
Do I need a workers’ comp lawyer?
While it isn’t a requirement, hiring a lawyer can make a big difference for most (if not all) people who are negotiating a workers’ comp settlement. Not only will they help you fight for a fair payout, but they’ll talk to insurance on your behalf so that you don’t need to talk with the insurer’s lawyers on your own.
The average workers’ comp settlement for a head injury is about $94,200 nationally, but you could get much more or less depending on your situation. If you want to maximize your settlement, contact an Atticus workers’ comp attorney. Settlements with our attorneys are twice as high as claims without an attorney, on average.
Should I accept a workers’ comp settlement?
It depends on your personal situation. Negotiating is best in many cases, but we recommend getting a lawyer’s opinion before you make any decision. They can help you negotiate enough to cover your current and future medical expenses, lost wages, and other bills while you’re out of work.
Will surgery increase my workers’ comp settlement?
It depends. Surgery could increase your potential settlement if it doesn’t lead to a quick recovery or if you have complications. But it could decrease your potential settlement if it greatly improves your symptoms or recovery time. Get a more detailed answer in our guide to when surgery increases workers’ comp settlements.
Victoria Muñoz is an attorney on Atticus’s Workers' Compensation team. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of Stanford Law School, and has counseled hundreds of people seeking workers' compensation. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and spending time with her pup.
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