When Do I Have to Settle My Workers’ Compensation Case?

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Unlike a car crash or other accidental injury case, Virginia Workers’ Compensation cases have no absolute settlement date. In other words, a workers’ compensation case in Virginia and Washington, D.C. can go on for years and even decades.

At the Abrams Landau law office, we have some files that are nearing three decades old for clients who are totally, permanently disabled. Fortunately, most clients have not lost the use of two arms, two legs or both eyes, such as would enable them to receive lifetime wage loss benefits. Rather, most clients have periods of time where they cannot work, or cannot work full duty, and then some permanent impairment for which they can get additional compensation payments.

A client recently wrote to workplace injury lawyer Doug Landau and asked, “Is there a statute of limitations on when I have to settle my case by?”

The short answer is no.

car accident
When an employee is injured in an on-the-job car crash, their related workers’ compensation claim does not have any deadline by which time it must settle. A personal negligence lawsuit, on the other hand, will either settle or be tried by a certain date in nearly every single jurisdiction. Lawyers who are not experienced in both workers’ comp and personal injury cases sometimes fail to realize the differing laws between these two systems.

There’s no standard timeline a workers’ comp case in Virginia or D.C. has to be settled. As long as the insurance company is providing the medical and other benefits required under any open award, the case remains open. Some other states may have mandatory settlement dates, or time limits for which a file may remain open, but in the D.C. metropolitan area, files can remain open for medical benefits for decades.

This is why insurance companies do in fact like to settle cases. There is an expense to an insurance company by keeping a file open—the insurance adjuster’s time, the claim supervisor’s time, the nurse and/or doctors who review the medical files to come in periodically, as well as the time their defense lawyers and investigators need for the open file. So if an insurance company can save money by settling the case, they will often do so. There’s no requirement under Virginia or D.C. law that they do settle the case, but at the Abrams Landau law firm in Herndon, Virginia, we settle a number of cases for our clients’ and their families’ benefit every year.

What has changed over the years is the fact that most settlements include either termination or resignation from the employer. In addition, nearly all settlements are full and final with no open awards of medical care. Both sides gain a little and both sides lose a little, and the Workers’ Compensation Commission only approves these settlements if they find that they are in the best interest of the injured worker. So, future medical care, medications, doctors’ appointments and prescriptions are likely not going to be paid for by the insurance company after settlement. That is why it is important to know what the future medical costs are likely to be.

Rather than guessing or making numbers up, which many injured workers’ lawyers do, attorney Doug Landau will frequently spend the time, effort and money to get a future medical care report or future medical cost projection, based upon the known numbers, to have some idea of what the cost will be for a client after settlement. This does not require that a client actually have these procedures or surgeries done, but if they do, then the money will be there to pay for it. According to Landau, “every case is different.” When cases settle, if it is a lump sum full and final settlement, there should be money for future wage loss, permanency, medical care, medications, and other items that may be covered under the Workers’ Compensation Act.

If you or someone you know is contemplating settling a permanent injury Workers’ Compensation case, and there are questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at (703-796-9555) or email us at Abrams Landau, Ltd.