While the Law Shop has successfully settled many of these tragic cases, Landau has noticed that there is a lot of confusion and misinformation about these special claims. The Virginia Workers Compensation Act calls for a maximum of 500 weeks of payments in fatality cases to the family or dependents of the decedent. As there are no continuing medical or vocational benefits in these tragic claims, many lawyers and grieving unrepresented claimants think that the settlement should be easy. They then get upset when the insurance company does not simply “fork over” the remainder of the 500 weeks.
As an example, The Abrams Landau workers comp team had the opportunity to represent a number of 9/11 victims’ families on referral from one of the top aircrash disaster firms in the world. Long time friends and referral source Speiser Krause sent a number of Virginia and D.C. claims to the Landau Law Shop a week before the Statute of Limitations was to run. “Super Lawyer” Doug Landau was able to get the clients under the protection of Awards guaranteeing benefits. Defense Counsel for American Airlines and their Insurance Company came to Old Town Herndon and the Landau Law Shop to negotiate settlements. In a case involving the surviving spouse of a flight attendant whose life was claimed on that fateful day, there were 350 weeks remaining on the claim. The Award required future payments at a weekly compensation rate of $518.27. The math was the easy part, as there was a potential indemnity payout exposure of $181,394.50. However, the Insurance Company only offered $120,000. Why ?
The insurance companies, like your life and health insurance agent, “discount” for factors that may cut short or reduce the amount of money they might have to pay. Just as the health and life insurers look to see if someone is old, a smoker, engaged in dangerous activities, likely to move, get remarried, suffering from other health conditions, etc., the Workers Comp Insurance Companies ‘discount” cases the same way. For example, if there is a case with an Award “PAYOUT VALUE” of $200,000, the workers comp insurance company or employer may reduce their offer by some or all of the following actuarial factors:
The present value of the Award,
The likelihood that the claimant may not live to the end of the Award,
In an award to a minor, that she reach the age of majority and is not enrolled in a full time educational program (or is just too old to qualify for benefits under the Virginia Workers Compensation Act),
In a fatality claim, the chances that the spouse may remarry,
The possibility that the claimant will move, give up the case, lose benefits because of some technicality or procedural error,
The distinct possibility that the claimant may become disabled for other reasons or entitled to other benefits which would reduce the Workers Compensation Insurance Company’s bill (i.e., Federal Social Security Disability benefits),
The value to the claimant of receiving a significant “lump sum” payment at one time, instead of remaining “on the dole” for nearly 10 years.