If you sustained a back injury at work or in connection with your job, you may receive workers' compensation benefits. These include coverage of your medical expenses for treating your injury and a portion of any income you lose when you cannot work or must work less due to a temporary or permanent disability.
Instead of paying these benefits on an ongoing basis, your employer's workers' compensation insurance carrier may offer to settle your claim for a one-time (lump sum) payment.
Here's how a workers' comp settlement for a back injury typically works and why you should get an experienced Columbia workers' compensation lawyer to negotiate and finalize it.
Overview of Workers' Compensation in Columbia
Workers' compensation is a type of insurance that employers must carry to cover employees against certain costs of suffering workplace injuries or developing work-related illnesses. It protects employees and their families from financial hardship due to a work-related injury or occupational disease.
State laws generally require employers to pay for workers' compensation insurance, and state agencies oversee the workers' compensation system. Employers cannot pass the cost of this insurance on to their employees. It is a cost of doing business.
Workers' compensation covers almost all employees of private employers in the United States. As long as you are an employee (not an independent contractor), workers' comp covers you regardless of your job title, hours worked, age, or immigration status. Workers' compensation may even cover you if you are an undocumented non-citizen.
Workers' compensation generally covers:
- Medical expenses for a work-related injury or illness.
- A portion of your lost income if you are temporarily or permanently unable to work or have to work at a reduced capacity.
- A portion of your lost income if you die from a work-related injury or illness.
- In some cases, vocational rehabilitation services.
Workers' compensation is vital because it provides a safety net for workers and their families if they suffer an injury or illness due to work. It ensures they can access necessary medical care and financial support during a challenging time.
Without workers' compensation, injured employees and their families might face significant financial hardship due to lost earnings and medical bills.
Workplace Back Injuries That Workers' Comp Typically Covers
Back injuries can occur in any line of work, ranging from minor strains to severe trauma, such as herniated discs, spinal cord damage, or chronic lower back pain.
Workers' compensation typically covers work-related back injuries such as:
- Lifting injuries: These are one of the most common types of back injuries in the workplace. Lifting heavy objects improperly or without assistance can strain your back muscles or damage your spinal discs.
- Slips, trips, and falls: Slick floors or cluttered workspaces can lead to falls and serious back injuries. Depending on how you land, a fall can cause minor muscle sprains or fractures in the spine.
- Repetitive motion injuries: This type of injury occurs over time due to repeated motions or improper posture. People who repeatedly twist their bodies, such as warehouse workers, retail workers, and office workers who sit for long periods, can develop conditions such as herniated discs and sciatica.
- Vehicle accidents: If your job involves driving, accidents can lead to serious back injuries, including whiplash, fractures, and spinal cord damage.
- Falling objects: Workers in some industries are at risk of heavy objects falling and causing serious back injuries. Construction workers, for example, may suffer injuries from falling equipment or materials.
- Violence at work: Incidents of violence at work can happen, and such episodes can lead to serious back injuries.
These are not the only ways back injuries can occur on the job. No matter how your back injury happened, contact an experienced workers' compensation lawyer to learn about the benefits you could receive.
Filing a Workers' Compensation Claim for a Back Injury
Understanding and navigating the workers' compe claim process can be complicated and overwhelming, especially when dealing with the physical pain and mental stress of a back injury. Each state has its own process for filing a workers' compensation claim, but the general steps typically remain the same.
Notifying Your Employer
The first step in filing a workers' compensation claim is usually to inform your employer about your back injury and its work-related cause. This often needs to be in writing. Do this as quickly as possible to ensure you meet any state law deadlines.
Seeking Medical Care
You must seek immediate medical attention for your injury. In some states, you must visit a doctor your employer or the workers' compensation insurance carrier approves. A medical report may play a crucial role in establishing the severity of your injury and the necessary course of treatment.
Applying for Income Replacement Benefits
You may be eligible for income replacement benefits if your back injury prevents you from working. The amount of these benefits usually depends on the severity of your disability and how long you are out of work.
Workers' Compensation Settlements Explained
A workers' compensation settlement is an agreement in which you, the injured worker, agree to receive a lump sum or structured payment for your back injury claim from the workers' compensation insurance company rather than getting weekly income replacement payments and cover for your medical care as needed.
It is a final resolution of a claim that often suits both parties—you get a guaranteed payout and control over your medical care, and the insurer closes a potentially expensive ongoing claim.
Several factors can influence the amount of a workers' compensation settlement for a back injury. These include the severity of your injury, the cost of your medical treatments, your doctor's prediction of your future medical needs, and the extent the injury limits your ability to work today and in the future.
Your age, level of education, and skills that dictate your employability in a different profession if you cannot return to your current job can also determine how much compensation you can get.
A Lawyer's Role in Settling Your Back Injury Workers' Comp Claim
A lawyer can play a crucial role in getting you a favorable workers' compensation settlement. They can explain the potential value of your claim and how any settlement offers measure up. They can also negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf to ensure you get the best possible deal.
The terms and structure of a settlement agreement can also have an effect on the other benefits you might have the right to receive—such as Social Security or Medicaid—and for that reason, getting a lawyer's input on its wording can protect your interests.
A settlement may also require approval by a workers' compensation agency or court, and it is often crucial to have a lawyer handle those proceedings for you to avoid costly mistakes.
The decision to settle a workers' compensation claim is a serious one and you should not take it lightly. Settlements are usually final and binding—you cannot reopen them after finalizing them.
A settlement can have long-term implications for your financial future and overall well-being. Having a lawyer who understands workers' compensation law, can evaluate your claim, and has advised others in your position is the only reliable way to ensure you obtain the most favorable outcome possible.
Hiring a Lawyer for a Workers' Comp Back Injury Settlement Is Affordable
Hiring a lawyer to handle your back injury workers' compensation settlement is affordable. Most workers' compensation lawyers offer a free initial consultation in which you can discuss your case with a knowledgeable legal professional without commitment or cost.
A lawyer can answer your basic questions and give you insight into your prospects for a favorable settlement. You do not have to pay for this session even if you decide not to hire the lawyer.
Workers' compensation attorneys also work on a contingent fee basis. This means you do not pay any fees upfront. The lawyer's fees are contingent (dependent) upon securing a settlement for you. You only pay them if and when they get you money for your back injury claim.
Frequently Asked Questions About Columbia Workers' Comp Back Injury Settlements
People who have suffered work-related injuries and illnesses often have questions about their rights and interests. Here are the answers to some common inquiries about workers' comp back injury claims.
Do I Need a Lawyer if the Workers' Compensation Insurance Company Already Offered Me a Settlement?
It is always wise to seek legal advice before accepting a settlement offer from a workers' compensation insurer. The insurance company's primary aim is to limit its financial obligation. The first settlement offer it makes is often much lower than your claim is worth.
A skilled lawyer can objectively assess your situation and advise whether the offered settlement is in your best interest.
Can I Get a Workers' Comp Settlement if My Future Medical Needs Are Uncertain?
Yes, it is possible. The uncertainty of future medical needs is a common concern for back injury victims contemplating a settlement. This is why you need a lawyer to handle your claim.
A lawyer, while negotiating your settlement, can consider the estimated costs of your future medical needs and negotiate the terms to account for any uncertainty. Lawyers often consult medical professionals to factor your future medical costs into your settlement amount.
Regarding My Workers' Comp Settlement Amount, What Does Discounted to Present Value Mean?
Discounting to present value means calculating the future payments you would have received if you had left your claim open as a lump sum you receive today.
If you invested this sum of money now at an assumed interest rate (called the discount rate), it would grow to match your future payments. An experienced lawyer can determine whether the present value calculation of your settlement adequately meets your needs.
The Workers' Compensation Insurer Denied My Initial Claim. Can a Lawyer Still Get Me a Settlement?
Absolutely. A denial of the initial claim is not the end of the road. This is a common scenario. A skilled workers' compensation attorney can work to reverse that decision and, in many cases, convince the workers' compensation insurer to accept liability and pay you a fair settlement.
Tight deadlines may apply to your claim if you received a denial from a workers' comp insurer, so talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.
Contact an Experienced Columbia Workers' Comp Settlement Lawyer Today
If you or a loved one sustained a workplace back injury, you may have the right to workers' comp benefits. You may also have the option of settling your workers' comp claim. It takes the skill and know-how of an experienced lawyer to get a workers' comp back injury settlement right.
To protect your interests, contact a skilled Columbia personal injury attorney for a free consultation before agreeing to a settlement offer.