by Karl Voigt
A recent study of injured workers lends some insight into the merits and hazards of settling a workers’ compensation case. While the study was conducted in Minnesota and not Pennsylvania, there are some common elements. The study, titled “Workers’ Perspectives on
Settlements and Hearings” was authored by analyst Brian Zaidman. In short, the paper is based on conversations with injured workers some months after they settled their cases, hopefully lending some perspective to those workers contemplating the settlement of their own case.
One of the most common responses to the study was a complaint that the dispute resolution process took too long and, as a result, people felt that they were leveraged into settling their case. This is not an uncommon sentiment even in Pennsylvania where, if the parties are litigating a claim petition and the claimant is not getting paid, the prospect of a large lump sum becomes more appealing as time progresses and his debts accumulate.
Some other interesting responses arose. Namely, only half of workers who settled reported that they understood the benefits involved in their dispute. One third indicated that they had little or no understanding of their agreement. 29% said that, if they had a chance to do things over again, they would once again settle. 41% reported that, since settlement, their medical conditions had become worse.
At the very least, the study reveals that injured workers and their attorneys have to make and communicate informed decisions. Obviously, this is a study performed in Minnesota and not Pennsylvania, where workers’ compensation laws differ, but there are certainly things to learn and consider after reading the paper.
The text of the study is available at: http://www.dli.mn.gov/RS/Pdf/settlement_study.pdf