Under Florida law, workers’ compensation settlements are voluntary. Neither the injured worker, commonly referred to as the claimant, nor the insurance carrier can force the other side to settle. Both parties have to be willing to discuss settlement and both sides have to agree upon an amount. If the two sides cannot agree on a monetary amount, then the case remains open, and the carrier is still required to provide benefits. The Judge of Compensation does not have the authority to order the claimant to accept a certain amount or order the carrier to pay a certain amount. This is unlike personal injury cases where if the two sides cannot come to an agreement on the settlement amount, the case is decided by either a Judge or jury.
Although the parties most frequently discuss settlement at mediation, settlements can occur at any point in the case. There is no exact formula for calculating a settlement. The carrier estimates the cost that they will pay out in benefits from that point forward if it does not settle. The claimant does the same by estimating the amount he would receive in lost wage and medical benefits from that point forward if it does not settle.
The process of negotiation starts with the claimant first formulating an initial settlement demand. There is an art as to how much to demand as you want to begin with a number that is high enough to get the carrier’s best number but not so high as to discourage them. Once the initial demand is submitted, the carrier makes an initial offer in response. Neither side expects the other to accept the initial demand or the initial offer. Once the carrier makes its initial offer, the claimant then has to counter with a demand less than the initial demand. The parties then go back and forth until a point where the claimant indicates that he is not comfortable going down any further and the carrier indicates that they are not comfortable going up any further. Hopefully at that point the parties have narrowed the gap enough to possibly meet somewhere in the middle.
Once the case has settled, it usually takes about four weeks to finalize the settlement. The carrier’s attorney will draft settlement documents formalizing the settlement terms which usually takes about a week. The claimant then signs the settlement documents and returns them to opposing counsel. The carrier’s attorney then files the settlement documents with the Judge of Compensation Claims. Once the Judge approves the settlement, the carrier has 14 days to forward the settlement check.
If you have been injured in a work-related accident and are in the process of trying to settle your claim, please contact us and we can help! Call our office on (941) 748-5599 to schedule a free consultation. We offer consultations in-person or virtually.