Workers’ compensation in Montana operates using a no-fault insurance system. Claimants can recover financial benefits for their medical bills, lost wages and disability costs without needing to first prove someone else’s negligence or fault for causing the injury. In exchange, employers receive protection from civil liability. Accepting a workers’ compensation settlement in Montana bars you from holding your employer responsible for your accident. It is important to consult with a Montana personal injury lawyer before accepting an insurance settlement to understand your rights and take the correct action for maximum compensation.
Consulting with a lawyer can give you a professional opinion you can trust about the potential value and worth of your personal injury and related damages. While an insurance company will want to minimize the value of your claim to save its investors money, an attorney will want to maximize your payout. A lawyer can accurately evaluate your workplace accident on your behalf, giving you an amount on which to base your settlement negotiations. With a baseline amount to expect, you will be better able to negotiate for a fair amount from the workers’ compensation insurance provider. You will also be able to recognize insurance bad faith.
If the insurance company is not treating your case reasonably, do not accept a settlement offer. Hire an attorney to help you negotiate a better settlement before you say yes or sign any paperwork. Once you accept a settlement, you forfeit the right to hold your employer liable for damages he or she caused through negligence. A liability claim, however, could result in greater compensation for your losses. Holding your employer responsible for an occupational injury or illness could reimburse you for 100% of your related lost wages, for example, instead of two-thirds (the cap for a workers’ compensation lawsuit). It could also lead to compensation for noneconomic damages such as physical pain and emotional suffering.
It is important to wait until you reach the point of maximum medical improvement to accept a settlement offer. Once you accept a settlement, you cannot renegotiate for a higher amount, even if your injuries worsen. A lawyer can work with your physicians and gather medical documents to help you understand when your point of maximum improvement might be, as well as for how long you might experience the effects of your work injury. If you are unsure whether the settlement offered to you via workers’ compensation insurance is fair and just for the nature of your injuries, consult with an attorney before accepting.
Settling your case can have several advantages. Accepting a workers’ compensation insurance settlement can end your claim quickly and efficiently. You will not have to go to trial if you settle through the insurance system. You can receive a workers’ compensation settlement check within two weeks to a month after filing your insurance claim. You also will not have to prove anyone else’s fault for your injury. You can receive benefits without needing proof of anyone causing your accident through negligence or recklessness.
If you settle your claim, however, recognize what you are giving up. If you believe someone else is responsible for causing your workplace accident and injury, a personal injury lawsuit could end in greater compensation than accepting an insurance settlement. You will give up the right to file a claim against your employer if you accept a settlement. If you believe your employer is liable for hiring or training negligence, or for workplace hazards, a lawsuit might be better suited to your needs. After accepting a settlement, you will still retain the right to bring a cause of action against a party who is not your employer, such as a product manufacturer or contractor.
A third-party lawsuit will generally take longer than settling through an insurance claim. It can take one year or longer to complete a civil injury claim. You could receive greater compensation for your damages if your attorneys succeed at trial against the party that caused your injury, however. Discuss both options with an attorney after a serious workplace accident in Montana.