Every year, Illinois workers’ compensation claimants submit at least 40,000 settlement contracts to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (IWCC) for agency arbitrators to review and approve. These settlements are negotiated between workers with employment-related injuries or occupational diseases and their employers (and their workers’ compensation insurers) for lump-sum payments that represent full compensation for corresponding workers’ compensation claims.
Full settlement now?
Settling the claim in this way means that instead of getting smaller payments and submitting medical expenses over time, the one-time payout substitutes for future benefits that would otherwise have become due. There can be benefits to settling a claim, notably having more money up front to help with costs.
Fair, comprehensive terms?
The employer often will make a settlement offer once a claim is approved, but it is important not to jump at a settlement without careful consideration of whether the amount and terms of the claim provide full and fair compensation for the injury or illness. The employer’s financial interest is, after all, to settle the claim for less money than may be fair.
In addition, the employer is likely to require that the claimant waive rights to ask for increased medical coverage and higher permanent disability payments in the future if the medical condition worsens. The claimant must carefully weigh whether this is in their interest.
Seek legal counsel
Since the Illinois workers’ compensation system is complicated and the type, length and amount of benefits may not be appropriately represented in the offered settlement, an experienced attorney can provide the important service of analyzing the claim’s actual value vis-à-vis the offered terms.
Should the lawyer determine that the settlement is deficient, they can negotiate with the employer on behalf of the claimant for fair, comprehensive terms. Before the settlement contract is submitted to the IWCC for approval, legal counsel can carefully review it to be sure the figures and terms are correct, and it is otherwise properly drafted and executed. This will increase the chance of quick arbitrator approval.