Have you been injured at work? Did you apply for workers’ compensation, or are you still waiting for your settlement? Have you found yourself asking why workers’ comp takes so long to settle? As with any legal process, it can take time and patience. There isn’t a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all solution. Investigations will be made, and claims will be reviewed. Some people will get their settlement faster than others.
Keep reading to learn more about workers’ compensation settlements and why they can take so long, what can cause delays, and how you can keep moving forward.
What Is the Workers’ Compensation Process?
Workers’ comp can be a complicated process. If you have the option to work with an experienced workers’ comp lawyer, this can make the process much easier and faster. A lawyer will help ensure you have the necessary paperwork and evidence. They will also make sure deadlines are met, and the fine print is carefully considered. While you can complete the process on your own, your chance of success increases with an experienced team on your side.
After you have officially filed your claim, you need to work with a doctor who can verify the severity of your injury. In Washington, injured workers can choose any doctor they want to visit for their initial visit. After the initial visit, you will need to visit a doctor in the L&I network or L&I won’t cover the medical bills. Don’t use the provider your employer recommends as there is a greater chance the provider will side with your employer.
Next, your case is reviewed by L&I. This will include a careful review of medical records, related documents, and accident reports. It’s crucial to have everything clearly documented and well-prepared for this review. A workers’ comp lawyer can aid you greatly in collecting evidence and preparing your claim.
In the best-case scenario, your claim will be settled within a few weeks, but could take up to a few years. However, you should receive notice if your claim is approved or denied within 60 days from Washington L&I.
In the unfortunate event that your claim is denied, you can always file for an appeal.
What Is the Claims Investigation Process?
The L&I claims manager assigned to your claim will review everything with a fine-toothed comb. This can be part of the delay when it comes to receiving your settlement. Your claims manager will need to review all the necessary documents and make sure everything is up to regulation.
Due to the amount of fraud that finds its way into workers’ comp claims, this process can be stringent and lengthy. The claims manager will need to verify that you were indeed injured, and that the severity of the injury meets workers’ comp guidelines. They may also request additional doctor visits with an independent medical examiner, or independent medical exam (IME).
How Long Does Workers’ Comp Take?
Workers’ comp can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years to officially settle. There are many reasons your claim could be delayed, including but not limited to:
- Legal delays: Your settlement could be delayed due to court system delays, or a lack of resources when it comes to settling the massive number of appeals being considered.
- Fraud prevention: L&I claim managers need to go over claims meticulously to ensure no fraudulent claims result in a settlement. Many suspicious claims make it through the system, creating a need for a careful and stringent screening process.
- Medical reporting delays: The delay could be coming from your physician. For various reasons, they could be taking their time to report to L&I. They could also be waiting until your condition reaches maximum medical improvement (MMI). After your case reaches MMI, you can go to trial or settle.
- Labor & Industries delay: Remember that L&I is running a business. Often, they are focused on what is best for L&I financially, and that isn’t always paying a claimant.
- Employer dispute: Any dispute coming from your employer regarding your case could result in a delay.
While it might seem like there are a lot of reasons your settlement could get delayed, don’t get discouraged. You can do your part to avoid any potential setbacks. One of the biggest ways to expedite the process is to work with an experienced legal team. A workers’ comp lawyer knows the process and what routes to take to get results. They can help you organize your case, collect necessary information and documents, and ensure everything is filed and prepared on time.
You can also do your part to review your case and make sure reports and claims are filed on time. Double-check to make sure you will meet deadlines on time and that you have followed the rules and regulations in place.
What Happens When a Workers’ Comp Claim Is Denied?
Unfortunately, not all workers’ comp claims are approved. If your claim is denied, that doesn’t mean it’s the end. You should receive a letter giving you a specific reason for your denial.
You can use this letter in conjunction with a skilled workers’ comp lawyer to file your appeal. Together with your lawyer, you can address any issues in your case and make sure everything is prepared to file again. Your lawyer will also be able to help you increase your likelihood of getting a settlement. One way to lower your chances of getting a denial is to hire a workers’ compensation attorney from the start; it’s much harder to appeal a denied claim than it is to have it approved the first time.
What Happens When Workers’ Comp Is Approved?
When your claim has been approved, you could start receiving settlement payments right away. Occasionally payments will be delayed until the process is completely resolved. These payments can go toward medical expenses related to the workplace injury.
If you are unable to continue working, there are benefits that help supplement your loss of income or retrain you for a different line of work. If you have temporary benefits, they will end after you are well enough to go back to work.
There are usually three types of payment plans: lump sum, structured, and pensions. Lump sum and structured plans mean that you could receive your workers’ comp settlement in one payment or through regular payment plans. Pensions on the other hand are much harder to get than the other two, and even rarer to obtain without a lawyer.
When Should I Start to Receive Workers’ Compensation Payments?
After your approval or successful appeal, you should start receiving payments within a few weeks. The workers’ comp investigation is the lengthiest part of the process. If you’ve successfully gotten through that step, L&I will start to issue payment for time loss compensation within a few weeks after the claim is received. For the payments to continue at regular intervals, your doctor must provide regular progress reports.
How Do I Check My Claim Check Status?
Waiting for your approval or your check can be a frustrating ordeal. The good news is that you can follow up on your check status to monitor the situation by visiting L&I’s website or contacting your claims manager or your attorney. To do this, you will need to have the following information ready:
- Your claim number
- Personal identifying information such as Social Security number, PIN, or birthdate
How Can Emery Reddy Help?
Emery Reddy has years of experience in matters of employment law, including L&I and workers’ compensation. We’ve taken a specialized interest in the needs of our clients as we advocate on their behalf, which has helped us win thousands of cases. It has also given us invaluable experience and skills. Now, more than ever, we are ready to take on your case and do what we can to bring favorable results.
If you have been the victim of a workplace injury, call the skilled team at Emery Reddy for a free case analysis. We’ll review the facts of your case with you and let you know what your best chances are going forward. Contact us today to learn more about your case and your chances of receiving a successful settlement.