This is a question I get asked all the time . . . and I understand why. Going through a work injury – especially one that leaves you unable to work for a while – is very much out of the norm, which is uncomfortable for most people. As such, it is natural to wonder how long one might have to endure the workers compensation process.
The answer is: “IT DEPENDS.” That is not what most people want to hear, but it is the truth. TV ads that promise quick recoveries for work injuries are silly, because there is no way to predict just how long it will take before a case is ready to resolve.
Let me explain why . . .
A workers compensation case is not ready to be valued for settlement or tried at a hearing until the injured worker has reached maximum medial improvement (or “MMI”). This is the point at which the doctor says you are as good as you are going to get after your injury. How long it takes to reach that point is totally unknown. Consider the following:
- Different injuries can take different amounts of time to heal.
- The same injury to different people can take different amounts of time to heal – everyone heals at a different rate.
- Some doctors may differ from others as to when they believe a person is as good as they can get.
- Some injuries that might initially seem mild can turn out to be more serious, and therefore take more time from a medical standpoint.
- Sometimes an initial injury causes someone to develop another problem, which in turn takes more time to address. For example, people who have serious knee injuries who walk with a limp for a long time can often develop problems with their back, hip or other knee because their body mechanics have been thrown off by the limp.
Further, there can be numerous legal factors that impact how long it takes to resolve a workers compensation case:
- If the case is denied, then it will take longer to get it resolved because it must be litigated at the beginning (this can include gathering medical records, getting opinions from doctors, taking depositions, going to hearings, etc.).
- Good insurance adjusters approve things quickly and keep things moving forward. Some insurance adjusters are slow to approve recommendations which obviously causes delays – particularly if litigation is needed to force them to authorize treatment.
- Some cases simply have more legal issues than others and it may take more time to gather evidence even following treatment to prepare a case for resolution.
- Some cases must be mediated (mediation is a formalized settlement conference) before they can go to court. If the case doesn’t settle at mediation, then it could add time to a workers compensation case.
- If a case goes to a hearing, commissioners vary as to how long they take to give a decision.
- Once a decision is made, one of the parties may decide to appeal. Depending on how far a given party takes their appeal, this could add years to a workers compensation case.
The above is by no means an exhaustive list of factors that determines how long a workers compensation case could last, but this should help you understand some significant reasons why it is hard to predict just how long it will take.
Here at KD Trial Lawyers, our workers compensation team works hard to do everything we can to make the process work so that our clients can get the treatment they need as quickly as possible then get through the legal phase as efficiently as practicable to finalize their case. However, we also make ourselves available to explain to our clients what is going on with their case and to explain our plan to address any issues that may arise. We want our clients to understand what is happening and why, and we welcome any and all questions from our clients about their particular workers compensation process.
Whether it is a short process or one that takes years . . . we will be with you until the end. If you have been injured on the job and have questions about the workers compensation process, please give me, Jeremy Dantin, a call at (864)585-5100 or email me at email@example.com. It doesn’t cost anything to have an initial consultation with me, so don’t hesitate - we are here to help!