Workers’ compensation cases are a critical aspect of employment law, providing essential support to employees injured on the job. Interestingly, the journey of these claims rarely leads to a courtroom trial. Statistics reveal that less than 5 percent of workers’ compensation claims culminate in a full trial. The majority are resolved through less contentious means, such as settlements or mediation.

Keep reading to learn more about the potential for workers’ compensation cases to go to trial and how you can resolve your claim. Contact PLBH at (800) 435-7542 if you require help from an employment law attorney.

The Path to Trial in Workers’ Compensation Cases

It’s estimated that about 5 percent of workers’ compensation claims may see the inside of a courtroom. This figure is subject to interpretation due to the varying definitions of a “trial” across different states. While some include administrative hearings or arbitration in this category, others count only those cases heard in a formal court setting. Therefore, the 5 percent figure is likely higher than the actual number of cases that proceed to a conventional trial.

Data on the progression of workers’ compensation claims is not uniformly available across all states, but those that do track this information report exceedingly low numbers reaching a courtroom trial.

Case Studies: Illinois and Michigan

Taking Illinois as an example, with approximately 40,000 workers filing an injury report annually, only about 2.5 percent necessitate a decision by an arbitrator. Out of these, a mere 0.3 percent advance to a courtroom trial. Michigan reports similar figures, with only a fraction over 1 percent of workers’ comp cases filed in 2019 requiring resolution by a magistrate.

Settlements: The Preferred Endpoint for Most Claims

The settlement process is where most workers’ compensation claims find their resolution. Uncontested claims, where there is no dispute over the compensation owed, form one category of such resolutions. On the other hand, contested claims often lead to negotiations and may result in either a stipulation and award or a compromise and release agreement, both aiming to adequately compensate the injured worker.

What Factors into a Settlement?

Several factors influence the settlement amount in a workers’ compensation case. These include the victim’s medical history, anticipated future medical expenses, the point of maximum medical improvement, potential for career progression, and the worker’s salary. Calculating future medical costs, particularly for severe injuries, is complex, and securing representation from a skilled attorney at PLBH is advised to ensure a fair assessment of the case’s value.

Inside the Workers’ Comp Trial Process

While the specifics vary by state, the initial hearing usually takes place before a magistrate judge rather than in a formal courtroom. Evidence presented can range from witness testimony to medical records and expert opinions. The length of the trial can vary, but the objective remains consistent: to provide a fair and just outcome based on the facts presented.

The Appeal Pathway

Should the outcome of the trial be unsatisfactory, the decision can often be appealed through various levels of the state’s judicial system, potentially reaching the state supreme court.

Weighing the Decision to Go to Trial

Deciding to take a workers’ compensation claim to trial involves weighing potential benefits, such as the possibility of a full recovery, against drawbacks like the longer duration of the claim process, court-related stress, and the risk of receiving less than the settlement offer.

The Implications of a Settlement on Employment

Accepting a compromise and release settlement often means that the injured worker cannot return to their former position, as the lump-sum payment includes compensation for future medical care. Insurers typically require that the worker find new employment to avoid the risk of paying twice for the same injury.

In summary, while a workers’ compensation case going to trial is a rarity, the process leading up to the resolution—be it a trial or settlement—is intricate and necessitates careful consideration. For those navigating these waters, reaching out to PLBH at (800) 435-7542 can provide the necessary guidance and support for a fair outcome.