If you're in pain because of a work-related back injury, you're not alone. Workers who suffer a back injury may experience mild, sharp, or gnawing pain. These injuries can cause brief impairment, short-term difficulties, or long-term problems that become difficult to resolve. They can even result in permanent disabilities, as well as a lifetime of pain and suffering.
When your priority is bringing home enough money to care for your family, you may want to try to heal and move beyond the pain. However, that can often seem impossible when you have a lingering back injury affecting everything you do.
The workers' compensation system has a solution for injured workers who need to receive compensation following work-related injuries. Even if you're still undergoing treatment for your back injury, you can negotiate a settlement with your employer's workers' compensation carrier and begin receiving money now. A settlement will allow you to obtain a lump sum in exchange for releasing your right to make future workers' compensation claims. While a settlement may be attractive to some, it isn't the best option for everyone.
Seeking Workers' Compensation for On-the-Job Back Injuries
A back injury affects the body's musculoskeletal system, which includes soft tissues, cartilage, nerves, joints, discs, and spinal structures. The pain often changes the way people live, work, and play. In addition, a back injury can lead to other types of injuries as your body attempts to continue moving through this injury. This can cause pain and reduced motion in the extremities, neck, and hips.
Unfortunately, back injuries are often a major health issue when a job includes manual labor tasks. Suffering a back injury at work can affect employees in jobs across all industries. In one year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) documented 97,990 lost time injuries caused by overexertion during lifting or lowering movements, which primarily cause back injuries. Your work-related back condition is likely attributable to the same heavy lifting, repetitive motions, or awkward work positions that cause workers' back injuries across the country.
Unfortunately, back injuries spark doubt and mistrust from an insurance company's point of view. These problems occur so frequently and in so many different situations that back injuries often come across as suspicious.
When an injury involves soft tissues only, physicians often rely on a patient's subjective feelings to diagnose the condition. This often makes back injuries difficult to verify. When an injury is subjective, insurance company representatives sometimes question both the injury and its severity.
Causes of Back Injuries That Qualify for Workers' Compensation Benefits
Employees run the risk of suffering a severe back injury in both physically intensive and sedentary jobs. Back injuries are caused by direct trauma, overexertion, or repetitive motions that lead to back damage. The following are some of the ways you can suffer a back injury at work:
- Heavy lifting
- Slip and falls
- Pushing or pulling a heavy object
- Poor posture caused by inadequate back support
- Bending over repeatedly or for too long
- Actions that require you to twist your back
Common Workplace Back Injuries
Workplace activities can damage the bones, muscles, ligaments, vertebrae, and discs that make up the back. In most cases, workplace back injuries occur in the lower back, otherwise known as the lumbar region. The following are some back injuries you could suffer on the job:
Lower Back Strain Can Lead to Filing a Workers' Compensation Claim
Lower back strains occur when overexertion or repetitive movement causes damage to the tendons and muscles in the lower back. This is one of the most common back injuries and can lead to intense lower back pain, spasms, and an inability to maintain proper posture.
You can suffer lower back strain from various work activities, including lifting heavy objects, twisting your body, and exerting pressure on your lower back by bending over for long periods. Work activities can cause repetitious damage to the lower back muscles and tendons, leading to long-term, chronic lower back strain.
Herniated Disc Injury Caused by Workplace Back Stress
The discs in the spine serve as shock absorbers for the spine's vertebrae, providing cushioning and protection to facilitate spinal movement. You can suffer a herniated disc when one of these discs tears or leaks due to impact or damage. A herniated disc can result in back pain, numbness in the legs and feet, and muscle weakness.
Although physical impact caused by direct trauma can result in a herniated disc, it can also occur from sitting without proper posture for long periods of time. If your employer provides a chair with inadequate back support, you could suffer a herniated disc that allows you to pursue workers' compensation as a result.
Excessive Force During Work Can Cause a Pinched Nerve
A herniated disc can lead to a pinched nerve in the spine. When a disc falls out of place, it can lead to the disc pressing onto a nerve, which can damage the nerve. Pinched nerves commonly affect the lower back and can lead to sharp pain coursing from the lower back down to the foot, lower back numbness, and weakness in the legs.
Apart from a herniated disc, you can also suffer a pinched nerve from stress on the nerves created by work activities. Excessive force on the nerves can result from repetitive motions, blunt force trauma to the back, or twisting unnaturally.
If you suffer any one of these back injuries while on the job, you can pursue payment from your employer by filing a workers' compensation claim. A workers' compensation lawyer can help you start the process of a workers' compensation claim and provide the valuable skills and experience necessary for maximizing the value of your claim.
How Does the Workers' Compensation Settlement Process Work?
In Florida, workers' compensation statistics revealed a total of 8,119 work-related back injuries during one recent year. During that same year, workers' compensation insurers settled 2,057 of these cases. A settlement involves paying the injured worker a lump sum and ending the claim process.
Initial settlement negotiations are often informal and unstructured. Some injured workers begin the process when they've reached maximum medical improvement. Maximum medical improvement (MMI) refers to when you complete the medical treatment process and fully recover from your injuries or reach a point where you will not recover any further.
For some injured workers, a settlement might feel right when they grow tired of dealing with the worker's comp claim process. This is dangerous because if they settle too quickly, they run the risk of losing out on the full value of potential compensation. If an insurance company doubts your injury and refuses to pay your claim, you should consider your other legal options.
There's no right or wrong way to initiate settlement negotiations. You or your workers' compensation attorney can start by contacting the insurance representative handling your claim.
Negotiation begins by presenting the insurance company with a demand. This is the dollar amount you want to receive for your back injuries. The adjuster then reviews the claim file and makes a counteroffer. This is the dollar amount that the insurance company is willing to pay.
An Average Workers' Comp Settlement for Back Injury Claims Take Time to Settle
Back injury negotiations are rarely a speedy process. They often involve back-and-forth discussions and disagreements and occasionally can become heated. With a tenacious workers' compensation lawyer on your side to move the negotiations forward, you should eventually reach a workers' compensation back injury settlement.
The conclusion of a workers' compensation settlement initiates a more formal process. You will have to sign documents releasing your right to future benefits for your injury. If you choose to proceed without a personal injury lawyer, a workers' compensation judge will review and approve your settlement. If you work with an attorney, the judge will also need to approve your attorney's fee agreement.
What Is the Average Workers' Comp Settlement for Back Injury Claims?
Workers' compensation settlements are different from lost time payments. They don't have a set formula or a specific dollar amount. As with liability injury claims, a compensation settlement is unique to the injured individual. Settlements are unique as well. For the 2,057 back injury cases settled in 2018, $14,949 was the average lump-sum payment.
Factors that Can Affect Your Workers' Compensation Back Injury Settlement
When insurance companies negotiate settlements, they often use average injury settlement data as an evaluation reference. They also consider other factors, including:
- Your back injury, its severity, and how it affects your ability to work
- Any permanent impairments
- Potential costs for additional treatment, such as surgeries, physical therapy, and medications
- Changes in income and lost wages related to your permanent impairments
- Unreimbursed medical bills
- Unpaid temporary disability benefits
- Any Department of Workers' Compensation penalties
- Unresolved issues about how your injury occurred
- Your personal profile—age, life expectancy, marital status, employment potential, etc.
The Consequences of Your Workers' Compensation Settlement Decision
It's critical to work with an experienced workers' comp lawyer to negotiate your workers' compensation settlement. Once you formalize your back injury settlement, you can't go back and ask for more money if you discover your back injuries are far worse or more expensive than you thought—and they usually are.
Before signing away your rights to future benefits, you should learn everything you can about The value of your back injury. Consider any impairments, work restrictions, and future medical issues that may affect your ability to work.
You must also recognize whether you are being treated fairly throughout negotiations. Always call a workers' compensation attorney to review your case before settling. Here are some additional points to keep in mind:
- When you reach a workers' compensation back injury settlement, you give up your rights to collect future medical and wage loss benefits.
- You can't reopen your claim if your injury causes new problems.
- To help you gain a better understanding of future medical issues, you should discuss your prognosis with your doctor.
- Once you settle, you'll be responsible for both current unpaid bills and future medical costs.
- Many states have a Department of Revenue that has the right to take some of your settlement funds and apply them toward certain debts, including unpaid child support obligations, for example.
Who Benefits When You Settle Your Workers' Compensation Claim?
No one can force you to settle your workers' compensation claim after suffering a serious back injury. A workers' compensation judge can't force you to accept a pending lump sum offer. A workers' compensation settlement is a voluntary process intended to create a resolution that benefits all parties involved. Of course, the benefits are completely different for the insurer, the state, and the injured worker.
How Your Employer's Insurance Company Benefits From the Workers' Compensation Claim Process
For each claim reported, insurers have a legal duty to set up a claim file, investigate the circumstances, and establish a claims reserve. The reserve is the claim representative's best guess as to the ultimate future claim payout. It also establishes the amount of money an insurer must legally set aside to pay a claim when it's time.
When a claim is open, an insurer must comply with state workers' compensation guidelines. The guidelines require insurers to provide the state with information concerning their pending claims. When an insurer settles a claim, their primary benefit comes from eliminating their claim-handling responsibilities.
Benefits to the Florida Department of Workers' Compensation
Florida Statute §440.525 requires the Florida Department of Workers' Compensation (DWC) to periodically audit the insurer's workers' compensation claim files. The Centralized Performance System reviews each claim to ensure their compliance with state guidelines. Also, the system addresses claim delays, payment histories, evidence of coercion or harassment, and other issues.
The Audit Section provides for audits of insurers, self-insurers, and self-insurance fund payments and practices. Additionally, the Department of Workers' Compensation will hold hearings to address workers' complaints, unpaid benefits, and other issues involving your claim. Settling a claim benefits Florida's DWC by reducing the number of open claims and eliminating the responsibilities associated with handling those claims.
How the Workers' Compensation Claim Process Benefits Injured Workers
When you suffer a back injury on the job, you may struggle financially, emotionally, and physically. Workers' compensation benefits can help reduce your strain, but often, you'll only receive minimal benefits over time. The workers' compensation payment rate only affords you a portion of your pre-injury wages. Depending on your back injuries and injury-related impairments, this process can continue indefinitely.
A lump-sum back injury workers' compensation settlement may give injured workers the power to change their financial circumstances. A lump sum may allow you to plan your finances better and live more comfortably. This can give you the freedom to begin paying off accumulating debts while relieving financial stressors.
Potential Disadvantages of Settling Your Back Injury Workers' Comp Claim
As you examine your workers' compensation settlement options after a back injury, you will likely realize that you have a lot at stake. Settling your claim too early or for an unreasonably low amount can adversely affect you, your family, and your future.
The following are some of the ways an early settlement can affect the principal parties involved in a workers' compensation claim:
Insurers Face Minimal Disadvantages From a Workers' Compensation Settlement
Insurance companies design their injury claim departments to ensure they incur minimal risk when settling a workers' compensation claim. Because money is involved, supervisors closely monitor claim representatives and must authorize all settlement figures. The settlement authority system makes it difficult for a claim representative to overpay a workers' compensation settlement. Although you may only have direct contact with the claims representative, an experienced supervisor usually controls the negotiations.
In exchange for your settlement check, you must agree to release all current and future workers' compensation claims. The insurers want to close the file and any possibility of subsequent claims. Releasing your rights to future claims means you will be solely responsible for all future expenses related to medical care, surgeries, or hospitalizations.
The DWC Also Faces Minimal Disadvantages in a Workers' Compensation Settlement
Settling your claim has no adverse effects on the Department of Workers' Compensation. Rather, your release allows the DWC to eliminate any active monitoring because settlement eliminates the risk of a future complaint. The DWC has no responsibility to provide any further services related to your claim.
Potential Disadvantages of a Worker's Compensation Settlement for the Injured Worker
Your workers' compensation settlement may proceed exactly the way you anticipate. A settlement may support you financially as you work your way back to health and productivity. However, if you require unanticipated medical treatment, you may find that the workers' comp settlement amount is too low to meet your needs.
Once you reach a settlement with the insurance company, that is all the compensation you can receive. You will not have another opportunity to negotiate the claim to receive more compensation. Settling before you know the true value of the claim can leave you without money to pay for future issues that arise related to your workplace injury.
If you have new medical issues related to your settled claim, you'll have to pay the bills out-of-pocket. If you are unable to work and have no income, your lump sum settlement will eventually run out. You must negotiate a settlement you deserve, or settling may create more problems than it solves.
A Workers' Compensation Attorney Makes the Process Easier
When you evaluate your claim settlement options, you should consider working with an experienced legal representative. A dedicated workers' compensation lawyer's legal advice can reduce stress and help you efficiently navigate the settlement process.
Work-related back injury cases are inherently complicated since the rules and guidelines come from complex state statutes. There are a number of issues that can crop up during the claims process that can impede your progress unless you have a legal expert on your side to untangle the red tape. Handling these issues on your own can harm your case or end up with your claim being denied.
Workers' Compensation Lawyers Can Negotiate Your Workers' Comp Settlement With the Insurance Company
Insurance companies that handle workers' compensation cases often have no problem questioning the validity of a back injury claim. These insurance companies will conduct personally invasive investigations attempting to discredit your injury claim. Some methods of investigation include surveillance of your daily life, social media investigations, and activity checks to confirm your injury. When an insurance company negotiates injury claims, the primary goal is to pay as little as possible.
Workers' compensation attorneys will engage with insurance companies on your behalf. Knowledge of state statutes and guidelines allows attorneys to ensure you receive a fair settlement. An attorney's understanding of the workers' compensation system enables a fair evaluation of your injuries before settlement. Workers' compensation attorneys have experience dealing with insurance companies and can confidently negotiate your settlement.
Contact Dolman Law Group for Help With Your Workers' Compensation Back Injury Claim
A back injury can make every day a challenge. The debilitating effects of a back injury can make it difficult to walk, stand up straight, or breathe. If you suffered a back injury during a work activity, you could pursue compensation through a workers' compensation claim to put your life back on track. A workers' compensation lawyer can help you work toward receiving the maximum workers' compensation settlement for back injury losses.
Dolman Law Group's experienced workers' compensation lawyers have in-depth knowledge of workers' compensation claims learned over years of working on these types of cases. They know how an insurance company will try to limit your settlement and can combat any attempts to reduce your compensation with legal strategies developed over a decade of protecting Florida workers.
When you consult a reputable workers' compensation attorney at Dolman Law Group, your initial visit is complimentary. You'll have an opportunity to hold a commitment-free discussion and learn if legal representation will help you resolve your case. Contact us to learn more about your legal options and protect your right to receive full compensation and benefits.
At Dolman Law Group, we offer free consultations so personal injury victims understand how we can help them through the workers' compensation claim process. Call us at (727) 451-6900 or reach out through our online contact page for your free consultation with one of our dedicated workers' compensation lawyers today.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 N Belcher Rd
Clearwater, FL 33765
Phone: (727) 451-6900