What Happens When You Accept a Voluntary Offer on Your Workers’ Comp Claim?
Here’s a story that may hit home. John was severely injured while delivering merchandise at a big box store. His employer acknowledged that the accident was work-related. The insurance company referred him to doctors and paid a portion of lost wages. In fact, John was relieved by the professional and caring manner in which the workers’ compensation adjuster treated him.
At some point, it became evident that John was not going to get any better with more physical therapy or even surgery. His friend, the insurance adjuster, told John that he was considered to have reached maximum medical benefit. It was sad news. However, the workers’ compensation claims person appeared to try to soften the blow.
The adjuster explained that she had the authorization to make a voluntary offer to John representing partial permanent disability payments. John figured that his new friend was just helping him out. He agreed to accept the money. John did not bother to seek legal advice regarding his workers’ compensation claim. After all, the insurance company had done right by him.
Unfortunately, there’s a good chance that John is totally and permanently disabled. Although it is acceptable for the insurance company to tender a voluntary offer, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can assist John in receiving what he may deserve under the law.
Workers’ Compensation and Voluntary Offers
If you’re not familiar with the concept of permanent disability as it applies to workers’ compensation, you should take a look at the article we wrote on the subject. On the one hand, New Jersey workers’ compensation laws recognize that an injured worker can have partial limitations that are expected to be permanent. On the other, someone hurt at work may never be able to return to gainful employment.
Under NJSA 34:15-64, the law also permits insurance companies to make voluntary offers on permanent disability awards. This is done after the claimant is finished with treatment or it appears that maximum medical benefit has been reached. Before doing so the workers’ compensation claims adjuster will request your attendance at an independent medical examination (“IME”). This physician will not be your regularly treating doctor. The purpose of the IME is to determine the extent of your disability.
Why would the insurance company voluntarily offer you money? It could be that they recognize your injuries are extensive and that they will ultimately be court ordered to pay you at least some portion of permanent disability benefits. Depending on the timing of the voluntary tender, the insurance carrier may also not have to contribute their portion of attorneys’ fees as a result of your claim.
There is no rule against accepting a voluntary offer. However, it always makes sense to seek legal advice regarding your accident as near to the date it happened. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you through each phase of the claims process.
A work-related accident can be a life-changing experience. Have questions? Contact the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone so that we can set up a meeting. We are here to help!