For those suffering from injuries that they sustained in a workplace accident, filing a workers’ compensation claim for benefits can be daunting enough as it is. However, attempting to resolve a dispute over workman’s comp benefits by holding settlement conferences with insurance companies can be even more stressful and risky without legal representation.
If you are in the pre-arbitration stage of your workers’ compensation claim, you may be vulnerable to receiving an unfair benefits award from your employer. By preemptively settling your claim with the insurance company that will pay the benefits awarded on behalf of your employer, you could lose out on getting a larger overall sum for your injuries. A quality workers’ comp lawyer could strive to adequately argue your case when meeting with insurance companies during a Joliet workers’ compensation claim.
In Illinois, nearly all employers that operate or conduct business within the state must purchase workers’ compensation insurance under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, codified at 820 Illinois Compiled Statutes 305. There is an alternative to obtaining workman’s comp insurance that the Act provides employers, which is the option to self-insure instead. This means the employer opts to take on the responsibility of paying its own claims rather than having an insurance company do it. However, for an employer to do so, they must receive approval from the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (IWCC) for the state to recognize them as a self-insurer. If this happens, then there may end up being no meeting with an insurance company in the event of a workers’ compensation claim in Joliet.
If an entity or individual falls within the definition of “employer” provided under Act, and they knowingly or negligently fail to obtain adequate workers’ compensation insurance coverage or receive self-insurer status under the Act, they could face a wide range of severe penalties as a result. Such penalties include: assessment of a $500 fine for each day without insurance with a minimum fine of $10,000; loss of the Act’s protection from being held personally liable for an employee’s work-related injuries; and imprisonment for potentially up to three years.
When an informal settlement conference is scheduled, the injured employee meets with their employer, along with the employer’s insurance company, to discuss the terms they are willing to agree upon in order to settle the claim before it reaches arbitration. Although arbitration may be necessary if the parties are unable to resolve their dispute, it means the claim is essentially going to trial, which can be a costly and time-consuming endeavor for an injured employee to undertake. A claimant and their lawyer must thoroughly prepare to negotiate the terms of their settlement contract when they meet with insurance companies in a local workman’s comp case.
It is highly advised that the injured worker finds a legal representative to work with them. If they wish to act as a pro se petitioner (without legal representation), they may be at a disadvantage during negotiations and will be responsible for adhering to, and keeping up with, the legalities involved in the claims process.
When meeting with insurance company representatives, an injured employee may be pressed by their employer to settle their workers’ compensation claim by signing a settlement contract. However, choosing to settle in cases where the claimant is a pro se petitioner can often be a grave and costly mistake.
At the outset, settling a case may seem to be an effective alternative to expensive and time-consuming arbitration while receiving at least some of the benefits. However, if a settlement contract is signed too hastily, you could risk losing a substantial amount of the benefits award you are entitled to receive. To ensure you get the proper assistance you need to sufficiently prepare for meeting with insurance companies during a Joliet workers’ compensation claim, consult with a lawyer as soon as possible.