Should you settle your case? (Introduction - Part One)
This is a topic that will need a lot of explanation. Keep checking back for more blogs on this and related topics. First of all, settling a Florida workers' compensation case (or work comp case) is not like settling a personal injury case! In a personal injury matter; slip & fall, car accident, motorcycle accident, truck accident, etc.; you as the Plaintiff can force the defendant or their insurance company to pay you by bringing the case to a trial before a jury. If a personal injury (PI) case can't be settled voluntarily, then you can bring the case before a jury and seek an award of damages.
Most people these days understand this concept. A jury trial is a familiar event in a lot of television shows, movies, and books. Well, now that we have established the typical and well understood ultimate way to settle or resolve a personal injury case, let's turn to the unique nature of Florida workers' compensation. First of all, there is no jury in a workers' compensation case. There is no right to a jury trial in these cases and you can not petition the Court for a settlement or award of damages. The Court is run by a Judge of Compensation Claims or JCC. He or she is a part of the Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims or OJCC. These judges do not have the power under the statute to award damages for pain & suffering or other compensatory damages. They are judges and are entitled to appropriate respect, but they can not and do not award you damages or a settlement. They rule on technical questions such as compensability of the accident, major contributing cause, determination of average weekly wage, provision of medical care, etc., etc.
The Judge of Compensation Claims has no power to order a settlement, so then how do you settle it? Because neither side can be ordered or compelled to settle, you have to compromise with the Employer/Carrier's adjuster. As the adjuster is licensed and generally experienced in workers' compensation, you should get an experienced workers' compensation attorney to help you. Otherwise, you may give up valuable rights for far less than what they are worth! Settlement is based on what your employer and their insurance company owe you by law and not based on what you want or feel. Remember, the insurance adjuster has a job to do and that is to get you to settle for as little money as possible. On the other hand, your attorney has the responsibility to get you the most money possible. As your advocate, your lawyer will try to get as much money as possible, but as your counselor, they are to advise you as to all of the pros and cons as they affect you personally. Check back for more (much more!) on this topic.