How Long will My Comp Case Take?
Q. Even though my doctors and I believe I will never be able to work again because of my work injuries, General Motors is disputing my right to weekly workers’ compensation benefits. If I file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, how long will it take for my case to be tried or settled?
A. It is hard to answer that question because every case is different.
New cases are usually assigned pre-trial dates. On a pre-trial date, usually very little has typically happened, except that magistrates assign another date. The parties sometimes share information and records, and may begin some preliminary discussions about the case..
Even when a claimant is given a trial date, that doesn’t mean the case will be tried on that date. With few exceptions, workers’ compensation magistrates try their older cases first. If an employer had been paying weekly workers’ compensation benefits voluntarily but the employer suddenly stopped for some reason, those workers have a right to try to get their case tried faster than other cases on the judge’s docket. Many magistrates have a policy of dismissing cases or threatening to dismiss cases that have been pending for more than 18-24 months. If you have a trial date and your case has been pending on the magistrate’s docket for 6 months, it is not likely that the magistrate will be able to hear your case that day because he or she is likely to have older cases pending 18-24 months which will get priority that day. It is common therefore for a person to have multiple trial dates before a case is finally tried or settled.
Some defense attorneys are paid to handle cases for a flat fee; those defense lawyers are generally interested in working out a fair settlement quickly and moving on to the next file. Other defense lawyers are paid by the hour and make money engaging in a wide variety of delay tactics. These attorneys routinely only come up with money at the last minute when they are under pressure because the magistrate is ordering that the trial begin. If you are dealing with a defense lawyer like this and no good settlement is offered, you usually have to wait at least 9 to 12 months in order to get your case tried before the judge.
Sometimes settlements can only be entered into if a worker has been approved for a disability pension; GM workers can’t apply for pensions until they’ve been off work for five months and approval can take several months on top of that. This can be a factor in the length of a case. If an worker is receiving Medicare, his or her attorney also needs to negotiate with the Social Security Administration regarding its statutory lien to some of the settlement monies. The Social Security Administration sometimes takes months to decide how much money, if any, they will demand from out of the settlement.
If your case has significant flaws with it, you and your attorney may actually want to delay the case and engage in lengthy negotiations. Why rush hell-bent to trial if all you are going to do is lose and get nothing?
If a worker returns to work, sometimes employers are more willing to quickly negotiate a resolution of a worker’s entitlement to past due benefits (although if the defense attorney is billing by the hour, that is not always the case.)
If you have a good case, and want it resolved as fast as possible, we will work hard on your behalf to get you successful results as quickly as possible.