During this difficult time, Boohoff Law will remain committed to the people of Florida & Washington. We are still available 7 days a week to injured victims who need our help, and we offer FREE PHONE CONSULTATIONS and Electronic Sign-Ups.

How Do Car Accident Settlements Work?

About 38,800 people in the U.S. died due to car accidents in one recent year, according to the National Safety Council. Also, roughly 4.4 million people sustained injuries in car crashes that required medical treatment. Car accidents can be minor or very complex, depending on the specific circumstances. Regardless, car accidents are usually stressful incidents that can disrupt an injured person’s life temporarily or permanently.

People who sustained injuries due to the negligent actions of another driver may recover compensation for covering qualified accident-related expenses, such as:

  • Medical treatment expenses
  • Hospital bills
  • Lost wages
  • Property damage
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Loss of companionship
  • Pain and suffering

They can recover compensation for these expenses and damages through a car accident settlement.

What Exactly Is a Car Accident Settlement?

A car accident settlement entails all the parties in the accident agreeing on a specific payout or compensation amount to cover expenses related to the accident. The settlement can happen without going to court, before a trial, or during an ongoing trial. Essentially, a car accident is a contract that states the liable party agrees to compensate the injured individual for losses incurred due to the accident and resulting injuries.

Done right, car accident settlements can save money and time for all parties involved. Rather than wasting weeks to months fighting it out in a trial and spending lots of resources, moving forward with a fair settlement is usually a better option than going to court. However, settlements will only work if all involved parties cooperate and reach a settlement agreement.

Note that auto insurance companies also offer car accident settlements directly to injured parties who don’t have legal representation. In cases like this, you have to keep in mind that you have the right to reject a low settlement offer, even if it means negotiating with the insurance company to come up with a fair settlement amount. You can also consider finding a car accident lawyer who offers free consultations to help you review the facts of your car accident claim.

What Happens During Settlement Negotiations?

After your lawyer establishes whom you can hold liable for the car accident and your injuries and how much compensation will be fair for all parties, your lawyer will then demand compensation from the liable party. Your lawyer may send the liable parties and/or their lawyers a demand letter detailing your claim and demands. Your lawyer may also choose to sue the liable party.

Once the liable party’s insurer evaluates your demand letter and responds to it, the car accident settlement negotiations will begin. Expect back and forth discussions between all parties everyone tries to come up with a fair settlement agreement. If the parties manage to agree to a settlement, negotiations will end, and you’ll recover your compensation.

On the other hand, if negotiations break down and the parties simply can’t agree on a settlement amount, you might consider alternative dispute resolution or mediation. If the parties still can’t agree, your lawyer may take your car accident case to court. Take note, though, that car accident claims rarely make it to court since settling is usually easier, more affordable, and less stressful for everyone.

How Much Money Can I Recover from a Car Accident Settlement?

Each car accident case will differ from one case to the next and comes with varying weaknesses and strengths. This means that the settlement amount will likewise vary greatly.

When estimating how much compensation is commensurate for your damages, your lawyer may consider:

  • The specific nature and severity of your injuries, which can include pain and suffering damages as well as any long-term effects on your life
  • Whether fault for the car accident is obvious or easily determinable
  • Whether the liable party is open to settlement negotiations

When receiving compensation through a settlement, you can receive it in the form of a structured settlement, annuity payment plan, or a lump sum. With a structured settlement, you’ll receive installment payments regularly over time. With a lump-sum payment, you’ll receive the settlement amount in its entirety. But there can be significant tax implications when receiving a massive amount of money. Your lawyer can advise you on the most cost-effective and tax-friendly option for you.

Be Extremely Cautious When Speaking to an Insurance Claims Representative

Following the car accident, regardless of whether you have a lawyer or not, the liable party’s auto insurance provider will most likely contact you and offer to settle your claim. This may tempt you, especially if you’re struggling to pay your bills. But you have to remember that the insurance company isn’t on your side. All too often, insurance providers, through an insurance claims representative or adjuster, will try to get injured victims to accept a fast but extremely undervalued settlement offer.

Accepting this offer will also mean that you’ll be waiving your rights to seek more compensation and sue the liable party when you realize that you didn’t receive a fair amount. Furthermore, accepting the low offer, particularly before you receive a long-term and more thorough prognosis for the injuries you suffered, would result in not getting the compensation amount that you truly deserve.

Instead, direct all discussions with the adjuster to your lawyer. If you don’t have a lawyer, consider contacting one that offers free case consultations so you can better understand your case before accepting anything from the insurance company.

When You Need a Lawyer for Your Car Accident Case

Tatiana Boohoff Managing Partner at Boohoff Law
Tatiana Boohoff, Car Accident Lawyer

Injured victims who recover from simple injuries typically can negotiate with insurance companies without any issues and legal representation. On the other hand, victims who’ve sustained potentially permanent and severe injuries such as spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, extensive scarring and/or burns, or injuries that need a long recovery or lifetime care will require the experience of a lawyer.

A car accident lawyer can review all the facts of your claim, explore your legal options, estimate the value of your claim, determine all liable parties, negotiate with insurance providers, and represent you in court, if necessary.

Acceleration and Deceleration Brain Injury

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a traumatic brain injury or TBI is one of the leading causes of disability and death in the U.S. In 2019, there were approximately 61,000 deaths from TBI. TBIs result from sudden trauma damaging the brain and disrupting its normal functions. Depending on the TBI’s severity, it could have very significant lifelong cognitive, physical, emotional, social, and psychological effects.

Medical professionals classify TBIs into primary and secondary injuries. Primary brain injuries occur due to mechanical forces and develop instantly. Secondary brain injuries, on the other hand, do not happen mechanically and may develop later on after sustaining primary injuries. Acceleration and deceleration brain injuries are primary brain injuries.

Understanding Acceleration and Deceleration Brain Injuries

Acceleration and deceleration brain injuries result from an unrestricted and sudden head movement that causes compressive, tensile, and shear strains. Among the most common situations that can result in this type of primary TBI is a high-speed auto accident, where whiplash is very common. Whiplash occurs when the head moves forward and backward rapidly.

With acceleration and deceleration brain injuries, these are the three most common types of damage:

  1. Diffuse axonal injury (dai)
  2. Focal contusions
  3. Intracranial hematomas, or bleeding around or in the brain

Diffuse Axonal Injury

This refers to widespread white matter damage in the brain. Your brain’s white matter consists of axon bundles, which, similar to computer wires, are responsible for connecting the different brain areas. DAI results from shearing forces that tear, twist, or stretch the axon bundles.

The problem is that DAIs are usually microscopic, which means that standard neuroimaging techniques cannot easily detect them. Severe DAIs, on the other hand, can be detected using an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machine. DAIs could injure various brain areas and often occur with mild TBIs, but could likewise occur with severe TBIs.

Focal Contusions

These are swelling or bruising in tiny, specific brain areas. Focal contusions are also typically called coup injuries, in which bruising occurs directly under the trauma site, and contrecoup injuries, in which bruising occurs on the particular area of the brain that’s opposite the impact site. But coup-contrecoup injuries can also occur when the brain shakes back and forth, leading to bruising on both sides of your brain.

Intracranial Hematomas

Bleeding or hematomas around or in the brain is another common damage type that could occur with acceleration and deceleration TBIs.

It’s the most common cause of clinical deterioration and death after TBI and comes as:

  • Epidural hematoma: This usually results from a temporal bone fracture and middle meningeal artery rupture. With an epidural hematoma, blood clots pool between the dura and the bone. Since the bleeding source is arterial, epidural hematomas could develop rapidly and place undue pressure on brain tissue.
  • Subdural hematoma: This kind of hematoma often results from the subdural space’s bridging veins getting ruptured. Left untreated, it could grow quickly and serve as a mass lesion. Subdural hematomas can lead to high mortality and morbidity rates.
  • Subarachnoid hematoma: This results from blood vessel damage in the posterior cranial fossa.

There’s also the possibility of intracerebral hematomas with TBIs. Any kind of bleeding within or surrounding the brain is dangerous and potentially fatal.

What You Should Know About Secondary Injuries and Other TBI Complications

As with all kinds of traumatic brain injuries, which include accelerating and decelerating brain injuries, secondary injuries are common and occur because of the effects of the primary injuries. Essentially, a secondary injury results from processes that the primary injury initiates and evolves over time.

Secondary injuries can include:

  • Hyper/hypotension
  • Ischemia
  • Hypoxia
  • Cerebral edema
  • Hypercapnia
  • Raised intracranial pressure, which could lead to herniation
  • Brain abscess
  • Meningitis
  • Epilepsy
  • Biochemical changes

Furthermore, besides the immediate dangers of TBIs, they can also cause long-term complications and consequences, which can include:

  • Nerve damage
  • Seizures
  • Cognitive issues – Problems with focus, processing information, reasoning, nonverbal and verbal communication, multitasking, judging situations, remembering things, organizing ideas and thoughts, and problem-solving, etc.
  • Issues with senses – These can lead to tinnitus, clumsiness because of poor eye-hand coordination, difficulty recognizing objects, sensing bad smells, or blind spots and double vision
  • Changes in personality – These changes typically result in impaired impulse control, leading to inappropriate behavior and, in turn, causing anxiety and stress for family members, caregivers, and friends
  • Long-term neurological issues – These can include Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression, among others
  • Coma – People with TBI who become comatose and remain in a coma for a long period might wake up completely fine. Unfortunately, it’s more common for people to wake from a coma with long-term disabilities and issues. Some even stay in a coma forever.

Seeking Help for a Traumatic Brain Injury

Tatiana Boohoff Lawyer
Tatiana Boohoff, Brain Injury Attorney

Moderate and severe TBIs could result in lifelong cognitive, physical, behavioral, and emotional disabilities that will damage the injured person’s quality of life. The CDC also found that despite hospitalization and rehab services, approximately 50 percent of TBI patients would experience further decline or die within five years of sustaining a TBI.

Fortunately, it is possible to reduce or prevent some of the adverse effects of TBI. Managing these lifelong problems, also called chronic disease management, is immensely vital to help improve the lives of people with TBI. However, the estimated lifetime costs of managing a TBI can range from $85,000 up to $3 million in recent years. And for many people, the cost is a massive barrier to proper TBI management.

Because of this, TBI cases require proper and prompt medical treatment as well as legal support. If you or a loved one is suffering from a TBI that resulted from another individual’s negligence in an accident or at work, consult with a brain injury lawyer to learn about your legal options.

An experienced brain injury lawyer can help determine how and where you can recover compensation to afford all the medical treatments you will need for your brain injury, whether from your own health insurance, the at-fault party’s insurance coverage, and/or your worker’s compensation insurance.

What Is the Statute of Limitations on Medical Malpractice Claims?

When someone goes to the hospital or a doctor’s office, they have the right to expect adequate care. Unfortunately, not everyone receives the proper care. Medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Roughly 195,000 patients die due to medical errors every year.

Around 2 percent of medical malpractice victims file a claim. The reasons why so many people do not pursue a case are different for each person. Sometimes, victims do not file a case because they run out of time.

If you were a victim of medical malpractice, ask a lawyer when the statute of limitations expires for your case, because after that, you can no longer file a claim.

The Common Causes of Medical Malpractice

Every step of the health care process can lead to medical malpractice if a care provider is negligent. Medical malpractice happens when a care provider violates the applicable standard of care, meaning that they must provide care that meets the same standard as the care that other competent providers would offer in similar situations. If a care provider does not meet the applicable standard of care, the patient can suffer an injury. A patient may have a medical malpractice case if they can prove their injury was due to a provider’s substandard care.

Medical malpractice can occur in a variety of ways. Some common causes are:

  • Misdiagnosis. The most common cause of medical malpractice is misdiagnosis. One report found that around 46 percent of claims had to do with misdiagnosis.
  • Healthcare-acquired infection. The CDC reports that an estimated 31 patients acquire an infection in a healthcare setting on any given day. Healthcare-acquired infections can include urinary tract infections from a catheter, bloodstream infections from injections and IVs, and ventilator-related pneumonia. Healthcare-acquired infections sometimes justify a medical malpractice claim.
  • Medication errors. Poor training, health worker fatigue, and staff shortages sometimes lead to medication errors. A mistake in prescribing, dispensing, or monitoring a patient’s medication can lead to severe harm. Every year, medication errors injure around 1.3 million people.
  • Surgical errors. A surgeon operating on the wrong part of the body, accidentally puncturing an organ or artery, or leaving surgical implements in the body after surgery all count as surgical errors. At least 4,000 surgical error cases occur every year in the United States.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Claims?

If you believe you are a victim of medical malpractice, you have a limited amount of time to go to court and begin your case. This deadline is known as the statute of limitations. Every state has laws that designate the statute of limitations for various types of cases. Some states set a specific time limit to file a medical malpractice claim, and others have a deadline that covers all injury-related lawsuits.

The statute of limitations varies from state to state, but most places set it at two years. Many states have a special deadline for minors. For example, a minor can often begin a case once they turn 18 even if the alleged incident occurred 10 years ago. You must find out what the applicable deadline is in your state to avoid losing out on compensation.

Can You Reopen a Case?

When you pursue a medical malpractice claim, you typically have one try to get it right. Usually, the case ends when you settle. Once you sign the settlement papers, you cannot reopen the case later.

However, if a judge dismissed your case, you may reopen it if the statute of limitations has not yet expired. If the claim was dismissed with prejudice, then you cannot open it again. But if it was dismissed without prejudice, then you can file a new complaint at a later date.

Speak with a lawyer to figure out if you can reopen your medical malpractice case.

The Process of a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

  • Consulting an attorney. The first step of the process is for the injured person to meet with a medical malpractice attorney. During an initial consultation, the lawyer will ask about the facts of the incident and determine if the injured person may have a valid case.
  • The investigation. During the investigation, the lawyer will review every relevant medical record. Medical records can help show what went wrong and if the health care provider could have avoided it. The attorney will generally contact one or more medical experts after gathering all available information. The experts might be heads of surgery or professors teaching in hospitals. They often write a letter in support of the injured party.
  • Filing a lawsuit. Once the lawyer has gathered enough information to support the injured person’s claim, they file a lawsuit in court on the injured person’s behalf. Some states require that the lawyer notify the healthcare provider before they file a lawsuit, to provide an opportunity for the healthcare provider to offer a settlement before the case goes to court.
  • Discovery. The next stage is the discovery phase. During discovery, each party has an opportunity to obtain documents and other information from each other. The injured person and the doctor will go through depositions where they answer questions from the other side’s attorney. Some of the questions may be regarding what went wrong, the provided care, and any other issues. The discovery stage can sometimes last a year or more, depending on various factors.
  • Settling. After discovery, the lawyers generally discuss a settlement. Most cases settle before they go to trial, which usually brings a resolution sooner. In some cases, the lawyers and the clients discuss a settlement with a neutral mediator.
  • Going to trial. Although most cases end in a settlement, sometimes the parties cannot reach an agreement and the case proceeds to trial. The judge or jury determines the trial’s outcome. If either side is unhappy with the outcome, they can appeal the decision for a second opinion from a higher court.

Everything You Need to Know About Collecting Compensation for TBI Symptoms

Often called a concussion, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can have a long-term impact on a person’s life. How big is the problem? According to the CDC, there are an estimated 2.87 million TBI-related hospitalizations and deaths every year. Over 837,000 of these injuries occur among children.

A TBI is a closed head injury and results in damage to the brain. Sudden bumps, jolts, and blows to the head can cause the brain to move back and forth. Symptoms do not always manifest immediately after a traumatic event. If you have been in an accident, you should be aware of and look out for the signs of a TBI.

The Causes of Traumatic Brain Injuries

A bump or blow to the head can lead to a disruption in normal brain function. Not all blows or jolts result in TBIs, however. Still, many accidents can damage the brain.

A few leading causes of TBIs are:

  • Falls. Falls account for at least 48 percent of TBI-related emergency visits. Children and adults over 65 are at a higher risk of developing a TBI than adults under age 65. Falling off a bed, ladder, in the bath, or down the stairs may warrant a trip to the doctor’s office to check for signs of a brain injury.
  • Car accidents. Vehicle collisions account for an estimated 20 percent of TBI-related hospitalizations. Crashes that result in brain injuries involve trucks, cars, motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians. Even a low-speed collision can result in a TBI.
  • Sports injuries. Soccer, football, boxing, hockey, baseball, and playing any other type of sport can lead to a TBI. Getting struck by or pushed into an object accounts for roughly 17 percent of TBI-related emergency room visits. These types of injuries are most common among young people.

The Symptoms of a Traumatic Brain Injury

For some people, the signs of a TBI appear immediately after the traumatic event. In other cases, symptoms can take days or weeks to manifest. A TBI may cause a wide range of symptoms. Some common physical signs include headaches, blurry vision, dizziness, and vomiting.

A person may experience cognitive symptoms like trouble concentrating, memory problems, feeling confused, and loss of consciousness. Some people report having difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual, and some experience mood changes.

In certain severe cases, signs of a TBI can include:

  • Loss of coordination;
  • Slurred speech;
  • Seizures;
  • Persistent headaches; and
  • Weakness in the fingers and toes.

Very young children who have a TBI can’t always communicate about their symptoms. They may instead display changes in eating and sleeping habits, unusual irritability, drowsiness, and persistent crying.

In a diagnosis, the term “mild” does not refer to the outcome. Doctors only describe a TBI as mild when observing the initial presentation of symptoms.

How Long Does a Traumatic Brain Injury Last?

The duration of TBI symptoms varies from person to person. Some people see improvement within a few days or weeks, while others see their symptoms persist for years.

Data from the CDC show that 22 percent of moderate to severe TBI victims still suffer from symptoms five years after their accident. Around 30 percent of moderate to severe TBI victims experience worsening symptoms.

What Are the Long-Term Effects?

A diagnosis cannot accurately predict how badly a TBI will affect each individual. In some cases, a TBI can have a long-term impact on a person’s life, including a shorter life expectancy due to increased risk of infection and pneumonia, among other health effects.

One study observed the link between exposure to repeated TBIs and lifelong cognitive consequences. Results showed that repeat TBI victims often experience learning and working memory impairment along with a lack of spatial memory.

TBIs can add a burden to the daily lives of victims and their families. An estimated 33 percent of severe or repeat TBI victims must rely on others for everyday activities.

Recovering from a Traumatic Brain Injury

Many people recover fully after a TBI. However, how quickly and fully a person heals depends on multiple factors. These factors include the person’s age, the severity of the injury, how healthy they were before the accident, and how well they take care of their injury.

If you have a TBI, the first step toward healing is to speak with a doctor about how to care for yourself while you heal. They will tailor a treatment plan best suited for you.

Some general tips include:

  • Get plenty of rest. Be sure to get enough sleep at night. Rest often during the day.
  • Avoid certain activities. Those with a TBI should avoid physically demanding activities. Working out, heavy house cleaning, and even balancing your checkbook can slow recovery. Contact sports can increase the risk of another head injury.
  • Slowly return to daily activities. When symptoms improve, consult your doctor to determine if you can go back to work and continue other regular activities. Gradually return to your daily activities, being sure to step back from activities that make any symptoms worsen or reappear.
  • Talk with your employer. When you return to work, speak with your boss about modifying your tasks if necessary.
  • Medication. Only use medication your doctor has approved.

Seeking Compensation

If you were in an accident and received a TBI due to someone else’s negligence, you may be eligible to seek compensation from the at-fault party through a traumatic brain injury claim. In a successful claim, you must prove that the other party was negligent, and therefore legally responsible for the accident.

To establish negligence, you will need to show that the other party owed you a duty of care, that they breached that duty of care, and that the breach resulted in an accident that caused your injuries. For example, in car accidents, another driver’s duty of care is to follow traffic laws. Finally, you must show proof of the damages you have suffered because of the accident.

If you are successful in your claim, you may receive reimbursement for past, current, and future medical bills. Other types of damages you may recover include lost wages, loss of quality of life, and pain and suffering. Each state has a different deadline to file a claim called the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations in most places is two or three years. You must file your claim before this deadline or you may lose your chance to recover compensation from the at-fault party for your injury.

If you have any questions about filing a TBI claim, consult a traumatic brain injury lawyer near you.

How Do I Get Paid After a Car Accident?

Thousands of people get in their cars every day, and everyone on the road is at risk of an accident. Even a low-speed collision can do serious harm, sometimes leading to serious or even life-threatening injuries such as traumatic brain injuries. If you suffered injuries due to another driver’s negligence, you can seek compensation.

To go after compensation, you must establish a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, and sometimes also in court. The legal process can be complex. This blog post describes some of the steps you need to take to get paid after a car accident.

What Do You Need to Do to Get Paid After a Vehicle Collision?

Some states have at-fault rules in place, where the person who caused the accident is responsible for paying all the costs related to the accident, usually through their auto insurance coverage. In no-fault states, on the other hand, each driver’s insurance company pays for their own medical claims up to a certain amount, regardless of who was responsible for causing the accident. In no-fault insurance systems, accident victims are only allowed to sue for additional damages in certain circumstances.

If you have been in a vehicle collision, reach out to a car accident attorney to understand the rules in your state. Particularly if you have suffered severe injuries, a lawyer can advocate for you as you navigate the claims process. Insurance companies often try to find ways to pay you less than you deserve or deflect the blame from their insured.

Most Cases End in a Settlement

In most cases, vehicle accident claims end in a settlement before a trial takes place. Insurance companies generally want to resolve the matter as quickly as possible. Often, the plaintiff and the defendant are interested in settling, as well.

Trials can be unpredictable, while settlements provide certainty. Victims don’t risk losing all reimbursement, and defendants avoid the risk of a massive verdict. If you settle a claim, you can often receive compensation sooner and avoid paying for litigation costs.

As mentioned previously, insurance companies want to pay the injured party as little as possible. You should not agree to any settlement until you understand the extent of your losses. Wait until the other person’s insurance company provides an offer for a fair amount of compensation for those losses. An attorney can help make sure you receive reasonable compensation for your injuries.

The Process of Filing a Lawsuit

Some claims go to court instead of settling. Lawsuits are most often necessary if there is a dispute about who is responsible for the accident or the extent of the victim’s injuries or losses.

A basic timeline of a car accident case is as follows:

  • Seek medical treatment. The first step a person should take after an accident is to seek medical treatment. This both protects your health and creates a record of your injuries. Once you see a doctor, keep track of any medical records and bills related to the accident.
  • Consult an attorney. Those who suffer a significant injury should always seek help from a lawyer. The lawyer will interview you about the accident and your injuries and gather evidence for your claim. Then, they will work to negotiate a settlement with the other party or take the case to court, if necessary.
  • File a lawsuit. If you decide to file a lawsuit, you will need to do so before the statute of limitations expires. Your lawyer will file a complaint against the other party and the lawsuit officially begins.
  • Serve a copy of the complaint. The injured party serves a copy of the complaint on the defendant. The at-fault party has about a month to file an answer. However, they may file a motion to dismiss before answering.
  • Discovery. Each side will request and exchange information about potential evidence in the case. The attorneys will take depositions from all relevant parties and witnesses.
  • The trial. After the discovery phase, the trial will occur. A trial is often the shortest step in the process, and will conclude with a ruling on the case from the judge or jury.

How Long Does It Take to Receive Payment?

Each case is different, so the time it takes to settle varies from case to case. While some injured people settle with the other party’s insurance company quickly, others may end up waiting months or years to receive compensation if settlement negotiations draw out or the case goes to trial. Litigation can take time, and some court calendars book out for many months.

What You Can Do With Your Settlement Check

After a favorable trial outcome or settlement, compensation takes the form of either structured settlement payments or a lump sum payment. Defendants pay structured settlements in regular intervals, and lump sums all at once.

If you hire a law firm, the firm collects the settlement or court award and issues your portion (minus any medical debt and attorney’s fees) to you in the form of a check. They provide an itemized list of deductions and then send you the remaining amount.

The IRS may tax some portions of your award or settlement, such as if you receive punitive damages. Ask your attorney for help understanding what you will need to pay in taxes before finalizing a settlement.

If you have any questions regarding how to get paid after a car accident, reach out to a car accident attorney today.

What Is the Average Workers’ Compensation Back Injury Settlement?

If you settle your workplace back injury, will the Washington Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) pay you what they pay everyone else? That’s a reasonable question to ask. The state controls every aspect of the worker’s compensation system. It makes sense to have concerns about claim fairness and equity.

If you want to know for sure, you must compare your potential settlement to L&I’s average workers’ comp. back injury settlement. Unfortunately, that’s not that easy to do. While you’ll find a great deal of data on paid claims, the L&I website provides mostly settlement rates, disability percentages, and disability guidelines. When you need straight answers about claims procedures, disability requirements, and average settlements, a worker’s compensation lawyer is your best resource.

L&I Injury Data

L&I produces and maintains meticulous online resources. But because they release data in compliance with federal and state privacy laws, you might not have access to all the information you want. Their injury data page provides links to years of statistics and decades of reports.

When you search their files, you’ll find details about types of injuries and body parts, industries involved, injured workers’ occupations, and other information. You’ll also find comprehensive information about state-funded back injury claims paid during the last fiscal year.

Back injuries are the second most frequent workplace injury. With 13,453 accepted claims, only finger and fingernail injuries occur more frequently. Available claim data includes totals paid on closed claims and estimated costs for open claims.

The data from the most recent year is:

  • Total accepted back injury claims: 11,358. These include traumatic back and spinal injuries, strains, surface wounds, open wounds, burns, multiple traumas, and other categories.
  • Total paid on back injury claims: $115,689,721.
  • Average incurred cost per back injury claim: $10,186.

What Settlements Does L&I Pay?

Not every injured worker qualifies for a back injury settlement. It’s often up to you to explore the possibilities. Whether you temporarily cannot work or you may never go back to work, you may pursue three different types of settlements.

Claim Resolution Structured Settlement Agreements

Washington Administrative Code gives L&I the authority to negotiate a structured settlement agreement with you. Their ideal structured settlement candidate is a 50-year-old worker with an accepted claim lasting 180 days or more.

They suggest that you might also be a candidate if you have:

  • An open lost-time claim;
  • A supplemental income (Social Security, retirement, etc.);
  • A desire to return to work; and
  • No interest in retraining.

A structured settlement is a negotiated arrangement that allows you to exchange your current benefits for future lump sum payments. You, your employer, or L&I have the right to initiate the process. If you have a legal representative, you should discuss the benefits and drawbacks before you complete the settlement process.

Once you negotiate the payment terms, you sign a contract that describes all the terms of your agreement. In some cases, when you accept a structured settlement, you give up your right to recover additional medical benefits for your injury.

Permanent Partial Disability Awards

When you’ve reached maximum medical improvement, you may qualify to receive a payment based on any permanent partial disabilities (PPD) you sustained. L&I pays PPD benefits based on your injury, its severity, and a physician-assigned PPD rating.

A physician who wasn’t involved in your treatment usually conducts an independent medical examination and issues a disability rating. Each rating corresponds with a total body impairment percentage. Cervical, lumbar, and dorsal back injuries have separate rating categories.

Under the PPD award system, the independent physician is solely responsible for rating your disability. As these ratings determine how much money you receive, Washington Administrative Code, WAC §296-20-2010, provides statutory rating guidance for medical care professionals. L&I chooses the doctor and that doctor’s disability rating controls your PPD payment amount. The potential conflict of interests does little to inspire confidence in the overall process.

L&I uses your disability rating and a Disability Category Awards schedule to calculate your PPD settlement.

They apply a formula that includes:

  • Back injury category (cervical, lumbar, dorsal);
  • Category impairment ratings from 2 to 8;
  • Brain and back impairment percentages from 10 percent to 75 percent; and
  • Whole-body impairment value, currently $214,222.98.

You receive your PPD settlement in monthly installments. You may also qualify to receive a PPD down payment.

Your Right to Protest or Appeal a PPD Decision

If you, your doctor, or your employer disagree with L&I’s PPD findings, you have the right to protest or appeal. You must file your protest or appeal within 60 days of the decision. You may write a protest letter and send it to your L&I claim manager, or you may file an online appeal with the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals. Until the end of June 2021, the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals will hold all hearings via Zoom.

Pensions

An L&I pension provides a lifetime income when you can’t work due to a permanent total disability. You automatically qualify for a pension if you have one of the following disabilities: loss of use of both arms, both legs, or one arm and one leg, or total vision loss. When you qualify for a pension, you receive an amount that’s equal to your lost-time benefit. The amount you receive depends on your salary, marital status, your average wage when you sustained an on-the-job injury, and other factors.

You must certify your disability annually unless you have a specified disability, and you may receive periodic cost of living adjustments. Depending on the payment option you select, your family may receive survivor’s pension benefits after your death.

Contact a Worker’s Compensation Attorney

If you believe you qualify for a worker’s compensation settlement, consult with a workers’ compensation attorney before you begin negotiations. Attorneys negotiate with the Department of Labor & Industries on your behalf. If you have already received a low offer, a workers’ compensation attorney can help you through the appeal process. Most attorneys offer a free initial consultation where you have an opportunity to discuss your case and get the help you need.