I have so many people who call me and say that they settled their case but they still can’t work and they are having problems. And, oh yea, their old lawyer won’t call them back. A lot of time and energy is spent on settling a case, that sometimes, we don’t think about what happens after the settlement.
If you are thinking about settling your workers compensation case you need to ask yourself a lot of questions. And you need to ask your lawyer a ton of questions. Make sure that you know what you are getting into before you settle.
But what should you do if you already settled your case, and you think you might have made a mistake?
Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to reverse the settlement. Hopefully, you did not settle the medical part of your case also. Here are some things that you might try to do.
1. Apply for Social Security benefits. You might be eligible for social security disability or even SSI benefits. Go to www.ssi.gov for information. You must prove that you are unable to work at any job that you did in the past, or any job that you might be able to perform based on your experience. The downside: it takes many months, and sometimes years to get benefits. And depending on what language your lawyer put (or failed to put) in the comp settlement agreement, you might have to wait even longer to get social security, or it might be reduced.
2. Apply for unemployment benefits. Hopefully, your lawyer did not make you sign away your right to collect unemployment when you settled the workers compensation case. You can try to get unemployment benefits, but you have to agree that you are able to work in some capacity, such as light duty or sedentary duty. If your doctor is saying you are completely unable to work, unemployment is not an option, better to look at social security.
3. Apply for short term disability benefits (STDB) with your prior employer. Who knows. Maybe you can still collect STDB. You employer should be able to tell you so ask to complete an application. Make sure you complete the application and don’t take the employer’s opinion because usually there is an insurance company that makes the decision. While you are at it, ask your employer about long term disability benefits also.
4. Ask your employer about any pension benefits that you might have. Sometimes, people have a disability pension plan with their old employer and they don’t even know it. So…ask them. There should be someone in the human resources department that handles this area. Sometimes they are called Employee Benefit Specialists, so ask to talk to them.
5. If you are in Pennsylvania, you might be able to get health insurance coverage with DPW. This is called Medical Assistance. There is also a separate plan for your children called CHIP. You can find information at this link currently:
The links change frequently so click on it now and print it. It might be gone tomorrow.
As usual, talk to another lawyer if your old lawyer is not calling you back. The lawyers at O’Malley, Harris, Durkin & Perry will always talk to you if you have any questions. And of course always talk to a lawyer before doing anything that you are unsure about.
Atty. John Kennedy, Feb. 14, 2012.