Many people ask: “How long will my workers’ compensation case take?” The short answer is that it varies. Here is a general guideline:
When a worker is injured, first they receive paid medical treatment necessary to “cure and relieve” them of the effects of their injury.
When medical treatment comes to an end, the permanency phase of the case begins. At that point, a Claim Petition is signed by the client and filed with the Court. The Court sends a copy of that Claim Petition to the insurer, who hires an attorney to file an Answer and handle their side of the case.
The insurance company’s attorney then must forward all of the treatment records to the worker’s attorney. At that point, the worker’s attorney sets up an examination with a doctor they choose. This doctor examines the worker and issues a report with an estimate of disability (called a “permanency exam”). The insurance company attorney will choose their own doctor to do the same. However, due to a provision in the law called the “26 week rule,” the insurance company’s attorney has the right to wait until 26 weeks have passed from the end of treatment before getting their exam. Some insurers will wait the full 26 weeks, some will not.
When both reports are ready and received by each attorney, they are usually exchanged between the attorneys and the negotiation process begins. In some cases, the attorneys can work out a fair settlement of the claim quite easily. In other cases we will ask a judge to review the case and provide their opinion on the extent of disability in the case. In either situation, the client will eventually need to come to court to place the details of the settlement on the record.
If an agreement cannot be made as to the extent of disability it may be necessary to have a trial where, after hearing testimony from the worker and the two doctors, the Judge decides the issue.
In most cases it is likely that the case can be resolved within 6-9 months of the date that treatment ended. However, this period can vary greatly.
If you’ve been injured on the job, contact me. I’ve been handling these kinds of cases for more than 30 years and I can help you get payment for your injuries as soon as possible. Visit my firm’s webpage, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call me at (908) 232-2040.