The Importance of Settlement Negotiations in Florida Workers’ Compensation Cases
Earlier this year, a construction worker who sustained severe injuries in April 2008 during a job-related accident, including a punctured lung, torn rotator cuff, and eight herniated discs, recovered $5 million through a settlement agreement. Although the worker in this case was located in New York and incurred his work-related injuries in New York, the case holds important value for any employee who suffers injuries on the job.
One of the most important decisions the employee will make during the lifetime of his or her workers’ compensation claim is whether to settle or pursue adjudication. Each case is unique, so special consideration must be given to the various circumstances at play. In many instances, the employer and its insurance company will fight the employee’s claim or request a reduction in the amount of benefits paid to the employee.
In the New York case, for example, the general contractor and property owner nearly convinced the presiding judge to dismiss the case at an early stage in the proceedings based on a number of arguments. First, the employer and the property owner claimed that the employee’s health and general fitness were poor at the time the injuries were incurred and that any maladies he claimed after the accident were simply preexisting health conditions. Had the judge agreed with these defendants, the construction worker’s benefits may have been reduced drastically or even denied entirely.
The defendants’ second argument was that the employee could have chosen a safer route and avoided the collision, but he instead chose a more dangerous path throughout the construction site. Had the judge found this argument to be true, the construction worker may have been found contributorily negligent in causing the harm that he sustained, which would allow the judge to also rule that the worker’s failure to mitigate his harm reduces the defendants’ liability.
Both defendants filed motions for summary judgment based on these claims, seeking to have the case dismissed. In response, the worker filed his own motion for summary judgment, contending that the property owner and general contractor were liable for violating various New York labor laws. Ultimately, the judge decided that the defendants were liable. Before the case could proceed to the damages phase, however, the parties were able to negotiate a settlement.
Although the worker could have pursued a judgment through trial, the worker took a safer approach. A settlement may result in a lower judgment than what would have been obtained through full adjudication or litigation of the matter, but it allows the plaintiff or worker to save on litigation expenses, realize a monetary settlement sooner, and put a painful and stressful situation behind him or her. In some instances, the settlement amount is actually higher than what may have been awarded at trial. The defendants may be eager to end the matter or ensure that the press does not catch wind of what has taken place. These angles can both be used as bargaining chips when the parties arrive at the table.
If you have been injured in a workers’ compensation case, it is important that you contact an experienced and aggressive attorney as soon as possible. As this case shows, knowing when to fight back and knowing when to negotiate can make all the difference in the outcome of your case. At The Hoffman Firm, our team of workers’ compensation professionals have helped many South Florida residents sue their job and obtain the compensation that they deserve after suffering painful work-related injuries. Call us now at (800) 223-1866 or contact us online to set up your free consultation now.
Evan A. Hoffman
Mr. Hoffman’s philosophy is "our knowledge and experience is your best defense." He has been a featured author on criminal law issues such as driving under the influence, domestic violence and illegal searches.Read More