The short answer is that the average workers comp case takes approximately 6 to 18 months. But that’s a big range, and it doesn’t help you understand how long your particular case might take. That’s because every case is different, every injury is different. Sometimes a case will only take a matter of weeks, other times it can take years.
So only by understanding the timeline for each part of your claim can you figure out the total amount of time it will take. And I’m going to help you do that by sharing my experience as New York Workers Comp lawyer over the past 17 years.
At the end of the video I’ll also share some of the most common reasons why your case might get delayed, which you won’t want to miss!
The amount of time it takes to file your workers comp case is largely up to you. Here in New York you can wait up to two years after your accident to file your claim, but I don’t recommend putting it off. Waiting only makes it seem like your injury was not that bad, which will make every step of your case more difficult. So notify your employer of your accident and file your claim with the workers compensation board as early as possible.
I can’t speak to the timeline in other states, but here in New York once your employer has been notified of your accident they are required to inform their insurance carrier within 14 days. The insurance carrier then has 18 days to begin paying you benefits, assuming they don’t deny your claim. But what I tell my clients is that you could have a check waiting for you in your mailbox by the time you get home from the hospital.
In certain circumstances, the insurance company gets notice that your accident happened before you even file, and will pay you voluntarily rather than draw out the process. That said, should they choose to deny your case, it could be a while before you see any money from them.
Shortly after being notified of the claim they have to report their decision to deny your case to the workers compensation board, and then it will be another 1-3 months before a hearing gets scheduled. Altogether a denial will add at least several weeks or months to your claim, there’s no way around it.
If you want to learn more about denied claims, be sure to watch my other video about how to fight back against the insurance company and win!
Once your case has been filed and accepted, chances are it will eventually end with a settlement. Nobody wants to drag out workers comp claims, which is why about 90% eventually end with a settlement, often in the form of a lump sum of money.
Settlements can happen at any point in your case, and can be fast or slow depending on your situation. Some of the reasons why your settlement might be fast include:
Whatever the reason may be, keep in mind that a fast settlement is almost always undervalued, it’s just quick money.
It’s impossible to accurately calculate the value of your case before your injury has improved, so any settlement made before then is going to be on the low side. This is often called a “nuisance value” and in most cases is less than $5,000. You can be offered this nuisance value within a matter of weeks or just a few months, depending on your situation.
The slower, and more common settlement process typically requires that you wait until reaching maximum medical improvement, or “MMI,” before settling your case.MMI is when your condition has stabilized and further medical treatment is not expected to significantly improve it.
And the reason why most settlements don’t happen until you reach MMI is because it’s impossible to know the true value of your case before then. You don’t know how much more medical care you’ll need, what your disability rating is, or how much your wage earning capacity will suffer as a result of your accident. So you often need to wait until your doctor declares that you’ve reached MMI before you can negotiate a fair settlement.
How long does that take?
Generally speaking, if your injury involves an extremity such as an arm, leg, hand or foot, it can take a year from the date of your accident or surgery to reach MMI. If you have an injury to a body part like your spine, lungs, heart, or brain, it’s not uncommon for that to take two years before you reach MMI. And if you suddenly need an additional surgery, that restarts the clock and generally adds another year to your case. That means this recovery period is often the longest part of your workers comp claim.
If you are worried about your claim taking too long and you live in New York, my law firm is currently accepting new clients.
My name is Rex Zachofsky and I have been a workers comp lawyer for the past 17 years. If you or a loved one have been injured on the job here in New York and would like to set up a free consultation with an experienced lawyer who will move your case as fast as possible, you can give me a call at 212-406-8989 today. Our call is confidential, costs you nothing, and can get you more in benefits than you would otherwise get on your own.
Okay, back to your case timeline!
Once you’ve reached MMI, all that’s left is to negotiate your settlement and get it finalized, which is often a faster process. When negotiating, some insurance companies respond very quickly, while others drag their feet. Unfortunately, you can’t force them to settle with you, so if they are slow to respond then the only thing you can do is wait.
I've had insurance company representatives reach out to me and say, “Does your client want to settle their case? If so, how much money does he want?” And I talk to the client, work up a number, we send a demand and… crickets. They never respond, and they ignore me from that point. I don’t understand why they do it, but keep in mind that this can happen!
I’ve also had cases where I’ve gotten on the phone with the insurance company, put them on hold while I spoke with the client, and then got everybody on board within one phone call and it's all done. So there's no rhyme or reason to it.
But if I had to give the negotiation process an average timeline, I would say around 4 months.
Which leads us to the last part of your case, which is finalizing the agreement. Generally once we agree on a number, finalizing the physical paperwork—the agreement itself—is rather quick. Again, there are circumstances that are outliers where it takes a few weeks and a few months, but generally speaking, once we have an agreed upon settlement amount, we can get papers done in a week or two.
Now that we understand the main parts of a workers comp case and how much time they take, what are some of the common delays injured workers run into?
Some of the most common ones we already discussed include:
Another common source of delays is if you don’t actively participate in the claim. That means if you miss a hearing, your case is going to take longer. If you don't get a permanency report when your lawyer tells you to, your case is going to take longer. And if you skip or reschedule IMEs, your case is going to take longer.
So it’s critical that you actively participate in your workers comp claim if you want it to finish as quickly as possible.
Another source of delays is if you need to file an appeal. It used to add as much as a year to certain cases, but recently the board has shortened the appeal times, so they are being heard and resolved more quickly. Now it's usually only a couple months, but it’s still a delay.
Another way cases get delayed is if you have a permanent disability, which often needs to go to trial in order to determine your degree of disability. That can involve depositions, which can take anywhere from 45 to 120 days depending on how many people are involved and what the issues are.
If you want to avoid unnecessary delays in your case, the best thing you can do is to talk to your lawyer. They know what mistakes to avoid, what deadlines to hit, and what actions you need to take. They can guide you to make sure your case proceeds as smoothly as possible so you can get on with your life and put this difficult time behind you.
If you’re just getting started with your workers comp case be sure to watch my other video, “10 Workers Comp Misconceptions That Cost You Money!” In it, I clear up some of the most common misconceptions that injured workers have about filing a workers comp claim, many of which can cost you time and money.