Example Workers’ Comp Settlement Amounts: What’s a Fair Payout?

Take a look at example workers’ comp settlement amounts. Make sure you’re receiving fair compensation for your workplace injury.

The average workers’ comp settlement is approximately $42,000.¹ Settlements will fall above or below this value depending on the severity of an injury and the injured employee’s salary or hourly rate.

Upon settlement, workers usually receive their benefits via a lump sum or a structured settlement.

It’s not a good idea to settle a work injury claim until you’ve fully recovered, or your doctor says your injury won’t get any better with further treatment. If an adjuster makes you a settlement offer, make sure it fairly compensates you for all your medical expenses and time away from work.

Workers’ Comp Settlement Examples

While the average workers’ comp settlement is $42,000, settlement values for work injuries can differ substantially. For example, while the average settlement in a head injury case is $92,493, the average settlement involving an injured hand is $24,627.

Settlement amounts will vary depending on an injured worker’s pre-injury wages and the severity of the injury. An employee making a high hourly wage would receive a higher settlement than a worker at a lower pay level. Some states cap the amount of wage benefits available to injured workers, affecting the amount of settlements in that state.

Workers’ comp also pays for your injury-related medical treatment bills. Since serious injuries result in higher medical expenses, they’ll lead to higher average claim settlements than mild injury cases.

Case Example: Workers’ Compensation Settlement for a Minor Work Injury

Lisa works at a nursery where she makes $20 per hour / $800 per week.

She is watering plants one morning and trips over the hose, rolling her right ankle. While she can get up on her own, Lisa can’t place weight on her right foot.

A co-worker takes her to an urgent care center where the doctor diagnoses her with a Grade I ankle sprain. He advises her to stay off of her feet for two days and then spend a few days gradually bearing weight. Lisa misses one week of work.

She settles her workers’ comp claim for $2,500. The amount includes $800 for lost wages and $1,700 for medical expenses.

Case Example: Truck Driver Trainee Suffers Moderate Work Injury 

James Jarrel was training as a driver for USA Trucks, Inc.  He meets his trainer in Memphis, and the two plan to begin their trip to North Carolina the next morning.

The trainer tells James that they’ll both sleep on the bunk beds in the truck’s sleeper berth, with John sleeping on top.

In the morning, the trainer wakes James, telling him to conduct a pre-trip inspection of the truck. James climbs down from the bunk and steps into a crockpot full of hot water. He suffers severe burns to both of his feet. James is rushed to the hospital by ambulance.

The final settlement for this case was not made public, but we can estimate a settlement for similar injuries. If a worker suffers second-degree scalding burns, they could be off work for a month, with full recovery.

Assuming a weekly wage benefit of $838 (based on starter pay for truck drivers) and medical bills of $3,200, we can estimate that a workplace injury like James’ would settle for $6,552.

Case Example: Workers’ Comp Settlement for $8.9 Million

Antonio Enriquez was an 18-year-old employee of Willie Painting company. One day while working on a scaffold, Antonio accidentally drops his paintbrush. He tries to catch it but ends up slipping off the scaffold and falls 20 feet to the ground.

He suffers a severe head injury that caused depression, cognitive deficits, anxiety, and psychosis. Antonio is later diagnosed with a multiple personality disorder that requires treatment in a rehab facility. All of Antonio’s conditions are considered a result of his fall at work.

Five years after the work accident, Antonio’s attorneys settles his workers’ compensation claim for an $8.9 million structured settlement.

Case Example: Permanently Disabled Worker Wins $11.3 Million Settlement 

A young nanny in California watches a couple’s daughter on a full-time basis. The parents of the child decide to go on a ski trip to Colorado. The nanny agrees to accompany the family so she can watch the child while the parents ski.

While driving in Colorado, the family is involved in a collision with another vehicle. The nanny is a passenger when the accident takes place. The crash results in the nanny suffering from several significant injuries, including a catastrophic traumatic brain injury.

As a result of the crash, the nanny is confined to a wheelchair and requires 24-hour medical care for the rest of her life. Her workers’ compensation attorneys won a settlement for $11.3 million on her behalf.

The above facts are based upon a real California case. To date, the settlement in the case represents the largest settlement in California Workers’ Compensation history.

Lump-Sum vs. Structured Settlements

An insurance company typically offers two types of workers’ comp settlements. These are lump-sum settlements and structured settlements.

With a lump sum, the insurer pays a claimant’s entire payout as a one-time payment.

With structured payments, the insurer spreads the settlement out over a set time frame. For example, an injured worker might receive weekly payments for five years.

Determining a Fair Work Injury Settlement

A settlement is never fair if you enter into it because of pressure or coercion. An insurer will pressure you because they want to close your claim and avoid paying future medical expenses.

An adjuster may try to push you into a settlement before fully recovering from an injury or reaching Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). MMI means your treating physician has determined your condition will not improve with further treatment, although you may need continuing treatment to keep from getting worse.

If you believe an adjuster is trying to force you into settling your case, contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer for help.

A fair workers’ comp settlement includes:

  • Wage replacement payments
  • Any unpaid medical costs
  • Anticipated future medical treatment costs (if you are waiving ongoing medical benefits as part of the settlement)

Sometimes you might have to negotiate with the adjuster to reach a fair deal. Negotiating a workers’ comp claim is similar to negotiating with an adjuster on a personal injury claim.

State Laws Will Impact Your Settlement

Every state has its own workers’ compensation laws impacting a person’s workers’ comp benefits or their settlement amount.

For example, some state laws say that workers’ compensation cases are entirely closed following a settlement. Other states allow a workers’ comp insurance company to re-open a case to help pay for future medical costs.

Some states also pay workers a schedule loss of use award if they suffer permanent partial disability or permanent total disability from their injuries. Compensation is determined by a chart that lists payment values for specific injuries and a medically determined impairment rating. Values listed in these charts will vary from state to state.

In most states, a workers’ comp judge must review and approve a settlement before it becomes official.

Make sure you’re familiar with your state’s workers’ compensation insurance laws before settling your case.

How to Maximize Your Workers’ Comp Settlement

There are several tips workers can follow to help them maximize their workers’ compensation settlements.

  1. Check the Math: Don’t rely on the worker’s comp insurance company to correctly calculate your average weekly wage benefits. Most wage benefits are based on your average income for the prior 12-18 months. Be sure all your income is accounted for, and includes perks like a weekly gas or food allowance.
  2. Assume You’re Being Watched: The insurance adjuster won’t tell you if they have private investigators watching your house or scouring social media looking for posts that are at odds with your claimed injuries.
  3. Beware of an IME: Sometimes an insurer will send (or threaten to send) an injured worker to an Independent Medical Examination (IME). The purpose of the exam is for the insurer to get a second opinion on your ability to return to work. But the doctors who perform IMEs often have conflicts of interest with the insurance company. It’s a good idea to consult a workers’ comp attorney before an IME.
  4. Avoid Giving a Recorded Statement: A recorded statement is when an adjuster records you while you discuss your work-related injury. Claims adjusters are experts at manipulating the discussion, then using it out of context to reduce benefits.

Fees and Liens on Work Injury Settlements

Injured workers are often surprised to learn that certain parties may have a claim to some of their settlement money.

Common fees and liens on settlements include:

  • Attorneys’ Fees and Costs: Once a claim settles, then you’ll have to use some of your money to pay your lawyer according to their specific fee arrangement. Most states limit the percentage that an attorney can collect.
  • Unpaid Medical Bills: Sometimes a workers’ comp case settles after a worker wins on appeal following an initial claim denial. If your doctors agreed to postpone payment of their bills  until after the appeal, then they have a doctor’s lien against a percentage of your settlement.
  • Taxes: There are typically no taxes on workers’ compensation benefits. However, if a worker settles a workers’ comp case and also receives Social Security Disability, and the total amount is above 80% of their pre-injury income, then their workers’ comp settlement may get taxed.
  • Advances: Some states allow injured workers to receive permanent disability payments before they settle a case. If so, the amount of the advances get deducted from the final settlement award.
Dustin Reichard, Esq. is an experienced attorney with 20 years of work in the legal field. He’s admitted to the Illinois State Bar and the Washington State Bar. Dustin has worked in the areas of medical malpractice, wrongful death, product liability, slip and falls, and general liability. Dustin began his legal career as a JAG... Read More >>