Anyone who has gone through a messy court proceeding knows that they can drag on for far too long.  In an effort to meet client demands and save court costs, some firms are putting a creative twist on the compensation they award to their claimants.

Firms are turning to a variety of different forms of payments, from gift cards to exercise equipment, and in one case, a brand new fishing boat to settle workers’ compensation claims.

Greg Gitter, who runs California-based company that specializes in high exposure corporate workers’ compensation, said it’s important to think outside the box when trying to negotiate a claim settlement.  He said communicating with the employee can help each side find a happy-medium.

“Sit down with the person, have a conversation and find out what’s important,” said Mr. Gitter, whose firm specializes in negotiating workers’ compensation settlements.

Gitter spoke specifically about one case that involved a worker who was offered a $50,000 cash settlement.  The employee was hesitant to accept the offer, so Gitter asked the man where he saw himself down the road.  The man said he always wanted to spend his days fishing off the coast of Oregon.  Gitter used that information to adjust the settlement.  He offered the injured worker a $38,000 fishing boat, and $8,000.  He said the employee accepted the offer on the spot.

“It didn’t change the value of the case,” Mr. Gitter said. “It didn’t change anything about the case other than the manner that we approached the settlement.”

Gitter said associating value to a specific need or desire helps employees put the settlement value into perspective.  Those sentiments were echoed by Kathryn Tazic, who is the senior vice-president of Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc.  Tazic said gift cards are becoming more popular because the economy has forced people to re-evaluate their expenditures.  She also said gift cards are popular because they can allow families to purchase things they need on a weekly basis.

“Depending on where or how the gift card is applied, it would (provide) the ability to meet everyday needs,” said Tazic. “So if it’s a grocer, they know that they can feed their family.”

Another trend growing in popularity is to provide hot tubs or gym memberships in lieu of settlement money that would be used for physical therapy.  Many clients are more likely to take a slightly reduced settlement if it allows them to be more comfortable.  Instead of going to settlement-mandated physical therapists, claimants can rehab at their favorite gym or in the comfort of their home.

“It depends on the individual, their psychological issues and… where they want to spend their money,” Tazic said.

If you would like to discuss your workers’ compensation options with an experienced legal team, give the attorneys at Heimerl and Lammers a call.

Related source:  WCI 360