What is a workers' compensation lien?

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Louisiana's workers' compensation law protects most full-time, part-time, temporary, and seasonal workers beginning on their first day of employment. However, if you are eligible to file both a personal injury claim and workers' compensation claim for your work-related injury, there may be a lien on a portion of the personal injury settlement you receive.

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Typically, you are not allowed to file a personal injury claim and a workers' compensation claim for the same injury. However, if the personal injury claim is against a third party involved in your accident, you may be able to take both types of action.

Some examples of cases where a workers' compensation lien may be involved include:

  • You are injured in a work-related car accident that is the fault of a third party driver.
  • You are a delivery person or contractor who is bit by a dog while working on a private party's property.
  • You are visiting a client and sustain injuries in a slip and fall accident caused by a building code violation or an improperly cleaned spill on the floor.

Since you're not allowed to profit from seeking workers' compensation benefits, the workers’ compensation insurer may place a lien on a portion of your personal injury settlement, so the company can be reimbursed for expenses previously paid on your behalf. For example, if you break your arm and require surgery that the workers' compensation insurer paid for, the company may require reimbursement for this expense from any personal injury settlement you eventually receive. This prevents what is referred to as a double recovery.

The legal process of allowing an insurance company to make a claim against a third party to recover benefits it paid to the insured party is known as subrogation.

Compensation for Pain and Suffering

The primary benefit of pursuing both types of legal claims is that a personal injury claim can include compensation for your pain and suffering damages—including both physical pain and emotional trauma. Workers' compensation only pays for medical expenses and lost wages.

A workers' compensation lien will not affect any pain and suffering compensation you are eligible to receive. Since pain and suffering is most often calculated using a multiplier method that increases with the severity of your injuries, this can be a significant portion of the settlement if you've been left with some form of permanent disability.

Sharing Legal Fees and Negotiating Lien Amounts

If there is a workers' compensation lien on a portion of the pending personal injury settlement, the insurance company will be required to share in a portion of your legal expenses. A personal injury attorney typically works on a contingency fee basis, requiring a percentage of the final settlement as the fee for service. To take this into consideration, the insurer will often ask for two-thirds of the value of their payment to account for your legal fees.

In some cases, a worker's compensation lien may be high enough that your third-party personal injury claim would result in little benefit to you even after legal fees are taken into consideration. To avoid providing a disincentive to litigate, insurers will sometimes negotiate the amount of the lien to require less than the full value they'd otherwise be entitled to receive.

How a Lien Affects Your Ability to Settle a Personal Injury Claim

When there is a workers' compensation lien on your pending personal injury claim, Louisiana law does not allow you to accept a settlement without the insurer's approval. If you do so, you may be forfeiting rights to future benefits.

How Neblett, Beard & Arsenault Can Help

Although you are entitled to workers' compensation benefits even if you choose to forgo legal representation, hiring an experienced workers' compensation attorney is the best way to protect your right to fair compensation. Louisiana workers' compensation law is quite complex, especially when your case involves a lien against a future personal injury settlement.

The dedicated legal team at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault provides injured Louisiana workers with effective and aggressive representation—advocating for your interests throughout the process of settling your claim. Our firm is also equipped to handle any personal injury action you may wish to pursue. Contact us online or call our office directly at 318.588.6303 to schedule a free, no-obligation initial case review.