Suffering a work-related injury or illness can be extremely difficult. Not only are you dealing with physical or psychological pain and injuries, but you also have to navigate the complex workers’ compensation system to get the benefits you deserve. Many injured workers wonder if they need a lawyer to help with their claim or if they can handle it on their own. Here is some guidance on when it may be advisable to hire a workers’ comp attorney.
Pros of Hiring a Workers’ Comp Lawyer
There are several advantages to having an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer on your side:
- Knowledge of the law and process – Workers’ comp laws are complex and vary by state. An attorney understands the laws, regulations, procedures, and timelines involved in a claim. They can guide you through each step and ensure deadlines are met.
- Maximize benefits – A lawyer works to get you the full disability benefits, lost wages, and medical care you deserve under the law. This can result in significantly higher compensation than trying to handle it alone.
- Negotiation skills – Attorneys are experienced negotiators. They know how to effectively negotiate with insurance companies to get fair settlements and argue your case at hearings.
- Objectivity – Emotions often run high after a serious work injury. A lawyer provides objectivity and keeps the focus on taking strategic steps toward resolution of your claim.
- Resources – Lawyers have teams of professionals, such as investigators and medical experts, to build the strongest case possible.
Situations When a Workers’ Comp Lawyer May Be Needed
While each situation is different, here are some common scenarios when it may be especially beneficial to hire a workers’ comp attorney:
- The insurance company denies your claim or tries to dispute that your injury is work-related
- You are unable to work for an extended period and need ongoing wage replacement benefits
- The insurance company stops paying benefits suddenly
- You are getting the “runaround” from the insurer or your employer
- Your injury may result in permanent impairment or disability
- Developing complications make medical care more difficult to obtain
- The insurer makes a low settlement offer
- Your employer fires you after the injury
Having expert legal representation can help you avoid delays in benefits, get fair treatment from insurers, and maximize your final settlement.
Questions a Lawyer Can Answer
Consulting with a workers’ comp attorney is usually free. An experienced lawyer can answer questions such as:
- Do I have a valid claim that will be approved?
- What benefits can I reasonably expect?
- How long will the case take to resolve?
- Should I accept the insurer’s settlement offer?
- What medical evidence do I need?
- How will being injured affect my employment?
Getting expert input can help you make informed decisions at each step of the process.
Costs of Hiring a Lawyer
Workers’ comp attorneys typically work on a contingency fee basis, meaning there are no upfront costs or fees. The attorney takes a pre-arranged percentage (often 10-15%) of any final settlement or awarded benefits. There is no fee if no benefits are obtained. Costs are taken out of the eventual settlement or award.
This means hiring an attorney is a relatively low-risk way to increase your chance of getting the maximum compensation allowable by law.
When to Hire a Lawyer
There are no absolute rules for when to retain a workers’ compensation attorney. Each situation has unique factors. However, it is wise to schedule an initial consultation if:
- Your employer denies responsibility for the injury
- The claims adjuster disputes the nature or severity of your injury
- Your benefits have been reduced or terminated
- Negotiations have stalled with the insurer
- Your medical status is uncertain
- Returning to work at full duty appears unlikely
- Your bills are unpaid by the insurer
An experienced lawyer can fully evaluate your situation and advocate for your rights as an injured worker.
Should I get a lawyer for my workers’ comp case?
There is no obligation to hire a lawyer, but they can be extremely beneficial in navigating the complex system, maximizing your benefits, speeding up the process, and negotiating a fair settlement. Consider consulting one if your claim is denied, benefits are in dispute, or negotiations stall.
When is the best time to hire a workers’ comp attorney?
Ideally, consult with one as soon as possible after reporting your injury, while evidence and witness memories are fresh. Your employer may also already have legal representation. Early representation ensures your rights are protected from the start.
Can I afford a workers’ compensation lawyer?
Most work on contingency, taking a percentage of benefits received. There are no upfront out-of-pocket costs. Hiring a lawyer usually results in greater compensation overall.
What questions should I ask a potential lawyer?
Ask about their specific experience with workers’ comp cases, success rate, whether they will personally handle your case, and what their fee percentage will be. Also ask what they believe your prospects are for a favorable outcome.
What will happen at my initial consultation?
The lawyer will review your situation in depth, explain your legal options, provide opinion on the value of your claim, discuss representation fees, and begin formulating a legal strategy for you if you choose to hire them.