Everything You Need to Know Before Hiring a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
If you have been injured at work and you started your workers’ compensation claim, you’ll quickly realize that the process for applying can be long, complex, and difficult. If your claim and injury are relatively straightforward and your employer is willing to work with you, you may be able to take care of the claim on your own. It should be noted that this is not always the case with all workers’ comp claims — some scenarios warrant the use of a lawyer. The information below is meant to provide readers with insight into situations that justify the use of a workers’ comp lawyer, scenarios that do not, the benefits of hiring a law professional, and the costs associated with workers’ comp lawyer services.
When to Hire a Workers’ Comp Lawyer
As mentioned above, there are specific scenarios that elicit the use of a lawyer. Below is a list of times when you should consider hiring a workers’ comp lawyer.
- If your employer denies the injury occurred at work: If your employer denies that your injury even occurred as a result of your work, or in the workplace, it can complicate your application process. A workers’ comp lawyer can help you establish the link between your injury and your work;
- If your benefits are denied entirely: There are several common reasons for denial, but if your workers’ comp benefits are denied, and you feel like you deserve the benefits, you may want to hire professional help;
- If your benefits are delayed: If your benefits were delayed for some reason, and you have not been compensated accordingly, you should potentially involve an attorney. This is especially true if your benefits were delayed as a result of your employer;
- If your injury is complex: Some injuries are very straight-forward and clear, while others are a little more complex. If your injury is hard to quantify medically, it can be difficult to prove how it affects you, and how compensation should be determined;
- If your workers’ comp benefits don’t cover everything they should: The benefits you receive may not always cover everything that they should. For example, if your benefits cover the cost of treatment, but not the two months of lost wages that were a result of your injury, you should take advantage of an attorney;
- If you have been seriously injured: If you receive a short-term or long-term disability as a result of your work, you should use an attorney during your claim process — especially if it is permanent;
- If you have a pre-existing condition: When you have a pre-existing medical condition, it can be used as a reason for denying compensation benefits automatically. Employers or insurance providers can sometimes claim that your pre-existing medical condition is what caused your accident, not your workplace. It is important to note that a pre-existing condition doesn’t disqualify you from receiving benefits;
- If you are unable to work and your employer disagrees: If you are unable to do your work without accommodation or work at all and your employer says that you are able, you should hire an attorney;
- If your employer is accusing you of workers’ compensation fraud: If an employee believes that you are making false claims to collect unwarranted benefits, you can face civil and criminal penalties. Penalties vary between states and the offense, but they can result in serious repercussions such as fines, a criminal record, and even jail time;
- If you are facing employer retaliation as a result of your injury: Almost all employees have a right to collect workers’ comp benefits. If you are facing some form of employee retaliation for collecting said benefits — a demotion, reduced hours, pay cut, getting fired, etc. — you should involve a lawyer immediately;
- If your employer requests an independent medical examination (IME) after receiving your benefits: An IME generally results in an employer reducing or ending your benefits by reassessing the severity of your injury. If this occurs, be sure to talk to a lawyer to ensure that your benefits aren’t eliminated or cut short when they shouldn’t be;
- If your employer refuses to play by the rules: If you believe your employer is not following the guidelines for workers’ comp — like an employer refusing to give you a workers’ comp form — you should seek out legal representation;
- If you need to file a claim against a third-party: Third-party claims can complicate your workers’ comp application. Involving a legal professional can help you determine the best route for navigating both your workers’ comp claim and your civil lawsuit;
- If your employer says that you are not covered: Certain jobs are not generally covered by workers’ comp (business owners, volunteerism contractors, federal employees, railroad employees, and longshoremen employees). If your employer claims that you are not covered, and you do not fall under one of these categories, you should speak to a legal professional;
- If your employer does not carry workers’ compensation insurance: As mentioned above, there are only a select few types of workers that do not qualify for workers’ comp. If your employer does not carry workers’ comp, or they forget to pay for coverage, you should seek out legal advice;
- If you develop new symptoms over time: If you develop new symptoms since your original claim or settlement, you should hire a lawyer to help make changes to your claim accordingly because it can be difficult to link the new symptoms to your work injury;
- If you currently receive other types of benefits: If you receive Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, or some other form of monthly payment, the process for submitting your claim is different from a traditional claim. Hire an attorney to help you understand the differences and receive the appropriate compensation.
When Not to Hire a Workers’ Comp Lawyer
Some scenarios warrant the use of a workers’ comp lawyer, and others that do not. Below is a list of situations where you do not generally need to hire a workers’ comp lawyer.
- If your injuries do not require extensive treatment or recovery: When you have minor injuries that do not require surgery, treatment, or recovery time, you generally should avoid hiring a workers’ comp lawyer;
- If you do not need to take time off: If you do not need to take any time off for your injury, you do not need to seek out lost wages — this typically makes your case fairly simple and straightforward;
- If your injury is not permanent: If your injury will go away after time, your case remains relatively uncomplicated, and you should be able to take care of the claim on your own;
- If your employer agrees that you were injured at work: If your employee agrees that you were hurt as a result of your work, you should have minimal issues going through the application process on your own;
- If you do not have an existing condition: Most workers’ comp claims are fairly straight-forward if you do not have an existing condition that could potentially bear some of the blame of your injury.
How a Workers’ Comp Attorney Can Help
Some concerns may arise when navigating a workers comp claim on your own — hiring a workers’ comp lawyer can help smooth out this process. Below are several benefits to hiring a workers’ comp attorney.
- Taking things off of your plate while you focus on recovery/treatment;
- Strengthening your case in court;
- Improving negotiations with an insurance company;
- Ensuring you word your claim correctly;
- Helping you understand complex processes like third-party claims;
- Connecting you with several resources like a credible doctor who can present your injury/conditions in court;
- Saving you money in the long-run using negotiation tactics with the insurance company or pushing for additional compensation in court.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Workers’ Comp Lawyer?
Some lawyers charge hourly fees, and others charge a percentage of the settlement (usually somewhere between 10% and 25%). The exact dollar amount to hire a workers’ comp lawyer can vary depending on a number of things — these include:
- Your geographic location;
- The experience of the lawyer;
- The prestige of the firm;
- The payment structure of the lawyer/firm
- The complexity of the case;
- The result of the case.
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