What Is a Workers’ Comp Lawyer?
If you’re injured in the course of your employment, workers’ compensation insurance helps pay for costs like lost wages, medical expenses, rehabilitation to help you reenter the workforce, and even death benefits. A workers’ comp lawyer helps ensure you receive the benefits you need as a result of your injury.
What a Good Workers’ Comp Lawyer Should Do for You
Every workers’ compensation claim is different, but here are the general details of what you might expect.
During your consultation with your workers’ comp lawyer, which can occur over the phone or in-person, you’ll discuss the details of your case. Specifics include:
- The date you were hired;
- The date your injury occurred;
- The circumstances surrounding your injury;
- The treatments you’ve received thus far;
- When and where you’ve received these treatments;
- How you advised your employer of your injury.
The most common reasons clients hire workers’ compensation lawyers are because their claim was denied, or their employer challenged their claim. If your claim is denied or challenged, keep in mind your lawyer might request additional documents.
Gather Evidence, Documents, & Other Forms of Proof
Whether or not your workers’ compensation claim goes to court, your lawyer has the burden of proof to show that your injury occurred as a direct result of your employment. To accomplish this goal, they’ll likely ask for a variety of documents, including:
- Medical records related to this incident, and for any related previous injuries;
- Statements from healthcare providers;
- Testimonies from witnesses or written reports from other sources;
- Written correspondence between you and your employer.
Once all the evidence is gathered, you’ll have two options: negotiate with the insurance company or go to court.
In this scenario, your lawyer takes over communicating with the insurance company who will pressure them into a fair settlement that will take care of you now and well into the future. Your lawyer will also provide them with the documentation above.
If your workers’ compensation claim goes to court, your lawyer will present your case in front of a judge. In addition to the judge, you, and your lawyer, the insurance company’s lawyer will also be present, along with a court reporter and any witnesses, if applicable.
During the case, your lawyer will present documents and other evidence that supports your claim, question you during your testimony, pay close attention while you’re cross-examined, and aid with other witnesses’ testimonies.
If your case is simple, you can expect the judge to make a decision within a few hours — but if it’s more complicated, your trial could extend over the course of several days.
Perhaps one of the most crucial aspects of working with a lawyer during the workers’ comp process is when structuring settlements. During this time, the specific wording in your settlement is set in stone, such as:
- The amount you’ll receive;
- How often you’ll receive payments (e.g., monthly installments vs. a single lump sum);
- Whether or not your case is closed following payment;
- If your settlement money will impact your disability payments, if applicable;
Workers’ Comp Lawyer Fees
Most workers’ compensation lawyers don’t charge a flat fee when representing you. Instead, they’ll usually collect a percentage of your winnings (typically between 10% and 35%), which is known as a contingency fee.
In this case, if you receive a $10,000 settlement for your case, your lawyer will take between $1,000 and $3,500 as compensation.
When to Hire a Workers’ Comp Lawyer
The most common reasons clients hire workers’ compensation lawyers is because their claim was denied by an insurance carrier, or because their proposed benefit payout – including future medical care – is insufficient.
However, there are several other reasons to hire a workers’ comp lawyer, including:
- Your employer doesn’t offer workers’ compensation insurance.
- You are fired while on workers’ comp.
- You sustained significant or complex injuries that require lengthy absences from work.
- You develop new symptoms as a result of the injury.
- You have a pre-existing condition or permanent impairment.
- Your employer insists the claim occurred outside your scope of employment, accuses you of fraud, or retaliates against you.
- Your benefits are delayed.
- You receive other benefit types, such as Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid.
How to Choose a Workers’ Comp Lawyer
Critical things to do when looking for a workers’ comp lawyer include:
- Ask friends and family for recommendations, or use a legal referral service.
- Search online for other clients’ feedback about their experiences with lawyers you’re considering.
- Write down the time and date for any lawyers you’ve reached out to.
- Make sure they treat you with respect and instill confidence in you.
- Ensure your lawyer is focused on you, not your ultimate settlement.
- Verify they have experience representing claims like yours, and the knowledge to get things done.
You should also look at your initial consultation as an interview by making sure you have questions prepared in advance. Let’s take a closer look.
Questions to Ask a Workers’ Comp Lawyer
Once you’ve chosen a workers’ compensation lawyer, here are a handful of questions to ask:
- Can you provide professional recommendations for your services?
- What’s your number one goal with working with clients?
- What can I do in the meantime to ensure I don’t risk denying or limiting my claim?
- Does it matter if my negligence or failure to take proper safety precautions caused the accident?
- Besides basic medical treatment, could my workers’ compensation claim cover other benefits like physical therapy or chiropractic care?
- Can I sue my employer or another negligent party as part of my workers’ comp claim?
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