The Reason You Need an Attorney
The primary reason people need an attorney is that, whether you realize it or not, this is a legal proceeding. Once somebody is out more than five days, a first report of injury has to be filed and that document gets uploaded to the Department of Industrial Accidents. Everybody in that situation already has a Department of Industrial Accident board number that identifies them, that identifies the injury and anything that goes forward at that point. You’re dealing with the insurance company. The entire worker’s comp system is governed by one statute in Massachusetts, Massachusetts General Law chapter 152 and the body of case law that comes out of it.
Every dealing that you have with the insurance company relative to payment are governed by that law. If you’re in the middle of a legal proceeding, you really need an attorney to represent your interest to make sure that you’re getting the maximum benefit under the statute as a result of the injury.
Handling a Claim Without an Attorney
Some people can handle their claim without an attorney. However, if something arises in court, the court will essentially reschedule it and say, “I would encourage you to go get counsel.” In the experience of Fitzpatrick & Associates, the people that do it pro se (on their own) at some point, call our firm anyway. This happens most often when it comes to looking at settlement offers. You’ll look at the exposure under the worker’s comp statute. You’ll look at the permanence or permanent partial disability as a result of the accident. You have to incorporate all of those things, essentially, into a formula to arrive at a fair value. Unfortunately, this is very difficult without an attorney.
If you’re negotiating on your own under the attorney’s fee structure, once again, it doesn’t cost you any money to have a worker’s comp attorney. It’s no obligation to you. You always want to have somebody representing your interest that knows the laws that are governing everything you’re doing along the way.