If you need help with a workers’ comp case, you need to know your options for attorneys. Ask these questions before choosing a worker’s compensation lawyer.
In 2018, OSHA reported more than five thousand employees were killed in a work-related injury. The rate of non-fatal injuries and illnesses in 2018 was 2.8 per every 100 workers.
If you or a loved one are part of these unfortunate statistics, you need help covering costs. Filing a workers’ comp claim is the way to ensure you are monetarily compensated for injuries happening at work. The way to ensure your claim is processed accurately is by hiring a lawyer.
But how can you be sure you’re choosing a reliable worker’s compensation lawyer? Continue reading to learn eleven essential questions you should ask before signing legal representation.
1. Do I Need a Lawyer?
Not every workers’ comp case will require legal assistance. In some cases, there’s nothing for a worker’s compensation lawyer to do.
If you filed your claim and it was accepted without issue, hiring a lawyer is unnecessary. A good lawyer will tell you this. On the other hand, you’ll need an attorney if your claim was denied or kept stalling.
2. Which Attorney Will Be Handling My Case?
When you meet with an attorney, in person or over the phone, it’s easy to assume they’ll handle your case. In many scenarios, they will be. But not always.
Many law firms have several different associates who work together to handle their caseloads. Some attorneys will be better than others at specific types of claims. Other times, the associate you wanted to work with may be too busy to take your case.
There isn’t usually anything wrong with working with a different attorney. It’s essential you’re aware who will be representing your case from the beginning, however, so you can ask your questions directly to them.
3. Will I Need to Pay Upfront for Legal Representation?
Personal injury lawyers generally don’t require an upfront payment. Instead, they often work for a portion of your settlement. If you don’t win your case, the lawyer may not get paid.
When dealing with a workers’ comp claim that could be damaging your finances already, you need to be sure of the costs. Each attorney and law firm is different. Not only should you inquire about how payment will be made, but how much will be required?
4. How Long Have You Been Practicing Personal Injury Law?
You can get an idea of how much on-the-job experience someone has by knowing how long they’ve been practicing law. Make sure you ask specifically about personal injury or workers’ compensation. It’s always possible an attorney started in a different field, and that experience may not be entirely relevant.
If your claim is simple, being appointed a newer associate may not be a problem. However, if you have a complicated claim, you’ll want to look for someone with a lot of experience.
5. Do You Handle Many Cases Like Mine?
Each worker’s comp case is unique. The type of injury, where it happened, and how it affected your body specifically are all critical considerations. Other important factors are how the employer is handling the claim and how exactly the paperwork was filed.
You want to find someone who has handled cases similar to yours. A good lawyer will be able to look over the details of your claim and tell you if they’ve had comparable cases.
6. What Is Your Success Rate?
The success rate of an individual attorney or a law firm as a whole can help you determine how good they are at what they do. The success rate represents the percentage of claims that were paid versus the total number represented. The higher this number is, the better.
For example, if an attorney has a 70 percent success rate, they’ve won 7 out of every 10 cases they took on. These represent decent odds for you winning your claim. If an attorney has a success rating of 50 percent, on the other hand, they only win half the cases they take on.
The attorney you meet with should know their success rate and be willing to share. If they either say they don’t know or refuse to share with you, this should be a red flag. Choose other representation because transparency is essential.
7. Will It Be an Issue If I Was at Fault for the Injury?
Generally, it won’t matter if you were at fault for the work injury. If you were negligent, tired, or otherwise at fault, you can still file a workers’ compensation claim. There are a few exceptions to this rule.
If you were found to be intoxicated in any form, you might be rightfully denied a claim. You could also face legal repercussions. Even if you were intoxicated at the time of the accident, you should talk to your lawyer to better understand how to proceed.
No matter where the fault lies for an injury, it must have happened at work or during your routine work duties. This usually includes off-site work that is part of your job description. If the accident or injury didn’t happen at your job, you aren’t eligible for workers’ compensation.
8. If I’m Cleared for Light-Duty, Should I Go Back to Work?
If you’ve been honest with your doctor about the extent of your injuries and they agree you can return for light-duty, you should try to. But remember you don’t want to make your injury worse. You should only resume the types of work-related duties your doctor believes you’re ready for.
Your place of employment is required by law to reasonably accommodate your restrictions when returning to work. If they refuse to, it’s essential to speak with an attorney right away.
9. Can I Get Fired for Filing a Workers Compensation Claim?
No, you can’t get fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim. It’s against the law for your employer to fire you because you filed a claim or became injured on the job.
If your employer fires you after filing a claim, you need to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. You’ll likely have grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit.
10. Should I Sue My Employer?
If you were injured because of an employer’s negligence, the idea of suing them is tempting. However, it’s essential to understand filing a workers’ comp case waves your right to sue. Filing a claim means you’re already on the way to receiving compensation for your injury and work time lost.
If the injury happened because your employer violated your worker’s rights, as regulated by OSHA, the job could face hefty fines. Speak with an attorney about the ways you believe your worker’s rights were violated. An attorney can advise you on how to report the issues to the proper authority.
11. Will You Pay Litigation Costs, or Will I Be Responsible?
Some lawyers will front litigation costs when they agree to take on a case. Other lawyers will require a person who pays all or some of these costs.
It’s essential to understand how these fees will be handled before agreeing to work with an attorney. If you’re responsible for all or some of the litigation costs, your claim could end up being costing you significantly before you ever receive compensation.
The term “litigation costs” refers to any fees or bills acquired while building your case. A few of the most common examples of litigation costs include:
- Cost to copy medical records or doctor’s notes
- Fees associated with doctor reports or testimony
- Cost of court transcriptions
- Court costs, if applicable
These are only the most common costs associated with litigation. Any expenses incurred while pursuing your claim would apply.
Other Useful Tips for Choosing a Worker’s Compensation Lawyer
Besides asking the questions above, you can use a few useful tips when choosing a worker’s compensation lawyer.
- Ask family, friends, and coworkers for word-of-mouth references
- Before hiring a lawyer, ask if they have any personal references they’d be willing to share with you
- Check online review sites to see what previous clients have to say about attorneys they’ve used
- Verify the attorney you hope to hire meets the licensing requirements in your state
- Try speaking to at least two different worker’s compensation lawyers before hiring one, so you have a better idea of what to expect
It’s also important to remember that not every good lawyer is right for you or your case. This doesn’t mean they’re bad attorneys. It only means a different lawyer can better represent your unique case.
Do You Still Have Questions About Hiring a Worker’s Compensation Lawyer?
By asking the eleven questions above, you can feel confident in your final choice of a worker’s compensation lawyer. The other useful tips provided can help you further in finding reliable representation.
Do you still have questions about hiring a worker’s compensation lawyer? Or would you like to speak to one of our associates about your workers’ comp case?
Contact us today. One of our associates would be happy to answer any questions you still have. They can also set you up a consultation if desired.