On average, 13 workers die on the job each day in the US. There are also over 1.1 million non-fatal work-related injuries each year. If you’re a survivor, life could have changed forever, and it’s only right that you get help. But if you’ve never filed a worker’s compensation claim before, it can be hard to know where to start. Especially when it comes to finding a lawyer to represent you. That’s where we aim to help! Keep reading for 14 questions to ask a workers compensation attorney before hiring them.
1. Do I Need a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer?
Not every work comp case will need a lawyer as in some cases, you’ll have handled it all already. Sometimes you’ll file your claim and there will be no pushback at all. It’ll go through and get accepted without issue, so in these instances, there is no need for a lawyer.
Any workers’ compensation lawyer worth their salt will be honest with you about this. If the other party keeps stalling the process or you got denied, then you’ll need a lawyer to step in and help you out. They know the laws inside out and will be able to put pressure on to get the case started.
2. Who Will Handle My Workers’ Compensation Case?
When you talk to the lawyer either over the phone or in person, you’ll likely assume they will take your case. In a lot of cases, it should be but sometimes it could go to a different lawyer you didn’t talk to yet.
Many firms have several associates that all work in tandem to ease caseloads. Some will do better than others in each type of claim or the lawyer you spoke to might have too many cases on already.
There’s nothing wrong with working with a different lawyer but you should know in advance. This way, you can talk to them and ask your questions to the right person from the very start.
3. Do I Need to Pay For My Legal Representation Upfront?
In general, personal injury lawyers don’t need an upfront payment. Instead, they will work for a percentage of your settlement amount instead. If you don’t win, then it might be the case that the lawyer doesn’t get paid at all.
Ask if this is the case or if they will need payment before they take the case. Also, make sure you ask for the amount that it will cost you.
When handling a work comp case you need to be double sure of the costs. This could be affecting your finances already, and you don’t want to end up stretched further.
4. How Long Have They Been In Personal Injury
You can get an idea of a person’s experience by knowing how long they’ve practiced. Make sure you ask how long the lawyer has worked on workers’ compensation cases. It’s quite possible they work in a different area that that experience won’t help you.
If you have a simple claim, it’s also not the end of the world if a newer associate takes it. If your case is complex or facing issues right from the start, you’ll want a seasoned professional.
5. Have They Handled Similar Cases to Yours Before?
Each work comp lawsuit will be unique and you’ll never quite know what it can throw up. But there are similarities to look for where previous experience can benefit you. These are:
- Type of injury
- Where the accident occurred
- How it’s affected the body
- How the employer is handling the claim
- How the paperwork got filed
Where possible, you want to find an attorney who has handled cases like yours before. A good attorney will look at your claim details and tell you if it reminds them of a previous case of theirs.
6. What Potential Challenges Do You Forsee With My Case?
As with anything, unexpected issues can arise and workers’ comp cases are no different. An experienced attorney might be able to spot any potential issues in your case in advance.
As you explain your accident and injuries the lawyer should listen and make notes. Not only does this information help them form an attack plan, but spot problems well ahead of time.
This isn’t always the case and they won’t catch every problem but it’s worth asking what they think. They should be honest and upfront about how they think the case could unfold.
If an attorney tells you that it will be smooth as you like with no issues, take this as a red flag. Nothing is certain nor easy when it comes to law and the legal system is complex. This means that no case is ever truly the same as another.
An attorney with a long, successful career will have past difficulties to draw on. Especially if they have handled cases like yours before.
This will put you in a better position to predict and counter issues you could face. But, be aware that a new challenge could appear and catch you both by surprise.
7. What Success Rate Do They Have?
The success rate a lawyer or firm has can hint at how good they do their jobs. Success rates refer to the percentage of cases they got paid for, against the total number they took on. The higher this number is the better it looks.
For example, if a lawyer states they have an 80% success rate this means that for every 10 cases they won 8. The would give you very good odds of winning your cases. If that success rate is 50% though, that means they’re only winning half their cases.
Any attorney you talk to should know their success rate and share it with you. If they don’t know or won’t share it, it’s another red flag. You need an attorney that’s transparent, so it’s time to choose another one.
8. Can They Provide References?
Even after you check their success rate and how much experience they have, you want to see references. It’s always good to see that they can back these figures up with testimonials from happy past clients.
Most law firms will make testimonials available on their websites. If not though, ask for them when you’re in discussion with any lawyer you’re talking to.
Traversing the US legal system is often stressful so you want a lawyer who shows empathy. They should be calm and considerate, especially if you’re still injured. It makes a whole world of difference for any legal case.
When you ask for these references, make sure you ask to speak with a past client too. They’ll be able to expand on what they’ve written and answer any other questions you have about the lawyer.
You can also check a law firm online on places like Google. There will be reviews on there you can check too. Remember, it’s ok not to have 100% good reviews, you can’t please everyone.
What should be a red flag is if there are more bad ones than good ones. Or they’re rude to clients when they reply to negative reviews. You can also look them up on the Better Business Bureau where you can see if they’ve had any complaints.
9. If I’m At Fault Does This Pose an Issue?
In general, it shouldn’t matter if you’re at fault for the injury. If you got tired, sloppy or any other fault you can still file for workers’ comp. But, there are a few exceptions to be aware of.
If you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol it could be right to deny your claim. You may also face legal ramifications on top of this. Even if you did suffer intoxication, it’s worth chatting to a lawyer to see where you stand.
Wherever the fault lies, it has to have happened at work or during your regular work duties. This does include any work that you do off-site if that is part of your job description. If you get any injury while you’re doing your work, you can claim workers’ compensation.
10. What Do I Need to Say to My Doctor?
You need to seek medical help to work out how serious your injuries are and their extent. If you’re asking your attorney what you need to say to a medical professional they should all tell you: the truth.
A bad attorney might try to get you to alter the details of your case if it would bend the case in your favor. This not only breaks workers’ comp law but also could invalidate documents.
Any medical bills or records may now be useless in your case and could compromise your claim. Always be honest with your doctors about what happened during the work accident.
Don’t try to make small talk, stick to the fact about the injury and get to the point. Don’t let them misunderstand anything or make their own assumptions.
Even ask them to read their notes back so you can be sure they got everything right. This includes the accident details and what injuries you suffered. This information goes into your medical record and it can make or break your case.
11. If I Get the All Clear Do I Go Back to Work?
If you’re honest with the doctor about your injuries and they give the all-clear for light duties, you should try. Remember, you don’t want to make the injury worse or set your recovery back. Only resume the work duties that your doctor clears you to do.
It’s the law that employers need to make reasonable accommodations for your injury. If you’re cleared to do light duties, they should allow you to do this while still finding cover for your other work. If they refuse to accommodate you, talk to your lawyer as soon as you find out.
12. Will I Get Fired If I File For Workers’ Compensation?
No, you won’t get fired if you file for workers’ compensation. If you get injured at work and file a claim, your employer would break the law if they fired you.
If you do get fired after you make your claim, then speak to an attorney as soon as you can. You could have a larger lawsuit on your hands and could sue for wrongful termination. And that’s a whole different ball game.
13. Do I Need to Sue My Employer?
It can be tempting to sue your employer if it was their negligence that resulted in your accident. But, you need to understand that if you file for workers’ comp you will waive your right to sue. Filing a claim means you’re already on the way to getting compensation for lost work time and your injury.
It’s a different matter if your employer violated your OSHA workers’ rights. If the injury occurred because of this you want to contact a lawyer as soon as you can. An attorney can then advise how to report this to the authorities as your employer could be in for some big fees.
14. Will They Pay for Litigation or Do I Need To?
Some law firms do pay the litigation costs when they take the case on. Others will need you to pay some or all these costs instead. Before you agree to hire anyone, it’s important you understand which scenario it’ll be.
You need to know what you’re responsible for and how much it will be. If you do have to pay, you could be out of pocket a significant amount before you’ve even seen a settlement amount.
Litigation costs refer to any bills or fees that you get during the case. Here are some common costs you’ll encounter:
- Fees for copies of doctor’s notes and medical records
- Fees for medical reports and testimonies
- Costs for court transcriptions
- Any court costs
These are only some of the most likely costs you’ll encounter. Depending on your case there could be other expenses for your claim. This can include expert witnesses.
A Workers Compensation Attorney Can Get You the Justice You Deserve
It’s a wise idea to hire a workers compensation attorney if you’re going to file a comp claim. A good attorney will have worked on similar cases and have a good success rate. They’ll be straight up, honest and reliable in their communication.
This will help you stay up to date and doing what you should at each stage of the process. It’s the best thing you can do to set yourself up for a successful claim.
If you’re ready to get your claim started, contact us today. At Wells & McElwee P.C. we know each workers comp claim is different. No matter how big or how small, we’re here to offer you tailored support for the result you deserve.