Should I Hire a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer?
Posted on behalf of Greg Coleman Law on Apr 03, 2017 in Workers' Compensation
If you have been injured on the job or diagnosed with an illness or condition stemming from your employment, you can file for workers’ compensation.
During this time, it may be in your best interest to consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to advise you during this process.
Why Do I Need a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer?
Filing a workers’ compensation claim is a complex process that has many requirements.
Workers must report their injury within 30 days of when the accident initially occurred or when a doctor first informed them of their condition.
There are also several forms that you must complete within tight deadlines which determine the approval of your claim.
An experienced attorney will ensure your claim is properly filed and all deadlines are met to increase the chances of receiving the benefits you deserve.
Working with a qualified workers’ compensation lawyer can also increase the possibility of a successful claim. An experienced lawyer will:
- Establish evidence needed to support and prove your claim, tying your injury or illness to your workplace and demonstrating its impact on your life now and in the future.
- Negotiate your settlement to secure maximized compensation and structure the agreement to protect your interests.
- Represent you at your hearing or trial for workers’ compensation and see you through the appeals process if necessary.
- Provide expert guidance regarding third-party claims and other benefits that may be available to you.
Determine the True Value of Your Claim
A qualified workers’ compensation attorney can accurately estimate the value of your claim that may maximize your damages. An attorney can do this by:
- Detailing the true extent of your injuries and the effect it has had on your ability to function.
- Determining whether your disability is partial or total
- Identifying your disability rating
- Determining whether your disability is permanent or temporary
- Calculating your loss of wages based on your previous salary
- Calculating the cost of past and future medical treatment
Represent you in a Workers’ Compensation Hearing
If you are appealing a denied workers’ compensation claim or are unable to reach a settlement, there are several levels of administrative hearings or trials that take place before a workers’ compensation judge.
An attorney can help you collect evidence and witnesses to support your claim during the discovery process and ensure that you meet all qualifications and deadlines presented by the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims.
This can include gathering any necessary medical records, performing legal research, and preparing pleadings and motions that would benefit you during the subsequent hearings.
Your attorney can act as your representative during the trial. He or she will present your case to the judge, examine or cross examine any witnesses, make opening or closing arguments and offer objections to unruly statements about your injury.
If you are still not satisfied by the result of your hearing, your attorney can appeal the decision before the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board.
When to Hire a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer?
There are times when consulting with a workers’ compensation lawyer will be necessary to helping your claim. If you face one of the following situations, it is best to contact an attorney regarding your claim.
Your Claim has been Denied
If your employer or his or her workers’ compensation insurance company denies that your injury or illness is work-related, do not accept this answer and immediately seek an attorney.
Insurance companies commonly deny claims for the following reasons:
- Your injury did not take place on your employer’s property or when you were performing your regular work duties.
- Your injury or illness is pre-existing and is not the result of a workplace accident.
- Your injury or illness is not severe enough to qualify for workers’ compensation.
An experienced attorney can help you establish a case that proves your condition is work-related and entitles workers’ compensation benefits.
This can be accomplished through collecting evidence, interviewing witnesses and obtaining medical records to show your injury could not have occurred any other way outside of your place of employment.
Low Settlement Offer
Workers’ compensation is designed to cover medical expenses required to treat a work-related injury and provide relief for most of the wages lost during the time your injury prevented you from working.
If the settlement approved by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance provider does not accurately cover the losses you have experienced because of your injury, you should contact an attorney.
A qualified attorney will be able to accurately estimate a fair settlement that reflects the expenses that should be covered by workers’ compensation and any disability benefits you may be owed.
You Cannot Return to Work or Perform Job Duties
Injuries that prevent you from returning to work for an extended period of time entitle you to compensation for lost wages through temporary or permanent disability benefits.
Temporary disability benefits are extended to injured workers if their disability prevents them from working for more than 14 days. It is paid through your employer’s insurance company and should include weekly payments consisting of 66 and two-thirds percent of the wage you were paid before your injury. You must submit a Wage Statement form to the insurance adjuster to determine the compensation you are owed.
Permanent Disability benefits are designed to help replace wages if an injury leaves an employee with a permanent impairment and the employee is unable to work after the injury. This benefit is also paid through your employer’s insurance company and is a weekly payment of 66 and two-thirds of your previous weekly wages.
If you are permanently disabled and are able to return to work, you may be provided with Permanent Partial Disability (PPD). This is subject to limitations based on the body part affected by the work-related injury and your ability to return to your prior employment.
If your injury completely disables you and you are unable to return to work, you may be provided with Permanent Total Disability (PTD) benefits. This form of benefits is only extended to those who are unable to perform any job in the open market and lasts until you become eligible for old age retirement.
You may also be offered a lump sum payment, which is a final settlement award or compromise that represents a final workers’ compensation payment for an injury or illness.
Disability benefits are burdensome for insurance companies and they are often reluctant to approve benefits that amount to such a large sum.
An attorney can prove your injury qualifies you for temporary or permanent disability and that you are unable to perform the duties of your prior occupation.
An attorney will also provide you with the means to take legal action against an insurance company that withholds the disability benefits you are entitled.
Social Security Disability Benefits
If you receive disability benefits through Social Security, your workers’ compensation claim may be affected.
Social Security requires that Social Security Disability benefits (SSDI) be reduced so the total monthly amount of workers’ compensation benefits you receive is no more than 80 percent of the amount you earned when you were fully employed.
The process of Social Security reducing benefits to account for workers’ compensation is referred to as “offset.” This is done to ensure that your combination of workers’ compensation and SSDI benefits are not excessive.
A workers’ compensation attorney can structure your claim to minimize the result of an offset or prevent it from affecting your claim.
It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Retaliation includes:
- Cutting hours
- Pay cuts
- Sudden or unexplained transfers
- Verbal or physical abuse
If your employer engages in any of these behaviors after you have filed a workers’ compensation claim, an attorney can protect your rights and prevent any illegal retaliation from affecting your claim.
Possible Third-Party Claim
If another negligent party separate from your employer contributed to your injury, you may be able to file a civil third-party lawsuit to recover damages.
This would be similar to a personal injury lawsuit and would require you to prove the other party’s negligence caused your injury.
A third-party claim could be filed against a:
- Trespassing bystander
- Property owner
- Construction site owner
- Driver of a transportation vehicle
- Manufacturer of defective or faulty equipment
In this situation, an attorney can help you pursue a suit against an outside party that may provide you compensation in a personal injury claim separate from your workers’ compensation claim.
Is a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Always Needed?
Not all workers’ compensation claims require an attorney. If an injury is minor and you receive a fair settlement or benefits from your employer’s insurance company, you might not need an attorney.
However, if you have any doubts or hesitations about the settlement your employer’s insurance provider has offered, or your claim has been unjustly denied, consulting with an attorney is in your best interest.
A qualified attorney will evaluate your case and advise you if your settlement or benefits fairly compensate you for the loss your injury and the expenses and pain and suffering it has caused you.
If you have not been fairly compensated, an attorney can construct a claim to possibly maximize your benefits and provide you with the compensation you deserve.
Many attorneys offer free consultations – taking advantage of this review of your claim can help you decide whether pursuing legal action is in your best interest.
Free Consultation with a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
If you have been injured at work or diagnosed with a work-related medical condition, it may benefit you to consult a workers’ compensation attorney.
A skilled lawyer can answer your questions, address your concerns and resolve the issues you face while pursuing your workers’ compensation claim.
The workers’ compensation attorneys at Greg Coleman Law offer free, no obligation consultations for workers who were denied their injury benefits or offered an unreasonably low settlement. We charge no upfront legal fees and only require payment if we are successful in recovering damages for your claim.