Hiring a workers’ compensation attorney is an important decision for any injured worker. A knowledgeable attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve, but legal fees can eat into your settlement. In this article, we’ll look at the key pros and cons of hiring a workers’ comp lawyer to help you make an informed decision.
Understanding Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ compensation provides benefits to employees who suffer job-related injuries or illnesses. The system is complex, with strict rules and deadlines. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney understands these intricacies and can guide you through the process. They will handle communications with insurance companies and employers, file paperwork, gather evidence, and represent you at hearings.
But is hiring a lawyer always necessary? Here are some of the main advantages and potential drawbacks to consider:
What Does a Workers Comp Attorney Do?
A workers’ comp attorney represents injured employees in their workers’ comp claims. The lawyer helps injured workers navigate the complex workers’ comp system and get the benefits they are entitled to under the law.
Some of the key services a workers’ comp lawyer provides include:
- Filing the initial workers’ comp claim and representing the client throughout the claims process
- Gathering evidence to prove the work-related injury occurred
- Negotiating with insurance companies to get full and fair settlements
- Appealing denied claims or unfavorable decisions
- Helping clients get approval for medical treatments and procedures
- Advising clients on the workers’ comp laws and regulations
- Determining permanent disability ratings and getting the maximum disability benefits
Pros of Hiring a Workers Compensation Lawyer
There are many potential advantages to hiring a workers’ compensation attorney. Here are some of the top reasons injured workers choose to hire a lawyer:
1. Increased Comp Settlements
One of the biggest pros of hiring an attorney is that they can often secure larger settlements. In fact, statistics show injured workers who have a lawyer typically receive 30% or more in their settlements than those without legal representation.
This is because experienced workers’ comp attorneys know how to effectively negotiate with insurance companies. They have the skills to maximize settlement offers and get injured workers the compensation they deserve.
2. Navigating Complex Laws and Processes
The workers’ compensation system is very complex, with strict laws and procedures. An experienced workers’ comp attorney understands all the intricacies and nuances.
They can guide injured workers through the claims process, paperwork, hearings, medical evaluations and all the other complex steps. Without a legal guide, it can be extremely difficult for injured employees to get the full benefits they are entitled to.
3. Getting Approval for Treatments
Injured workers rely on workers’ comp insurance to pay for medical treatments needed to recover from a workplace injury. However, insurance companies often deny or delay approval for certain treatments and procedures.
A dedicated comp lawyer will fight to get their client the medical care they need. The attorney knows how to best demonstrate medical necessity and appeal denials to get treatment approvals.
4. Reducing Stress and Burden
Pursuing workers’ compensation benefits can be extremely stressful and time-consuming for injured employees. All the claim forms, hearings, appeals and negotiations take a heavy toll.
Hiring a comp attorney lifts this burden off the injured worker’s shoulders. The lawyer handles all aspects of the claim while the client focuses on healing and recovery. This reduced stress can improve the overall outcome.
5. Objective Guidance
A workers’ comp lawyer provides objective counsel based on the client’s best interests, not the insurance company’s bottom line. They help clients understand their legal rights and guide them towards the best possible outcome.
Without an attorney, the injured worker may not fully understand their options or what maximum benefits they are entitled to. The lawyer helps them make informed choices.
Cons of Hiring a Workers Compensation Attorney
While there are many good reasons to hire a comp lawyer, there are also some potential downsides and risks. Injured workers should carefully weigh these cons before deciding whether hiring legal counsel suits their situation.
1. Attorney Fees Can Reduce Compensation
The biggest con of hiring an attorney is that it reduces the client’s total compensation. Workers’ comp lawyers typically take their fees out of the final settlement or award amount.
These contingency fees often range from 10% to 30% of the total settlement. For larger settlements, attorney fees can end up being tens of thousands of dollars. So hiring a lawyer does cut into the total compensation the injured worker gets to take home.
2. Straightforward Claims May Not Require a Lawyer
Hiring a lawyer may be unnecessary for simple, clear-cut workers’ comp cases. If it is obvious the injury occurred at work and compensation is swiftly approved, the value a lawyer adds may be minimal.
Their expertise and negotiation skills may not significantly increase settlements for more straightforward claims. In these cases, the attorney fees may not be justified.
3. Delays from Legal Disputes
In some instances, a workers’ comp lawyer may prolong the claims process through lengthy legal disputes. This can delay injured workers from receiving their benefits.
Of course, in many cases legal advocacy is beneficial. But extended appeals and hearings may hold up compensation the injured worker urgently needs.
4. Impersonal Experience
Hiring an attorney can make the claims process feel cold and impersonal. Injured workers forfeit direct communication and control by handing their case over to a legal professional.
Some individuals prefer to personally handle their own claim instead of relying on a lawyer they do not have a close relationship with.
5. No Guarantee of Success
There are no guarantees in the legal system. Even the most seasoned comp attorney may ultimately lose a case or fail to negotiate a satisfactory settlement. Hiring a lawyer does not ensure the injured worker will get approved for benefits or receive maximum compensation.
5 Key Tips for Hiring a Workers Comp Attorney
If you do decide to hire a workers’ compensation lawyer, make sure you choose the right one:
- Look for an attorney who specializes specifically in workers’ comp law, not a general practice lawyer.
- Vet credentials, experience level, past case results, and client reviews. Choose an attorney with a proven track record.
- Select a local attorney familiar with regulations and players in your jurisdiction.
- Meet with lawyers for free consultations before retaining one. Make sure you have a good rapport.
- Understand fee structure – most work on contingency, taking a percentage of your settlement.
Should You Hire a Worker’s Comp Lawyer? How to Decide
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to whether hiring a workers’ compensation attorney makes sense for your situation. Consider factors like the complexity of your claim, size of potential settlement, your relationship with your employer, and more. Do your research to find the best attorney for your needs. With an experienced law firm like O’Connor Law PLLC guiding you, you can feel confident you’ll receive the maximum compensation for your work injury.
Hiring the right workers’ compensation attorney can make a major difference in recovering from a workplace injury. But it is an individual decision each injured worker must make based on their specific needs and circumstances. Doing sufficient research and understanding the trade-offs helps ensure you make the best choice.