When it comes to handling a workers’ compensation claim, many employees choose to go it alone and not utilize the services of an attorney to handle the claims. While handling the case without an attorney is very possible and done successfully by many injured employees, sometimes it does pay to have the services of legal counsel. When should an employee look into hiring an attorney when pursuing a workers’ compensation claim?
We have asked attorney Alaina Sullivan, about what you should do. Here is what she had to say:
The Role of a Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Many compare the role of a workers’ compensation attorney to that of a personal injury attorney. However, the workers’ compensation attorney focuses on getting the employee compensation for injuries that occur on the job. The attorney is there to be the employee’s advocate for claims made against the employer through the insurance company. The attorney’s job is to ensure that the injured employee is compensated for medical bills, lost wages because of the work-related injury, and pain and suffering, if needed.
Is an Attorney Necessary?
Not all workers’ compensation cases require the assistance of a workers’ compensation attorney. If the case is fairly cut and dry, meaning the injury is obviously work-related, the employee does not require long-term absence from work, and the employer is not disputing the claim, the employee should be able to handle the matter without hiring an attorney. However, if the employer is disputing that the injury is not work-related or comes from a pre-existing condition, hiring an attorney is recommended.
In fact, if the employer is disputing any part of the workers’ compensation claim, the employee should not hope for the best and trust that the insurance company will take his or her side. The ins and outs of filing a claim can be complicated if the claim is being disputed, and an attorney can help make this process less complicated by handling the dirty work for the employee.
Assistance for Employee and Family Member
Workers’ compensation claims are not only for the injured employee. If a work-related accident causes a tragic death, the deceased employee’s family can also file a workers’ compensation claim on behalf of the deceased employee for its benefit. In this situation, it is recommended that an attorney help the family, as well.
What Is the Cost for a Workers’ Compensation Attorney?
No one case is the same. Workers’ compensation attorneys receive varying forms of compensation depending on the type of case. Most workers’ compensation cases involve some type of contingency fee agreement between the injured employee and attorney. Contingency fees mean the employee will not have to pay anything to the lawyer upfront, like a retainer.
Rather, the attorney will receive a percentage from the total settlement once the case is either settled or won in court. Each state has its own set of rules for how much an attorney can take for a fee, and these percentages can range from 10 to 40 percent, in some extreme cases. However, not all workers’ compensation cases require a contingency fee arrangement. If the case is not complicated and requires less work, the attorney can also enter into a flat fee arrangement or charge hourly for work performed.
Some fixed costs will arise as the case progresses, including court costs, filing fees, expert witness fees and postage costs. In a contingency arrangement, attorneys will often front the costs and compensate themselves at the end of the case. Other attorneys will charge the clients for these costs or make the clients pay them upfront in a small retainer.
Here's a little more information on who pays your workers' compensation attorney.
How Does the Attorney-Client Relationship Work in a Workers’ Compensation Case?
The benefit of hiring an attorney for a workers’ compensation case is that the attorney will take the stress of negotiating with the insurance company and litigating off the shoulders of the injured employee. In fact, hiring an attorney can assist in settling the case and avoiding the possibility of litigation completely. Attorneys are trained negotiators, and at the end of the day, the insurance company wants to save costs as much as possible.
If this means avoiding lengthy litigation, an employee may be more likely to play ball with an attorney. The employee may have a better chance of receiving a fair shake at being compensated for lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering and other damages with an attorney by his or her side.
Contact an Attorney Today
If you have been involved in an accident during the normal course of business and are unsure about how to proceed with a workers’ compensation claim, it is highly recommended that you contact an attorney to answer your questions. A licensed attorney trained in workers’ compensation law will be able to review your case and determine your best course of action. To receive the compensation you deserve, contact an attorney in your area today.