Life becomes stressful after an injury
After suffering an injury at work, your life can be turned upside down. You’re in pain, you can’t work, you’re worried about how you’re going to pay your mortgage, your medical bills are piling up, your boss and coworkers are looking at you suspiciously, and now you’re repeatedly being called by an insurance adjuster who “just wants to ask you a few questions about your accident” and have you “sign a few papers.” What will you do? More importantly, what should you do? What if you do the wrong thing? Should you sign those papers? We frequently hear the question, “When should I hire a workman’s comp lawyer?”
You need representation
Many injured workers struggle with the decision as to when they should hire a lawyer. Some even wonder if they should hire a lawyer at all, worrying that getting a lawyer involved might hurt their employment. In this article, we hope to clear up some misconceptions and ensure your rights are protected.
It’s important to realize that while your friends and union representatives are knowledgeable and are trying to help by giving you advice, they aren’t lawyers—and they aren’t workers’ compensation lawyers. Workers’ compensation is a complex legal minefield waiting for you to slip up just once. Many people get a lawyer involved too late after they’ve done something to cause irreparable harm to their case. Hiring a lawyer alleviates a great deal of stress; you can rest easy knowing that you’re not doing the wrong thing.
When to hire an attorney and what it costs
If your claim was denied, it’s obvious that you immediately need an attorney that can file a “claim petition” and litigate your case. But what if you’re receiving benefits and nothing has gone wrong yet? Our firm works on a “contingency” basis, which means our fee is contingent upon getting you a good result. If you are already receiving wage-loss benefits, we do not begin taking a portion of those wage loss benefits unless the insurance company brings you into court and we successfully prevent them from shutting off your benefits. This means it does not cost you a penny more to hire an attorney the day you get hurt than it does to hire an attorney the day before your hearing is scheduled.
With that in mind, since it doesn’t cost anything extra, it’s important to take advantage of having an attorney from day one so we can ensure everything is handled appropriately from the beginning. Your wage loss benefits will not continue forever: the insurance company will eventually haul you into court to shut them off—probably before you and your doctor think you’re ready to go back to work. And when that time comes, you will need a lawyer to gather records, hire expert witnesses, conduct depositions, pay for expert reports, and represent you at the several hearings that will be scheduled in court before a judge. The earlier on you have a lawyer, the stronger your case can be when you’re eventually taken into court. Building a strong case doesn’t happen overnight.
What if I recover and can go back to work without any problems?
Some people don’t hire a lawyer because they think they’ll get better and go back to work without the insurance company ever denying a medical bill or trying to shut off their wage-loss benefits. If you hire us and that happens—no worries! If there aren’t any complications in your case and you go back to work without the insurance company every trying to shut your benefits off (and you don’t want us to negotiate a settlement), we don’t take a fee and we don’t charge you for our costs! While not common, this does happen from time to time and we’re happy to have helped you along the way. We find that our involvement in cases like this early on actually encourages the insurance company to be on their best behavior and not wrongfully shut your benefits off. We’re there and already involved if you need us, and we ensure everything is handled properly if you don’t.
There’s no risk.
Whenever you’re hurt at work, it’s you versus an experienced insurance adjuster (and the insurance company’s attorney) whose job it is to pay you the least amount of money possible. Don’t go it alone. There’s no risk or downside to hiring an experienced workers’ compensation attorney from day one. If you don’t need us, we don’t cost you anything and our advice was free. If you do need us at some point (and you most likely will), you’ll be glad we were there helping from the beginning.
To learn more about workers’ compensation law and work injuries, read our Frequently Asked Workers’ Compensation Questions.