If you’ve been injured at work, you’re probably in a lot of pain, frazzled from sorting through medical bills. Perhaps you think, “A worker’s comp claim isn’t such a big deal. I can do it myself.”
Think again! An attorney is your greatest advocate in dealing with any legal matter, especially if you retain one who specializes in employment law cases. Don’t put off hiring an attorney until the last minute, because they can give you high-quality legal advice through every step of the process.
When you decide to hire a worker’s compensation attorney, avoid the temptation to go with the first option that presents itself. Here are a few questions to ask a worker’s comp lawyer before hiring them; think of hiring an attorney like shopping for a car or a house. It’s a big decision that can have lasting effects on your life, so take your time—and start now.
An attorney can be friendly, knowledgeable, and well-spoken—but if most of their experience is in estate planning, they may not be of much help. Plenty of attorneys practice several different types of law, but you’re going to want an employment law expert on your side.
Worker’s compensation cases bring different challenges with them than, say, fighting traffic tickets. You want an attorney who knows how to deal with insurance companies and who can spot every trick in the book. A good wage claim attorney can spot a lowball settlement offer from a mile away, and that’s the type of person you want on your side.
How skilled is this attorney at winning settlements for their clients?
Before you retain legal services for your worker’s comp claim, you want some assurance that your attorney will fight for a fair settlement for you. A high success rate shows that an attorney knows what they’re doing and is dedicated to doing it right.
While you’re talking about success, ask the attorney what that word means to them. Will they accept the first settlement offer that comes in and call it a success—or will they ask you about your goals for the case and work accordingly? A talented attorney will work on behalf of their client’s best interests, no matter what those interests may be.
If you ask an attorney about their success rate and they become evasive or agitated, move on. A lawyer who refuses to disclose their success rate probably doesn’t have a very good one. Plus, you’re their client! They should answer your questions clearly and truthfully.
Some attorneys take on all the work for themselves, keeping the client in the dark for the majority of the process. However, a talented lawyer will walk you through the process and make sure you know what’s happening at every step.
While it may seem convenient to hand your case over to an attorney and wash your hands of it, you are an integral part of that case, and you should be treated as such. Ask potential attorneys how often you’ll need to meet with them and how you should prepare for those meetings.
If you retain the services of a larger firm, you may not always be able to speak with the managing attorney on your case. That’s par for the course for many large legal firms. You might occasionally meet with a paralegal or a legal associate to get into the nitty-gritty of your case.
No matter the size of the law firm or the caseload of the attorney, you should be able to get in contact with your attorney or legal team when you need them. Make sure you know who your point of contact is during the case.
There’s only one correct answer to this question: the truth.
An experienced employment law attorney will tell you to avoid making small talk with your doctor and to stick to hard facts. Don’t give your doctor any room to misconstrue or misinterpret your story, and avoid editorializing on the incident that led to your injury.
If an attorney advises you to stretch or massage the truth in any way, they are setting you up for trouble. Misrepresenting your injury on medical records is a violation of worker’s compensation law, and it can render your claim invalid in the long run. Steer clear of any lawyer who plays fast and loose with the truth.
When you meet with a potential worker’s comp attorney, you’ll have to tell the entire story and lay out every fact, no matter how inconsequential it may seem. A talented attorney will listen closely to all of those details, strategizing and anticipating potential problems.
Once you’ve told your story, ask them if they see any of those problems on the horizon. Some cases are fairly straightforward, but others can present complications—like if you were working remotely and nobody witnessed your injury.
An attorney who tells you, “I see no problems whatsoever! This case is an easy win!” is one to be avoided. Nothing in law is ever completely cut and dry, and each worker’s comp case is unique.
If your attorney is as savvy and experienced as they say they are, they’ll be able to use their past experiences to guide their thinking with your case. Your claim may present some difficulties for them, but a knowledgeable worker’s comp lawyer will have faced similar challenges before.
This is a bit of a trick question for your first meeting with a potential attorney. They won’t be able to tell you right away that you’ll get your money within X months, but you’ll see how their mind works as they construct their answer.
The more complex a worker’s comp case is, the longer it can take to settle. If your attorney has been listening closely to your story, they’ll identify which elements can drag out the case and start brainstorming solutions. A high-quality worker’s comp attorney will explain their thought process and may present a ballpark estimate, but won’t make any definitive promises at the first meeting.
Shopping for a worker’s compensation lawyer requires some savvy on your part. You want to put your case in confident, competent hands without getting taken in by empty promises or risky legal advice. Ask these questions before hiring a worker’s compensation lawyer to whittle down your choices and find the right attorney for your unique case.