If you have suffered a workplace injury, you may be wondering whether or not you need a workers’ compensation attorney. How much does it cost? Where do I start? These are important questions since your physical and financial well-being can be heavily impacted by a workplace injury.
It may seem counterintuitive to ask an attorney if you need an attorney. Most would assume a workers’ compensation lawyer will always tell you “yes, you need an attorney.” But here, my goal is to give you a few neutral guidelines to help you make the decision yourself.
First: Do I Need A Workers’ Compensation Lawyer?
There is no quick answer to this question, because everyone’s case is different. However, you can assess your needs by considering (1) the seriousness of your workplace injury and (2) the general pros and cons of hiring an attorney.
Seriousness & Complexity
The more serious your injury is or the more complex your situation (such as if you have variable hours, are a seasonal worker or independent contractor) the more likely you should seek out an attorney.
Minor Injuries / Accepted Claims
If you suffered a very minor injury on the job and your employer is cooperating with paying your claim, your need for an attorney may not be as great as others. At this stage, a workman’s comp lawyer can help keep your case on track, alleviate your workload, and make sure your employer continues to comply with the law. Often employers pay the workers’ compensation claim in the beginning, but then they unilaterally decide you should no longer be getting benefits (and one thing is for sure, your employer should not be making decisions about your health and well-being. If this happens, seek an advocate for your rights).
Also, keep in mind that an injury that initially appears to be minimal can have long-term, lasting impacts. Get informed before you are asked to sign anything that would take away your rights to workers’ compensation in the future.
Other Injuries / Denied Claims
If you suffered an injury that is more than minor, a lot is at stake. This is your physical and financial health we are talking about, and it cannot be taken lightly. A workman’s compensation lawyer knows the law, knows the tactics of employer and insurers, and will be your best option for protecting your interests.
Here are a few concrete events that mean you have a complexity in your case that should require a consultation with an attorney:
- You receive a Notice to Discontinue Benefits
- Your initial claim was denied
- You are not able return to work or return to a job with the same pay
- You were fired or retaliated against because of your claim
- Your employer wants to settle your claim, especially if you are still in pain, seeking medical treatment, or losing wages
Pros & Cons of Hiring an Attorney
If you are wondering whether you need to hire a workers’ compensation lawyer, you probably have a number of practical questions about what your attorney will do on the case. Here are some of the primary benefits and disadvantages to hiring a workman’s compensation lawyer.
An attorney will:
- Take care of paperwork, phone calls, and meetings
- Mediate difficulties with your employer
- Make sure all deadlines are met
- Save you the time of learning this complex, detailed area of the law
- Keep your employer and its insurer from dragging its feet and slowing down your claim
- Maximize the amount of your benefits and settlements
Workers’ compensation lawyers usually specialize in this area of the law, so they most likely have experience working with your employer’s insurer. This means they know how to best deal with the insurer and can predict what they will do.
The only real con to hiring an attorney is what you may be worried about the most: the cost. However, it is important to understand that workers’ compensation lawyers are usually not paid like other lawyers.
Injured workers often cannot afford to hire an attorney (after all, they are probably losing wages and incurring medical costs), so most workers’ compensation lawyers are paid on what is called a “contingency fee basis” – which means that clients do not pay hourly attorney fees or pay an upfront agreed upon dollar amount. Instead, your attorney gets paid only if you get paid. They are also bound to statutory fee maximums in many circumstances.
If you set up a consultation with a workers’ compensation lawyer, they should tell you all this information up front.
Second: What to Look For In a Work Comp Lawyer?
Lastly, here are a few general rules of thumb when looking for a workman’s compensation attorney:
- Find an attorney that is well-respected in his or her community.
- Find an attorney who will give a free consultation. Think of this as interviewing your attorney to see if he or she is the right fit for you. You shouldn’t have to pay to see if you want to hire someone.
- Find an attorney that you feel comfortable with. You will be sharing information about your finances, medical health, and many other important factors to your claim.
- Find an attorney that listens to what you are saying and that you feel confident in. You should walk away from your consultation feeling heard and comfortable handing your claim over to your work comp attorney.
- Find out if your attorney specializes in workers’ compensation. Attorneys who specialize in workers’ compensation should have the best know-how and experience in handling work comp insurers. This can be a great advantage to your claim.
And as always, if you are in the greater Minneapolis / St. Paul area, our attorneys have extensive experience in handling workman’s compensation claims and are available to discuss your case. To speak with a Minnesota attorney on the workers’ compensation team at Heimerl & Lammers, contact us at 612.294.2200.