Important Questions To Ask a Workers' Compensation Lawyer
If you or a loved one have been hurt at work, you may find yourself deep in the world of workers' compensation law. Workers' compensation helps you cover your medical expenses and lost wages. It's not always easy to understand, especially if you're also dealing with a work-related injury, which is why hiring an injury lawyer can be helpful to your workers' comp case.
Navigating the workers' compensation insurance system is difficult to do on your own. Most workers' comp lawyers offer a free initial consultation. Even if you plan to apply for benefits on your own, it's still a good idea to meet with a workers' comp lawyer to get your questions answered.
Speaking of questions, here are ten important questions to be sure to ask.
1. Does it matter if the accident was my fault?
Let's say you didn't take proper safety precautions at work and were injured as a result. You might be wondering whether you still qualify for workers' comp benefits. For the most part, the workers' comp system is not fault-based. That means that unless you were doing something illegal or engaging in extreme behavior like starting a fight or were intoxicated, fault doesn't matter and should not affect your injury claim. In many cases, you still qualify for benefits even if you were partially at fault for the accident.
On the other hand, your employer might argue you were entirely at fault. This can potentially lead to a denied claim. A skilled injury lawyer can sift through the specifics of your case. They can challenge any unjust denials. They can also help establish the truth about fault within the context of your unique situation. This makes it crucial to discuss the details of your case with your lawyer. Their expertise can help ensure your rights are fully protected.
2. What should I do to protect my claim?
You need to take several steps to ensure your workers' comp case goes smoothly. Unfortunately, many employers and their insurance companies do what they can to limit or deny workers' comp claims. That means you need to take precautions to protect your work injury claim.
This includes reporting your injury to your employer and seeking medical help immediately. You will also want to keep careful notes on your medical records, medical bills, and how your injury develops over time. The attorney you meet with may give you additional steps to take to protect your claim.
3. What could my workers' compensation benefits cover?
Workers' compensation benefits can cover different types of costs. You are likely entitled to compensation for the medical treatment you require as a result of your workplace injury. However, not all treatments are fully covered, such as chiropractic care and physical therapy, but check with your local laws as many different kinds of treatment have become acceptable in workers' compensation cases.
Costs can include medical bills, rehabilitation, and a portion of your lost wages. In some cases, you might receive a lump sum payment. This is especially true if you have a permanent impairment from your work-related injury.
You may also be entitled to temporary disability benefits to cover part of your lost wages if you missed more than three days of work because of your injury. Permanent disability benefits may be available if your injury is severe. Other benefits like retraining vouchers and death benefits are available in certain situations.
4. Do I need a workers' comp lawyer to get benefits?
Many injured workers are able to get through the workers' comp process after a workplace injury without an attorney's help. If your injury was minor, has already healed, or you didn't miss any work, your claim may not require an attorney's help. However, claims adjusters occasionally deny claims that seem simple and straightforward. They may argue that the injury was not work-related or the injury was not as serious as you are claiming.
An attorney can be crucial in cases involving serious or permanent injuries to make sure that you get the full amount of benefits that you are entitled to. The workers' compensation attorney you meet with should be able to honestly assess whether your claim requires a workers' compensation lawyer's help or if you can handle it yourself.
5. Can I sue my employer after a workplace injury?
In general, workers' comp is a no-fault system. This means you typically can't sue your employer for a workplace injury. Generally, you can't sue your employer for personal injury after a workplace injury, even if the accident was your employer's fault. However, suppose there was a third party involved in the accident, such as another driver in the case of a work-related car accident, or a defective product, such as in the case of an equipment-related injury. In that case, you may be able to sue the third party for damages.
This is why it can be important to meet with an attorney. There might be more to your case than you realize.
6. How much does your law firm charge for workers' compensation cases?
Cost is always a concern. It's important to understand what fees are involved with your case. Typically, workers' comp attorneys today charge on a contingency fee basis, which means they charge a percentage of your overall settlement. State law determines how workers' comp lawyers are paid. Almost all states require contingency fees for workers' compensation cases. Most states also place a cap on the percentage, which is usually between 10% and 20%. More experienced workers' compensation lawyers may charge a higher percentage than less experienced lawyers.
7. How do I know your law firm is right for my workers' comp case?
A lawyer's track record can give you a good idea of their expertise and ability to handle your case effectively. Ask about their success rate, especially in cases similar to yours. A high success rate could mean they strongly understand workers' compensation law. This establishes a history of helping clients achieve satisfactory outcomes.
8. Are there certain types of workers' comp cases that you do not handle?
Every injury lawyer has their areas of specialty. Some might excel in cases involving certain industries, types of injuries, or complex legal issues. Others could be less equipped to handle such matters. It's important to understand their areas of expertise. You should also understand whether they refer certain types of cases to other attorneys.
9. What should I do about my medical bills while my case is pending?
Managing medical expenses after a work-related injury can be challenging. This is especially true when waiting for a workers' comp case to be resolved. Ask the lawyer for advice on handling your medical bills in the meantime. They can provide guidance on dealing with your insurance company or offer strategies to ensure you receive the necessary treatment without jeopardizing your financial stability.
10. How long have you been practicing workers' compensation law?
Experience matters in law. The longer a lawyer has spent practicing workers' compensation laws, the more likely they are to understand the complexities of the system. An experienced lawyer will be well-versed in dealing with insurance companies. They will know how to navigate the claims process. They will help ensure your rights are protected.
Getting Legal Help with a Workers' Compensation Case
Asking the right questions can help you find the best legal representation for your workers' comp case. Remember, it's not just about asking the lawyer about their areas of law and years of experience. You might want to inquire about their success rate and ask them to walk you through the claims process upfront.
You should also ask about any other benefits you might be entitled to, like Social Security disability if your injury is severe and long-lasting. By asking these questions, you can ensure that you or your loved ones receive the best possible care and compensation for a work-related injury.
These questions should give you a good understanding of your workers' compensation claim and the next steps you should take. Keep in mind that the lawyer you meet with will not be able to give you legal advice until you have formed an attorney-client relationship.
See FindLaw's workers' compensation lawyer directory to find a lawyer near you. Many attorneys offer initial consultations free of charge.
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Contact a qualified workers' compensation attorney to make sure your rights are protected.