These are the key questions to ask a workers’ comp lawyer to guide your conversation and help you evaluate whether they're the right lawyer for you.
If you are considering hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer, you want to be sure to make the right choice for you. But it can be hard to know how to make that decision and what you should even be looking for.
And if you've had a work-related injury, it can be stressful to deal with the potential of lost wages, medical bills, and more.
Fortunately, many workers’ compensation lawyers offer free consultations. These can be a helpful way for you to evaluate whether you should hire a workers' comp attorney and whether the lawyer you speak with is a good fit for you.
Below are key questions to ask a workers’ comp lawyer to guide your initial conversation and help you decide whether they are the right choice for you.
Some workers’ compensation claims are straightforward and do not require hiring an attorney. For instance, if your employer and their insurance company do not dispute your claim and process your benefits promptly, there is probably no need to hire a workers’ compensation lawyer.
An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can help you evaluate whether you should hire a workers' comp lawyer in the first place. And if you don’t need a lawyer yet, they can guide you on how to recognize when your needs have changed.
Some attorneys practice many areas of law while others focus on a few particular practice areas. In the context of workers’ comp, for instance, many law firms and lawyers handle other types of personal injury or disability cases as well as workers’ comp claims.
You’ll want to get a sense of how much of the lawyer’s practice is devoted to workers’ compensation cases and how experienced they are with cases like yours.
An experienced workers’ comp lawyer can help guide you on how to approach conversations with a claims administrator. For instance, you don’t want to accidentally undermine your workers' compensation claim by downplaying your injuries, even if that might ordinarily be your natural impulse.
More detailed guidance might have to wait until you have hired the lawyer, but an experienced workers’ comp attorney can give you a sense of how to approach conversations with your claims administrator and what pitfalls to avoid.
The rules vary state by state, but generally there are deadlines surrounding when you must notify your employer about an injury as well as when you must file your workers’ comp claim. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can help you understand what the rules are in your state and what deadlines you should be aware of.
Workers’ comp programs are designed to be the exclusive remedy for workplace injuries, so injured workers generally are not allowed to sue their employers.
But you are allowed to file a personal injury lawsuit in certain limited situations, such as if your workplace injury was caused by a third party’s actions or your employer’s intentional conduct.
An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you understand whether your situation allows for a separate personal injury lawsuit or whether you need to focus your efforts on the workers’ compensation claim.
Workers’ comp benefits might reduce the amount of Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) benefits you can receive. If you are already receiving or plan to apply for SSDI, you should discuss this with the workers’ comp lawyer.
They may not have enough information to tell you how workers’ comp benefits will impact your SSDI payments in the initial consultation, but they can explain how the programs relate to each other and how an attorney could help maximize your overall benefits.
Workers’ compensation lawyers generally work on a contingency fee basis, which means that they get paid a percentage of your award if your application is successful. State laws often set a maximum on the percentage of your award that the workers’ compensation lawyer can charge. In most states, a workers’ comp lawyer can typically charge about 10-20% of your award.
A workers’ comp attorney should be able to explain what the rules are in your state and how they normally charge clients for their services. (For more information, check out our article on how much a workers' compensation lawyer costs).
Workers’ comp attorneys, like you, have different communication preferences. Some will prefer email while others might prefer speaking over the phone or by video. There is no right answer, and you should consider your own preferences between email, phone, and video.
But whatever the answer may be, it is important to know how to contact your workers’ comp lawyer if any issues or questions arise.
If the conversation goes well and you hire the workers’ compensation lawyer, you will need to sign a retainer agreement and address other formalities. More broadly, though, your workers’ comp attorney will also need your help to achieve the best possible outcome.
So whether it is your assistance obtaining medical records or your availability for meetings, it is important to make sure you are also doing what you can to set up your workers’ comp attorney for success.
These questions should help you evaluate key factors involved in picking a workers’ compensation lawyer including experience, costs, and how comfortable you are with the attorney. Hopefully they can guide you through your initial consultation and not only help you choose the right workers’ comp lawyer for you, but also know what to expect from the outset of the representation for your workers' comp case.