There are a number of Defense Firms who dabble in Uninsured Work, but only a few who concentrate in it. This list of questions will help you separate the Professionals from the Amateurs.
What percentage of your Firm's practice is devoted to Uninsured Employers Fund (UEF) Defense?
The higher the percentage of Uninsured Defense work, the more likely that the Attorney is familiar with the various issues that may confront you and your case.
Who will potentially handle this case for me?
The person you meet may not be the one who handles your case. You will want to know who will be defending you BEFORE you hire.
Is He/She a Certified Specialist in WC?
This not mandatory, but it is recommended. A Certified Specialist has been recognized for completing more continuing education than required, and has passed an additional Test in the field of Workers' Compensation knowledge.
What is the total caseload of the Attorney who will potentially handle this case?
There is usually no right or wrong answer (100+ is the wrong answer), but more files typically means less attention to yours. Less is better, if you want to be special. Fewer files on an Hourly Agreement may mean that you are the main source of revenue for the Attorney. That may be more expensive in the end. Knowledge is power.
Approximately how many Uninsured Employer cases has my Attorney defended in the past?
As you probably can guess, the more cases/issues like yours that the Attorney has seen, the better your chance for a desirable outcome. Look for at least 25, although 50 or more is better.
What percentage of your Uninsured Employer Trials avoided all Penalties?
This is where you find out whether they know what they are doing. If they have avoided Penalties on more than 80% of the cases they have taken to Trial, they probably have a pretty good understanding of the law and the issues. This will tell you whether they are carefully selecting the Trial cases, or merely throwing their Clients to the wolves. Get an idea of the Attorney's philosophy. Ask whether you should push for settlement or exoneration. Then ask WHY?, and listen.
What is the Hourly Rate/Deposit for Representation?
Cost should NOT be your primary consideration. That is why I put it further down. First feel out the experience level and litigation record of the Attorney. THEN consider where the charges fall within your expectations. An inexpensive Attorney with no record/experience is probably going to be a VERY bad long-term choice. Paying a little more for an Attorney with excellent experience/litigation record can be a VERY wise investment.
Is there a Flat Fee Representation Option?
Some Attorneys will offer a Flat Fee option for handling the case. Many will not. I always cringe when I ask how much something will cost, and the salesperson says "well, it depends..." What I hear is "how much can I roll you for?" A Flat Fee may ultimately prove to be higher or lower than the Hourly plan in 20/20 Hindsight, but you may want to control the cost on the front end with a known number. Whether you choose the Flat Fee or not, having options is always nice.
Do you offer payment plans?
You should NOT expect an Attorney to work for you on credit, but you never know what is possible unless you ask. Just like the Flat Fee, some Attorneys will accommodate you and some will not. If you are willing to have your Checking/Credit Card charged each month, that may be enough flexibility to both keep you represented and in business.
Can you show me how Representation will reduce my pending financial exposure?
This is a very fair question, and I think the main reason that Employers procrastinate on seeking help. If you do nothing, the UEF will pay the claim and attach everything you own until they get repaid. A good Attorney can almost always explain the financial benefit of action compared to inaction. If there is nothing that the Defense Attorney can suggest to save you money, why should you pay for Representation? WALK OUT. Then call someone else.
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