Do I Need an Attorney For a Workers Compensation Claim?
An overview on when and why one needs a workers compensation attorney after a work injury, and when a lawyer is not necessary.
When is an attorney NOT necessary?First I will caution you that you should always call a workers compensation attorney after an injury happens at work. The reason is simple; 1, its free and 2, you will learn your rights and responsibilities early on in the case so that you don't give away any of your rights which is an advantage to the insurance company to delay and / or deny your benefits.
Now the only time one does not need a workers compensation attorney is when the injury is one requiring first aid only, and there will be no long term treatment needs nor more than a few days of lost work time, if any.
Any injury more serious that mere first aid, does require the expertise of an experienced workers compensation attorney to help you obtain better medical care and to maximize your benefits. As mentioned below, neither of these two goals can be accomplished successfully without an experienced workers compensation attorney.
How can a workers compensation attorney help me with my work injury case?Initially it is important to understand that if you don't have an attorney you are acting as your own attorney with likely little to no training or experience to do so. On the other side, every insurance company has attorneys advising them how to fight your case, delay and/or deny benefits and generally how to defeat your case and pay you as little benefits and provide as little medical care as possible. The first legal obligation of every insurance company is to the stockholders, not you the injured worker seeking benefits from them.
A workers compensation attorney has the sole legal, ethical and moral obligation to represent your interests even above his or her own interests. This means your attorney is there to fight for only you and assert your rights under the law.
An experienced workers compensation attorney will take the time to listen to your story then gather the facts and information necessary to complete all the legal paperwork properly and submit it to the workers compensation appeals board (the court). This ensures your case is timely and properly filed before any limitations period expires and you are locked out of court and your case lost.
While the company clinic is the first place an injured worker is sent to after reporting an injury, it is not a place that one should stay for more than one or two visits. This is because, generally speaking, company clinics are more like urgent care facilities that employ emergency medicine doctors that are only there to provide the first help and assessment of injury. They are generally not the best place to obtain specialty consultations or physical therapies over a period of time. Also company clinics tend to be more company friendly and don't always support the injured worker fully.
We have heard many clients tell us, for instance, that the company clinic doctor told them "I can not give you any time off work to recover". What the doctor is saying is that the clinic he or she works for has policies and procedures that don't allow him or her to provide any off work time to recover. So they generally send people back to work before the injury has had time to heal which can lead to increased lost work time, which no one wants.
A workers compensation attorney with many years of experience will know most of the doctors in the work comp system including which ones are good to the injured worker and which ones are skeptical of the injured worker. A good and thoughtful attorney will set you up with a doctor who is not biased against you form the start just to get more business from insurance companies. This is not the type of doctor you want to get near your case.
A good attorney makes it a priority to understand the American Medical Association Guides to Impairment, the book that will be used by doctors to provide you a disability rating affecting the value of your settlement. Also the good attorney makes it a priority to have a basic knowledge of anatomy, the various systems of the body and how an injury can affect your ability to earn a living. The only way to get all the benefits the law allows is to hire a good attorney.