You probably know what workers’ comp lawyers do for individuals injured or fallen sick due to workplace-related reasons. But what you may know is that these lawyers are not the same. Crooked workers’ compensation attorneys may hide so much from you; now it’s time to reveal the truth.
1. You Can Fire Your Workers’ Comp Attorney
Because workers’ compensation cases can be complex and time-consuming, many injured workers rely on these workers’ comp lawyers to fight for their right to compensation. That said, it is possible that you may become dissatisfied with your attorney’s services, ultimately deciding to terminate the attorney-client relationship.
That’s possible, but you shouldn’t expect your workers’ compensation lawyer to disclose that information. You’ll find out why shortly.
The right to fire a workers’ comp attorney is an important legal protection for anyone injured in the workplace. Some common reasons to fire a workers’ comp attorney include the following:
- Lack of communication, which includes but is not limited to failing to communicate regularly with the client, not returning phone calls or emails, or failing to provide updates on the status of the case.
- Lack of experience in handling workers’ compensation cases or familiarity with state laws and regulations. Keep in mind that workers’ comp laws vary from state to state. You need an attorney who understands the jurisdiction and how to navigate the specifics of your case.
- Conflict of interest, which occurs when the attorney has a relationship with the employer or insurance company that could compromise their loyalty to you.
- High fees, especially if you feel you are not getting value for your money.
- Personality clash, a scenario where the client and attorney have different personalities or communication styles that make it difficult to work together effectively.
⚖️ PRO TIP: Firing an attorney can lead to delays in the case or additional legal fees. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons of making such a decision well in advance.
How Do I Fire My Workers Comp Attorney?
If you are dissatisfied with your workers’ comp attorney and you’ve decided to fire them, the process is relatively straightforward. Here’s all you need to do:
Notify your attorney of your decision to terminate the attorney-client relationship. You can do this in writing or by scheduling a meeting with them.
The attorney will likely send you a confirmation letter acknowledging the termination of the relationship. This letter should outline your next steps.
Find a new attorney to represent you effectively. You can ask for referrals from friends, family, or other professionals or search online.
Suppose your workers’ comp case is pending. In that case, you may need to notify the court of the change in your legal representation. Your new attorney can help you with this process.
Remember to pay any outstanding fees or costs owed to your previous attorney before officially terminating the relationship. The last thing you want is to worry about double attorney fees when you least expect them.
2. They May Not Have the Resources To Handle Your Claim
An attorney’s lack of resources, such as staff and finances, can jeopardize the entire claim. Sadly, they may not disclose this to you.
The attorney may not have the resources to handle a case properly because they have simultaneously taken on too many cases. Alternatively, they may not have the necessary experience or knowledge in the workers’ compensation law area that applies to your case.
But they won’t inform you about their limited resources because they risk losing your case or your business. Dishonest attorneys may also feel they can handle your case with their current resources, even if it means cutting corners or not giving your case the attention it deserves.
However, a lack of resources to pursue a claim can lead to serious consequences, including delays, mistakes, and even a lower settlement or denied claim. Therefore, you should communicate regularly with your attorney and ask questions about their resources and capabilities. If you suspect they cannot handle your case properly, consider seeking a new attorney.
3. They Don’t Have Time for Your Case
Your attorney’s time is a valuable resource. They may be juggling multiple cases at once, and yours may not be their top priority. Unfortunately, they won’t disclose this to you due to the reasons we discussed earlier.
To understand why your workers’ compensation attorney may not have time for your case, let’s discuss how they make money in the first place.
In most cases, workers’ comp lawyers make money by handling as many claims as possible. This is because workers’ compensation claims are not usually worth thousands of dollars unless the worker suffered severe injuries requiring surgery or someone died in the workplace.
To put things into perspective, the average workers’ comp settlement is between $2,000 and $50,000.
So what happens if the attorney has 10 cases worth $2,000 each and one case worth $50,000? Where will they put most of their attention?
You guessed it right — the $50,000 case will be much more valuable to them. As a result, they will spend more time, money, and resources to pursue the claim.
Also, remember that workers’ comp lawyers get paid on a contingency basis, which we will discuss later. For starters, this payment system allows the attorney to deduct a certain percentage of the settlement to cover their fees and other expenses involved in pursuing their claim.
So if they apply this rule to your $2,000 settlement, they won’t have much left to run their business. But the same can’t be said about the $50,000 case — they’ll have plenty more to support their business.
Don’t fall for the marketing tactics and messages of compassion. Ultimately, it’s business as usual, and there’s no problem with that. The only issue here is when you’re working with a dishonest attorney — it’s a waste of time and a risk to your claim.
Keep in mind that it’s not always about the quantity of time; the quality also matters. An efficient and organized lawyer can accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. On the other hand, a disorganized or overwhelmed attorney may waste time on non-essential tasks or fail to meet important deadlines.
Establishing clear communication and expectations from the beginning is one way to ensure that your attorney is using their time effectively. Ask them to provide you with a timeline of the case and a plan for how they will handle it. Also, ensure that you understand the plan and that it meets your needs and goals.
4. They Don’t Want To Pursue Full Compensation
A crooked workers’ comp attorney may not want to pursue full compensation for different reasons, including the following:
Conflict of Interest
You expect your attorney to act in your best interests, but not all workers’ comp lawyers are the same. Some attorneys may have a conflict of interest that could compromise their loyalty to their clients. For example, suppose the attorney has a relationship with the employer or insurance company involved in the claim. In that case, they may settle for a lower amount to maintain that relationship.
Workers’ compensation claims are evidence-based, meaning you’ll need to prove your claim to secure the compensation you need. However, in some cases, the evidence may be weak or limited. In these situations, the attorney may advise the client to settle for a lower amount rather than risk losing the case in court. That’s not necessarily bad; after all, an attorney’s role is to help you navigate the complexities of the case, which includes providing crucial legal advice and approaching these cases tactfully.
However, it’s only a problem when the lack of evidence is due to the attorney’s failure to take the necessary steps to investigate the case. As mentioned, this could be due to many different reasons, such as a complete lack of time to handle your case or the availability of a higher-paying claim.
Time and Expense
Pursuing full compensation can be a time-consuming and expensive process. If the attorney feels that the time and expense involved in pursuing full compensation outweigh the potential benefits to the client, they may settle for less. But, again, that’s not a problem, especially if it is your best option. They only need to let you know.
Lack of Expertise
Finally, your lawyer may not want to fight for total compensation if they lack the expertise or experience needed to handle the case. This is especially true if the claim is complex or involves high-profile defendants.
Should I Get a Lawyer for Workers Comp?
Understandably, it is heartbreaking to discover that there are rogue workers’ comp lawyers out there who may not serve your best interests. But that doesn’t mean that good and honest lawyers don’t exist anymore.
In fact, there are more good workers’ comp lawyers than bad ones. So yes, if you got injured in the workplace, you should consider hiring an attorney.
When Should I Hire a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer?
It is one thing to hire an attorney and a totally different thing to know when exactly you need them. That’s also another thing a workers’ compensation lawyer won’t tell you. But that doesn’t make them rogue or crooked.
Think of it as a trip to the grocery store. When you walk into the store and pick items from the shelf, the cashier won’t tell you that you may not need some of the items you picked. Rather, they’ll want to help you process the items, make the payments, and move on with your plans for the day.
That’s how some of these workers’ comp lawyers work as well. If you do not need an attorney, chances are they won’t tell you that, especially if they can help your case somehow. Likewise, they won’t tell you how ‘easy’ it can be to file your claim without a lawyer unless they don’t gain anything by taking on the case.
That said, here are examples of situations that could warrant the need for an attorney.
Your Claim is Denied
You may need a lawyer to help you file an appeal if your workers’ compensation claim is denied. They can help you gather the necessary evidence, present your case, and maximize your chances of winning.
Your Benefits Are Terminated
You may need a lawyer to help you reinstate your benefits if terminated before you fully recover. A seasoned attorney can help you understand the reason for termination and work to have them reinstated.
You Are Not Receiving the Correct Benefits
Suppose you believe you are not receiving the correct amount of workers’ compensation benefits or medical treatment for your injuries or illness. In that case, you may need a lawyer to ensure you get the correct benefits.
You Have a Pre-Existing Condition
A pre-existing condition exacerbated by a workplace injury requires a lawyer to help you prove that the injury was caused or aggravated by work-related reasons. This is because workers’ compensation insurance companies tend to scrutinize their claimant’s pre-existing condition, hoping to find reasons to avoid paying out what they owe as compensation for an injury or illness.
In other words, they may argue that your injuries derived from your pre-existing condition, not the workplace injury or illness. That’s why, generally, you should not disclose information about your pre-existing conditions to the insurance company without consulting a lawyer. A lawyer can help you gather the necessary evidence and present a strong case on your behalf, maximizing your chances of securing a favorable settlement.
You Are Facing Retaliation
It is illegal for employers to retaliate against their employees for filing workers’ comp claims. But this happens too often. Suppose your employer retaliates against you for filing a workers’ compensation claim. In that case, you may need a lawyer to help you protect your rights, understand your legal options, and build a case against the employer.
⚖️ PRO TIP: Employer retaliation is unlawful. If your employer retaliates against you for filing a worker’s compensation claim, you may have an additional retaliation claim against them on top of the workers’ comp case.
You Are Permanently Disabled
A workers’ compensation lawyer can help you navigate the complex process of applying for Social Security Disability benefits if you are permanently disabled due to workplace injury or illness. This includes but is not limited to gathering the necessary medical evidence, filling out complex paperwork, and providing crucial advice to increase your chances of getting approved for SSD benefits.
What Can a Workers Comp Lawyer Do for Me?
Now let’s dig deeper into ways a workers’ compensation lawyer can help with your case.
Explain Your Legal Rights and Options
As a worker, you have rights that you may not even be aware of. These rights vary from state to state and depend on factors such as whether or not you are unionized. A skilled lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and options under your jurisdiction’s workers’ compensation system. They can also advise you on the benefits you may be entitled to and what you must do to protect your rights.
Assist With Filing Your Claim
The workers’ compensation claims process involves a lot of paperwork full of legal jargon. Your lawyer can ensure that your claim is filed properly and promptly. They will also fill and submit all relevant forms within the required timeframes.
Help You Gather Evidence
As mentioned earlier, workers’ comp cases are evidence-based, meaning you need proof to obtain compensation. That’s where a lawyer comes in to help gather evidence to support your claim. Typical evidence in such cases includes medical records, witness statements, photos, videos, etc.
Represent You In Hearings and Negotiations
The right attorney will represent you in hearings and negotiations with the insurance company and their legal representatives. Remember that the other party will likely try to fight back, especially if your injuries are serious, to avoid liability. For this reason, you need a lawyer who can fight for your rights and protect your interests.
Appeal Denied Claims
If your claim is denied, a workers’ compensation lawyer can help you appeal the decision and present your case before an administrative law judge or appeals board.
Ensure You Receive Fair Compensation
The ultimate goal of a workers’ comp lawyer is to ensure you receive fair compensation for your injuries and damages you may be entitled to.
What Questions Should I Ask My Workers Comp Lawyer?
Now that you know how a workers’ compensation lawyer can help, let’s discuss what questions you should ask them during the initial consultation. This step allows you to gauge the lawyer and determine whether they are the best fit to handle your specific situation.
From these questions, you’ll learn whether the attorney has the time, resources, knowledge, or even experience to handle your case. As a result, you’ll not have to worry about hiring a crooked lawyer.
Here are some questions that you may want to ask and why:
- What experience do you have with workers’ compensation cases? Find out how long they have been practicing workers comp and the number of cases they have handled.
- What is your success rate with workers’ compensation cases? Their answer will reflect the likelihood of success in your case. Ask about their past results and how many cases they have won.
- What is the process for filing a workers’ compensation claim? You should understand the process of filing a workers’ compensation claim and how long it typically takes. Then, ask them to walk you through it step by step.
- What types of benefits am I entitled to? Your lawyer should explain the different types of benefits you may be entitled to based on the unique circumstances of your case.
- What is the likelihood of receiving a settlement in my case? Just to set the record straight, remember to ask what factors could affect the settlement amount.
- What are the potential risks or challenges in my case? After reviewing the case, the attorney should be able to identify potential risks or challenges in your case and explain how they plan to address them.
- What is your communication policy? You shouldn’t expect the attorney to communicate with you daily about your case unless they offer to do so. However, it is crucial to understand their communication policy and how they plan to keep you informed throughout the case.
- What are your fees, and how are they structured? Find out their hourly rate, contingency fee, or any other fees they may charge.
Who Is the Best Workers Comp Lawyer?
The best workers’ compensation lawyer understands your case, demonstrates experience, and, most importantly, has the resources (including time) to fight for you. The issues discussed in this guide should help you choose a lawyer that best suits your situation.
What Percentage Does a Workers Comp Lawyer Get?
Or, how much does a workers’ comp lawyer cost?
That’s a common question most people ask when looking for a workers’ compensation lawyer to represent them.
Here’s what you need to know.
Earlier, we mentioned that workers’ comp lawyers usually get paid a contingency fee. In other words, they only get paid if they win the case. When they win, they will deduct a certain percentage of the settlement to cover their fees and other expenses.
The percentage varies depending on the state and the specific agreement between the lawyer and the client. However, in most cases, they will deduct between 15 and 30 percent of the total compensation.
In general, workers’ comp lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they only get paid if they win the case or obtain a settlement for the client.
⚖️ PRO TIP: This percentage may be higher or lower depending on the complexity of the case, the amount of work required, and the lawyer’s experience. For this reason, you should discuss the fee arrangement with the lawyer upfront and ensure you understand what it entails and when it’s due.
Can I Sue My Workers Comp Lawyer?
Yes, you can sue your workers’ comp lawyer under certain circumstances. For example, you can sue your attorney for malpractice. This occurs when an attorney fails to provide competent legal representation, and their actions or inactions result in harm or damages to the client.
Examples of malpractice in a workers’ comp case may include:
- Failing to meet important deadlines, such as filing paperwork or responding to requests from the insurance company or the Workers’ Compensation Board.
- Providing incorrect or incomplete advice that leads to the client receiving less compensation than they were entitled to.
- Failing to adequately investigate the case or gather evidence to support the client’s claim.
- Conflicts of interest, such as representing the employer or insurance company while also representing the injured worker.
- Overcharging the client or engaging in other unethical billing practices.
⚖️ PRO TIP: It is difficult to sue a workers’ compensation lawyer. So before you go down that path, you must be sure you have a valid reason, such as missing a crucial deadline, making it impossible to file the claim.
How Often Should I Hear From My Workers’ Comp Attorney?
Although it’s important to have regular communication with your workers’ compensation attorney (great communication is actually one of the best signs of a good lawyer), the frequency of communication depends on the stage of your case and the complexity of your situation. That said, you should generally expect to hear from them regularly.
So, how regular should that be?
In the beginning stages of your case, you may communicate more frequently with your attorney as they gather information and build your case. During that time, it is fair to expect status updates, including any developments and the timeline for the next steps. Your attorney may also need to communicate with you to ask for additional information or to clarify details about your case.
⚖️ PRO TIP: Communication is a two-way street, and you should also proactively contact your attorney if you have questions or concerns about your case. You can ask for status updates or request a call or meeting to discuss any questions or issues.
However, as your case progresses, the frequency of communication with the attorney may decrease somewhat. This is probably because they’ve already received everything they need from you, filed what they needed to, and are now waiting for feedback from the other side. It could be the courts, your employer, the insurance company, expert witnesses, accident reconstructionists; you name it.
Even so, they should still keep you informed about any significant developments or changes in your case. Examples of such updates include the following:
- a change in the status of your benefits;
- your case goes to a hearing; or
- If there is a settlement offer.
What To Do When Your Workers Comp Attorney Essentially Disappears?
Here’s what to do if your workers’ comp attorney has essentially disappeared(which is unlikely but possible).
Start by contacting your attorney by phone, email, or mail. If you haven’t heard from them in a while, they could have a legitimate reason for not responding. Remember that workers’ comp lawyers are also human and face normal issues everyone faces in their day-to-day lives, such as illnesses or family emergencies.
Alternatively, try contacting the law firm they work for. Explain the situation and ask to speak with someone who can help you. They may be able to provide information about your attorney’s availability or assign a new attorney to your case.
If nothing seems to work, consider filing a complaint with your state’s bar association. The bar association can investigate the complaint and take disciplinary action if necessary.
It may be time to consider hiring a new attorney if you’ve tried to contact your attorney and the law firm with no success. When looking for a new attorney, follow the tips provided in this article to minimize the chances of another bad experience.
Finally, if you decide to hire a new attorney, you’ll need to request your case file from your previous attorney. You have a right to a copy of your file, which includes all of the documents and information related to your case. Your new attorney will need this information to represent you effectively.
Bottomline: What Workers’ Comp Lawyers Won’t Tell You
By now, we hope you know what to expect when looking for a workers’ compensation lawyer to represent you or your loved one injured in the workplace. However, the most important thing to remember is that crooked workers’ comp lawyers only represent a small percentage of lawyers in this profession.
The majority of lawyers are professionals and good people. Knowing what to look for when hiring an attorney could be the difference between getting the compensation you deserve or regretting hiring the wrong lawyer.