Workers’ compensation lawyer: pros and cons of hiring one
A workers’ compensation lawyer can get you higher settlements, but the process can be tedious and time-consuming
The workers’ compensation system is designed to provide injured employees with timely and fair compensation. Considering that most on-the-job accidents only lead to minor injuries without life-altering impacts, not everyone will need to hire a workers’ compensation lawyer.
But workers’ comp claims are not always straightforward. For complex incidents resulting in serious injuries, sometimes the best route to take is getting the services of an attorney.
In this guide, Insurance Business discusses the different scenarios where a workers’ compensation lawyer is needed and where they are not. We will also explain the role these legal professionals play in helping injured workers get the right benefits and how much they earn in the process.
Read on and find out the pros and cons of hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer in this article.
Whether enlisting the services of a workers’ compensation lawyer is the right option depends on the unique circumstances surrounding your claim. Hiring a specialist attorney to handle your case comes with its share of benefits and drawbacks. Let’s go through each of them.
Advantages of hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer
- Proper filing of paperwork: A workers’ compensation lawyer ensures that all the necessary paperwork is filled out properly and filed on time. While this may seem harmless at first glance, clerical errors and missed deadlines are among the top reasons why workers comp claims are denied.
- Better chance of higher settlement: While there’s no guarantee that your claim will be successful, having an experienced attorney increases your chances of getting all the benefits you’re entitled to and for as long as possible. A 2018 study by insurtech Clara Analytics has revealed that injured employees who hire a workers’ compensation lawyer receive five times more payout than those who don’t.
- Equal representation: Employers and insurers have lawyers to handle workers’ comp claims. By hiring your own attorney, you have someone to negotiate on your behalf. If your claim is denied, your workers’ compensation lawyer can also appeal your case.
- Access to additional resources: Enlisting the services of a lawyer also gives you access to resources that you may otherwise not have. If your claim requires you to prove the full extent of your injury, for instance, your attorney may help provide access to their network of medical experts.
- Peace of mind: If you’re hurt while doing your job, the last thing you want is to worry about how to navigate the system. With a workers’ compensation lawyer, you can be sure that someone is protecting your best interests and working hard to get the benefits you are entitled to. This also allows you to focus on your recovery.
Disadvantages of hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer
- Process becomes complex and time-consuming: If you’re looking for a quick resolution to your claim, then hiring an attorney may not be the best option. Legal proceedings take time and there’s no way around it. And even if your lawyer does most of the legwork, they will also need your commitment and cooperation to be effective.
- Success is not guaranteed: While hiring a specialist lawyer can improve your chances of having your claim accepted and receiving a higher settlement, these are not always guaranteed. Every workers’ comp claim is unique, and its success depends largely on the validity of the evidence you present.
- Strained relationship with your employer: Attorney involvement can negatively affect your relationship with your employer. While your employer is legally prohibited from retaliating, whatever positive relationship you may have with them may be irreparably damaged, even if you get to keep your job.
The table below sums up the benefits and drawbacks of hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer.
Whether you need the services of a workers’ compensation lawyer to assist with your claim depends on a range of factors. These include:
- How serious your injury is
- How complex the circumstances surrounding your claims are
- What actions your employer or their insurer has taken
When you don’t need a workers’ compensation lawyer
In general, you don’t need to hire a workers’ compensation attorney for the following scenarios:
- You suffered a minor injury such as a small cut, bruising, scrapes, or twisted ankle
- Your injury caused you to miss just a few days of work
- Your employer confirms that your injury was work-related
- You don’t have a pre-existing condition that affects the same injured body part
But even if these situations fit your case, you can still choose to talk to a workers’ compensation lawyer, who often gives consultations free of charge. An attorney can give you a walkthrough of the entire insurance claims process and provide an honest take on whether your case requires their services or not.
When you need to hire a workers’ compensation lawyer
There are certain situations when complications may arise because of the claim, requiring the intervention of a workers’ compensation lawyer. These include when:
- An employer rejects or disputes your claim
- An employer avoids timely payout of your benefits
- The settlement offer doesn’t cover the entire medical bill or lost income
- The injury results in partial or total permanent disability, meaning it limits the type of work you can do, or it prevents you from returning to your old job or performing any type of work
- There’s a lack of strong supporting medical evidence for your injury
- The employer retaliates against you for filing a claim
- The injury was caused by your employer’s grave misconduct
- The injury was caused by third-party negligence
- You plan to apply for or are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, which can be reduced by an improperly structured settlement
- You’ve been offered a settlement but you’re unsure of whether to accept it
Workers comp settlements in the US range between $2,000 and $40,000, with recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimating the average amount to be at $20,000. This may seem to be a relatively modest figure, but it is important to consider that many workplace accidents result only in minor injuries without life-altering effects.
There are cases where settlements have reached seven or even eight figures. If you want to find out what led to these resolutions, you can check our rankings of the highest workers comp settlements in the US.
A workers’ compensation lawyer helps ensure that an injured employee receives all the benefits they are entitled to and for as long as they need it. The table below lists down some of the main duties and responsibilities of a workers’ compensation attorney.
Each state implements varying rules when it comes to attorney’s fees in workers’ compensation cases. The maximum amount is often capped between 10% and 20% of the total settlement amount, depending on the complexity of the case.
In general, the judge must approve the fee before the workers’ compensation lawyer gets paid, factoring in the time and effort involved and the benefits awarded, among others.
Another important thing to take note of is that workers’ compensation lawyers typically handle cases on a “contingency fee” basis. This means that if they lose, they don’t receive anything in return. This arrangement allows injured workers who have limited financial resources to access quality legal representation. At the same time, it provides a strong incentive for attorneys to obtain the highest settlements possible for their clients.
The types of benefits covered by workers’ compensation insurance vary depending on the insurance provider. Generally, such policies pay out for the cost of medical care and a percentage of lost income of employees who suffer job-related injuries or illnesses. The table below details what benefits employees are entitled to under a workers’ comp policy.
Almost all states in the US require businesses to take out workers’ compensation insurance to protect themselves and their employees financially if catastrophic accidents occur in the workplace. Learn more about how this form of coverage works in our comprehensive guide to workers’ compensation insurance.
The amount of compensation you will receive for your claim depends on several of factors, including:
- The type of illness or injury
- The severity of the illness or injury you suffered
- The type of treatment you need
- How much your salary is
You can opt for either a lump sum or structured weekly or bi-weekly payouts. The drawback of choosing one-time payment is that you are also essentially waiving your right to reopen your claims in the future. This means if your illness or injury worsens, the burden of shouldering the medical expenses falls to you. If you are not sure how your injury will impact your life in the future, it is better to choose structured payments.
Employers, insurance providers, and even lawyers can use a workers’ compensation settlement chart to work out how much benefits an injured employee is entitled to. You can find out more about this industry tool by clicking the link to our comprehensive guide.
Once a job-related injury happens, employers must report the incident to their insurance provider. The insurer will then pay for the employee’s medical expenses and salaries for lost time at work.
If a worker deems the payouts insufficient and unacceptable, then that is when workers’ compensation settlement negotiations start. This provides a venue for workers’ compensation lawyers to help clients receive the benefits they deserve.
Each state has its own rules on what types of compensation injured workers are entitled to. Generally, you should make sure that the settlement amount is sufficient to cover:
- Previous and future medical expenses you incur because of the work-related injury
- Past and future loss of income due to the injury
Once the worker and the insurer agree on an amount, the workers’ compensation claim is deemed settled. The insurer will then pay the employee either as a lump sum or through structured payments. After all the funds have been paid, the worker can no longer reopen their claims in the future.
Getting the benefits that you deserve also entails a deep understanding of how the workers’ compensation industry operates. You can achieve this by bookmarking and regularly visiting our Workers Comp News page, where you can find breaking news and the latest industry developments.
Do you think hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer to handle your claims is necessary? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
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