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Why You Need A Lawyer

Workers often struggle with the decision to hire a worker’s compensation lawyer or advocate on their own behalf. This conflict arises from two competing interests: the desire to maintain a harmonious relationship with the employer versus the strong desire to protect family.

Here are reasons why you should retain a worker’s compensation lawyer without delay:

Background:

Since 1985, we have received countless calls from frustrated workers repeating the same story. After fully cooperating with the insurance company regarding a workplace injury, compensation benefits were terminated without cause. Upon further inquiry, we find that many of these unrepresented workers made critical mistakes in the handling of their own claims. Failing to understand the sensitive nature of a legal matter can be costly.  A worker’s compensation claim demands the utmost care and preparation. From the inception of the case, the injured worker will be asked to make countless decisions that will permanently impact the value his/her case. A good lawyer will devote a significant amount of time guiding their client through every decision to insure the best possible outcome.

While it is true that a worker can always hire a lawyer when things start spiraling out of control, why wait for that to happen? The deeper the hole, the harder it will be to crawl out. And unlike the depiction we see of lawyers on TV, we are not magicians who can erase damaging errors caused by misguided clients. Suffice it to say, any unreasonable delay in seeking legal help could result in protracted litigation lasting several years, not to mention the potential loss of thousands of dollars. While the case is on appeal, the insurance company is usually not required to pay any benefit whatsoever. Unless the worker possesses a significant amount of savings, he/she will undoubtedly suffer financial and emotional hardship. An experienced lawyer intuitively recognizes a damaged case and steers clear of it. These cases usually end up at law firm “mills” where they are assigned to inexperienced associates.

There is no substitute for having legal representation at the start of a claim, when the worker is most prone to make a mistake.

Medical:

Credible medical evidence is the heart and soul of a good worker’s compensation case. It will override almost any defense the insurance company can mount. Knowing how and when to obtain proper medical care will have a direct bearing on the strength of a case. An experienced lawyer will show the worker how to disseminate medical information about themselves in a truthful and accurate manner. The attorney will also offer invaluable advice concerning the type of specialist required, and when to solicit a second medical opinion.

Regrettably, many workers diminish the value of their claims by failing to provide accurate information to their doctors about their occupation, health, and work activities.

The Opponent:

The insurance company is not a charitable institution, but rather, a for-profit business which adheres to strict cost-containment rules. To protect their interests, they hire hundreds of lawyers and managers to advise them how to handle each claim in the most cost-efficient manner. The opponent possesses in-depth knowledge of the law, and will aggressively fight to pay the claimant the least amount of money. Without an experienced lawyer protecting the worker, there is nothing counteracting this strong influence. An unrepresented worker permits the insurance company to control all facets of their claim, including their doctor’s final opinion as to the nature and extent of their injury. For obvious reasons, insurance companies delight in working with the unrepresented.

With few exceptions, it is never advisable to advocate on one’s own behalf. The old adage, “He who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client” should serve as a stern warning to all.

Vocational Rehabilitation:

If a worker is unable to return to their former occupation due to some medical limitation, he/she may experience a significant reduction in wages, thus triggering the need for vocational rehabilitation. Vocational rehabilitation is a complicated process that requires a worker to actively participate in a job search program designed to find suitable reemployment. There is perhaps no other area where the minefields are so numerous. Workers who participate in an insurance sponsored vocational program, whose goals are neither fair, reasonable, or realistic are doomed to failure. Moreover, an ill-designed program could potentially bar the right to enhanced benefits under the law.

An experienced lawyer will guide the client every step of the way to insure the successful completion of a vocational rehabilitation plan.

Settlement Negotiations:

Injured workers generally have no experience to know when and how to settle their claim. Soliciting a settlement offer at the wrong time will telegraph weakness to the other side, something the opponent is certain to exploit.

Additionally, workers need to protect themselves against claims by third parties (doctors, hospitals, Medicare, etc.). Workers often fail to recognize that the settlement process is about more than just money; it is the time when the parties reduce their promises into a legally binding contract. The contract will include the legal terms by which the parties wish to become permanently bound. Insurance companies love to limit their exposure by using sophisticated settlement language. Without legal protection, the claimant may be left financially vulnerable beyond the date of settlement approval.

Because receiving a just and fair compensation is the ultimate goal, the worker needs a legal advocate who can explain the nuances of a reaching a just compromise.

CLOSING REMARKS:

With the passage of major reforms in 2011, there is perhaps no greater time to hire a lawyer than now. Insurance companies are aggressively using American Medical Association impairment ratings to drive down the value of awards. Regrettably, judges are starting to approve these unfairly low settlements for injured workers who unknowingly fail to protect themselves. It is imperative that workers stand up for their rights.

DISCLAIMER:

The information contained in this website is intended as general information only, and is not to be construed as rendering legal advice for any specific loss, issue, or concern.