Do I Need a Lawyer to Get Workers' Compensation Benefits?
Whether you need an attorney to represent you after you are injured and have a your workers’ compensation claim depends on a number of factors.
When You Need an Attorney
If any of the following are true, you should retain an attorney as soon as possible:
- Your workplace injuries are severe enough to require surgery.
- Your workplace injuries are moderate to severe. If you and your doctor believe your health won't return to the condition it was prior to your injury, you may be entitled to a “permanent partial disability” award.
- You believe you are no longer able to work on a regular basis in any job.
- You believe you cannot go back to work at your current job, but believe you could work in some capacity.
- You have significant pre-existing disabilities.
- You would like to dispute an adverse decision made by your employer, your employer’s insurance company, or your state's workers' comp division regarding your workers’ compensation claim.
- You believe you are not receiving the correct benefits, or wonder if there are additional benefits you could receive.
- Your medical benefits are denied.
- Your employer has disputed a decision made by your state workers' comp division.
- You do not understand the workers' comp process and would feel more comfortable if an expert were representing your interests.
Regardless of the circumstances of your workers’ compensation claim, you are entitled to obtain an attorney. If your injuries are severe enough that your life will be permanently altered, either because of permanent bodily impairment or a change in ability to work, a workers' com lawyer will be able to advocate on your behalf to ensure that you receive the medical care and workers’ compensation benefits you are entitled to. In addition, if your injury may keep you from working permanently, a lawyer can advise you about filing for Social Security disability benefits as well.
Most states offer vocational services to individuals that are unable to return to work in their former jobs due to an industrial injury. A workers' comp attorney can assist you in navigating the system so that you are most likely to receive retraining or monetary payment to assist you while you obtain alternate employment.
If any aspect of your claim is in dispute with your employer, or your employer’s insurance
company, it is important for you to obtain an attorney. In many states, the dispute process is highly legal, involving complex legal rules and procedures. You will likely be at a disadvantage if you do not retain an attorney to represent your interests in these proceedings.
Request a Free Consultation
Most attorneys specializing in workers' compensation will give you a free consultation, usually thirty to forty minutes, to review your claim and assess whether you need an attorney. The attorney should be candid regarding your need for legal representation and your chances of success if you are considering appealing an adverse decision. The attorney can help you decide if you need representation. And in fact, if your case is fairly minor, the attorney may tell you that he or she isn't interested in taking your case.
One important item to note: typically, workers' compensation attorneys will represent you on a contingent basis . This means that the attorney will take a portion of the workers' comp benefits you receive as a result of the attorney's representation, but if you don't win any benefits, you won't owe the attorney anything.
Speaking to an attorney sooner, rather than later, can ensure that your claim is on the right track from the beginning. It is easier for the attorney to gather evidence and push your claim in the right direction early in your claim, instead of catching up if your claim is already in litigation.
When You Do Not Need an Attorney
If your workplace injuries are relatively minor, you expect to go back to work with your employer at your current job after a few days' or weeks' recovery, and you do not expect your workplace injury to result in permanent loss of bodily function, you may not need to hire an attorney.
For example, if you suffered an uncomplicated broken arm at work and the workers' comp insurance company paid your medical bills and a weekly benefit for the time you've been off work, and now your doctor has released you to go back to work without limitations and you feel completely healed, you probably don't need to contact an attorney. But if you don't feel that you are completely healed, or you aren't comfortable signing a settlement with your workers' comp insurance company (that will probably require you to give up any future rights to compensation or medical care for your injury), you should arrange for a free consultation with a workers' comp attorney.