7 tips for hiring the right workers’ comp lawyer near you
When a person is hurt on the job, they are immediately faced with many questions. These can range from “Who do I report the injury to?” to “What doctor should I choose?”. There is rarely, if ever, a meeting where a worker is told what exactly to do in case an injury happens. And quite frankly, if there is such a meeting, the information is typically wrong and presented in a manner that benefits the employer, not the injured worker.
One of the many questions an injured worker usually has is:
Should I hire a lawyer? If so, how do I choose the best workers’ comp lawyer?
Most workplace injuries result in a workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ compensation laws are complicated, and so is the claims process. As a result, an injured worker should retain the services of an experienced Georgia workers’ compensation attorney.
There are a number of tricks and tactics you can use to find the best work injury lawyer to represent your case. In this article, we will discuss a few helpful tips regarding how to choose a workers’ compensation lawyer.
Should you hire a workers’ comp attorney?
Before we analyze how to choose a lawyer, let’s talk about when you should hire a lawyer.
First, understand that once you are injured on the job, your claim should be reported to the insurance company of your employer. The insurance companies have certain policies in place that they require of their employers in regards to reporting the injury. If the claim is not immediately reported, it may delay your receipt of benefits that you are owed, including medical treatment and indemnity benefits. If your employer doesn’t report your injury or wants to handle it themselves, it may be time for you to hire a lawyer to make sure your rights are protected.
Remember, there is a statute of limitations in every workers’ compensation case. An injured worker has just 30 days to report their injury to their supervisor. Reporting the injury can be as simple as informing a coworker who the injured worker believes is their superior, but there does have to be some form of notification. Hiring an attorney can help you ensure that you have provided proper notification. Furthermore, they can assist in fighting a denial based upon an argument that the employer wasn’t notified.
Another statutory limitation on a workers’ compensation claim is that a claim must be filed with the State Board of Workers Compensation. There are 3 important dates to remember when it comes to filing a claim:
- No payment given. An injured worker has 1 year from the date of the accident to “toll” the statute and file a claim if they never receive any indemnity benefits or medical treatment paid for by the workers’ compensation insurance company.
- Medical treatment payments given. If the injured worker does indeed receive treatment for their on-the-job injury paid for by the workers’ compensation insurance company, then they have 1 year from the last date of treatment to file a claim for indemnity benefits.
- Wage loss payments given. If indemnity benefits were paid by the workers’ compensation insurance carrier, the injured worker has 2 years from the last date of payment to file a claim.
There are many nuances to these deadlines and hiring an experienced work injury attorney can help prevent the statute of limitations from running out and preventing you from filing a claim.
Finally, insurance companies have an army of attorneys working behind the scenes to ensure that as little is paid out on claims as possible. Even if the insurance company states that they are going to take care of you, understand they are still a for-profit company. Injured workers should have attorneys working for them to prevent their rights from being stripped away without them even knowing it, and to enforce the rights that exist to help protect them.
How to hire a qualified work injury lawyer near you
Once you come to the conclusion that a lawyer can help you in your workers’ compensation case, the question you should now ask is: How do I choose the best workers’ compensation lawyer near me?
No one expects to be injured on the job, and it is often difficult to determine what type of an attorney you need. Just clicking on the first paid ad you see online isn’t usually the best solution when searching for a lawyer. Just because someone has paid for an advertisement or has the phrase “Best Attorney” on their website doesn’t mean that they actually are. While there is no definitive solution to find a good attorney, following some basic advice can help you when you are searching to hire an skilled attorney.
Here are 7 tips you should follow when hiring an attorney:
Tip #1: Ask family, friends and other colleagues.
A good starting point in the hunt for a capable and trained workers’ compensation lawyer is to seek recommendations from family, friends and other colleagues. The odds are strong that someone you know and trust has had to hire an attorney following a workplace injury.
Create a list of prospective attorneys by asking around for recommendations from people in your life.
Equally significant, find out if a family member, friend or other colleague hired an Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer that wasn’t a good choice. In other words, you may also be able to narrow down your list by knowing which workers’ compensation lawyers should be avoided.
Tip #2: Choose an experienced workers’ comp lawyer.
One of the most important factors to consider when looking for the best work injury lawyers is the experience level of an attorney. When it comes to experience, focus on how long a lawyer has been in practice, but also whether or not the focus of the attorney is on workplace injury cases.
How many areas of law does the attorney specialize in?
Typically, on the website of an attorney or law firm they list all the areas of law they are practicing. Sometimes these include a very wide range of personal injury actions, such as motor vehicle accidents, wrongful death, trucking accidents, and workers’ compensation. The more the more areas of law they advertise for, the less they focus on one particular area.
It’s better to have an individual assisting you on your workers’ compensation case who is a master of one trade, and not a jack-of-all-trades.
Workers’ compensation is a very narrow and focused area of the law. It has nuances with regards to every aspect of an on-the-job injury. For example, there is not one set statute of limitations. You have 30 days to report an injury and 1 year from the date of accident to file a claim (unless the insurance carrier has paid for medical treatment, in which case the statute of limitations extends to 1 year from the last treatment). Or, if the insurance carrier has paid for indemnity benefits, you have 2 years from the last date of payment to file a claim.
This is just one of the many niche intricacies of the workers’ compensation statute. Having an individual who is aware of all of these different rules and regulations can help you maximize the amount of benefits that you are entitled to.
Lawyers who exclusively practice in the workers’ compensation field also have a number of advantages over those who do not. For example, they are familiar with the judges who may hear your case at court and already have established a good relationship with them. Additionally, they may know the adjuster or the attorney representing the insurance company and be familiar with their game plan and how they prosecute cases.
You will not get the same level of knowledge from a general legal practitioner (or even an attorney who only does civil litigation) as you would from an attorney who exclusively represents injured workers. Ask any prospective attorney what types of cases they handle. If their response includes more than just workers’ compensation, move on.
Tip #3: Create a list of finalists.
After you’ve done some initial research into prospective legal counsel, you will want to narrow the list to 3 or so that appear to be the best work injury lawyers available to you. Consider this list to be your group of “finalists.”
Make a choice that you are comfortable with. Don’t just hire an attorney because you see their billboard or television commercial. Hire someone who you feel comfortable talking to. During your case, you may have to share very personal information with your attorney. You must be able to trust them not only with this information, but also with doing what is right for you. This is not something to take lightly, and your attorney should treat you with respect.
Pay attention to the biographies of the attorneys at the firm you are considering. Ask questions like:
- How many years have they practiced?
- How much workers’ compensation have they done?
- Do they understand what the insurance companies try to do to injured workers?
In this instance, a slogan from an insurance company commercial is appropriate. The tagline for Farmers Insurance is: “We know a thing a two, because we have seen a thing or two.” The same can be said for your attorney. The more experience the firm has, the more they have seen and the better they should be able to adapt to different situations.
Experience also matters in dealing with courts and defense attorneys. The attorney should know how to push buttons and accomplish your goals within the system; therefore, institutional knowledge of the system is vital.
The next step is to schedule an appointment with each of these professionals.
Tip #4: Call and ask to speak to an attorney.
If you are unable to reach an attorney at the outset of your case, imagine the lack of communication you will have once you are a client. This is not to say that you’ll be able to reach an attorney immediately, but if you don’t receive a call back or communication promptly, then that’s the kind of service you can expect during the case. This doesn’t necesarily mean that they are bad attorneys, it just might mean they are too busy and cannot handle the additional caseload.
Your case is the most important thing to you, and you should expect an attorney to treat it the same way. Speaking with an intake coordinator or a member of the staff who cannot provide you with the vital legal advice is not normal or okay. Expect and demand the best from your attorney because you only get one bite at the apple when it comes to your worker’s compensation case. If you miss a statute or they fail to put you in the best position to win your case, you don’t get a “do over.”
Tip #5: Attend the free initial consultation.
Contact a law firm before you hire them and ask to speak with an attorney. Before you purchase a car, you take it on a test drive. Before you agree to have surgery, you want to speak to the doctor. Likewise, before you hire a law firm, you should actually speak to an attorney in that firm. If you only speak to assistants and secretaries prior to signing up with a law firm, imagine how little you will actually speak with the attorney once you’re a client!
A typical workers’ compensation lawyer will schedule what is known as an initial consultation. An initial consultation and case review is usually undertaken at no cost and no obligation to you, the injured worker. Treat this initial session as something akin to a job interview. In fact, the first consultation with a potential workers’ compensation attorney really is a job interview for them.
In advance of an initial consultation with a workers’ compensation lawyer, you will want to come up with a list of questions for the meeting. Ask questions about the projected value of your case and the amount of time the lawyer thinks it will take to pursue your claim.
Bear in mind that a lawyer isn’t necessarily in a position to give absolute responses to all of your questions. Rather, they can provide some general thoughts on these subjects based on the facts of your case. But they can definitely provide information that you need to make an informed decision about your legal representation.
Tip #6: Ask for references (and contact them).
During an initial consultation with a workers’ compensation attorney, ask for references from the lawyer. References can include former clients or professional colleagues. A combination of references from both categories is likely the best. Be sure to reach out to the references provided when you get home.
Tip #7: Use information available online.
Your phone or computer can be a helpful resource if you’re looking for skilled representation near you. Do some preliminary research about workers’ compensation claims and the relevant laws in your state.
Once you find an attorney who only handles workers’ compensation cases, look that attorney up on Google. Find their social media pages. Try to learn as much about the individual you are interested in hiring as you can. Typically, there will be biographies of the attorneys on the law firm’s website. Read up on them.
Also, read a number of the reviews that people have posted online. Make sure to read a number of the reviews that you can find online. Don’t just look for an individual that has hundreds, or even thousands of five star reviews. Take the time to actually read what former clients have written about the attorneys at the firm you were going to hire. If a former client takes the time to write a review, they must have felt strongly enough about their experience to document it. It’s easy just to give someone 5 stars. The more effort the former client has undertaken, the more connection the attorney and the firm must’ve made with their client. You can learn a lot about how much contact the attorneys have with their clients in these reviews.
Also see if the law firm or an attorney responded to the reviews. As you can imagine, there are some law firms that just try to “harvest“ reviews and don’t take the time to actually continue the connection with their former clients.
Lastly, it’s important to pay attention in the reviews to see who the former client actually wrote about. Do they focus solely on their interactions with the staff and paralegal, or did they indicate that attorneys spoke with them and worked with them as well. There are lots of clues you can find into how a law firm works by their reviews.
Read the law firm’s website, too. Check to see if they are posting articles or frequently asked questions. Review this information to see how it may apply to your case. You may also be able to see how much time and effort the attorney puts into these articles. Once again, attention to detail is very important when practicing law, and even more so in the workers’ compensation field.
The quantity and quality of information that a law firm places on their website can be indicative of what type of job they will do for you. Many of the questions that you might have could already be addressed on a law firm’s website. This may lead you to additional questions about your case or provide you with some guidance. The attorney’s website should also give you an indication of how the prospective attorney will treat your case.
Some law firms spend time going in-depth with questions, while others pay little attention to their online content. Studying what is written on the website can make it fairly obvious which firm does which.
Looking for the best Athens workers’ compensation attorney?
A workers’ compensation lawyer should inspire confidence in a client. Your legal counsel should be a solid communicator and consistently convey a sense of diligence and trustworthiness. For a trusted and experienced law firm in Athens, GA, contact Gerber & Holder Attorney At Law.
If you have any questions about hiring an attorney, or any other matters relating to workers’ compensation, don’t hesitate to ask our team.