Workers’ Compensation Lawyers
Workers’ Compensation Lawyers – Do We Really Need Them?
If you have received a work-related injury that has left you permanently impaired or requires extensive medical care, calling the worker’s compensation lawyers should be your priority. In the US legal system, work-related injuries are dealt with by a system completely dedicated to the workplace environment. That system is run by the workers’ compensation lawyers who provide legal aid to the employees trying to seek compensation benefits from their organization. Personal injury lawyers, civil rights attorneys, and workers’ compensation lawyers work in three different branches of law regardless of the apparent similarities in the legal cases.
Purpose of the Workers’ Compensation Law
Workers’ compensation law is a system that is based on providing awards or financial benefits to the employees who have faced job-related injuries. The workers’ compensation laws are different at the federal and state level, but serve the same purpose, which is to grant reimbursement to the workers or their families in case of an incident. This law states that an employer must allow the repayment for work-related injuries to his/her workers as their legal rights. Refusal to pay the compensation fund or give the worker his earned paybacks is considered a criminal offense. The details of the compensation benefits on different work-related injuries can be obtained by consulting the workers’ compensation lawyers. Workers’ compensation lawyers have all the information of how the compensation regulations of their state work, similarly, the federal compensation laws differ from the state laws.
The main purpose of the workers’ compensation law is to make the employers responsible for the safety and health of the people they hire. Working in an organization that guarantees no insurance for your health or physical state sounds scary. This is why the US constitution has put together such laws where the employer is liable to provide aid for the injuries faced by the employees during their job. Employees can put legal claims about their injuries in front of the employer, and if they are denied, seeking help from the workers’ compensation lawyers must be their next step. Federal workers are supported by compensation laws based on the Federal Employees Compensation Act which was passed in 1916. This act was passed by the US legal system to provide aid to the survivors of work-related injuries and to help them get back to work after their medical treatment.
Workers’ Compensation Law Vs Personal Injury Law
Since both of these branches of law deal with injuries, people often confuse personal injury lawyers with workers’ compensation lawyers. But in reality, these are not the same branches of law, there are several distinctions between the two based on the causes of injury and benefits available. The most prominent difference between a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury case about who is to blame. In personal injury cases, the individual that we file against is responsible for the injury directly or indirectly, such as a hit, car accident or a fight, etc. Whereas, in the workers’ compensation case, the employer you are suing has nothing to do with your injury, meaning he/she has not caused it. The only condition required for a compensation claim is to be present in the workplace when the injury occurred, even if it was due to your negligence.
Who are Workers’ Compensation Lawyers?
Workers’ compensation lawyers are legal experts who focus on the injuries to employees within the workplace boundaries and their handling by the employers. Workers’ compensation lawyers are responsible for helping employees with getting their rightful reimbursement of the financial losses and the medical bills. They deal with all kinds of compensation rights on the behalf of the employee if he/she chooses to claim the benefits. Not every work-related injury requires the worker to hire an attorney, in many cases, the employer grants the compensation benefits without the claim being made from the workers’ side.
Duties and Services
Following are some of the common services that the workers’ compensation lawyers offer:
- Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Guide you in Filing for Comp Claim
If you find yourself in a position where you have experienced a serious injury in the workplace that requires immense medical treatments and financial support, then you should be aware of your compensation benefits. Making a compensation appeal needs an essential understanding of how these things work, and many people are not that knowledgeable. That’s why the best practice in a situation like this to contact a compensation lawyer, who can help you out in making a rightful claim. The workers’ compensation lawyers give advice on what to do next about the claim and hiring them increases your knowledge of the compensation laws in general. Once you hire a compensation attorney, he/she makes sure that you get the comp benefits that you rightfully deserve from your organization.
- Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Represent You in the Court
Getting an attorney soon after you get the injury can benefit you greatly because the comp lawyers assist you in not only filing the claim but also in all the court hearings and the final trial of your case. They make sure that you add all the relevant information about your injury and the benefits you deserve when submitting the claim. The step after this includes the mediation hearing where you will be supported by your compensation lawyer, in order to resolve the issue without moving to court. If the mediation is not successful, then the court proceedings start, and your lawyer represents you in front of the jury. He/she gathers all the information to support your case and finds the maximum pieces of evidence to help you win the case against your employer’s insurance company.
- Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Assist You in Comp Denials
Workers who have received any form of work-related injuries are supposed to get the compensation benefits from the insurance company of their employer. But the compensation claims are often denied due to many reasons, and it becomes a source of stress for the struggling workers. In such conditions, getting in touch with experienced workers’ compensation lawyers can be highly beneficial, as they provide legal assistance for your rights. Workers’ compensation lawyers can positively improve your chances of winning the petition against the employer’s insurance company. Hiring a compensation attorney as soon as your claim is denied aids you in understanding the nature of your claim better and paints a clear image of your situation for you.
- Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Help You in the Cases Of Retaliation
Facing a job-related injury can be frustrating and financially draining but it gets worse when the worker has to deal with the retaliation from the organization’s end. When reporting on work-related injuries, many employees have to deal with the negative attitudes of their employers who claim that injuries occurred due to the negligence of the employee in the workplace. Getting out of such situations where you experience retaliation, harassment, or insults from your employer due to your injuries requires a good workers’ compensation attorney. Workers’ compensation lawyers are trained to emphatic and have enough legal familiarity to get you out of such a miserable position. They help you with everything related to your comp claim and provide the necessary legal support.
- Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Make You Aware of Your Legal Rights
Many employees are not even aware that they have a right to claim the financial and other kinds of benefits from their company if they get injured. In some instances, the employee’s organization sets trends where the compensation benefits are neglected and the employees don’t even know about their rights. Pursuing a right compensation lawyer can not only make you aware of your legal rights but also help you sue your employer for denying your rights. Some insurance companies do not provide any compensation benefits for the injuries as long as the worker can work, while some of them deny them altogether. A lawyer can help you understand where your rights are being denied and guide you in making the appropriate step.
Certification and Skills Needed for Becoming Workers’ Compensation Lawyers
Workers’ compensation lawyers in the US have to spend four years in law school for their J.D degree. After graduating from law school, they need to pass the bar exam of their respective state, which permits them to get a license. There are other certifications that increase the credibility of the compensation lawyers and get them into the best law firms. Those certifications can be earned by the lawyers passing different exams and having years of experience in the field.
Apart from the official qualification, the workers’ compensation lawyers need some essential skills to perform well in their job. They must have proficient communication and advance writing abilities to document related to the case. Vast litigation knowledge and a strong grasp of the research help them in gathering relevant information for the cases. Time management, independence, negotiation, and the ability to use modern technology are some other skills that a good compensation lawyer must have to be successful in the field.
The Need for the Workers’ Compensation Lawyers
As much as the workers’ compensation lawyers are helpful for the employees, not every work-related injury requires you to hire one. Some situations are either so simple that you can resolve them on your own or they do not require a claim to get the benefits. Here we have differentiated between the scenarios where you do and do not need a compensation attorney.
Situations Where You Need Them
- The Injury has Diminished Your Capability to Work
In case your work-related injury is so severe that your ability to work has been exponentially reduced, then you need the most of your compensation benefits. In such a condition hiring a compensation attorney is the right decision. The workers’ compensation lawyers assist you in getting the benefits that can secure your future.
- You Are Struggling to Get the Medical Treatment
If you have faced an injury that requires complex and expensive medical procedures such as surgery, and your employer has not provided any compensation, then you should get a lawyer. Employees should get a lawyer if their insurance company delays the medical assistance they need.
- Your Compensation Benefits Claim Is Rejected
It is not uncommon for insurance companies to deny the compensation claims of the employees after their injuries. There can be multiple reasons for the denial of your claim and if you think that your claim was denied unlawfully, then you should pursue a compensation lawyer. They can assist you in making a denial appeal and support you in getting your rights.
- Your Injury has Made Your Preexisting Condition Worse
Many insurance companies are bound to reject your claim of compensation benefits if your injury is parallel with your prior medical conditions. In some instances, the injury makes the preexisting medical condition of an employee worse and they need special treatment for that. You should get a lawyer even before claiming your benefits in such a condition because the insurance company is likely to bring concern about your previous condition and deny you any benefits.
- Your Claim has Turned into A Dispute
Sometimes the employers refuse to acknowledge any benefits of the work-related injury for their workers. In those conditions, any claim is turned down and disputes often arise between the employer and employee. Some employees may even face harassment from the organization for claiming their rights. To avoid these stressful events, it is wise to hire a compensation lawyer and let them deal with the employer for your benefits.
Situation Where You Don’t Need Them
- Your Injuries Are Minute
Getting a compensation lawyer when your injuries are really minor is unnecessary because the insurance companies are most likely to grant benefits for such injuries. For example, if you hit your head with a table corner and had a concussion, or if you had a sprained hand. Injuries that do not result in permanent impairment or involve long-term medical treatment are not worth paying hundreds of dollars for a compensation lawyer.
- You Don’t Need a Long Time Off Work Due to the Injuries
Work-related injuries that are healed within a week don’t need a long time off work and the insurance companies are less likely to deny benefits for such injuries. For such situations, there is no need for you to contact a compensation lawyer. The claim for such injuries is so simple that you can handle it yourself.
- Your Injuries Are Evidently Job-Related
Your hand getting caught in machinery, neck strains due to excessive computer use, slipping off a ladder, vehicle accidents in road jobs, and inhaling toxic materials in factories are some of the most common work-related injuries. Such injuries are most often compensated by the employer because they occurred entirely during work, therefore, appointing a lawyer is not necessary.
How Much the Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Charge?
Lawyers from distinct branches of law adopt diverse ways of charging a fee, some charge by hours whereas others like to receive a fixed amount for the consultation. Workers’ compensation lawyers charge according to the contingency fee instead of an hourly or fixed cost. The contingency fee is a certain percentage of the winning awards of the clients, that the lawyer gets. There are variations in the percentage of the contingency fee in all states, but it generally revolves between 15% to 40%. Some lawyers also charge hourly fees but that is rare and the hourly fee depends on the experience and reputation of the lawyer. There are other fees that you have to pay for your compensation case which includes, case filing fees, the travel cost of the attorney, the cost of the physician for the medical examinations, and the fee for acquiring medical records. The average base salary of a worker’s compensation attorney is as low as $50,000 and as high as $95,000 per year.
Types of Benefits Offered by The Workers’ Compensation Law
Workers’ compensation law in the US offers multiple forms of benefits for employees who have faced work-related injuries. With the aim to compensate employees for the losses they have faced due to the injuries, the insurance companies offer a wide range of benefits. Here is everything you need to know about the type of paybacks you will get for your job-related injury.
When a person gets injured at the workplace the foremost benefit, he/she gets by the workers’ compensation law is medical coverage. The insurance company of the employer covers all the costs that have occurred following the injury. The regulation about the decision of the employee to choose the doctor or the hospital for the medical treatment is different in all states. Some states allow the employee to go to any physician they wish, while in other states the insurance company appoints the hospital for the checkups and long-term treatment. The employer’s insurance company has to cover the medical expenses for as long as the worker fully recovers from the injuries suffered during work.
The medical costs secured by the workers’ compensation law for the injured employees consist of:
- Medical tests to diagnose the injury in detail.
- Regular visits to the doctor for follow-ups on the injury.
- The medications prescribed by the physicians.
- Complex surgical procedures such as joint replacement, angioplasty, and broken bone mending.
- Long hospital stays.
- Travel costs for the doctor’s visits.
- Medical apparatus for physical rehabilitation such as crutches.
Wage and Career Benefits
If an employee becomes incapable to perform the same job after the injury, the insurance companies have a responsibility to provide career support to that employee. To help the injured workers with getting employed again, the insurance companies arrange vocational training for them. For the workers who can return to their old job after some time, the workers’ compensation law requires the employer to pay wages for the missing work. More than 60% of the weekly incomes are to be paid to the employees who are absent from work due to their injury. The purpose of the wage and career benefits is to support the employee when he/she is unable to make money due to the injuries caused during work.
When a worker receives serious injuries during work, he gets the compensation benefits but those benefits are not limited to the injury only. The workers’ compensation laws ensure that if a worker dies from an injury or illness during work, the insurance policies include the death benefits for the family of the worker. The employer’s insurance company is obliged to cover all the costs for the funeral of the deceased employee, along with the hospital clearance expenses. Every state has its own modifications in the workers’ compensation policies but in general, the burial and funeral arrangements are always made by the employer’s insurance company. As caring as these policies sound, the only workers eligible for the death benefits are those who have died from a work-related illness or injury. Dying naturally in the workplace is not the same as dying from a work-related injury.
In most of the states, the families of the deceased workers get a monthly stipend as a compensation benefit along with the funeral costs. The amount and the eligibility of the family members to receive the funds are determined by the state compensation laws. The spouse and the children of the departed employee are prioritized first to get the survivor benefits from the insurance company. In some states, the minor children of the deceased worker get separate financial support for their education until they come to legal age. There are certain limitations in the death benefits for the family, such as the partner have to be lawfully married before the death of the worker to receive the lump-sum expense.
Workers who have been disabled, either temporarily or permanently due to work-related injuries are eligible to get the disability benefits. The level of disability cost coverage by the insurance companies is determined by the state of the employee and the complexity of the impairment. The workers’ compensation laws divide the disability benefits into two different categories, which are:
- Permanent Total Disability: If the condition of an injured worker after the maximum recovery is labeled as permanently disabled by the medical experts, that worker will get permanent and total benefits for disability.
- Permanent Partial Disability: If a specific part of the injured employee’s body is permanently impaired, that person gets the permanent partial disability benefits according to the state compensation law.
- Temporary Partial Disability: When the injured worker after recovery is able to perform his/her job but at a much slower rate, it is said to be a temporary partial disability.
- Temporary Total Disability: An employee who is unable to do his/her job after the injury for a certain period, gets the temporary total disability benefits.
Conditions Where a Worker can Sue the Employer
If the injury that has occurred to the employee has been caused by something out of the way of the regular work routine, then the workers’ compensation claim is not the right way of dealing. There are many situations where the worker has a right to sue the employer for his/her injuries. Such as:
Injury from Assault
If the injury or the death of a worker is caused by the intentional use of force or by a plan to harm the employee then the workers’ compensation is not applied and the employer can be lawfully sued. The deliberate use of tools or hands to injure the employee, or asking another person to harm a specific worker is considered a seamless situation for filing a case against the employer.
Injury from the Use of a Defective Product
This type of injury occurs when an employee is not just an employee but a customer too. For example, if a company is making and selling defective and harmful products to the public and the employee happens to be a consumer of that product too and ends up being injured by that product. In these situations, the employer has double responsibility for the injury, one as an employer and the second as a third party who is selling the product. Workers have the right to sue their employers for such an injury but they cannot claim compensation for that.
Injury from Unsafe Machinery
When employers buy a machine for the manufacture of different products, they have to comply with the OSHA standards for the safety and installation of heavy machinery. Failing to understand the importance of proper guidelines for installation, removal, and safety guard of the machines can result in serious injuries to the employers. The workers experiencing such injuries can sue their employer as well as get compensation benefits.
Injury from the Concealment of Information
When the employee faces an injury that occurred due to the concealment of information by the company, the worker has a right to sue the employer. For example, if the employer hides information regarding the use of hazardous chemicals in the workplace to the employee and they face severe health issues. Such an act is considered fraud because the employer has an obligation to tell the employees about the harmful impacts of the products being used so that they can take necessary precautions.
Signs That Your Worker’s Compensation Lawyer is Not Good
Getting the right workers’ compensation lawyers becomes easier if you know which aspects to avoid when looking for a lawyer. We are here to guide you on how to identify a bad lawyer so that you get the best legal support. Always avoid workers’ compensation lawyers that:
Lack the Communication Skills
The most significant and observable aspect of good workers’ compensation lawyers is the communication style. If a lawyer is hesitant to answer all our questions in the first meetings and he/she is not efficient in responding to your inquiries about the legal procedures, consider looking for a new one. Workers’ compensation lawyers that do not return your calls or those that ignore your calls for no reason are considered unprofessional attorneys. A good attorney should always be available for discussion related to your case, no matter how many times you contact them.
Charge Hidden Fees
You should never finalize a compensation lawyer unless you have thoroughly discussed the fees and the additional charges for their services. Workers’ compensation lawyers that charge extremely high rates than the average fees is a bad sign, you should move on to another lawyer. Some lawyers are dishonest about the fees they charge and later on ask for hidden fees you didn’t know about, which is another sign that the lawyer you hired is not good enough. A professional attorney would clearly state the fee structures, additional charges, and billing schedules before starting the work on your case so that you make an informed decision in hiring them.
Have Hefty Caseload
When you hire workers’ compensation lawyers, you don’t want them to be busy with other cases all the time. A lawyer with a heavy workload will not be able to attend your phone calls, answer any of your queries and attend regular meetings with you to discuss the case progress. Although the more reputable a lawyer is, the more cases he/she will have but it is not favorable to you, hence it should be avoided. Pick a lawyer who has enough time to work on your case keenly and who can manage the time perfectly.
Are Rude and Disrespectful
If your attorney has rude, arrogant, and disrespectful behavior towards you, the jury, other clients, or their colleagues, that is a red flag which you should not overlook. Workers’ compensation lawyers should behave professionally and humbly during the mediation sessions for your claim. Your lawyer not showing any respect for the people he/she works with is an indication that you need to find a new lawyer as soon as possible. Getting a feeling that your lawyer is not empathetic to your legal needs and doesn’t make any negotiation with the insurance company is also an alarming sign in a compensation lawyer.