Knowing when to hire a workers’ compensation attorney can help ensure you are awarded the compensation you deserve if you have been injured on the job. Once you report your injury, and you should do it as soon as possible, how your employer or company, or their insurance provider, responds to your claim should indicate whether or not to hire a workers’ compensation attorney.
You should not feel bad or made to feel bad about filing a workers’ compensation claim. When people are hurt on the job, they have a legal right to file a claim. That’s what the coverage is for. With very few exceptions, all businesses in Maine must have workers’ compensation insurance for their employees—even if there is only one—to provide compensation in the event of a work-related injury.
Obviously, in such instances where the injuries you suffered are relatively minor, such as receiving stitches, and there are no long-term effects, that the injury caused you to miss little to no time off. Your company is fully cooperating with you; you would probably want to handle the claim on your own and move on. However, if this is not the case and your claim is going nowhere, you should know when to visit a workers’ compensation attorney.
When to Hire a Workers’ Compensation Attorney
- You should hire an attorney to handle your claim if it is denied by your employer or if the insurance company is slow to act on your claim. Insurers and employers will often deny or challenge workers’ compensation claims. Many claims are challenged simply because they know that most workers, for various reasons, will not challenge or appeal the decision.
- In some instances, employers will retaliate against an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Tactics include reducing hours or demoting them to lower their pay, ostracizing them from other workers, and laying them off, i.e., firing them. If you suddenly find yourself in such a position after filing a claim, you should immediately hire an attorney to protect your legal rights.
- Low settlement offers are another reason to hire a workers’ compensation attorney. It is certainly not uncommon to receive an offer short of covering your medical bills and lost wages, especially if your injury affects you permanently. The criteria for benefits are based on a rating system. Your rating is determined by your examining physician which is then presented to a workers’ compensation judge for evaluation. However, the insurance company will likely require an independent medical exam (IME) by a doctor of their choosing. One that is not there to treat you as a patient but is there on behalf of the insurance company or whoever they are hired by. That doctor will likely recommend a lower rating for the workers’ compensation judge to evaluate. To convince the judge otherwise, you will need an attorney experienced in workers’ compensation law to ensure you receive the compensation you need to pay your bills and lost income.
- If the injuries you have suffered have left you permanently disabled, even partially, to the extent that you cannot return to your job, or that you are limited in the work that you can do, or cannot perform any work at all, you should hire a knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney to make sure that your settlement meets all your financial needs. Insurance companies know that the cost of permanent disabilities is high and will, in all likelihood, never pay you what you deserve to lead a full life again.
- If your injuries are permanent or to the extent that you cannot return to work for at least 12 months, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits, referred to as SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) as well. You should hire an experienced attorney to ensure that your settlement is structured properly and not significantly lowered by Social Security disability payments.
- If you file for workers’ compensation after an injury, you cannot also sue your employer. However, if you are hurt on the job by a third party, you can file a personal injury lawsuit against the third party if they are responsible for your injuries. For example, if you are driving a delivery truck that is rear-ended by another vehicle and are injured, you can file for workers’ compensation and file a personal injury claim against the driver. You can also file a claim against your employer if he or she does not have workers’ compensation or if negligent actions by your employer were the direct cause of your injuries. In any of these scenarios, it would be best to seek clarification from an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer to help explain how third-party claims work.
How to Find a Good Workers’ Compensation Attorney
As the area of workers’ compensation law is complex, you should visit a law firm or hire an attorney with expertise in workers’ compensation. You should avoid law firms that do not specifically handle workers’ compensation lawsuits or have had limited experience representing clients with workers’ compensation claims. Having an attorney with expertise in workers’ compensation law is not only essential– but to your benefit. The practice should emphasize workers’ compensation among other areas of law. Look to the law firm’s website for blog posts or articles on or about workers’ compensation law or representing said clients or if the firm holds memberships in professional organizations like the Workers’ Compensation Trial Lawyers Association. Read testimonials and client reviews and, of course, visit the law firm to discuss your needs.
Hardy Wolf & Downing specializes in construction or workplace injuries, workers’ compensation law, personal injuries, auto accidents, and premises liability. If you have been injured on the job without resolution and the medical bills are adding up, contact us today for a free consultation.