15 questions to ask a workers comp lawyer to evaluate fit and expertise
If you were hurt in a workplace injury, and you're thinking about hiring a workers' compensation attorney to help you seek rightful compensation, then you probably have some questions about the process.
Your decision about who will represent your workplace injury claim is one of the most important decisions of the entire claims filing process. If you take your worker's comp claim seriously, then it's in your best interest to partner with an attorney who is just as dedicated to seeking justice as you are.
Suppose you're just at the beginning stage of the claims-filing process. In that case, it's more than likely that you have many pressing questions about the kinds of benefits you stand to receive, how to handle the insurance company and claims administrator, and your employer. And if you were seriously injured, you'll have many more questions about your future employment opportunities and road to recovery.
No matter the kinds of questions you have, seeking the help of an experienced workers' compensation attorney is the first step to getting the answers you need. A worker's compensation lawyer's job is to look out for your best interests and help you make the right decisions along the way.
To make sure you partner with the right attorney for your situation, I've put together a list of some of the best questions you should ask before hiring someone to represent your case.
15 Questions to Ask a Workers' Comp Lawyer Before Hiring Them
Like therapy or a good mechanic, it's normal to shop around for an attorney. Most attorneys offer a free consultation and case evaluation so you can sit down and find out as much as you can about his or her legal practice and expertise.
By asking the following questions, you will have a good understanding of whether or not your lawyer has the relevant experience and expertise to represent you and your case.
1. What is Your Success Rate Settling Workers' Compensation Cases?
You don't need to spend an eternity grilling a potential attorney about their past successes and failures. But you want to get a real sense of their success rate over their career so far.
A savvy attorney will already anticipate this question. So when you ask, it is a good sign if they share a ballpark percentage for their success rate.
While there is no right or wrong answer, there's little doubt that a higher success rate is a better indicator of performance and capability than a lower success rate.
If you notice the attorney acting evasive, or you think they may be embellishing their accomplishments, these are red flags to keep in mind as you continue on and ask the rest of your questions.
2. What Amount of Benefits Do I Qualify For?
Particularly during your free case evaluation and review, one of the most important questions is about the benefits and compensation you stand to receive.
Suppose you were injured in the workplace. In that case, you are at minimum entitled to compensation to cover any medical treatments or rehabilitation that are required for you to recover, get well and return to work. You may also be eligible for either temporary or permanent disability benefits to cover lost wages or compromised earning potential if you missed a considerable amount of work because of your injury.
If you have a valid worker's comp claim, then the attorney will be able to give you a good idea of the possible outcomes for your case in terms of what kinds of benefits you may expect to receive.
3. Does It Matter If the Accident Was My Fault?
Unlike personal injury claims, such as a car accident, fault is seldom an essential factor in workers comp claims in the state of Louisiana — it doesn't matter whose fault the accident was.
If an employee gets injured in the workplace, they're entitled to workers' compensation benefits, even if they were at fault for the accident.
This is a sensitive topic because any time an accident occurs, victims naturally wonder whether they could be liable in some way. A knowledgeable workers' compensation lawyer will be able to give you more details and clarity about the role of fault in your worker's comp case.
4. What Does It Cost to Hire a Workers' Comp Attorney?
The topic of the price will inevitably come up during your conversations sooner or later.
The good news is, the vast majority of workers comp attorneys will represent you on a contingency fee basis. This means that it will cost you nothing upfront to hire a worker's comp lawyer to handle your injury claim.
Instead, the lawyer will receive a percentage of the financial compensation you are awarded from a negotiated settlement or for a winning verdict in a court trial.
5. How Long Do I Have to File My Workers' Comp Claim?
In every state, there is a statute of limitations. This regulation is the window of time following the date your accident took place. In the state of Louisiana, the statute of limitations is one to three years, and you have 30 days to give notice of your injury to your employer.
In some states, it may be two years, and some even longer than that.
Depending on your state of residence, an attorney will be able to provide further guidance and recommendations for how to file your worker's comp claim within the appropriate timeline.
6. Will I Work Directly With You Throughout The Case?
Once you get some answers about pricing, the benefits you might qualify for, and how long you can expect the process to take, you'll want to ask your lawyer, who will be your main point of contact throughout the process.
Depending on the firm's size and the number of key personnel working there, you may not always be paired directly with the managing attorney.
Even if the attorney is doing the bulk of the work towards your case, there's a chance you may be working directly with a subordinate, such as a paralegal or an associate.
You want to clarify your main point of contact before you get started working together in a professional capacity. Settling workers comp cases can take weeks, months, potentially longer, and you owe it to yourself to ask who will be guiding you through the process most directly. That way, when you have questions or concerns, you'll know what to expect and who to turn to with your questions and concerns.
7. Do You Have Experience Taking Cases to Court?
In most cases, workers' comp claims will be resolved out of court with a settlement. But if the settlement value offer is not reasonable in your estimation, then filing a lawsuit may be the next logical step towards seeking rightful compensation.
If there is even a chance of trying your case in a court of law, then you want to be sure that your lawyer has ample experience trying cases in court. They by no means have to be a dedicated trial attorney, but they should have adequate experience and confidence trying taking court cases.
8. Have You Represented Clients with Similar Injuries as Mine?
In addition to asking for clarity about your lawyer's experience as a worker's compensation specialist, it's helpful to ask if they have experience representing clients with similar injuries to yours.
If it turns out they have, then it stands to reason that they're capable and qualified to represent yours as well. In other words, you want to make sure this isn't your lawyer's first rodeo. If they have represented clients like you, your experience will likely be more productive.
9. How Long Until I See The Money?
The single most important question on your mind is sure to be about financial compensation and how long it will take to get your money.
Unfortunately, there is no way to say with certainty how long the process will take from start to finish. An experienced attorney should give you a rough timeline based on the details of your case.
As you provide more detailed documentation about the nature of your worker's comp case, the attorney will be able to anticipate the next steps, including an estimate of the time to see it through.
The more complex the case and the more details that need to be scrutinized and considered, the longer it may take to receive financial benefits and compensation. It also depends on whether your claim is approved or denied. A workers' comp attorney will have answers to all of these questions.
10. Can I Sue My Employer? How About a Third Party?
If you are entitled to workers' compensation, you are most likely prohibited from suing your employer, except for certain limited circumstances.
When you file a worker's comp claim, you are initiating a formal process that is already in place with your employer for situations involving workplace accidents and injury.
Suppose there were any complications involving a third party not affiliated with your employer. In that case, an attorney should provide guidance for filing a lawsuit if need be.
11. What Should I Tell My Doctor?
Injured workers must seek medical attention to determine the severity and extent of injuries resulting from the accident. If you ask a potential attorney partner what details to communicate to your doctor during your initial consultation, there is only one right answer: the truth.
An attorney may try to persuade you to alter your case's details in an attempt to bend the truth in your favor. Doing so not only goes against workers' compensation law, attempting to change the information that makes it onto your medical records regarding your medical bills or medical expenses or the degree of your impairment can compromise the validity of your claim.
You should be forthcoming and honest with all medical providers who treat you about what happened down to the very last detail. That being said, when you are talking with your doctor, speak only to the facts. Avoid small talk. And do not allow them to misconstrue or misunderstand the details of your accident and injury.
Ultimately, the results of your medical evaluation will be used in your formal medical record. This record may be used as evidence to help or hurt your case.
12. What Issues or Difficulties Do You See With My Case?
There are bound to be unexpected issues and difficulties that arrive in any case. An experienced lawyer may be able to point out any problems regarding your case's details in advance.
As you explain the narrative of your workplace accident and injury, the attorney should be able to anticipate any problem areas or details that might make your claim an uphill battle. This isn't always the case, but when speaking with an attorney, you want to make sure that they are honest about how your case might unfold.
If your attorney tells you that your case will be smooth sailing and no problems whatsoever, that should be a red flag. Nothing in law is ever easy or straightforward. The legal system in America is very complex, and no two cases are ever truly alike.
An attorney who has had a long career of successes and has plenty of experience managing cases like yours will be able to reflect on past challenges and difficulties and be honest if he sees any such possible challenges with your case.
13. Do You Have Any References?
If you've asked your prospective attorney about his past successes and success rate but are still not yet convinced, ask to see some recent testimonials or references from past clients.
Just as you'd want to see proof of past results, you might also want to see previous clients' experiences working with this law firm and attorney. Many law firms make available client testimonials publicly on their firm's website. If they don't, it can't hurt to ask for these references,
When seeking legal representation for your worker's comp claim, you want to select a professional who people enjoy working with. Navigating the legal system is frequently stressful, so choosing a partner with an empathetic and considerate bedside manner can make all the difference.
When asking about references and testimonials, you should also make a point of asking to speak to a past client to learn more about their experience.
14. When Should I Go Back to Work?
Suppose your workplace injury has caused you to miss several days of work, maybe more, or you are on temporary disability benefits and do not know when you will be well enough to return to your previous position. In that case, it is natural to wonder when you can expect to go back to work.
There are many considerations to think about when discussing your return to work. If your injury has resulted in partial disability and your employer attempts to change your position's parameters or try to work in a different role within the company. Or possibly even ask you to work outside your doctor-ordered restrictions.
A workers compensation attorney may intervene and help you make the right decision that aligns with your ideal path to recovery and your future work employment opportunities. An attorney will help you work through conflicting restrictions or unreasonable requests from your employer should they come up.
Your lawyer should always have your best interests in mind and help you re-enter the workforce when you're ready and able.
15 How Will I Know When to Settle My Workers' Compensation Claim?
There is no right or wrong time to settle. However, your attorney should have the previous relevant knowledge and experience necessary to help estimate a reasonable settlement amount and provide guidance if there is an opportunity to push for a better offer.
Additionally, your attorney will be able to help you decide which type of settlement is the best option for you, whether that is a lump sum settlement, a structured settlement, or a compromise and release payment.
Get Legal Advice From A Monroe Workers' Comp Attorney Today
If you're looking to partner with a potential worker's comp lawyer, do yourself a favor and ask them some of the questions you just read about in this article. If you were injured in a workplace injury, ask if they specialize in your particular injury type. Ask if they operate on a contingency basis or some other fee structure. Ask your attorney about the timeline, benefits, and amount of compensation you stand to receive after filing your worker's comp claim.
John Bruscato is an experienced workers comp attorney with nearly ten years of experience serving injured workers in Monroe, Louisiana, and surrounding areas. Contact Bruscato Law Firm and schedule a free consultation today to ask all of your most pressing questions about your worker's comp claim and how we can help you recover and get back to work.