10 Qs to Ask Your Workers Compensation Attorneys
No matter how conscientious you are in following safety rules and using precaution on the job, an accident can still befall you. Faulty machinery, another worker’s negligence, or even just acts of God can cause an accident and leave you injured.
Workers compensation is, essentially, a form of insurance into which employers must pay. It provides medical benefits and reimbursement for lost wages to a worker who has been hurt on the job, in exchange for that worker giving up his or her right to sue the employer for negligence.
Unfortunately, workers compensation cases can be complicated and lengthy, with legal loopholes that can prevent you from getting the money you deserve. That’s when you may find it helpful to consult with a workers compensation attorney. Here are some questions that will help you determine if a particular attorney will be a good match for your case.
10 Questions To Ask Your Workers Compensation Attorney
Do You Specialize in Workers Compensation?
While there are instances in which a general practice attorney may be able to get the job done, workers compensation is not usually one of those times. Think of it this way. If you were diagnosed with a rare type of cancer, would you ask your primary care physician to oversee your treatment, or would you turn to an oncologist?
A dedicated workers compensation attorney will stay up-to-date on developments in that particular area of law. They will be aware of precedents or legal decisions that could affect the outcome of a case — and that another lawyer might not know about.
What Is Your Experience?
While everyone has to start somewhere, your worker’s compensation attorney should have handled some workers comp cases on her own. A lawyer who is fresh out of law school or who has only assisted other attorneys shouldn’t be the primary person in charge of your case.
How About Your Track Record?
Make sure to ask about her rate of success with the cases she’s undertaken. If she doesn’t have a very good track record in getting resolution, you’ll want to find someone who’s more experienced.
Will I Work Directly With You, or With Paralegals?
Similarly, while you can expect to meet with your worker’s compensation attorney, you should also expect that paralegals, legal assistants, or even less-experienced partners will be involved as well. Your lawyer likely has a heavy case load, and will naturally delegate some responsibilities to junior staff members.
It’s good to know upfront, however, how much one-on-one time you can expect to receive from your attorney, and how often you’ll be working with others.
How Often Will I Get Updates About My Case?
It’s reasonable to expect that your attorney will contact you every time there’s a notable development in your case. And if you call or email the office with a question or concern, someone should get back to you in a timely fashion.
Understand, however, that you are not the only client for whom the worker’s compensation attorney is fighting. Be respectful of her time. If you feel you’ll need a lot of hand-holding through the process, ask about the frequency of updates so there are no surprises down the line.
What Are Your Fees? Do You Work On Contingency?
Workers compensation lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means that they don’t collect a fee until they have secured a settlement or award for you. At that point, the will take a percentage of what you’ve received.
This setup is good news for most victims of an on-the-job injury since they are likely already in desperate financial straits and may not have the means to pay a retainer to an attorney. Before you sign any agreements, however, it’s good to sit down with your attorney and discuss the percentage of any settlement that they will take.
Additionally, most attorneys will provide a no-cost, no-obligation initial consultation to discuss the possibility of working together.
What Is That Percentage?
In California, a judge will authorize a percentage — either 10%, 12% or 15% of your total award — as the worker’s compensation attorney’s fee.
What About Litigation Costs?
There will also be other costs involved in the litigation of your case. Attorneys generally charge for copying, mailing and filing paperwork. You may also require a medical specialist to examine you. Again, your worker’s compensation attorney likely will not expect for you to pay those out-of-pocket. It’s most common for these costs to be tallied up and deducted from your settlement (and sometimes even waived altogether if you lose your case).
Nevertheless, be sure to inquire about litigation costs during your consultation with the lawyer, so you understand how they will be handled.
Do You Think I Have A Case?
Very few attorneys will spend their time and talent litigating a case that they don’t feel they can win. Therefore, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll even need to ask this question. The attorney will be upfront with you about your chances.
The decision whether to pursue legal action lies with you. However, given that an attorney won’t collect fees unless and until you win, they have very little motivation to lead you on about the strength of your case.
What Else Do You Need From Me?
The worker’s compensation attorney will let you know what documentation you need to provide to get the ball rolling. Such items include, but may not be limited to:
- your medical records
- contact information for all your medical providers, as well as for your employer and its insurance agents
- any correspondence from your employer or its insurer
- a list of witnesses to the accident or injury for which you are seeking compensation
- information regarding your history of employment at this company
- a full accounting of the situation surrounding your injury or accident
Don’t Go It Alone
Workers compensation law is notoriously difficult to navigate, which is why you want someone with experience on your side as you strive to receive what you deserve.
Don’t be shy about asking questions during your initial consultation, even if you feel they are silly or stupid ones. It’s important for you to be as informed as possible.
A qualified, compassionate workers compensation attorney will answer all of your questions honestly and openly, so you can feel secure entering into a partnership with them.