In 2018, there were nearly 3 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported in the US and nearly 5,300 fatal injuries. Of the nonfatal injuries, over 900,000 resulted in days away from work and the most common injuries were sprains, strains, tears, injuries to the back, falls, slips, and trips.
If you’ve experienced a workplace injury, you may be wondering if you are eligible for workers’ comp and what benefits you are entitled to. A workers’ comp attorney can help you navigate the system.
Chances are, you aren’t an expert in workplace injuries, so you’ll want to be sure to ask your attorney these workers’ comp related questions.
1. Do I Really Need a Lawyer?
One of the first things you’ll want to ask a workers’ comp lawyer is whether you really need to hire a lawyer. In some situations, you may not need one. If your injury was minor and you only missed a day or two of work, you probably don’t need to hire an attorney.
However, if your claim is denied or your injury is serious and resulted in long-term medical treatment or permanent impairment, you should strongly consider hiring a workers’ comp attorney.
Insurance companies are concerned with their bottom line and want to settle with you for as little as possible even if you are entitled to much more based on your injuries. An experienced workers’ comp attorney will guide you on what you may be entitled to.
2. What Is Your Success Rate?
Ask any potential attorney what their success rate is. How often are denied claims overturned? How often do they negotiate acceptable settlements for their clients? Ideally, you want to hire a lawyer with the highest success rate.
Will that attorney handle the case personally, or will a junior associate or someone else from the firm be handling it? You want to make sure that your preferred lawyer is the one who will actually be handling your case.
3. How Often Do You Take Cases to a Hearing?
If you can’t agree on a settlement amount with your employer’s insurance company, you may want to take the case to a hearing in front of a judge. In this case, you’ll want to make sure you have an attorney that has experience handling expedited hearings, and full hearings in front of a workers’ compensation judge.
When speaking with your attorney, make sure they have taken cases to trial before and ask how many they’ve resolved through a hearing or trial. Months or years into your case is not the time to find out your attorney has no experience with hearings or trials. Then you’ll have to start over with a new attorney.
4. Does It Matter If It Was My Fault?
Generally, even if the workplace accident was your fault, you are still entitled to benefits. Unless you get into a physical altercation or injure yourself due to being intoxicated at work, for example, fault is typically not considered in these cases.
5. What Is Your Fee?
Most workers’ comp attorneys work on a contingency basis, which means they get paid only when you do. If they negotiate a settlement for you or win at a hearing or trial, that is when they get paid.
In Tennessee, attorneys are capped at 20% of whatever settlement they obtain in your workers’ compensation case, plus their expenses.
6. Can I File a Lawsuit?
Typically, workers’ comp is your only option to get compensation for work-related injuries. If you accept workers’ comp coverage, you are giving up your right to sue in most cases.
7. What Kind of Benefits Can I Get?
If your workers’ comp claim is successful, your medical bills related to your injury should be covered. If you miss more than three days of work, you should also receive temporary disability benefits.
If your injuries are permanent and prevent you from working, you may also be able to receive long-term disability benefits. Other benefits you might be able to get include vouchers for retraining or death benefits if a family member has died in a work-related accident.
8. What If My Employer Offers Other Work?
Some employers offer “light duty” to employees if their doctor will approve it. Police officers, for example, can go on light duty (often called desk duty). However, if your employer doesn’t offer light duty or it’s not possible, what do you do then?
You must ensure that any different work your employer offers doesn’t make your injury any worse. You also need to ensure that they don’t ignore your doctor’s orders and demand that you return to work.
This is where an attorney will come in. They can advise you on how to proceed to make sure your rights are protected.
9. Should I Speak to the Claims Administrator?
Often, a claims administrator from your employer’s insurance company will want to speak to you to verify the details surrounding the injury. You will need to speak to them, but it is wise to seek legal counsel prior to doing so. You don’t want to say something that could jeopardize your claim.
An attorney can advise you on what to say and what not to say in order to protect yourself. They might also advise you to avoid speaking to the claims administrator and to let the attorney communicate with them instead.
Workers’ Comp Questions for Your Attorney
Be sure to get all of your workers’ comp questions answered by your attorney or by any potential attorney before you hire them. If your situation warrants legal representation, you must hire someone you trust and who is experienced in workers’ comp claims.
If you’ve been injured at work and need an attorney, contact us today. We specialize in workers’ comp cases and can give you a free, no-obligation case evaluation.