It is always a good idea to hire an attorney that specializes in workers’ comp to handle your claim, so you get all the benefits to which you are entitled if you have suffered a serious work-related injury or occupational disease. Clients are generally not well served by attorneys who are not workers comp experts.
Sometimes it is difficult to identify which attorneys are workers’ comp experts. Television, radio, internet, and print marketing may be misleading. Solid indicators of a quality attorney are years of experience, depth of knowledge, attention to detail, and trustworthiness. It might take some extra effort to find the right attorney for you, but it will make all the difference in your case.
Ask for recommendations from friends and family. Word-of-mouth and referrals from satisfied former clients are usually a better indicator of a good workers’ comp attorney vs. what you see in an ad. State and local bar associations and legal aid offices can also provide referrals. The odds of finding quality counsel through a referral than by responding to an ad are much higher.
Use the internet as a resource…wisely. Many injured workers find workers’ comp lawyers online. If you have identified potential attorneys through online ads or popular review sites, follow up on the information. Search the prospective attorney’s website for workers’ comp expertise, or if the practice handles a large spectrum of cases. Are there articles or other information about workers’ comp law? Is there a long and successful track record?
Treat your consultation as the attorney’s job interview. Workers’ comp attorneys should offer free initial consultations with prospective clients. You should ask the prospective attorney just as many questions as they ask you. The following questions will help you determine the attorney’s level of workers’ comp expertise:
- How many years have handled workers’ comp claims?
- Have you handled cases all the way to trial and beyond?
- How much of your practice is devoted to workers’ comp?
- Can you represent me throughout the entire workers’ comp process, including hearings, appeals, and in court?
- Can you provide me with references (e.g., former clients and/or legal colleagues)?
- Will you work on my case personally, or will legal assistants and paralegals handle it?
- Will I speak to you or a legal assistant if I call your office?
- Do you represent employers and insurance companies or only injured workers?
- Are you a member of any workers’ comp professional organizations?
- How does a workers’ compensation claim proceed through the system?
- How do attorneys’ fees work?
- What do litigation-related expenses include? Will you charge even if my case is unsuccessful?
- What circumstances do you arrange for clients to receive medical exams/consults with appropriate specialists?
- How do you estimate the value of my case?
- What are the strengths and weakness of my case?
Look for a confident yet respectful attorney. Evaluate the attorney’s professionalism and demeanor at your consultation. A quality attorney will answer all your questions patiently, honestly, and will address your concerns.
Notice the attitudes and behavior of the administrative assistants, legal assistants, and paralegals. You will interact with them regularly. If they are rude, dismissive, or do not return your calls promptly, you should look elsewhere.
Your attorney should provide you with periodic updates on the status of your claim as your case progresses. Address your concerns if you rarely hear from your attorney. You may want to find a new lawyer who will give your case the attention it deserves if the problem persists. Educate yourself about the consequences of switching workers’ comp lawyers during your case if you choose that route.