If you've been out of work due to a workers' comp injury, or you're back to work but you have a lasting impairment or disability, you're owed some money. You're best off getting a workers' comp lawyer to represent you in a claim against the workers' comp insurance company.
Even if the insurance company hasn't denied your claim, you're not likely to get the permanent disability settlement you deserve unless you're represented by someone with experience in workers' comp law.
And, there's little reason not to seek out a workers' comp lawyer – unlike other areas of law, workers' comp lawyer fees are usually quite low, and you don't have to pay if you don't win your case.
A workers comp' attorney can help develop your case for permanent partial disability by knowing what your medical records need to include and by arranging for vocational experts to testify about your job's requirements or for medical experts to give testimony about your functional restrictions (what you can no longer do).
An experienced workers' comp lawyer will also know how to calculate the value of your functional limitations, turn estimates of your need for future medical treatment into settlement money, and negotiate effectively with the insurance company. Finally, if you're also applying for Social Security disability benefits, a worker's comp lawyer will know how to properly structure the settlement language to limit the workers' comp offset.
It also can be helpful if the attorney, or perhaps another lawyer in the same office, can advise you on any claims you may have outside of workers' compensation, such as personal injury or products liability claims against individuals or companies other than your employer or its worker's comp insurance company.
To find a few candidates for lawyers who might take your case, ask friends or friends of friends for recommendations and check Nolo's Lawyer Directory. Then, plan to go into each lawyer's office for a consultation. Be prepared to ask the attorney some questions of your own. Note that in many states, workers' comp attorneys cannot charge for the initial consultation.
Before you consider a lawyer, make sure the lawyer is an active member of your state bar and has no record of bar discipline. You can do this by visiting your state bar's website or calling the state bar association. All lawyers in Nolo's Lawyer Directory are active bar members and have been screened for disciplinary actions.
Ask how many years the lawyer has been practicing workers' comp law, what percentage of his or her clients are workers' comp clients, and what the attorney's success rate is. Also ask whether the lawyer is a member of a workers' comp association or has a board specialization or certification in workers' comp. And find out if the lawyer defends workers' comp insurance companies or just represents workers' comp applicants.
Finally, ask if the lawyer has had success winning settlements for your particular type of injury and if he or she has experience in managing workers' comp offsets.
Inquire about how much the lawyer charges, what costs you'll be liable for, and whether you'll owe these costs if you lose your case.
Finally, don't forget to ask for the most valuable piece of information: how strong a case does the attorney think you have and what kind of a settlement value does the attorney estimate that you could get for your injury claim.