Pursuing a workers’ compensation claim is stressful. Your medical bills are likely mounting and you may be wondering whether you’ll ever be able to return to work. What’s more, people you don’t know are scrutinizing your personal medical records.
During this difficult time, you want an attorney who is caring, competent, and motivated to get you the compensation you deserve. Sometimes, it’s obvious you’ve hired the right attorney. Other times, it’s not so clear.
Here are 10 telltale signs you DON’T have the right workers’ compensation attorney in your corner.
Communication isn’t just about returning telephone calls and emails. A good lawyer will guide you through your workers’ compensation claim by explaining each step of the process in a clear manner. If you’re confused or caught off guard by events, it might be a sign your lawyer lacks the ability (or desire) to effectively communicate.
In addition to being frustrating, poor attorney communication with clients is indicative of poor communication with insurers, other attorneys, and judges.
The legal community is small. Lawyers generally appear in front of the same judges and go up against the same attorneys over and over again. A lawyer who is respected by their peers is more likely to successfully negotiate a settlement or obtain a favorable result in a hearing.
Does your lawyer act unprofessionally? Do law firm support staff appear to dislike your attorney? What about courthouse staff and other attorneys? If the answer is yes, these could be signs that your lawyer isn’t well respected.
In most states, workers’ compensation attorneys charge a “contingency fee.” This means your attorney receives a certain percentage of the money you receive in an award or settlement. However, in some states, lawyers are paid by the hour.
If your lawyer is continually sending you bills that include vague narrative descriptions or billing you for tasks that weren’t actually performed, it may be a sign you hired the wrong workers’ compensation attorney. Similarly, if your attorney is unable or unwilling to explain their billing practices, it’s probably time to look for a new attorney.
Unfortunately, sometimes an attorney has to deliver bad news. Good attorneys are forthright even when the news is tough to deliver. If your workers’ compensation attorney avoids telling you about bumps in your case or, even worse, outright lies to you, it’s time to find a new lawyer.
It’s common for paralegals to know the details of your case and to handle certain administrative tasks related to your case, such as requesting medical records and organizing discovery documents. However, paralegals are “support staff” and should not be handling the brunt of your case.
If you communicate almost exclusively with the paralegal and your attorney is unfamiliar with the details of your case, it may be time to look elsewhere for legal help.
A telltale sign that your lawyer isn’t handling your case properly is if you stop receiving benefits without warning. This usually means that your lawyer missed an important deadline, failed to submit requested documents or failed to communicate with you on what to expect.
If this happens to you and your attorney doesn’t have a good explanation, it’s time to look for an attorney who can stay on top of things.
Sometimes, a workers’ compensation claim is your only remedy. However, work-related accidents often provide the opportunity to file third-party claims. A third-party claim is a lawsuit filed against anyone other than your employer or colleague.
Here’s an example:
Third-party claims are important because workers’ compensation benefits are limited and therefore you can sue the third party for the damages you’re not able to recover through your workers’ compensation claim (such as pain and suffering).
If your lawyer is unwilling to file other claims or to explain why other claims can’t be filed, consider seeking legal counsel from another firm.
Most workers’ compensation claims are settled out of court by negotiating with the insurance company. Settling your claim saves you the time and expenses associated with a trial.
Don’t hesitate to ask your attorney about their settlement strategy and to check in occasionally to see how negotiations are going. If your attorney isn’t willing to discuss your interest in reaching a fair settlement, it’s time to find a new attorney.
Settlements can be advantageous, but only if they’re fair. If your attorney seems anxious to accept an unfair settlement offer, it could be because they’re afraid to go to court or because they’ve taken on too many cases and want to get yours over with.
It’s possible you hired a perfectly competent workers’ compensation attorney, but you didn’t hire the right attorney for you. If your gut is telling you to look for a different attorney, give it some serious thought.
When an attorney is fired, they’re required to turn your file over to the new attorney that you hire. As a result, the new attorney won’t have to start from scratch.
Identifying a bad workers’ compensation attorney is only half the battle; you still have to find the right attorney.
Fortunately, we’ve put together some tips on finding the right workers’ compensation attorney.
We’ve also put together some information on initial consultations, including what questions to ask the attorney to ensure they’re the right one for your case.
Finally, we’ve created a legal directory of experienced workers’ compensation attorneys near you.