Simple, straightforward workers’ comp claims can be easily handled by the injured worker, but in severe cases, workers could secure a more favorable settlement if they just lawyer up. A recent survey has found that injured workers backed by an attorney receive around 30y more in compensation than their peers who decide to handle the claim themselves.
When It Is Safe to Handle the Case on Your Own
Most injured workers decide to handle their cases on their own. But this approach is relatively safe when:
- Your claim is not disputed.
- Your workplace injury is minor.
- There’s no pre-existing condition that might get your claim denied.
- You missed no work after the accident.
In other scenarios, lawyering up could mean the difference between securing a fair injury settlement that can cover all your out-of-pocket expenses and symbolic compensation or no compensation at all.
Moreover, if you decide to handle the workers’ comp claim on your own, there are several mistakes you can easily make that can blow up your case. According to Seth Bader, an award-winning workers comp attorney serving Atlanta, the most common mistakes he has encountered in his law practice include:
- Failure to disclose pre-existing conditions.
- Missing physician appointments or not following medical advice.
- Sharing info about the workplace injury or accident on social media.
- Failure to seek advice from a local workers’ comp attorney (requirements and benefits may vary from state to state.)
Five Signs You May Need an Attorney
1. Your employer or their insurer disputes your injury claim.
Your boss or their insurance carrier might deny that your work-related injury or illness was the result of your work duties. Without this acknowledgment, your benefits might get denied. A lawyer, on the other hand, can prove a cause-and-effect relationship between your work and your workplace injuries.
A seasoned doctor might also refer you to an independent doctor to have your injuries properly assessed. Employer-approved doctors may not have your best interests at heart and might conclude that you can return to work even when you haven’t properly healed. This move may get your benefits denied or substantially reduced.
2. You suffered a disability or other life-altering condition.
A life-altering condition implies extra out-of-pocket expenses such as mobility aids, home modifications, expensive medication, therapy, and/or lifelong care. Insurers know this fact and will fight tooth and nail to reduce or deny your injury claim. High-value claims should always be handled by a workers’ comp attorney.
3. You have a pre-existing condition.
Pre-existing conditions at the time of the workplace accident can be easily used against you. For instance, if you already had back pain when you hurt yourself in the workplace, the insurance company might argue that the crippling back pain you reported after the incident is due to your pre-existing condition. But little do workers know is that pre-existing conditions do not disqualify them from workers’ comp benefits.
4. Your injury claim gets denied.
Workers’ comp insurers deny claims because they know that around 80% of workers will not appeal the decision. An attorney can represent you on an appeal or show you what other benefits you may be entitled to.
Also, a workers’ comp lawyer can prove useful if your boss punishes you for seeking compensation. Retaliation takes many forms, including verbal harassment, slashed wages and working hours, threats, demotion, and even termination.
5. The initial settlement offer doesn’t cover all your medical bills.
If the initial settlement offer doesn’t cover all your medical bills and/or lost wages, you might need a lawyer to handle the negotiation part for you. Don’t expect the workers’ comp judge to adjust the sum for you. Such judges usually approve all settlements unless they are blatantly unfair for the injured workers.