If you've suffered a serious work-related injury or illness, it's almost always a good idea to hire an attorney to handle your workers' compensation claim and ensure that you get all the benefits to which you’re entitled. But you need to find an attorney with specific expertise in workers' comp. Because this area of the law is complex and highly specialized, clients are generally not well served by attorneys who try to dabble in workers' comp.
Unfortunately, it's not always easy to distinguish the workers' comp experts from the dabblers. Television commercials, Internet marketing, billboards, and print ads often contain more style than substance. The most reliable indicators of a quality attorney—years of experience, depth of knowledge, attention to detail and trustworthiness—are seldom apparent in an advertisement. While it might take some extra effort to find the right attorney for you, it can make all the difference in your case. Here are some tips to help you in your search.
Ask for referrals
Many good workers compensation attorney does little to no advertising, instead relying on word-of-mouth and referrals from satisfied former clients. State and local bar associations and legal aid offices may be able to provide referrals as well. You're much more likely to find quality counsel through a referral than by responding to an ad and hoping for the best.
Use the internet wisely
As is true for people searching for any kind of service provider, many injured workers find workers' comp lawyers online, but, particularly if you’ve identified potential attorneys through online ads or popular review sites, you should look for more information.
Study the prospective attorney’s website to see if it emphasizes workers' comp expertise, or if the practice appears to handle a wide variety of cases. Does the website contain articles or other information about workers' comp law? Are there testimonials from former clients? Does the firm appear to have a long and successful track record? While you shouldn't base your choice of attorney entirely on a website, it can still be a useful indicator of a lawyer's level of knowledge, experience, and professionalism.
Treat the consultation as job interview
Virtually all workers' comp attorneys offer free initial consultations with prospective clients. While your personal injury lawyer will certainly ask you dozens of questions related to your claim, you should be asking just as many questions. Remember: This is a job interview, and you are the employer. The following questions will help you gauge the attorney's level of expertise in workers' compensation:
- How many years have you been handling workers' compensation claims?
- How much of your practice is devoted to workers' comp?
- Can you provide me with any references, such as former clients and/or colleagues in the legal community?
- Will you be working on my case personally, or will legal assistants and paralegals handle the bulk of the work?
- If I call your office with a question about my case, will I speak to you or a legal assistant?
- Do you also represent employers and insurance companies in workers' comp cases, or only injured workers?