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Workers compensation

5 Common Questions About Workers’ Comp Lawyers

Written by
A drawing of the lead workers' compensation lawyer for Atticus.
Victoria Muñoz
Lead Attorney
March 8, 2024  ·  4 min read
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Atticus offers free, high-quality workers' compensation advice to those injured at work. Our team of Stanford and Harvard trained lawyers has a combined 15+ years of legal experience, and help thousands of Americans get the benefits they deserve each year.

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An employee who’s injured on the job is eligible to receive workers’ comp insurance, which pays medical bills and for lost wages during recovery. But even with a clear workplace injury, getting the insurance company to pay what it owes you is often difficult. That’s where a lawyer can help. A workers’ comp lawyer’s primary goal is to get you the full benefits you’re entitled to. We know that looking for and hiring a lawyer is a new experience for most people, so below we cover five of the most common questions people ask us about working with a lawyer.

1. Is hiring a workers’ comp lawyer the same as suing my employer?

No, hiring a workers’ comp lawyer isn’t the same as suing your employer and their job isn’t to go after your employer or seek retribution. Unless you’re having a specific problem with your employer — like if they refuse to file a claim or deny that you have a work injury — then your lawyer will primarily deal with the claims administrator and the insurance company. If you do want to sue your employer, you’d need to talk with a different type of lawyer who specializes in employment law.

Lawyers vs. attorneys

These terms are mostly interchangeable. Technically the word lawyer could include more legal professionals than just attorneys, but all Atticus workers’ comp lawyers are also attorneys who can legally represent clients. Most state bar websites also have a feature that allows you to confirm an attorney's credentials by searching their name or bar number. A reputable lawyer will provide their bar number upon request.

2. Can my employer fire me if I hire a lawyer?

It is illegal in every state for an employer to fire you because you talked to or hired a lawyer. Injured employees have a right to workers’ compensation benefits and a business cannot fire anyone for trying to get those benefits. It’s also illegal for a business to fire you for asking about workers’ comp or for saying you want to file a claim.

If your employer does fire you as retaliation, talk to an employment lawyer about a wrongful termination case. While a workers’ comp lawyer can help you get your benefits, they won’t be able to help you sue your employer.

You can read more in our guide to when you can lose your job on workers’ comp.

3. Can I afford a workers’ comp lawyer?

Atticus is designed to be affordable for everyone who needs workers’ comp help. Your initial call with one of our advocates is free and all Atticus workers’ comp lawyers also offer a free consultation. If you decide to work with one of our lawyers, you won’t pay anything upfront. You only ever pay the lawyer fee after your lawyer helps you win benefits or negotiate a settlement. At that point, you will pay your lawyer a percentage of your benefits, which is handled as a one-time fee that comes out of your total settlement. But after you pay that fee, you’re still making more than you would without a lawyer. The average payout our lawyers negotiate for clients is twice as high as the average payout for people without a lawyer, which more than covers the lawyer’s fee.

Get help with your workers' comp claim today.

4. Will a workers’ comp lawyer drag out my case?

The fee you pay to your workers’ comp lawyer doesn’t change no matter how long your case lasts. Since your lawyer doesn’t get any payment until after you get your benefits, they have no incentive to drag out your case.

It is true that the average workers’ comp claim takes longer with a lawyer, though most of that extra time is the result of your lawyer negotiating for more medical coverage or a higher settlement for you.

So you could potentially settle your case more quickly on your own, but you could also miss out on thousands of dollars and more thorough medical care that’s paid by insurance.

5. Why do I need a lawyer if nothing goes wrong?

A workers’ comp lawyer can help you navigate the process and gain additional benefits even if you don’t run into any clear problems. Below are three areas where having a lawyer makes a difference.

Maximizing your medical benefits

Workers’ comp is designed to pay medical bills related to your injury, but that doesn’t mean the insurance company will offer all the care you want or even the best care possible. You may also have to see workers’ comp doctors who are on the payroll of either your employer or the insurance company.

A workers’ comp lawyer will know how to navigate your state rules to fight for additional care or care from more independent doctors. In some states, like in California, your insurance can choose your doctor for you unless you have legal representation. Experienced lawyers (like the ones at Atticus) also have a network of trusted doctors and specialists who handle workers’ comp cases in your area.

They’ll also help with the more technical side of the process by ensuring you receive accurate treatment plans, impairment ratings, or disability ratings. They’ll explain technical reports from your doctors and handle any necessary appeals. In some states, like California

Dealing with insurance

Getting full payments or medical benefits from an insurance company isn’t easy. Unless you're an expert in your state’s labor laws, it’s also difficult to know whether your insurance is even following the law. You can work with your claims administrator or adjuster, but at the end of the day, they work for the insurance company and are incentivized to look after company profits instead of the best possible care for you.

A workers’ comp lawyer is trained in your state’s laws, so they’ll be able to hold insurance accountable. They can explain to you how every step of the process works and what to expect. They’ll handle the technical aspects of your claim, like approving treatment plans, calculating future earning capacity, and negotiating settlements.

So while you can get by on your own if you have a straightforward injury with a quick recovery, any injury that requires multiple treatments or long-term treatment is much easier to manage with professional help.

Negotiating a higher settlement

Many workers’ comp cases end with a settlement. The insurance company will try to pay you as little as possible. It will also have lawyers (likely a whole team of them) to ensure it isn’t paying you any more than it absolutely needs to.

Having a workers’ comp lawyer to handle negotiations is your best way to keep insurance from shortchanging you or taking advantage of you. The difference is also substantial: The average settlement for a worker with an Atticus lawyer is twice as high as a worker who negotiates their own settlement.

Learn more: When Will Workers’ Comp Offer a Settlement?

Still have questions? Atticus has answers.

If you’re not sure whether a lawyer is worth it for your case, one of our client advocates can answer your questions and explain your options. Call us at the number below or complete our online questionnaire to share the basics of your claim. We’ve worked with many employees who had medical bills piling up or thought they’d never get their full benefits until they worked with Atticus.

Get help with your workers' comp claim today.

Frequently asked questions about workers’ comp lawyers

Do I need a workers’ comp lawyer?

Not everyone needs to work with a lawyer, but a workers’ comp lawyer can especially help if your claim is denied, your medical care is denied, or after you get a settlement offer. To help you make an informed decision, we’ve collected some situations when a workers’ comp lawyer can help.

How much does a workers' comp lawyer cost?

Laws vary by state, but you can generally expect a workers’ comp lawyer fee of between 15% and 33% of your final settlement. That sounds like a lot, but the average settlement with an Atticus lawyer is twice as high as for people who don't have a lawyer. Factor in the additional medical care your lawyer can likely negotiate for you, and in the end you still take home more money by having a lawyer. Learn more about workers' comp lawyer fees.

What does a workers’ comp lawyer do that I can’t?

A local lawyer is well-versed in your state’s laws, so they’ll know how to avoid payment delays, maximize your medical coverage, and negotiate higher payments or a bigger settlement. They can help even if you never get denied or experience a serious issue. Here’s more on what a workers’ comp lawyer actually does.

How to find the best workers’ comp lawyer

There are some key questions you should ask any lawyer before hiring them, like how much they charge, whether they have experience with similar cases, and how they communicate with clients throughout the process. Learn more in our guide to finding a good workers’ comp lawyer.

Can I change my workers’ comp lawyer?

You can fire your workers’ comp lawyer and hire a new one. Talk with your lawyer first, though. You may still have to pay them for some expenses and sometimes issues like slow responses or long wait times are the result of misunderstandings. But if your lawyer just isn’t working out, you have options. Here's more on how and when to fire your workers' comp attorney.

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How long ago did you get an injury or illness at work?

A drawing of the lead workers' compensation lawyer for Atticus.

Victoria Muñoz

Lead Attorney

Victoria Muñoz is an attorney on Atticus’s Workers' Compensation team. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of Stanford Law School, and has counseled hundreds of people seeking workers' compensation. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and spending time with her pup.
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