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When Should I Hire a Workers’ Comp Lawyer?

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
September 2, 2022  ·  1 min read
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An injury you get in the workplace can be incredibly stressful — not only are you in pain or discomfort, but you could lose income if you need to miss work. Workers’ compensation will replace some of your wages, but the system is hard to navigate on your own. That’s where a lawyer comes in.

While most people assume you only need a lawyer in the most dire of situations, they’re actually your greatest asset from the start when it comes to workers’ comp.

What does a workers’ comp lawyer do?

A workers’ compensation lawyer is an expert who can guide you through the process from beginning to end. They’ll communicate with insurance companies, fill out paperwork, keep track of deadlines, and help you get the medical care you deserve. And most importantly for many people, your lawyer can increase the size of your payout.

7 reasons you should hire a workers’ comp lawyer

Lawyers can provide unique support no matter which stage of the workers’ comp process you’re in. Let’s look at seven situations when you should hire a lawyer:

  1. You’re having trouble understanding workers’ comp. A workers’ comp lawyer knows the ins and outs of the system. They will act as your translator for everything that your employer, insurers, and state organizations are doing. And that’s important because workers’ comp is complex and bureaucratic. It varies wildly by state and the forms you need to fill out don’t have much instruction. A lawyer will guide you through everything and can shorten the duration of your case.

  2. Your employer is uncooperative. Perhaps they aren’t filing your claim in a timely manner or they deny that your injury took place on the job. A lawyer can immediately step in and spur your employer to action.

  3. Your claim was denied. It’s disheartening when your workers’ comp case is denied, but a lawyer will build a case to appeal your claim. They can collect evidence for you, talk to witnesses, and represent you in court. A lawyer can also get you a settlement if the insurer doesn’t want to go to a hearing.

  4. Your medical diagnosis is inaccurate. To determine your care and eventual payout, you need a medical evaluation. Sometimes you can choose your own doctor. A lawyer can help you work with your doctor to get an accurate diagnosis. But certain companies will require you to see one of their own doctors. And some states, like California, will assign you a doctor. A lawyer can offer guidance for all these situations. They can also advise you if the doctor’s care plan isn’t enough, by telling you what care you can ask for and how to prove that you need it.

  5. Your payout is smaller than expected. Many factors determine the size and duration of your compensation, but a lawyer can maximize your potential payout. For example, the average settlement with an Atticus lawyer is double the average settlement for claimants without a lawyer. And if you receive a settlement offer for your case but it isn’t enough to cover medical expenses or other costs, your lawyer will argue for a higher payment.

  6. You want to go back to work. In some cases, you may be able to return to work on “light duty.” But going back to work can hurt your case if your employer or the insurance company thinks you’re capable of performing your normal job. Having a second job or doing work on the side could also make things harder for you. A lawyer can advise you on the best ways to get back to work without jeopardizing your workers’ comp benefits.

  7. You want to apply for disability benefits. If your injuries will keep you from ever being able to return to work, you should also consider Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). SSDI provides a monthly benefit of almost $2,000 on average. Your exact check depends on your work history.

Related: How much does a workers' comp lawyer cost?

Reasons you may not need a workers’ comp lawyer

If you get injured at work but it’s minor and you miss little or no time, then you probably don’t need to work with a lawyer. But honestly, if you’re filing a claim, a lawyer can help you. The workers’ comp system is not easy to navigate on your own and working with an expert will make the whole process smoother. Even if your injuries aren’t severe and you only expect a small payout, a lawyer will fight to get you as much as possible.

Still not sure about getting a workers’ comp lawyer? Atticus offers free legal advice to help you understand whether or not you should find a lawyer. And if you do decide to hire a lawyer, we can recommend someone who we’ve already vetted. Start with this quick quiz.

How to find a workers’ comp lawyer

While there are many types of people advertising assistance, it’s important to find an someone who's experienced and knowledgeable.

Here are a couple of things to look for in a workers’ comp lawyer:

  • Someone who specializes in workers’ compensation. Workers’ comp law is complicated. A lawyer who works solely or mostly in workers’ comp cases will have a deeper understanding of how the process works in your area and the best ways to help with your specific case.

  • Read reviews. Look for online reviews or speak to people who’ve worked with the lawyer. An initial call is also helpful if it’s free. You want someone who people find trustworthy — someone who will actually care about you and your case. A good lawyer will communicate regularly with you. They should be available to answer any questions you have (and you will definitely have questions). But keep in mind that some lawyers, especially at small, local firms, may not have much of an online presence.

Atticus can give you free legal advice on your case and connect you with an experienced workers’ comp lawyer from our trusted network. Get started here to learn more.

Maximize your workers' comp benefits.

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.

What's the difference between lawyers and attorneys?

The terms lawyer and attorney 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.

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Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney

Jackie Jakab

Lead Attorney

Jackie Jakab is Atticus’s Legal Director. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and has counseled thousands of people seeking disability benefits.
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