Why Hiring an Attorney is Important
Monday, September 2, 2002 | 898 | 0 | min read
A recent survey published by The Hartford Insurance Company revealed that the vast majority of workers, be they white collar or blue collar, simply don't understand workers' compensation, and a surprisingly large number of workers don't even know that they are entitled to workers' compensation.
After an on the job injury, the assumption by most workers is that they will be taken care of because that's what workers' compensation insurance is for. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and in fact, in California almost half of all work injuries end up being "litigated". This means that the injured worker has hired an attorney to represent him or her. Should you hire an attorney? More often than not, if you are asking that question, then the answer is "yes".
Though workers' compensation is a sort of social program, it is privately funded, which in itself creates a conflict, or adversarial situation. Anytime you have an adversarial situation, you have interests which are competing. In workers' compensation, the interests which are competing are your health versus the financial well being of the insurance company / employer. While you are not entitled to any and all medical treatment at any cost, you are entitled to receive the best possible treatment for the condition that will return you to work as early as possible, and entitled to monetary supplements to help you pay your bills while you are off work, recuperating from your injury. What you feel you need to meet these needs, and what the insurance company / employer sees as your needs will be two different views.
An attorney's job is to stand up for the rights of his client. Humans are funny in that most of us (even attorneys) are not equipped emotionally to stand up for ourselves in adversarial situations. The issues are simply too close to home, and good judgment gets clouded by emotion. Add to this mix extreme complexity and the case is made for hiring an attorney as early as possible if you have a serious work injury, or anticipate trouble from either the employer or the insurance company. And frankly, sometimes it is advisable to hire an attorney even if the first two situations don't occur because the system is so complex you may be entitled to some benefit that you wouldn't otherwise think about that a trained professional would spot.
Many injured workers feel that hiring an attorney is going to be too expensive. First, most states limit fees for attorneys to only 12 ￢ﾀﾓ 15%. And typically those fees are only from the permanent disability portion of your award. The fees usually are not assessed against temporary disability indemnity or medical benefits. If you weigh in all of the benefits that you receive in a work comp case, then attorney fees end up being as little as two percent of all benefits ￢ﾀﾓ a relative bargain under any evaluation.
Look at it this way, our compensation system is an adversary system. The insurance company will use a skilled, trained professional whose job is to pay you the least for your injuries. Your job (or your attorney's) is to get you the most compensation. When both sides do their best, justice wins and you will be compensated adequately.
Your job is to get back to work as early as possible. Let someone else fight for your benefits.