I get a lot of calls from injured workers who are frustrated and they want to fire their attorney. When I say frustrated, I mean ready to snap. Most of the complaints I hear are similar.
Let me be clear folks, workers compensation is not a fun process. Whether you have an attorney on your side or not, this process takes a toll on peoples nerves, finances, mental status, relationships, and not to mention the physical trauma that has already been done! Truth is, this is no picnic for anyone.
The most common complaints I hear from injured workers are:
• This process is taking FOREVER
• My attorney is not doing anything for me
• I never hear from my attorney
• I’m not a faker, why am I being treated like a CRIMINAL
• I don’t agree with what my attorney is telling me
• I don’t feel like this is right
• This injury has destroyed my life
There are some hard truths that injured workers need to know and, as an attorney, it is my job to give you the cold hard truth without the candy coating.
1) The workers compensation system takes a long time because the State of Virginia allows the insurance company time to “try” and get claims resolved before heading to court. There are waiting periods and some processes that have no time limit at all (like settlement, negotiations can go on indefinitely!).
2) Often, you won’t hear from your attorney during waiting periods or during the standard settlement negotiation process. I can’t speak for other attorneys but if I called all of my clients weekly to tell them that there is “no news,” I would not be a very efficient lawyer because all of my time would be spent on the phone instead of doing “attorney work” and moving along the legal and paperwork processes for them.
3) Workers compensation does not assume you are faking, however, it does not assume you are not. The “burden of proof” is on you and your attorney to prove the compensability of your claim. Basically, the workers compensation system has standards and, in order to get benefits, you have to meet those standards – regardless of your moral standing or if you agree with them. This is about legality not morality of what’s “right or wrong.”
4) If you don’t agree with what your attorney is telling you, do me a favor and ask yourself “Why?” If it is because you have a legal education and know better, then fine, more power to you! However, if it is because you may have a friend who had a similar injury where things went differently, you need to take a step back. Workers compensation is different for EVERYONE! Even if you have the same injury your claim is different than all the others. Workers compensation benefits are based on a whole array of factors: average weekly wage, impairment rating, the treatment your doctor is recommending, your ability to return (or not to return) to the workforce. If you don’t agree with your attorney it may be because of this. Ask for clarification before you jump ship. If your attorney tells you something you don’t agree with, they should be able to tell you the “why” behind it.
5) Workers compensation is not a perfect remedy. I talk to injured workers all the time who feel that these benefits have not made them “whole.” The hard truth is, it rarely does completely restore injured workers to the level of health and financial well being they may have enjoyed before they were injured. There is no consideration in this system for pain and suffering or for the repossession or bankruptcy an injured worker may have endured while going through this process. The problem here is that if the law does not allow for it, your attorney can’t ask for it, period. I would LOVE to get all of these types of benefits for my clients but the State of Virginia, with its present laws, will not allow me to even ask for this!
Yes, you are allowed to fire your attorney at any time. However, if you choose to do this, the attorney who has been fired may be able to then put a lien on your claim to recover their costs and time spent on your claim. This could make your claim less attractive to another attorney who may take over your claim because, if there is a lien on the case, the new attorney will, in essence, be working at a discounted fee. Changing attorneys can also slow down what is already a very long process. Also, if you have a competent attorney who has given you a reasonable explanation and you chose to part ways with him or her because you don’t agree or don’t like the outcome, you might get the very same information from the new attorney!
If you would like more information on the Virginia workers Compensation system, order my book, The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia, or call our office today (804) 755-7755.