At first glance, filing a workers’ compensation claim can look like a fairly straightforward process that shouldn’t take too much effort. In some cases, that’s true. In the majority of cases, however, there are many hidden complexities and complications that can suddenly reveal themselves and overwhelm anyone who’s not experienced with the process.
Many people who’ve been injured on the job find themselves asking if they really need to hire a workers’ compensation attorney to assist them or not—and that’s a legitimate question. You might not expect to hear it from a lawyer, but sometimes the answer is no.
When You May Not Need A Workers’ Comp Lawyer
Even in the simplest of cases, you should always err on the side of caution and at least consult with an attorney before making up your mind. Having said that, however, there are some examples of very simple cases where things are not likely to get complicated and you could probably get by without hiring a lawyer.
If each of the following points is true, you may be in a situation where you won’t have much more to do than fill out the appropriate forms and wait.
- Your injury is very minor such as a small cut that only required a few stitches or an obviously superficial burn that will heal within a few days.
- Your employer readily admits that the injury occurred while you were working.
- You missed little or no work because of the injury.
- You don’t have any kind of pre-existing condition in the area of your body where the workplace injury occurred.
Again, you should take advantage of a free consultation with a lawyer and get an honest opinion about how your case could play out before you make any final decisions.
When You Should Hire A Workers’ Comp Attorney
If the circumstances of your injury or your claim are anything more complicated than what we’ve outlined above, you should contact a competent and experienced Virginia workers’ compensation attorney to make sure that your rights are preserved and you have the best chance of getting all of the benefits you are entitled to.
If you run into any of the following situations, you should get in touch with a workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as you can.
Your Injury Prevents You from Returning to Your Job, Limits the Work You Can Perform, Or Prevents You from Working at All
If you’ve suffered a partial or total permanent disability, your case will be among the most expensive that the insurance company has to deal with. This means they will do whatever they can to minimize what they pay you or perhaps even try not to pay you at all. You should most definitely have an attorney at your side to fight for what you deserve.
Your Employer Rejects Your Claim or Doesn’t Pay Promptly
Many employers and/or insurance companies will flat out reject and deny legitimate claims as a simple matter of standard tactics. They know that many employees either don’t know about their rights or don’t care enough to file a claim form with the Virginia Workers Compensation Commission. They will simply try to make the case go away before they do anything else. Unfortunately, this tactic often works.
Your Settlement Offer Doesn’t Cover Your Medical Bills or Lost Wages
Although worker’s comp settlements need to be approved, they aren’t normally denied if both parties seem to agree and the agreed upon amount is not grossly unfair. That doesn’t mean that anyone other than you is looking out for your best interests, though. If you’re not sure whether or not a settlement offer is good, you should speak with an experienced attorney who will be able to tell you if your case entitles you to more.
You Believe Your Employer Is Retaliating Against You for Filing A Claim
If you believe that your employer is discriminating against you because you’ve filed a claim for workers’ compensation, you should contact a workers’ comp attorney immediately to make sure that your rights are fully preserved and that you can take advantage of all the legal resources available to you.
Your employer can not fire you, demote you, or reduce your pay or regular hours because you have filed a claim. Get in touch with a lawyer right away if you believe you are the victim of employer retaliation.
How A Workers’ Compensation Attorney Will Help You
A competent workers’ compensation attorney will be able to help you with the basics of filing your claim properly, such as filling out forms and meeting submission deadlines, but it goes much further than that. An experienced lawyer will understand what evidence you’ll need and how it should be presented. He or she will also be ready to negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf. If those negotiations should fail, he’ll know the best approach to take in court.
In the end, you can be sure that your employer, and most certainly the insurance company, will have lawyers working on their side. The best thing you can do for yourself is to make sure that you have someone with experience at your side to fight for what you deserve.
If you’ve been injured at work and want to file a workers’ compensation claim or have questions about one that’s already in progress, contact us for a free consultation. We’d be happy to go over the details of your case and outline exactly what we can do to make sure you get everything you should from your claim.
About the Author: Michele Lewane
The Injured Workers Law Firm is a Richmond, Virginia based firm solely focused on serving clients with workers' compensation claims in Virginia. If you have questions about your benefits or if you would like more information on the Virginia workers’ compensation system, order our book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia” , or call our office today (804) 755-7755.