The simple answer is you may never need a workers compensation attorney. Many times you can get through the workers’ compensation system without a lawyer. Most work injuries are minor; for example: cuts on the hand requiring stitches, minor burns, knee twists and ankle sprains. In most of these situations, simple medical treatment is provided for and paid for by the Workers Compensation insurance company; there is no significant loss of time from work; and you should recover from your injury without a lot of future problems. Most people’s lives aren’t going to be seriously affected by a sprained ankle or a strained muscle. There is typically no need to hire an attorney to handle these types of claims.
I do recommend; however, even with minor injuries, that you take advantage of the free information my office provides to injured workers at no charge (the Book: “Ultimate Guide to Workers Compensation in Virginia”, handouts and general information guides). While my staff cannot give “legal advice” during these conversations, the Paralegals here can give you information to help you make sense of the process and guide you in the right direction. You get ease of mind things are being handled correctly without the cost of hiring an attorney.
I also frequently provide free consultations, only to determine that it’s best for the worker to try to continue handling the matter on his own and to call me if he starts to feel he is getting in over his head or begins to feel the employer or the insurance company is not being fair in some way.
On the other hand, there are other types of Workers’ Compensation injuries and situations which I definitely recommend you not try to represent yourself. Workers’ Compensation can be a confusing maze of legal rules and procedures. Over the past handful of years, Insurance Companies and business groups have worked hard to have the laws stacked in their favor. Thus, even if you handled a case for yourself in the past and got a fair result, the Workers Comp system of today is much more complex. The law prevents the Commission from giving you advice, or even telling you that you are being cheated out of benefits.
If your case has any complexity at all, I strongly recommend you hire a well-qualified, experienced Workers Compensation attorney. In the following situations the average worker will most surely be in over their head:
- pre-existing injuries or disabilities
- being unable to return to work
- injuries requiring invasive or risky surgeries/medical care
- injuries that resulted from the acts of a 3rd party
In conclusion, you may be able to handle your case on your own. But just beware that Workers’ Compensation, has become highly complex and even if you don’t need an attorney, you need to get the proper information (DO NOT RELY ON THE INSURANCE COMPANY FOR THIS!) to make sure you are following the proper guidelines to protect your benefits!