Originally published on FindLaw – By  Kellie Pantekoek, Esq. | May 18, 2020 10:02 AM

Many people wonder if they need a lawyer to get workers’ compensation after a work-related injury or illness. The best answer is: “It depends.”

If you suffered a minor injury, have a good relationship with your employer, and you understand the workers’ comp process, then you may not need an attorney.

But if you suffered a serious injury or illness, or your employer is arguing that you are not entitled to benefits, you will likely want to contact an experienced workers’ comp lawyer who can help you stand up for your rights.

Can You Represent Yourself?

In some cases, workers can represent themselves in a workers’ comp case and reach a fair outcome. In order for that to be true, the following should apply:

  • Your injury is relatively minor, like a sprain, strain, or cut
  • You did not miss very much work (if any)
  • Your employer admits that your injury or illness is work-related
  • You do not have a related pre-existing injury or illness

If all of the above are true in your situation, you may be able to go through the workers’ comp process without a lawyer’s help. However, it’s still a good idea to meet with a workers’ comp lawyer who offers free consultations for guidance. The lawyer can give you an overview of the process and answer questions you may have.

In What Scenarios or Situations Should You Consult a Lawyer?

As stated above, it’s probably a good idea to meet with a workers’ comp lawyer who offers a free consultation no matter how straightforward your workers’ comp case may seem.

And you should hire a lawyer to help you with your workers’ comp case if there is anything that makes your situation more complex. Examples of issues that can complicate workers’ comp claims include:

  • Your employer doesn’t agree that your injury or illness is work-related, or your claim has already been denied
  • You get a settlement offer that does not include all of your lost wages or medical bills
  • You cannot return to work because of your condition, or your condition prevents you from doing the same job
  • You receive (or plan to receive) Social Security Disability benefits
  • There was a third-party or a co-worker who caused your accident, such as a negligent driver who hit you while you were driving a work vehicle
  • You believe you were treated unfairly or penalized at work because you filed a workers’ comp claim

Why Do People Hire Attorneys for Workers’ Comp?

Unfortunately, employers or their insurance providers often deny workers’ comp claims, even when they shouldn’t. Many people hire attorneys for workers’ comp claims to help them get fair compensation.

The Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) wanted to find out more details about why injured workers hired attorneys, so they took a survey of 6,823 injured workers.

Interestingly, they found that most people with a workers’ comp case (71%) did not hire an attorney. Of the people who did hire an attorney for their workers’ comp case, most said they did so after feeling threatened — either by their employer or by the workers’ comp process in general.

Surprisingly, almost half (46%) of those surveyed said they hired an attorney because they mistakenly believed their claims were denied, when in fact, their claims had not yet even entered the system.

Other factors that led injured workers to hire lawyers included the severe nature of their injuries, the size of the employer, the employee’s tenure with the company, and the employee’s age, according to the survey.

What Does a Worker’s Comp Lawyer Do?

You may be wondering what you can expect from a workers’ compensation attorney, if you decide to hire one. Here are tasks that workers’ comp attorneys handle for their clients:

  • Make sure all the correct forms are filed before deadlines
  • Communicate with the insurance provider on your behalf
  • Gather medical evidence that supports your claim
  • Negotiate a fair settlement with the insurance provider
  • Write a settlement agreement, protecting your rights
  • Attend a hearing on your behalf, if necessary

Many people find that it can be very difficult to go through the workers’ comp process alone in more complex cases, or cases involving serious injuries or illness. Workers’ comp attorneys offer guidance and fight for fair compensation for their clients.

How Much Does a Worker’s Comp Lawyer Cost?

Most workers’ comp attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. That means they are not paid until you receive a settlement. The fee charged depends on many factors, such as your geographic location and how experienced the attorney is. Many states have laws that cap the percentage workers’ comp attorneys can take at between 10% and 20%.

This is a good question to ask at your initial consultation with a workers’ comp attorney.

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