Do I Need a Workers' Compensation Attorney?
You’re not alone in asking. Many injured workers ask themselves the very same question. At a glance, making a workers’ compensation claim seems straightforward. As is often the case in law, the devil really is in the details. Consider the following reasons to retain an attorney, and decide for yourself. You can also read how an attorney is compensated.
The Workers’ Compensation Process Can Be Tricky
Not just the legal process – the order of actions, the forms, the deadlines. Dealing with everyone involved can be tricky if you don’t know how things are done, who to talk to, and what your rights really are. Insurance company representatives may ask for a recorded statement, and ask you carefully worded questions that may lead you to answering in a way that does harm to your claim later on. It does not help that the forms are confusing to most.
We’ve done our best to answer the most common questions we’re asked about workers’ compensation, but nothing is a substitute for having an attorney in your corner.
Don’t Miss Deadlines
Speaking of deadlines, did you know you start with one? That’s right. In North Carolina, you typically have to notify your employer of your injury in writing as soon as possible and within 30 days of your injury. In South Carolina, this deadline is typically 90 days. We also recommend that you notify your employer verbally if you can. (Oral notification is not required, but it’s a best practice.)
Notifying your employer is not the same as filing a claim! You must formally file a claim within a certain time after your injury, which may differ depending on your state. In both North and South Carolina, the deadline to file a workers’ compensation claim is generally two years from the date of the injury.
If you didn’t know that, you’re not alone. A lot of injured workers find themselves trying to catch up to the system because they had no one to tell them what they should be doing. If you get an attorney, he or she can keep track of all the deadlines, forms, and requirements for you – and will know the correct order in which to do things.
An Attorney May Be Able to Help You Obtain Medical Care More to Your Liking
States differ, but this is an important aspect of your recovery. How it works may surprise you. For example, according to North Carolina workers’ compensation law, the insurance company has the right to decide what medical care you receive and who provides it – within reason. It may be the first thing you learn without an attorney, as the insurer is almost certain to send you to a physician of their choosing.
The Good News: Having an attorney may give you the leverage to take back some of that power if you’re not happy with the care you’re receiving. That may include an appeal or official request through a process – something an experienced workers’ compensation attorney will know how to do.
Having an Attorney May Help You Get More Compensation
The formula for calculating workers’ compensation benefits is part of the law. Issues do arise, however, when there is confusion or disagreement over things like permanent disability and the cost and form of future medical needs. Even a worker’s wages – which are the basis for the calculation – may be interpreted in ways the worker may not agree with. Having an attorney means having someone to not only do the math, but to argue on your behalf when others try to reduce what you think you should be paid.
We’ve seen employers and insurance companies miscalculate benefits. We’ve seen benefits checks sent irregularly, perhaps to keep workers from getting on “repetitive pay.” We’ve seen it and we’re happy to fight against it.
You May Have More Job Security With an Attorney in Your Corner
Having an employee on workers’ compensation can cost employers money. They may want you back on the job – any job – as soon as possible to reduce their costs. This might be called “light duty.” Even if it’s the wrong job for you, or pays less than the one you had before your injury – which you may not have fully recovered from. You may even aggravate the injury by returning to work too soon – even light duty. And what if they simply fire you instead of pay for your care?
Having a workers’ compensation attorney can help try to ensure that you’re not:
- discriminated against (it happens);
- wrongfully terminated; or
- coerced into returning to work too soon.
The attorney is on your side and wants you to make as full a recovery as possible.
A Workers’ Compensation Attorney Knows Your Rights
One thing that isn’t always clear to injured workers is what exactly they’re entitled to under the law. Some insurance companies or employers may try to take advantage of workers’ lack of legal knowledge. You can avoid this issue if you’ve got an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. We know the rights of the worker, and work to protect them. And if you have a question, you don’t need to sift through hundreds of pages of law to get the answer. You just call us.
When Problems Arise During Your Case, an Attorney Handles Them
Seems obvious, but it bears repeating. Every case has its challenges. What if the insurance company denies a procedure that might help you heal? What if you’re not happy with the doctor? What if the insurance company stops payment of your benefits? What if your employer insists you return to work before you’re healed, or worse, unjustly terminates your employment? When these problems arise, you can take them to your attorney – and many may go straight to him or her so you don’t have to deal with them. The reduction in stress alone is worth it to many workers.
Avoid Some Insurance Company Tactics Designed to Reduce Their Liability
Yes, sometimes, some insurers may use what we consider to be questionable tactics to try to reduce how much they potentially compensate you – whether in wage replacement or in medical costs. There are some insurance companies who may bully, deflect, or delay payments until some workers simply give up and take whatever they can get. Which is almost always less than they may deserve.
Is the insurance company trying to strong-arm you into a settlement you feel is too low? Are they not calling or impossible to contact, leaving you holding the bag? Are they sandbagging you, delaying payments, responses, or medical treatments? If so, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney may be able to put a stop to it.
The Insurance Company Will Have Lawyers
Hiring a lawyer of your own levels the playing field. Having an attorney means you have someone to stand up to the insurance company if they do things like try to stop your payments or push you to settle.
Fight fire with fire, they say. We fight for our clients, and we’re not afraid of insurance companies or their lawyers – we have staff who have worked on the insurance companies’ side. We have attorneys licensed in North and South Carolina Two of our attorneys worked for the North Carolina Industrial Commission, which regulates worker’s compensation in the state. We know the angles, and can fight to cover them for you.
Get a Professional Opinion on a Settlement Offer
This is where a workers’ compensation case can really turn south for workers. Any settlements are usually the last step in the process. Once you agree to one in writing, your case is generally done. Our experiences tells us that some insurance company settlement offers are not always fair (or even reasonable). We have the experience to:
- project future medical costs
- offer guidance on whether an offer is good
- identify what a settlement offer might be lacking.
We’ve negotiated settlements and know what to expect, and what some insurance companies may leave out. The settlement often represents your last chance for compensation, so having an attorney on your side to evaluate any offer may be a sensible move.
In North Carolina, Hire a NC State Bar Board Certified Workers’ Compensation Specialist
In North Carolina, there are NC State Bar Board Certified Specialists in Workers’ Compensation Law. These are attorneys who formally specialize in workers’ compensation law, and have had additional education and training in workers’ compensation law.
Did You Know? Very few ever receive this certification – only half of one percent of attorneys licensed in North Carolina are Board Certified Specialists in Workers’ Compensation law.*
Focus on Yourself and Your Family and Let an Attorney Handle the Claim
It is difficult to deal with injury, possible loss of income, and related family concerns all at once. An attorney can help screen you from the stress and handle the details of your case so that you can focus on your family and on getting better. In other words, reduce the stress that a claim adds to your injury. Let a professional handle the workers’ compensation side.
Protect Your Future
Even if you’ve returned to work from your injury, it is possible that you may need permanent, ongoing medical treatment. Even if these treatments are medically recommended, ongoing payment for them is not automatic.
Don’t Let the Insurance Company – or Anyone Else – Deprive You of Your Rights
Hasty, lowball settlement offers. Delays in payments. Incomplete treatment. Rushing you back to work. Discrimination. Unfair settlement offers. These are just a few of the things an injured worker may sometimes be faced with from some insurance companies despite the rights they have under workers’ compensation law.
The experienced workers’ compensation department at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin has dealt with thousands of workers’ compensation cases in North Carolina over the years. Several of our attorneys are NC State Bar Board Certified Specialists in Workers’ Compensation Law. Two of those attorneys have also worked at the North Carolina Industrial Commission, the legal body charged with administering and enforcing workers’ compensation laws in NC. Several of our staff members are bilingual in English and Spanish. We have attorneys licensed in both North and South Carolina.
Don’t leave your future to chance, and don’t face the insurance companies alone. Contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin online or call us anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-866-900-7078 for a free case evaluation. Tell them you mean business.
* Figures provided by the NC State Bar as of February 2021.