Workers’ compensation benefits provide financial compensation to employees who are injured on the job. In Florida, an injured employee is generally entitled to one of two types of workers’ compensation benefits. First, an employee who is injured at work can seek the recovery of payments for injury-related medical care. Second, an employee who is hurt on the job can obtain financial compensation for lost wages and related losses.
However, the workers’ compensation system is complicated, and mistakes made during the claim process can delay—or even prevent—your receipt of benefits. Therefore, if you’ve been injured on the job, you should seek the assistance of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. If you’ve had a workplace injury in the Jacksonville area, our knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyers will guide you through the claim process. When you come to us for assistance, we will do everything in our power to ensure that your case has a successful result. Read on as we discuss how to choose a workers’ compensation lawyer for your workplace injury.
Immediately Seek Legal Assistance Following a Workplace Injury
Before explaining how to choose a workers’ compensation attorney to help you obtain compensation for your work-related injury, it is first necessary to ensure that you understand why hiring an attorney immediately after your workplace accident is so important.
If you are hurt on the job, you must report the accident to your employer as soon as possible. Timely notification of your injury must occur within 30 days of your accident, or your workers’ compensation claim will be denied. Your employer must then notify its workers’ compensation insurance carrier of your injury no later than seven days after receiving the information regarding your injury. However, to ensure that: (1) you properly report your injury, and (2) your employer fulfills its obligation to notify its insurer of your injury, you should work with an experienced attorney from the outset of the workers’ compensation claim process. In other words, as soon as you suffer a work-related injury, you should start your attorney search.
Choosing a Workers’ Compensation Attorney
These tips can help you select the workers’ compensation lawyer that’s right for your needs:
Identifying Prospective Attorneys
The first step in choosing an attorney is identifying one with whom you’d like to meet and discuss your case. There are many ways to identify prospective workers’ compensation lawyers. Two great ways to identify prospective lawyers are through recommendations and online research.
Recommendations: An excellent way to find an attorney is through word of mouth. By speaking with family members, friends, and associates, you are likely to identify at least a few people who’ve dealt with workers’ compensation issues in the past. These individuals can be great sources of information when it comes to finding an attorney.
Online research: The internet is another great resource to use when searching for prospective attorneys. Many websites permit clients to review attorneys—these can be a great place to start your online search. In addition, law firm websites are a great source of information. When reviewing a law firm’s or attorney’s website, be sure to see if it is professional in appearance and content.
The Initial Consultation
After you’ve identified a promising attorney candidate, you should schedule an initial consultation. An initial consultation provides you and your prospective attorney with an opportunity to discuss your case. It also gives you an opportunity to collect as much information from the attorney as possible. If you fail to ask the right questions during your consultation, it will be difficult for you to accurately assess whether a prospective attorney is the right person to handle your case. Questions to ask during your initial consultation include:
- How many years have you been practicing workers’ compensation law?
- What percentage of your practice is devoted to workers’ compensation?
- Can you represent me throughout the entire workers’ compensation process, including hearings and appeals?
- Can you provide me with references from your former clients?
- Will you handle my case personally, or will legal assistants and paralegals handle most of the work?
- If I call your office to inquire about my case, will I speak with you directly or a legal assistant?
- Can you provide me with an overview of how the workers’ compensation claim process works in Florida?
- What is your rate? Will I be charged if my case is unsuccessful?
- If litigation is necessary, will I be charged for litigation-related expenses? If so, what do those expenses include?
- Do you arrange for your clients to receive medical examinations with appropriate specialists?
- What is the value of my case?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of my case?
Although the questions above are intended to provide you with as much information as possible about the attorney with whom you meet, they serve another important purpose: to help you determine whether your prospective attorney possesses the traits necessary to increase your odds of a successful outcome in your Florida workers’ compensation case. Ideally, the attorney you choose should possess most of the following traits.
Years of experience handling workers’ compensation claims. workers’ compensation law is complicated, and it takes years of experience to truly understand it. Therefore, when it comes to workers’ compensation claims, experience is important. Generally, when choosing a workers’ compensation lawyer, the more experience a prospective attorney has, the better. There is a vast difference between an attorney who is fresh out of law school and one who has spent years in the trenches handling novel and complicated workers’ compensation cases.
Years of experience handling other types of work injury claims. In addition to years of workers’ compensation experience, it is helpful if your attorney has experience handling other types of work injury claims. Depending on your situation, you may be entitled to damages that go beyond workers’ compensation. However, your opportunity for additional compensation may be overlooked by a workers’ compensation attorney who focuses solely on the workers’ compensation aspect of your case. An attorney with experience handling multiple types of work injury claims, on the other hand, will be capable of identifying additional sources of compensation to which you may be entitled.
A track record of success: Past results don’t guarantee future success, and no attorney should ever promise you a specific result in your workers’ compensation case. However, when it comes to choosing an attorney, a long track record of success is always a good sign. On the other hand, if an attorney refuses to share their past results with you, you may want to move along and continue your attorney search elsewhere.
Generally, if the attorney you meet with during your initial consultation can share multiple examples with you of cases in which they have successfully obtained workers’ compensation benefits for their clients, then you are on the right track.
A long list of happy clients: A successful, trustworthy attorney will have a long list of satisfied clients. And attorneys with happy clients should be happy to let them speak with you about their services. The reason for this is simple: an attorney’s satisfied clients are often their greatest selling points. Therefore, when speaking with a prospective attorney, be sure to ask if they are willing to put you in touch with past clients.
Availability: Like many of us, lawyers are busy people. In fact, attorneys are often busier than most. Unfortunately, some lawyers are too busy for many of their own clients. And when an attorney has a caseload that they can’t handle, this often results in paralegals and inexperienced junior attorneys handling the bulk of the work. Therefore, it is important to choose an attorney who has the time to devote personal attention to your case. Part of this attention means being available to answer emails, take phone calls, and provide updates as your case moves through the workers’ compensation process.
Willingness to answer questions: Related to the issue of availability discussed above, your attorney should be willing to answer questions about your case and the workers’ compensation process in general. Unless you have a legal background or have been previously injured at work, you are unlikely to know much about the workers’ compensation process. A good attorney understands this and will patiently guide you through the process while answering all your questions along the way.
Multiple methods of communication: Not only should your attorney be available to discuss your case with you, but they should be reachable in several ways. At a minimum, your attorney should be available via phone and email. However, your attorney should also be willing to meet with you in person or by video conference to discuss important developments in your case.
Resources and staff: There can certainly be benefits to hiring a solo practitioner or small firm to handle your workers’ compensation case. However, one major drawback to solo attorneys and small firms is that they often lack the resources and staff to handle your case in the most effective manner possible. High-volume workers’ compensation firms require dedicated staff and ample resources to provide their clients with a high level of service and excellent odds of success.
When meeting with an attorney, try to get a sense of whether their firm has the resources and staff necessary to provide you with the level of representation you deserve in your workers’ compensation matter.
Local familiarity and geographic proximity:
At a minimum, you must choose an attorney who is licensed to practice in your state. However, Florida is a large state, so you should strongly consider choosing an attorney who is located in your city (or a nearby city). Not only does this make in-person meetings possible, but it increases the odds that your attorney will be familiar with your employer, the location where you were injured, and the local courts and judges.
Finally, it’s important that you feel comfortable with the attorney you pick to represent you in your work-related injury case. After all, you may be working together for an extended period, so you should avoid choosing someone with whom you can’t freely and easily communicate. In addition, an attorney–client relationship often involves sharing details about your injury, your health, and other personal information. If you don’t have a personal connection with your attorney, you may feel hesitant to share this information with them, which can hurt your case.
For your own comfort and your workers’ compensation claim, be sure to choose a lawyer you get along with and who you feel like you can trust. Remember, the best workers’ compensation lawyers are not only well-versed in the area of workers’ compensation; they are also skilled communicators with a passion for obtaining financial compensation on behalf of their clients.
Contact an Experienced Attorney
The victims of work-related injuries don’t just suffer physically—they also suffer emotionally. Luckily, if you’ve been injured at work, you may be entitled to financial compensation through a workers’ compensation claim. However, the compensation system in Florida is complicated, and any mistakes made during the workers’ comp process can result in a denial of benefits.
If you are considering filing a workers’ compensation claim, you need the expertise of our Jacksonville workers’ compensation lawyers on your side. At Harrell and Harrell, our experienced and knowledgeable team of lawyers provides aggressive representation for employees who have been injured in the course and scope of employment. We are proud of our long track record of success, and we are confident that we can help you obtain the benefits you deserve in your workers’ compensation case.
Please contact us as soon as possible to schedule a free and confidential consultation with one of our talented personal injury attorneys that specialize in workers’ compensation.