If you’ve been injured on the job and you plan to file a workers’ compensation claim, it’s a good idea to hire a workers’ compensation attorney to work with you on your claim. Hiring an attorney can often make the difference between having your claim accepted instead of denied, or—if your claim is denied—making a successful appeal.
You want to make sure you hire the right workers’ compensation lawyer who is experienced in workers’ compensation law. Many law firms in South Carolina advertise that they work on workers’ compensation cases, but they actually don’t. If you hire them, they send your claim to another lawyer—frequently in another city—who does handle workers’ compensation claims, and the law firm you thought you were hiring collects half the fee in your case. Such a process does not give you the chance to choose your own lawyer and, in many cases, the lawyer you end up with is located geographically far away from you, making it difficult to meet with the lawyer, in person. Hiring the wrong attorney can have a huge impact on your overall health, your family’s future, and whether you struggle financially or can maintain your pre-injury lifestyle.
Recommendations for Finding the Right Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
Looking for the right lawyer to help you with your workers’ compensation case is a bit like finding the right doctor to perform your surgery. You need to do your homework.
1. Ask Your Family, Friends, or Neighbors
If you’re starting from scratch in your search for the right workers’ compensation lawyer, the best place to start is by asking your friends, family, or neighbors for recommendations. Even if they have never filed a workers’ compensation claim, they may know someone from work or have a family member who has done so in the past and has had a positive experience with a particular law firm.
Keep in mind that, when you’re asking friends, family members, or colleagues for recommendations on workers’ compensation lawyers, you should not discuss the facts of your case with them. Workers’ compensation insurance can be quite tricky. Once you file a claim, the insurance company will sometimes interview your family, friends, or colleagues. If you have said something different to them from what you may have stated in your workers’ compensation claim–even if it’s a small detail–the insurance company may try to use that information to prevent you from getting the benefits you deserve.
2. Check with State and Local Bar Associations
South Carolina’s state bar associations, local bar associations, or even local legal aid offices may help you identify a competent workers’ compensation lawyer. These organizations can often help you differentiate firms that have a strong workers’ compensation practice from those that just dabble in the field.
3. The Internet
A quick internet search will produce dozens of law firms in South Carolina that say they handle workers’ compensation issues. It’s a good place to start. You’ll even find referral services for a variety of legal firms.
After you search, dig deeper for more information. If your search produces a law firm you think may suit your purposes, study the website to ensure they focus their practice on workers’ compensation issues. Here are some things to ask yourself:
- Does the firm’s website contain articles that educate and inform potential clients about important workers’ compensation issues?
- Can you find testimonials from previous clients about the firm’s work with workers’ compensation claims?
- Does the firm explain its fees and what you can expect to pay for the services?
- Is there any information on the firm’s lawyers that talks about their experience and their successes in previous workers’ compensation claims?
While you don’t want to base your decision on who to hire solely on information obtained from a firm’s website, their website can give you a good indication of the lawyer’s experience in dealing with workers’ compensation issues. The quality of a firm’s website can tell you a lot about the firm, itself.
The Qualifications Your Workers’ Compensation Attorney Should Have
So you’ve done your homework, talked to friends, searched the internet, and come up with three or four attorneys you think would be a good choice. Now you have to think about the exact qualifications you would like to find in a workers’ compensation attorney. Here are some qualifications to consider:
1. Their Area(s) of Practice
When you interview a lawyer, you want to ask them directly about their experience in workers’ compensation law. While their website might say they handle workers’ compensation claims, they may tell you in person that workers’ compensation law is only one of the areas of law that they work in. You want to make sure that the lawyer you choose does not dabble in workers’ compensation cases but is experienced and knowledgeable about them.
2. No Divided Loyalties
You want to find a lawyer who only represents injured workers. Some firms may work both sides, representing injured workers in some cases and employers in others. This is not the attorney you need.
3. Successful Track Record
Your lawyer should work in a firm that has a long and successful history of helping injured workers gain the benefits to which they are entitled. Don’t be afraid to ask the attorney for the names of several other people that they have represented successfully who can tell you a little bit more about their experience with that lawyer.
4. Strong Financial Resources
Most attorneys who deal with workers’ compensation cases in South Carolina work on a contingency fee basis when it comes to attorney’s fees. If your case is successful, attorneys can charge 33 percent of the settlement amount. Every fee has to be approved by the South Carolina Workers Compensation Commission.
Legal costs are different, so you want to dig a little deeper on this issue. For instance, an expert witness can cost as much as $3,000. Most injured workers cannot afford these costs. You’ll want to work with a firm that will help cover these costs.
5. The Length of Time They’ve Worked on Workers’ Comp Cases
You should look for an attorney who has experience in dealing with workers’ compensation issues for at least 15 years, if not more.
6. Open Communication
This is one of the most important qualities you can find in a workers’ compensation attorney. While attorneys cannot work on your case all the time, you still want to be able to talk to them when you feel it is important and not to be shifted to an assistant or intern who may be helping the lawyer with your case. You will also want to find someone who’s willing to share with you all the information that they have gathered about your claim. The last thing you want is an attorney who will introduce evidence or witnesses at a hearing that you may know nothing about.
7. Solid Support Staff
While you need to be able to speak with your attorney on all important issues, if it’s just a situation where you need to fill out paperwork or if you have a simple question, you will probably be working with a paralegal, legal assistant, or an intake specialist. You want to make sure the rest of the staff is well-versed and well-trained in the field of workers’ compensation law.
8. Customer Service
People often have the impression that lawyers are aloof or unfocused when you are discussing your problems with them. It doesn’t have to be that way. Good lawyers work well with clients and show them the respect they deserve. Good lawyers understand it’s not just a matter of you needing a workmen’s compensation lawyer. They understand you can give your business to anyone and will treat you and your claim seriously.
9. Interest in Your Well Being
Helping you win your workers’ compensation case is, of course, important for your attorney. But the most important thing for you is to recover your health. You want an attorney who will make sure you get the best medical care possible, who will take your injury seriously, and will make sure you get the treatment you need. Find an attorney who is willing to stand up to the insurance company if they try to deny treatments.
10. Works Hard on Your Behalf
You want an attorney that will work hard for you. You don’t want an attorney who thinks your case is something that deserves their attention only now and then. It makes sense to trust your gut on this issue. If you ask a lot of questions, and you sense that this is an attorney who is is willing to work hard to help you gain the benefits to which you are eligible, that’s an attorney you want to work with.
The law offices of Mary Jordan can help you.
At the Law Offices of Mary Jordan we work hard to know our clients and their families. This allows us to create a personalized strategy for each client that helps them avoid the regular pitfalls that exist in the workers’ compensation system.
When you want to find a South Carolina workers’ compensation attorney to answer all your needs, contact the Law Offices of Mary Jordan.