Can a Lawyer Help Me with My Workers Compensation Claim?
The short answer to that question is "Yes." A lawyer can certainly help you understand the workers' compensation process and to help you formulate your claim. What you probably really want to know is "Should I have a lawyer help me with my workers' compensation claim?" Is it going to be worth the financial investment? Well, that is a more difficult question. It is going to depend on the situation. A vast majority of workers' compensation claims are easily handled between the employee and the employer but some can get complicated and eventually end up in court.
The first step in making a claim for workers' compensation benefits is filing a claim with your employer. The advantage of having an attorney when first file your claim is that a lawyer can help you to accurately and honestly describe the event which caused your injury while still avoiding the pitfalls that may prevent you from receiving benefits- like suggesting that you were intoxicated or engaging in irresponsible behavior at the time of the incident.
Generally, it is not necessary to have a lawyer when you first file a claim. The need for a lawyer is more likely to arise after the claim has been denied. Each state has its own appeals process for workers' compensation claims that have been denied. When a claim is denied there is usually an administrative appeal which is often followed by the opportunity to appeal to a special board or commission. In some cases, an appeal will be heard by a workers' compensation court. Most people would want a lawyer before going to court. Mostly because they are uncomfortable in a courtroom setting but also because the other side will probably have a lawyer. Some workers compensation cases are even appealed to the highest court in the state (usually called the Supreme Court).
Whether or not you should have the assistance of an attorney probably depends on the nature and severity of your injury. If you have a serious injury, a work-related disease, or the permanent aggravation of a preexisting condition you may be entitled to a monetary award for future medical expenses and lost wages. If you are unable to do the same work or if you are unable to work at all, then the stakes of a workers compensation claim will be high. The type of benefits that you will receive through the program (monetary benefits, vocational training etc.) could be critical to your well-being and financial outlook. If you have the type of injury that has permanent or long term debilitating effects then you probably want the assistance of an attorney.
Finally, another benefit to having an attorney is that sometimes, workers' compensation is not your only option. Although in a majority of cases you do not have the right to sue your employer, there are a few narrow exceptions. If the injury was the result of an intentional act then you may have the right to sue. If the injury results from a defective product or machine then you could have a claim against the manufacturer of that item. An attorney can help you consider these options as well as other options that may be unique to your situation.
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