Find an Affordable Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

Contributor, Benzinga

Recently injured while on the job? An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can help victims of a workplace illness or injury. They can help you get coverage for medical costs, lost wages and mental and emotional stress from the incident. Keep reading Benzinga’s guide to workers’ compensation attorneys, the various benefits they can help you receive and commonly asked questions about the process of hiring an attorney. 

Workers’ Compensation Cases

A lawyer specializing in workers’ compensation helps you settle your compensation case if the insurance adjuster fails to resolve it. Unlike your employer, who may be solely concerned for the company, an experienced lawyer’s goal is to help protect your best interests. They will help you seek the benefits you deserve depending on your unique case. A workers’ compensation case usually takes about 1 year to resolve, so it’s important to keep communications with your lawyer open and constant.   

Disability Benefits

Getting disability benefits is often one of the hardest parts about resolving a workers’ compensation case. Some insurance companies insist on denying benefits as long as you are able to perform any job at all. This process can wreak havoc on victims’ lives and financial wellbeing — one more reason why seeking legal advice is crucial for your workers’ compensation case. Your lawyer can help you prove your inability to work or possibly argue against a claim denial on the basis that you can work another job even with the disability. 

For this case, there are 2 types of benefits: temporary disability benefits and permanent disability benefits. Temporary disability (TD) benefits are payments if your injury prevents you from doing your usual job while recovering from the incident, causing you to lose pay. If you cannot work at all while recovering, you can get temporary total disability (TTD) benefits. If you can only work for part of your normal schedule while recovering, you can receive temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits. 

Essential documentation to look over with your lawyer includes:

  • Any medical documentation or evidence of the illness or injury and how it causes disability, such as dates of diagnoses, previous medical records, doctors’ reports and documentation of surgeries and procedures 
  • Your Social Security information 
  • Your original birth certificate or proof of U.S. citizenship
  • Any U.S. discharge papers if you were in the military before 1968
  • Your W-2 forms or tax returns for the last year, as your financial information helps the SSA identify your needs based on your economic situation
  • Pay stubs, settlement agreements, award letters
  • Proof of temporary or permanent workers’ compensation or similar benefits you’ve received

Medical Benefits

“Medical only” cases are quite common regarding workers’ compensation benefits, but they represent only a small share of overall payments. In most cases, 100% of medical costs are paid for and you can receive cash benefits for lost work time after a 3- to 7-day waiting period. 

Essential documentation to look over with your lawyer includes:

  • Any medical documentation or evidence of the illness or injury such as dates of diagnoses, previous medical records, doctors’ reports and documentation of surgeries and procedures 
  • Your Social Security information 
  • Your original birth certificate or proof of U.S. citizenship
  • Any U.S. discharge papers if you were in the military before 1968
  • Your W-2 forms or tax returns for the last year, as your financial information helps the SSA identify your needs based on your economic situation
  • Pay stubs, settlement agreements, award letters
  • Proof of temporary or permanent workers’ compensation or similar benefits you’ve received

If you suffer from a pre-existing injury or condition, insurance companies commonly highlight that in an attempt to dodge financial responsibility for the new injury or illness you experienced while at work. Your lawyer can help you navigate denials like these as they understand that your existing conditions likely had no part in causing the incident, but they can impact your ability to work during your recovery after the incident. 

Wage Reimbursement

When your employer continues to pay your typical wages following your work-related injury or illness, this is considered wage reimbursement. You can receive a percentage of your average weekly wage, which is the amount you make if you were still working as you did before the incident or illness. Your average weekly wage is an important factor to determining how much you can receive in workers’ comp reimbursements. 

The weekly amount that you can receive also depends on whether you are partially or totally unable to work due to injury or illness. If you are unable to work at all while recovering, the typical benefit is 60% of the average weekly wage. If you are partially able to work while recovering, your weekly pay is a certain percentage of your average weekly wage after it’s reduced by an earnings cap. Each state has a maximum weekly rate and since workers’ comp laws vary, make sure you understand the rules and maximum benefits for your state.

Essential documentation to look over with your lawyer includes:

  • Your Social Security information 
  • Your original birth certificate or proof of U.S. citizenship
  • U.S. discharge papers if you were in the military before 1968
  • Your W-2 forms or tax returns for the last year
  • Pay stubs, settlement agreements, award letters or any proof of employment and pay
  • Proof of temporary or permanent workers’ comp or similar benefits you’ve received

Rehabilitation Benefits

Vocational rehabilitation covers a wide range of services that can help you develop the necessary skills to return to your job, adapt to a different job within the same field or company or comfortably transition to an entirely new line of work. These services can include skill evaluations, job placement, assistance with résumé writing, job training, career counseling, additional education and help to determine the ideal work environment for successful employment. 

The main goal of having rehabilitation benefits is to help you return to a job that pays as close to the worker’s pre-injury earnings as possible. 

You are eligible for rehabilitation benefits if: 

  • You receive compensation payments (or will likely receive compensation payments) as a result of a work-related disability.
  • You are unable to return to your regular job due to some remaining permanent disability.
  • There are appropriate return-to-work opportunities in your commuting area.

Workers’ Compensation Laws

Every state has its own workers’ compensation laws and subsequent benefits, which are contained in statutes, and they vary somewhat from state to state. Also, there are special workers’ compensation laws for federal government employees and those in specific industries such as railroad employees. 

In most states, businesses are legally obligated to have some form of workers’ comp insurance to cover work-related injuries and illnesses. Filing a workers’ compensation claim is similar to filing an insurance claim — it isn’t a lawsuit against an employer but a request for benefits. 

Make sure you discuss the rules and benefits within your state with your lawyer. 

Get the Compensation You Deserve

Choose your lawyer wisely and make sure you and your legal support are putting in as much effort as possible during your recovery process to get as many benefits as needed after a work-related injury or illness. Check out Benzinga’s other helpful guides to insurance and financial wellbeing. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Who pays for a workers’ comp attorney?

A: You pay for your workers’ compensation attorney and their variety of possible additional services like travel costs, mediation fees and fees for court reporters (who make transcripts of depositions). 

Q: What disqualifies you from workers’ comp?

A: Although workers’ comp is generally a no-fault system, your claim will likely be denied if your employer or the insurance company doesn’t believe that your injury or illness was actually work-related, even if you are at work. Injuries that happen during your normal commute to and from work are generally not covered under workers’ comp. Lastly, most states deny coverage for injuries resulting from misconduct, like alcohol or drug use, horseplay (unless the employer knew about and tolerated the behavior) or harming yourself on purpose.

Q: What types of injuries are covered by workers’ compensation?

A: Generally speaking, you’ll be covered by workers’ compensation if you were hurt or got sick while doing something for your employer’s benefit and your work was the cause of your injury or illness. So, you could be covered if you were hurt on a business trip or while you were doing other work away from the office or job site.