That is the short answer to the question of whether you should hire a workers compensation attorney.
Sometimes, you may not need an attorney after an injury at work. This is often the case if you suffer a minor injury that does not require much medical treatment and are able to return to work pretty quickly without difficulty. If you suffer a more serious injury that affects your ability to do your job, you are more likely to need an attorney.
There are a number of factors that you will want to consider in making the decision about whether you will hire an attorney to represent you. Three of the most important are:
- What risks do you have if you do not hire an attorney?
- What benefits can the attorney provide to you?
- What will it cost you to hire an attorney?
There are many risks of not having an attorney. One major risk is deadlines in your workers compensation case. These deadlines can cause you to lose benefits which you should receive.
Georgia’s workers compensation law has many different deadlines that you have to worry about. One deadline requires you to file a claim within a certain amount of time. Another deadline only gives you a certain amount of time to request additional checks when your checks stop.
There are also deadlines that limit how long the insurance company has to pay you benefits and how long you have to notify your employer of your injury. This article I wrote discusses many of these deadlines in more detail.
Besides deadlines, are there other risks of not having an attorney in my workers compensation case?
Yes. Deadlines are not the only risk. Even if you meet all the deadlines, you still have to worry about whether the insurance company follows the rules and pays you the benefits they should.
When your injury keeps you out of work, you depend on the weekly workers compensation check that the insurance company pays. If that check stops, it can be very difficult to get by. Unfortunately, many insurance companies work hard to get your check stopped since it saves them money.
The insurance company may also work to limit the medical treatment that they have to pay for on your case. Every time you get any medical treatment, it costs the insurance company money. If the insurance company is trying to save money, you may not get all the medical treatment you need.
When the insurance company tries to stop your weekly checks and medical treatment, you can find yourself unable to work without having fully recovered from your injury. Since Georgia is an “employment at will” state for most employees, you may also find yourself without a job.
What benefits can the attorney provide to you?
The biggest benefit that an attorney provides is giving you advice and making sure you receive the benefits you should. The most important workers compensation benefits are usually your medical treatment and your wage loss benefits.
A good workers compensation attorney understands the laws and rules that govern workers compensation cases. This understanding can prevent the insurance company from stopping your weekly checks or medical treatment early.
Getting the medical treatment you need ultimately helps you recover and get back to work. If your injury keeps you out of work, temporary total disability checks help you get by while you are out of work and no longer receiving a paycheck from your employer.
What other benefits can a good workers compensation attorney provide?
Sometimes, insurance companies do not follow the rules. If the insurance company refuses to pay some benefit it should, you may need to enforce your rights with a workers compensation judge. A judge can hear your case and make a decision ordering the insurance company to pay the benefits they should.
Going to court without an attorney is very difficult. Special rules apply to how your case must be presented in court. If you do not know or understand these rules, there is a good chance that you could lose your case with the judge.
An attorney can also talk about settlement of your case with you and whether that would be a good option to explore. Workers compensation is a little bit different, and many people do not have a complete understanding of what settlement of a workers compensation case means. If you would like to learn more about what a workers compensation settlement is and how it might work, this article discusses settlement in more detail.
Most workers compensation attorneys in Georgia work on what are called “contingency fee” contracts. This means you do not pay upfront money. You also do not pay by the hour.
Under a contingency fee contract, you only pay an attorney’s fee if the attorney succeeds in recovering money for you. Specifically, there are two situations where you might pay an attorney’s fee.
- Where an attorney successfully recovers weekly workers compensation checks for you; and
- Where the attorney successfully negotiates a a settlement on your behalf with your permission.
Contingency fee contracts can help you because you can hire an attorney to help you on your case and you only have to pay them if they get additional money for you. Since you do not pay an attorney by the hour, it often helps to get a good workers compensation attorney involved in your case to make sure your case goes smoothly.