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Important Questions to Ask a Workers' Compensation Lawyer

If you were injured on the job and you need medical treatment or are unable to work, you might be eligible for workers' compensation to help cover your medical expenses and lost wages.

Navigating the workers' compensation insurance system is difficult to do on your own, which is why it is a good idea to meet with a lawyer. Most workers' comp lawyers offer a free initial consultation. Even if you plan to apply for benefits on your own, it's still a good idea to meet with a workers' comp lawyer to get your questions answered.

Speaking of questions, here are six important questions to be sure to ask.

1. Does it matter if the accident was my fault?

If your workplace accident was your own fault — such as if you didn't take proper safety precautions and were injured as a result — you may be wondering if you can still get workers' comp benefits.

For the most part, the workers' comp system is not fault-based. That means that unless you were doing something illegal or engaging in extreme behavior like starting a fight or being intoxicated, fault doesn't matter and should not affect your injury claim.

2. What should I do to protect my claim?

Unfortunately, many employers and their insurance companies do what they can to limit or deny workers' comp claims. That means you need to take precautions to protect your work injury claim.

This includes reporting your injury to your employer and seeking medical help right away. You will also want to keep careful notes on your medical records, medical bills, and how your injury develops over time. The attorney you meet with may give you additional steps to take to protect your claim.

3. What could my workers' compensation benefits cover?

You are likely entitled to compensation for the medical treatment you require as a result of your workplace injury. However, not all "treatments" are fully covered such as chiropractic care and physical therapy.

You may also be entitled to temporary disability benefits to cover part of your lost wages if you missed more than three days of work because of your injury. Permanent disability benefits may be available if your injury is severe. Other benefits like retraining vouchers and death benefits are available in certain situations.

4. Do I need a workers' comp lawyer to get benefits?

Many injured workers are able to get through the workers' comp process after a workplace injury without an attorney's help. If your injury is minor or has already healed and you didn't miss any work, then your claim may not require an attorney's help.

However, even claims that seem simple and straightforward are often denied by claims adjusters. They may argue that the injury was not work-related or the injury was not as serious as you are claiming.

An attorney can be crucial in cases involving serious or permanent injuries to make sure that you get the full amount of benefits that you are entitled to.

The workers' compensation attorney you meet with should be able to give you an honest assessment on whether you claim requires a workers' compensation lawyer's help or if you can handle it yourself.

5. Can I sue my employer after a workplace injury?

Generally, you can't sue your employer for personal injury after a workplace injury, even if the accident was your employer's fault. However, if there was a third party involved in the accident, such as another driver in the case of a work-related car accident, or a defective product such as in the case of an equipment-related injury, you may be able to sue the third party for damages.

This is why it's important to meet with an attorney. There might be more to your case than you realize.

6. How much does your law firm charge for workers' compensation cases?

Of course, you want to make sure that you ask how much the lawyer you meet with charges before hiring them to take on your workers' compensation case.

Typically, workers' comp attorneys today charge on a contingency fee basis, which means they charge a percentage of your overall settlement. State law determines how workers' comp lawyers are paid. Almost all states require contingency fees for workers' compensation cases. Most states also place a cap on the percentage, which is usually between 10% and 20%. More experienced workers' compensation lawyers may charge a higher percentage than less experienced lawyers, so that is something to keep in mind.

See FindLaw's workers' compensation lawyer directory to find a lawyer near you.

These questions should give you a good understanding of your workers' compensation claim and the next steps you should take. Keep in mind that the lawyer you meet with will not be able to give you legal advice until you have formed an attorney-client relationship.

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