I’m sick and tired of insurance companies taking advantage of injured workers. If you are hurt on the job, you qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. Basically you get all of your medical care paid with no co-pay and no deductible. You also get a weekly check equal to 2/3 of what you were making when you were hurt. While the concept sounds simple, it can get very complex very fast.
The good news? You may not even need to hire a lawyer for your Georgia workers’ compensation case.
Whether you need to hire a lawyer depends on several things. It depends on:
• Whether you have a serious injury
• How likely is it your injury will impact your financial future
• Whether the insurance company is following the law or jerking you around
• Whether there will be a hearing with a judge
• Whether you want the best medical care or just some medical care
• Your ability to determine the full value of your case
• Your ability to form a strategy based on the law and your facts
• Whether you trust the insurance company to look after your interest
Serious Injury — A minor injury where you just have a few medical visits and no impact on your future earnings doesn’t require a lawyer. The insurance company will pay for a couple of medical appointments where you will be prescribed some pain or anti-inflammatory medication and you will be back to work in no time. Case over, no need for a lawyer.
The more medical care you require, the longer you will be out of work, the more difficult the insurance company becomes to deal with and the more likely it becomes that the insurance company will block or interfere with your medical care, even trying to influence your doctor behind your back and you may not even realize it is going on.
Future Earnings – How will your injury affect your financial future? Will you have permanent restrictions? Will you be able to do the same type of work you have done in the past? Will you be able to earn the same amount of money in the future? If your injury has no impact on your ability to make money in the future, you probably don’t need a lawyer. On the other hand, the more likely your injury affects your ability to earn money in the future, the more your financial future is at risk, and the more likely it is that you need a competent workers’ compensation lawyer overseeing your case.
Following the law – Georgia workers’ compensation has a lot of good law that helps injured workers. However, if you don’t know the law, and if you are dealing with an insurance company or employer who don’t follow the law, you will be missing benefits and medical care you didn’t even know you had available.
Here is a good test to see if your insurance company follows the law or uses the law against you. Ask yourself this question: “who is picking out your doctors?” the law says that when you got hurt, the employer must provide you with a physical list of doctors for YOU to select from. If you are dealing with an employer or insurance company who doesn’t even follow the first and most basic law, they are certainly not following other laws and you would have no way of knowing it. A competent workers’ compensation expert knows the law and can make sure it is followed in your case. If the law is not being followed, you are being jerked around. You may even get that feeling in your gut that something just isn’t right but not know what it is.
The likelihood of a hearing – The only way to make the insurance company and the employer follow the law is to file for a hearing and have a judge order them to do so. With a lawyer, the insurance company is more likely to follow the law so they don’t have to go to a hearing and explain their bad conduct. Sure, you can try calling and complaining to the employer/insurer, but without the threat of going to a hearing (and it is a very unwise thing to go to a hearing without a lawyer) they have no motivation to follow the law and no threat of going to a hearing. It is the rare case that doesn’t eventually require the filing of a hearing. The more serious the case, the more likely a hearing will be requested. If you don’t have a serious injury, you’ll probably be back to work in no time and never need a hearing. But, the more serious the case, the more likely they will not follow all the laws that benefit you and the more likely you will need a lawyer to file for a hearing to make them do the right thing.
Quality of medical care – you will get better medical care with a lawyer who knows which doctors have a history of providing good workers’ compensation case vs. those who have a history of merely protecting the insurance company.
Valuing your case – If you have a small injury your case has little to no value anyway, so if you get a small amount for settlement and minimal medical care, that’s probably about right. But, if you have an injury that impacts your ability to earn a living in the future and requires good extensive medical care, placing a value on what you have lost can be tricky. Trust me, the insurance company will not offer you full value if they think they can get away for less. I have plenty of sad stories I have heard on this and will share them with you if you ask. A qualified workers’ compensation lawyer will know, based on your injury, need for future medical care, and lost earnings ability how to value your case properly.
Case strategy – you can see all the Georgia workers’ compensation laws online. That’s the beauty of the Internet. But, you need to know, not only the law, but how they apply to your particular fact situation. Again, a small case requires little to no strategy. But, a knowledgeable lawyer can form a strategy for your case based on the law and the facts of your particular case. It’s sort of the difference between knowing how to play chess and knowing how to beat a chess master, that’s done by getting your own chess master to tell you the next move to make. Like a chess game, good strategy is put in play early. You don’t wait till you are in trouble to figure out a strategy. A good workers’ compensation lawyer can help you formulate a strategy that will assure you the best medical care and the best protection for your financial future.
Looking after your interest – If you have a small injury requiring little medical care and no lost time from work, the insurance adjuster can look after you as well as any old lawyer. But, if you have a serious injury requiring extensive lost time and medical care, your own qualified Georgia workers’ compensation lawyer will be on your side looking after your interest. Think of this, his fee is set by the state at 25% of whatever money he gets for you. I always tell my clients I have a selfish motive to look after their interest. The more they get, the more I get. I want to look after BOTH of our financial interests. If you think the insurance company will place your financial interest above theirs, I have news for you.
Bottom line, If you have a serious injury, you need a qualified Georgia workers’ compensation lawyer, if you have a small injury, you don’t even need to hire a lawyer.