If you're an injured worker who's about to meet with a workers' compensation lawyer for the first time, you're probably terrified. Being prepared for your initial meeting with a Workers' Compensation attorney is half the battle. You have a lot of questions and Workers' Compensation attorneys are busy -- they spend most of their time in court and in depositions for other injured workers. So the question is: how do you make the most of your time with your attorney? What can you do to be prepared?
Bring Your Documentation
Anything you've got documenting your injury, treatment, and the history of correspondence between you, the insurance company, or your employer comes to your initial meeting. If you have the following types of documentation, you'll save time down the road by preparing them for your Workers' Compensation lawyer right away:
1. Workers' Compensation medical records and reports
2. Documents you may have received from the Insurance Company
3. The First Report of Injury (California Workers' Comp DWC-1 Form), if you filled one out
4. Any correspondence from your employer on your Workers' Compensation Claim
5. A list of your medical providers
Prepare Your Questions In Advance
Meeting with an attorney for the first time can always be intimidating. It helps to have a list of questions so that you don't forget what you wanted to ask because you're nervous. Don't know what to ask? There are some key questions that will help make sure you're making the right choice!
Here are the top five questions to ask a prospective Workers' Compensation lawyer:
1. How much of your practice is devoted to Workers' Compensation?
Workers Compensation Law, especially in California is a very specialized field. Few truly know how to handle it well. Choosing an attorney that understands workers' compensation and spends their days only representing injured workers is really the only way to go. They know the judges, defense attorneys, doctors and insurance adjusters and can generally get your workers' compensation case moving a lot faster through the difficult system.
2. Who will be handling my Workers' Compensation case?
Because Workers' Compensation Attorneys spend so much of their time in court and in depositions, it is important to find a law firm that have very well-trained staff or your case will unnecessarily sit in limbo for sometimes years. Firms with well-trained Case Managers and Assistants are essential to getting a case moving along and getting the best result. The alternative is legal assistants that basically just take messages for an attorney. If the attorney is the only one handling client calls, you'll be waiting for that call back a long, long time.
3. How well-trained is the legal support staff in your office?
This is a tricky question for most attorneys because, generally, the support staff in a law firm are trained on taking messages and sending out letters. However, Workers' Compensation attorneys have large caseloads. If the attorney is the only one doing work on the case, it's going to take years to push your case through. And if you need a question answered? Forget about it. Essential to keeping a Workers' Compensation case moving is staff that is trained specifically in California Workers' Compensation law. Without a top-notch support staff, you're in for a very frustrating experience.
4. What are your fees?
Generally all California Workers' Compensation law firms charge the same fees. The answer should be 15% of any recovery, but any fees will be approved by a Workers' Compensation Judge. But if there is no recovery, there should be absolutely no fee at all. There are some types of actions within a California Workers' Compensation Claim where attorneys can charge more, like an additional Discrimination Claim (Cal Labor Code Sec. 132a or a Serious and Willful Action), where attorneys can charge 33%. However, you should never pay money for a case where there's no recovery.
5. How often can I be updated on my case?
This is always an important question because as we said above, attorneys spend a lot of time in Court and in Depositions for California Workers' Compensation cases. Most firms that don't use well-trained people will leave client calls and messages un-returned for months. Client are left in the dark about the status of their case. Find a firm that uses well-trained people and that focuses on customer service and promises to return calls and answer questions in a timely manner. It makes for a better, less stressful experience.
Pacific Workers' Compensation is the leader in Northern California Workers' Compensation. Pacific Workers' Compensation: Your Fight is Our Fight.