a business man holding his hands because of pain while working on a laptop.

Workers’ Comp: Represent Yourself, or Hire a Lawyer?

Payments under workers’ compensation claims reached $63.6 billion in 2013, according to a recent report from the Social Security Administration. Medical benefits accounted for nearly half of this figure, with the remaining $32 billion going towards lost wages.

Workplace injuries should be immediately documented at the time of the injury, and the severity of the injuries need to be considered if you plan to represent yourself.

Self-Representation: Often the Wrong Choice

Self-representation is rarely sufficient. Minor injuries are the only time legal professionals recommend a person represent themselves when making a workers’ compensation claim. Injuries must be minor in nature in this case, and may include:

  • Minor stitches
  • Twisted ankles
  • Sprains

The best scenario for a person who wants to represent themselves instead of hiring a lawyer is a case that’s:

  • Not complex
  • Little or no work was missed
  • Employer confirms the injury at the workplace

These are ideal situations, and your claim is not likely to be denied. Of course, you have the option of consulting with an attorney to assess your case.

If there were no major injuries, time lost or loss of wages involved in your case, this is the time you may consider representing yourself. You will have the option to consult with an attorney if your claim is denied.

The Right Time to Hire a Lawyer

A workers’ compensation lawyer will often offer a free consultation and will help you through filing your claim and handling any hurdles that come along the way. The lawyer will determine if you have a viable claim, and they can also help you save time and money from filing a claim that may not be successful.

Complex cases should always be given to a lawyer.

A lawyer will ensure that:

  • You obtain all of the appropriate medical documentation to prove your claim.
  • You meet all necessary claim deadlines.
  • You know the potential worth of your claim.

You may also be referred to specialists to ensure that your injuries are properly cared for and documented.

You’ll want to contact an attorney if:

  • Your claim is denied. Employers can deny claims, and when this happens, over 70% of workers accept the denial. An attorney will work to get your claim accepted and ensure you’re not in the majority of injured workers that accept a claim denial that should have been approved.
  • Benefits aren’t dispatched promptly. Your bills won’t stop because of your claim. Prompt benefits are a necessity and ensure that you don’t accrue debt or miss bill payments.
  • Settlements don’t cover costs. A settlement from your employer should cover all of your medical costs and lost wages. If a settlement isn’t able to cover all of your costs, hire a lawyer. A lawyer will argue your case, ensuring that you’re made whole again.
  • Permanent or partial disability. Severe injuries that cause permanent or partial disability are best referred to an attorney. You may be entitled to receive lifetime weekly payments or a large lump sum because you can not return to your former position. If an injury causes you to lose lifetime earning or changes your employment, it’s time to call an attorney that can help.
  • Third-party negligence. Claims that have third-party negligence are complex in nature. These cases involve another party whose negligence may have caused your injures.

There are also times when a boss will retaliate against an employee that makes a claim. If you’ve been demoted or your boss has acted retaliatory in any way, legal action should be taken.