The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) reports that in 2017, the state’s workers’ compensation program cost an estimated $1.62 billion. With so much money involved, insurance companies often fight hard to avoid paying claims.
While not required, a knowledgeable attorney can sometimes mean the difference between obtaining benefits and having your claim denied. Here are some things to look for when hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer.
Area of Specialization
The ideal workers’ compensation attorney is one who is also familiar with personal injury. That’s because a knowledgeable personal injury attorney will have a better idea as to what your case is worth. He or she can also prepare you for any snags that might delay or reduce your settlement.
Not all personal injury attorneys specialize in workers’ compensation. Accordingly, you should also ask a few questions to get a better idea of the firm’s experience. For example, you should know how many similar cases they have handled in the past and whether or not they had successful outcomes.
If a legal counselor has experience dealing with your particular injury, this would be an added bonus. That way, he or she can anticipate any common excuses an insurance company might come up with for denying or delaying your claim.
Experience with Administrative Hearings
The Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) hears disputed worker’s compensation claims. These hearings take place in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), who then renders a decision similar to those handed down in an actual court case. Alternately, the OAH may also request you undergo mediation or a settlement conference in order to resolve your case.
Having an experienced legal counselor can make all the difference when it comes to enjoying a favorable outcome. Therefore, you should look for an attorney who has experience representing other clients in these same settings.
High Involvement in the Appeals Process
An experienced lawyer could prove very useful should you find yourself needing to file an appeal. Located in St. Paul, the Minnesota Worker’s Compensation Court of Appeals consists of a panel of either three or five judges. These judges will hear the evidence and render a decision within 90 days.
This is your last shot at receiving a favorable outcome prior to filing a court complaint. Should an appeal become necessary, it will become even more important that you are able to put your best foot forward.
When filing a claim, the idea of an appeal is probably the furthest thing from your mind. However, you should always consider it a possibility.
A survey performed by Lockton revealed that claim denial rates jumped from 5.8 percent in 2013 to 6.9 percent in 2017. Hire an attorney up front who is familiar with appeals, so you will not be scrambling to find a knowledgeable one when or if that time comes.
View the Website or Blog
Determine a firm’s area of specialization by visiting their website. Do they advertise themselves solely as personal injury /workers’ compensation lawyers, or do they also claim to handle bankruptcy, divorce, or criminal matters?
How recently a website was updated will tell you a great deal about the practice as well. If it’s been some time since new information was added, it could be because the attorneys are not staying up to date with the latest changes.
Ask about Fees and Expenses
Most personal injury lawyers represent clients on a contingency basis. This means that you do not owe any money unless you recover damages. However, you could still be charged for incidental expenses such as court filing fees.
Be advised that there are limits to the amount of attorney’s fees a lawyer may charge for worker’s compensation cases. In Minnesota, that amount is no more than 20% of the first $130,000 of compensation. Total fees may not exceed $26,000 for any given injury.
Workers’ compensation cases rarely result in the type of large settlements that are common in other types of personal injury suits. Accordingly, you should be wary of any attorney who promises huge sums of cash unless you are permanently disabled, have suffered an extreme injury, or are the victim of gross negligence.
Many factors go into determining workers’ compensation settlements. Your counselor should make this fact clear to you during your first meeting.
Know the Details
Ideally, your case will be handled by only one or two attorneys, along with their legal staff. This will provide you with better communication, while ensuring your file does not get lost in the shuffle.
Ask who will be handling your case as it moves through the system. Insist on having one lawyer that you can go to with questions, and run quickly from any firm that will not provide that for you.
Ensure that there are no conflicts of interest that might prevent the lawyer from working in your best interest. For example, you’ll want someone with no particular ties to your employer.
Learn about Support Staff
Paralegals and legal assistants perform the heavy lifting so that attorneys can spend more time negotiating and attending court hearings. As such, staff members will be responsible for everything from performing legal research to ensuring that filing deadlines are met.
Support staff should be knowledgeable in the area of worker’s compensation and be familiar with the paperwork and filing requirements that are unique to this field. They should also possess good written and verbal communication skills, since you will likely be interacting with them just as often as you are your lawyer.
Experienced Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Rochester, MN
When filing a workers’ compensation claim, it can be helpful to have someone who is familiar with the ins and outs of personal injury law. Here in Rochester, MN people count on Patterson Dahlberg Injury Lawyers to help them with their claims.
To date, we’ve helped Minnesota residents recover more than $120,000,000 in damages. If you have been injured in a workplace accident and are in Mankato, Winona, Owatonna, Albert Lea, or any other nearby city, please contact us.