Questions to Ask When Hiring a Workers' Compensation Attorney
If you've never before had a reason to hire an attorney, you probably don't know where to begin or which questions to ask. Before hiring a workers' compensation attorney, it's important to interview one or more to find out how the lawyer would handle your case and whether you would want the lawyer to work for you.
Interviewing Workers' Compensation Attorneys
After you've gathered the names of some attorneys you'd consider hiring, schedule a preliminary meeting, also called an initial consultation, with each one. The goal of these meetings is two-fold: To figure out which attorney is right for you and to get feedback about your workers' compensation claim.
Many attorneys offer these initial consultations for free. But double-check with the lawyers you're interested in interviewing so you're not surprised if payment is expected.
Before your first meeting, spend some time preparing. This article contains a number of questions you can ask workers' compensation attorneys at the initial consultations. Feel free to pick and choose the questions that will work best for you and add more as you see fit. The goal of the meeting is to figure out whether you'd want to hire the lawyer, so focus on questions that help you make your decision.
Bring your written list of questions to your meetings, along with some paper to take notes. You may want to jot down some notes both during and after the meeting, so you can record the answers as well as your impressions.
Background & Experience
Start the meeting by asking each workers' compensation attorney about his or her background, professional experience, and legal skills. Some questions to ask are:
- Where did you attend law school? When did you graduate?
- Where did you get your undergraduate degree?
- How long have you been practicing law?
- On average, how many workers' compensationcases do you handle each year?
- Do you practice in other areas of the law? If so, which ones?
- Are you a member of any bar associations and/or professional organizations? If so, which ones?
- How many of your workers' compensation cases, percentage-wise, are settled, and how many go to an administrative hearing?
Legal Philosophy & Style of Offering Legal Advice
You'll want to learn more about the attorney's style and approach to practicing law. You may want to include such questions as:
- What is your approach or philosophy in handling workers' compensation claims?
- How do you handle decision-making? Will you present options to me and expect me to decide how to proceed? Or, are you more likely to tell me what I should do?
- How would you describe your style as an attorney?
Assessment of Your Case
Just as you are assessing the lawyers, the lawyers are also assessing your case. Their feedback is vital for you to understand the road ahead. Some questions to ask include:
- What is your opinion and assessment of my claim?
- Do my injuries fall within workers' compensation guidelines in my state?
- What kind of settlement or award can I expect to receive?
- What potential problems could delay my claim?
- How likely is it that I would need to go to an administrative hearing to settle this matter?
- How long do you think it would take to settle my claim?
At this point, if you're feeling positive about how the interview has gone, you can get more detailed information about how the attorney will handle your claim. Some relevant questions are:
- Are you available to represent me?
- Will other attorneys also work on my claim? What will their roles and responsibilities be?
- Will you personally manage my claim, or will I be primarily working with another attorney?
- Will you be involved with negotiations on my behalf? Will you represent me at an administrative hearing if the claim goes that far? Or, will someone else be taking on these responsibilities?
- Will you be my day-to-day contact? If not, then who?
- Will you provide progress reports? How often? What will they cover?
- What is your preferred method of communication? How quickly can I expect you to get back to me?
It is important for you to learn how your attorney will be billing you for his or her time. While many workers' compensation attorneys work on contingency, meaning that they require no money up front but will take a percentage of any money you receive in the way of settlement or award, some do not. Make sure you understand well the costs associated with your bid to receive workers' compensation benefits. Some questions to ask include:
Hiring a Workers' Compensation Lawyer
After meeting with each attorney, it's time to select one to help you with your workers' compensation claim. You may have an obvious stand-out among the prospective attorneys. But if there are several who have caught your eye, ask them to provide a list of former clients as references. Then call the clients to get some feedback about the attorneys. Their comments could provide the tie-breaker you need to make a hiring decision.
When reviewing your options, it's time to ask yourself a few questions about the attorneys you have interviewed:
- Does each lawyer have the skills and experience I need to handle my claim?
- How do I feel about the strategies proposed by the various attorneys? Which sounds the most solid?
- With which attorney am I most comfortable? Whose advice do I trust the most?
- Are the lawyers' estimate of the amount of money I could receive reasonable?
- Are the estimated legal fees and expenses realistic?
Once these questions have guided you to the best attorney to handle your workers' compensation claim, you are ready to move forward in seeking compensation for your workplace injuries.