Not hiring a lawyer can be expensive.
Nothing in worker’s compensation law, or in any other law, requires claimants and other litigants to hire a lawyer, and some injured workers do choose to represent themselves. We believe they do so at their peril. In fact, we have heard Administrative Law Judges (ALJs, who hear and decide worker’s compensation cases) say that they sometimes have to deny the claims of unrepresented workers simply because those workers did not promote their claims correctly or in a sufficiently strong way.
Please consider this: even large employers and their insurance carriers, many of which have very considerable experience dealing with worker’s compensation claims, universally hire law firms to mount the defense. They “lawyer up” and so why shouldn’t you?
The worker’s compensation process is full of pitfalls for those unfamiliar with applicable law and procedure, which arise from a variety of sources including statutes, administrative codes, opinions from the Labor & Industry Review Commission, caselaw (published opinions from appellate courts), and the traditions and practices of the Wisconsin Worker’s Compensation Division, some of which are unwritten. Seasoned attorneys who focus on work injury litigation have a working knowledge of that law and procedure. Moreover, through repeated exposure they become familiar with the ALJs who preside over the hearings at which injured workers and other witnesses testify.
We have been litigating worker’s compensation cases for nearly 30 years, initially for the defense and then, since 2001, exclusively on behalf of injured employees. Our practice has taken us twice to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, once on behalf of the defense (Brakebush Bros. v. Labor & Industry Review), and once on behalf of a client, Gloria Graham, whose case established the precedent that a visible limp may constitute a compensable disfigurement.
We can prepare and present your worker’s compensation case in the strongest possible way, at a reasonable price. There is no fee unless we win. (We charge a 20% fee on the benefits we obtain for you, plus costs, which typically involve the expense of obtaining medical and other records, medical opinions, and vocational evaluations.)
Even if your employer’s insurance carrier has paid or is paying you some benefits, you may fall short. The worker’s compensation carrier may not pay you the full amount you are due:
- The correct benefit rate for your time off work. The worker’s compensation carrier may be paying you benefits at a rate that is too low. We always check the carrier’s calculation of the wage which is used to determine your temporary disability benefits. (This is called the average weekly wage.) When it is too low – and we sometimes find it is indeed too low – you are not receiving as much money as you should be receiving.
- Permanent partial disability that is too low considering your injury: Insurance carriers often use permanent partial disability ratings given by doctors they hire to examine you or, sometimes, just to review your records. (Yes, some doctors working for the defense will offer opinions without even seeing you.) The carriers pay these doctors, whom they call “independent medical examiners” and we call defense medical examiners (or hired guns), to give their opinions on various issues including the amount of permanent partial disability you have as the result of your work injury. Usually these doctors find your permanent partial disability is substantially lower than what your own doctor has found. In fact, these defense doctors often assert there is no permanent partial disability at all. If the carrier refuses to pay the permanent partial disability your own doctor has rated, please call us. We can help you present a claim for the level of disability supported by the physician most familiar with your situation, as well as for additional benefits to which you may be entitled.
You may have claims you do not know you have. Rest assured, the worker’s compensation carrier, the “nurse case manager” hired by the worker’s compensation carrier, and the employer will rarely, if ever, tell injured workers they have additional claims like these:
- Retraining benefits: We can help you determine if you are eligible for benefits to allow you to retrain for a new occupation if, as the result of your work injury, you can no longer do the work you were able to do before the injury .
- Lost earning capacity: We can help you determine if you may be entitled to a monetary award for earning capacity you have lost as the result of your work injury.
- Mileage Reimbursement: We can help you determine if you are eligible for mileage reimbursements for trips to medical appointments and to fill your prescriptions.