Being prepared can make a world of difference when it comes to meeting and hiring a workers' compensation lawyer. You’ll be able to explain your case clearly and concisely, which will save time for both you and the attorney and get your relationship off to a good start. Here are some tips for how to get the most out of your meeting.
Gather Your Information
When you’re ready, call the lawyer’s office and set up a meeting. Most workers’ comp lawyers will meet with you for an initial consultation for free. The initial consultation may happen over the phone or at the lawyer’s offices. Either way, you should be ready with a brief summary of what has happened in your case so far. Lawyers like to go through events chronologically, so it will help to create a short timeline of the events, including:
- when you were hired
- when you were injured and how it occurred
- when you notified your employer and who you notified
- when you first sought medical treatment and where, and
- a brief summary of your medical treatment to date.
You should also collect documents and other relevant information to bring to your meeting, including:
- any reports of your accident or injury
- your medical records
- a list of your medical providers with contact information
- a list of witnesses who saw your accident with contact information
- information on any previous injuries you’ve had to the same body part
- correspondence from your employer or its insurance company about your claim, and
- contact information for your employer and its insurance company.
Having a basic understanding of workers’ comp can also help save time and streamline communication between you and the lawyer. For more information, see our Workers’ Comp Basics FAQs.
Prepare a List of Questions
The initial consultation is also an opportunity for you to assess the lawyer. You’ll want to get a feel for whether the lawyer has the time and experience to handle your case. And, you’ll want to know if the lawyer and his or her firm are the best fit for you. You should prepare a list of questions that you would like to as the attorney, including:
- How much of your practice is devoted to workers’ comp cases? You are looking for a specialist in workers’ comp, so the lawyer should devote a significant portion of his practice to representing injured workers.
- Will you be handling my case personally? Who will be doing the bulk of the work? It’s common for lawyers to delegate appropriate tasks to associate attorneys, paralegals, or even legal assistants within the firm. But, your lawyer should be overseeing everything in your case, doing the high-level work, and keeping you informed on a regular basis.
- Do I have a case? What are the strengths and weaknesses of my case? You should get an idea of how the lawyer values your case. Although no attorney can guarantee you a certain recovery, a good attorney should be able to give you a general assessment of your case.
- Will you be able to give me status updates on a regular basis? Your attorney should keep you informed about any developments in your case. Workers’ comp attorneys are often busy juggling many cases at the same time, so don’t expect daily updates. But, you should expect that your calls and emails will be responded to in a timely manner.
- What are your fees? Workers’ comp attorneys usually work on a contingency fee basis, which means that they take a certain percentage of your settlement or award. Nearly all states set a maximum cap on the percentage that a workers’ comp lawyer can charge, which usually range between 10% to 25%. (For more information, see What Does it Cost to Hire a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer?) Make sure that the lawyer explains the fees to you carefully and that they are within your state’s legal limit.
- How are litigation costs handled? There will be out-of-pocket costs in your workers’ comp case, including copying and mailing costs, expert fees (for a specialist to evaluate you, for example), or other expenses related to your case. Workers’ comp attorneys will often agree to advance these costs in your case and deduct them from your settlement or award if you win your case. And, your lawyer may be willing to waive the costs if you lose your case.
- Do you have any references that I could talk to? If you’re still on the fence about the lawyer, ask if there are any former clients or colleagues you could talk to about their experiences.
At your meeting, it’s important to ask questions, make observations, and evaluate whether the lawyer will be the best fit for your case. For more tips on what to look for, see Meeting With a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer.