If you've been injured at work, you may need a workers’ compensation attorney to help you get the benefits you’re entitled to. In this article, you’ll learn where to look for a lawyer and how to choose the best lawyer for your case. (Before you start this process, you may also want to read Do I Need a Lawyer for My Workers’ Compensation Case?)
Gather Names of Potential Lawyers
To start, get the names of a few workers’ compensation lawyers that you might want to hire. Ask friends, coworkers, and family if they've worked with a workers' comp attorney before. If they have, ask whether they had a positive experience and whether they would recommend using their lawyers. You can also find workers’ comp lawyers through your state’s bar association, the administrative body that licenses and disciplines lawyers in your state (for example, the State Bar of California). To find out more, see Where to Find a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer.
Lawyers.com also has a nationwide lawyer directory, where you can search for lawyers by practice area and location. To be connected with workers’ comp lawyers in your area, fill out our free case evaluation.
Conduct Background Research
Before you start making appointments, do a little bit of background research on each lawyer. You can save yourself time by making sure that each lawyer you meet with has the proper experience to take on your case. Because each state has its own workers’ comp system, you’ll want to hire a lawyer who specializes in workers’ comp law in your state. (Unless you work for the federal government, in which case you’ll want to hire a lawyer who specializes in the federal workers’ comp system.)
You should also verify that the lawyer is licensed to practice law and not facing any disciplinary charges. In many states, you can look up attorneys by name on the state bar website and find out whether they are in good standing and authorized to practice law. You can also see how long they have been practicing law and whether they have been disciplined for unethical behavior.
Some general Internet research can also be helpful. You might find reviews or ratings that provide a firsthand account of working with the lawyer. If the lawyer has a website, you may be able to get an idea of how well established the attorney is and whether a major portion of the lawyer's practice is devoted to workers’ comp.
Before meeting with a lawyer, you should also confirm that he or she represents injured workers, rather than employers and their insurance companies. Workers' comp lawyers often work for one side or the other. You can usually find this information by looking at the lawyer’s website or making a quick phone call to the lawyer’s office.
Evaluate Your Options
When you have a short list of two or three lawyers, you should contact them to set up consultations. Workers' comp lawyers typically don't charge a fee for the initial meeting, which may happen by telephone or in person. If the lawyer can’t schedule a meeting promptly, it may be a sign that he or she has a heavy caseload and is too busy to take on your case.
During your meeting, the lawyer will ask you a variety of questions about your job, your injury, and your treatment in order to evaluate your case. You should also use this meeting as an opportunity to assess the lawyer and whether you'd like him or her to represent you. In particular, ask about how much workers’ comp experience the lawyer has, whether the lawyer can handle your case from start to finish, and what the lawyer thinks of your case. (For a list of questions to ask, see Preparing to Meet With a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer.)
You should also pay attention to whether the lawyer is a good listener, understands the issues in your case, and answers your questions thoughtfully. At the end of the day, you should feel confident that your lawyer will competently handle your case, communicate with you regularly, and offer you advice and support along the way.
During your meeting, ask the lawyer to explain how he or she charges attorneys’ fees. In workers’ comp cases, attorneys’ fees are usually capped by state law and are based on a percentage of the amount you recover, so you won't need to pay for a lawyer out of pocket. Also ask about estimated costs, such as court reporter fees, copying fees, and expert witness fees, and whether you will be responsible for paying them. (See Who Pays For The Costs Of Pursuing A Workers' Compensation Case? for more information.)