The decision to hire an attorney is often based on the severity of the worker’s injury. If the injury is limited to a sprained ankle or broken wrist that is expected to heal with limited future medical treatment, the employee may choose not to hire an attorney to represent him in the workers’ compensation claim. However, employees that suffer back injuries, head injuries or traumatic injuries to a limb will usually benefit from hiring an attorney to assist with the workers’ compensation case.
In cases where a disability rating is assigned to the injury or future medical treatment is expected, an employee should consider hiring an attorney to assist him or her. By law, the employer’s insurance company must pay a minimum amount based on the disability rating and body part injured. Without an attorney, the minimum amount is usually all the insurance company will offer to pay the employee to settle the case.
With the assistance of an attorney, the employee is often compensated for future medical expenses, future lost wages and even the loss of future earnings capacity. For example, if the employee earned $25/hour as a truck driver prior to the injury but is now earning only $15/hour in a clerical position due to the physical limitations caused by the injury, the employee’s earning capacity has decreased approximately $20,000 per year. In these cases, the attorney may help the employee obtain the necessary education or technical training for the employee to secure a higher paying job or may negotiate a settlement to compensate for the loss of future earnings capacity. Over the course of many years or the employee’s lifetime, this can result in a substantial amount of money and the cost of retaining an attorney to assist with the workers’ compensation settlement will seem very small.