Unfortunately, obtaining the workers’ compensation benefits you deserve is not always easy. Even though New Jersey is a no-fault state where you do not need to prove your employer’s fault to receive benefits, fighting for what you are entitled to can be time-consuming and complicated. That is why it is always best to retain an attorney in your workers’ compensation case. But you do not want just any attorney. You need an experienced attorney who will be able to help you reach the best result possible—something you cannot do on your own. Here are the ways he can and should be assisting you.
An Attorney Can Advise You on Whether You Qualify for Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Workers’ compensation does not cover all injuries employees suffer. Sometimes coverage can be complex, such as if you are doing your job but are not on company property, are at a company-sponsored event, or have a preexisting injury. An experienced attorney will understand the laws governing workers’ compensation cases—both the statutes and case law decided by judges—and can tell you whether you have a case.
An Attorney Can Ensure Your Claim Is Filed Properly
The workers’ compensation system is filled with deadlines that must be met, paperwork that must be filed, and details that must be included in a claim. Unfortunately, some claims are denied when not filed properly or other procedural rules are not followed. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can be certain that your claim is filed on time and correctly.
An Attorney Can Develop Important Evidence
Insufficient evidence—especially medical evidence—is a common reason workers’ compensation claims are denied. A good attorney will understand the importance of collecting and developing evidence that can help you obtain a favorable settlement. He can gather your medical records, may recommend physicians to treat your injuries, obtain medical opinions about your condition, and conduct depositions of the medical experts.
Depending on the extent of your injuries, you may need a vocational expert who can testify as to your job duties and how your injuries affect your ability to perform your prior job duties or other work duties. An experienced attorney will have vocational experts that he has worked with in the past and who make good witnesses based on their qualifications. In addition, your attorney may interview family and friends who could be potential witnesses who know how your injuries have affected your day-to-day activities. He will understand the strengths and weaknesses of your case and develop the evidence you need to increase your likelihood of success.
An Attorney Can Negotiate a Favorable Settlement for You
An experienced workers’ compensation attorney will have handled—and settled—many disputes over workers’ compensation benefits. This will give him a good sense of the strengths and weaknesses of your case, and the value of your claim. He will base his determination of your case’s worth on the following:
- The extent of your injuries and how they affect your functional abilities on a day-to-day basis
- The disability rating
- Whether you have a partial or total disability
- Whether your disability is temporary or permanent
- The amount of your previous wages
- The cost of your current and future medical treatments
In addition, your attorney should understand the insurance company’s tactics to deny your claim or reduce the amount you receive. If he is skilled, he will have strategies to get around these arguments so he can engage in productive negotiations for you.
Settling your claim can be complex. For example, if you receive or will receive Social Security disability benefits, a poorly drafted settlement agreement could result in hundreds of dollars of your monthly disability benefits going to the Social Security Administration instead of you. Your settlement agreement should take into account these considerations as well as your future wage losses and medical expenses.
An Attorney Can Represent You in Workers’ Comp Hearings or Your Trial
Not all cases settle, so you want an attorney who has experience conducting workers’ compensation hearings and trials—and is competent doing so. During your trial, your attorney will present your argument as to why you should receive benefits in his opening and closing statements, present witnesses—including you—and raise objections.
If you do not receive a favorable decision in your case, you have the right to file an appeal. Your attorney can help you decide if this is a good idea and file the necessary paperwork within the strict time period to do so.
Were you or a family member injured at work? Order my free book, What the Injured Worker Needs to Know, to begin learning about your rights under New Jersey workers’ compensation laws. Then start an online chat to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.