What to look for when you hire a worker’s compensation lawyer? If you are like most people, then choosing a worker’s compensation lawyer for the first time. It may even be the first time you have ever hired a lawyer for any reason. This article is designed to give you the knowledge you need to choose the best lawyer for your workers compensation case.
It used to be illegal for lawyers to advertise on TVs and Billboards. Bar associations across the country considered these types of ads to be unethical. Then, in 1977, the US Supreme Court ruled that lawyer advertisements were “free speech” and could not be restricted. Now, lawyer ads are everywhere you look (TV, Billboards, Google). But lawyer ads are like any other advertisement. The car on a TV ad is not necessarily the best. You wouldn’t buy a car just based on advertisements. Similarly, you do not know what you are getting if you call a lawyer from a billboard. You only have one case, so you need to make the best decision.
All lawyer advertisements tend to say the same thing over and over again. They use a lot of adjectives like “aggressive” or “experienced”. Here are some questions to think about: Has this “experienced” lawyer on the billboard never taken a case to trial? Has the “aggressive” TV lawyer never taken a case to the Court of Appeals and won? You don’t know. Maybe the firm advertises their past results or a big settlement, but you can’t know if the settlement was really for less than the case was really worth.
A lot of large TV law firms might even make you sign a contract, and then immediately refer your case to another lawyer you do not know (so that the TV lawyer gets a referral fee). The reason for this is that a lot of firms advertise that they do workers comp, but they really do not. They do this to get a referral fee. If you make a decision baeds on advertisements, you may find that you are working with a lawyer you don’t know, trust, or who will not return your phone calls.
The best way to find a good workers compensation lawyer is through word-of-mouth. The recommendation of friends and family will always be more trustworthy than anything you can find online. Your friends and family will tell you if they know a workers’ compensation lawyer who did a good job for them (or even tell you lawyers to avoid).
The second-best way to find a worker’s comp lawyer is by looking at online reviews. Real experiences from real people always means more than manipulative advertising. But you do have to be more careful with online reviews because there are a lot of fake review out there. This is called review “astroturfing” and it is becoming increasingly common. We have observed that some of our competitors have online reviews from their own staff, family members, marketing companies, or even friends who they have never represented. You never really know who is writing an online review, but overall reviews are a good resource. We recommend that you actually read the reviews and see what people are saying rather than just relying on the “star” rating. If you read reviews, you can tell if they are from legitimate clients or if they are fake. We recommend checking out Google Maps or Yelp, which are the sites real people are most likely to use.
Your lawyer works for you, not the other way around. When you hire an attorney, you should interview them and have questions ready for them. If you do a consultation with a lawyer, they should be willing to answer specific questions about their experience. Make sure you talk to the lawyer (as opposed to a paralegal or office staff). Here are some questions you might ask:
“What percentage of your cases are workers compensation?” You want a lawyer who focuses on workers comp. You would not hire a foot doctor to do brain surgery, so why should a lawyer be any different? For example, over 75 percent of our firm’s cases are workers compensation.
“Do you have any published appellate cases with the Court of Appeals or the Georgia Supreme Court?” Ask for the name of the case. Ask if they won the case. Many workers compensation lawyers have never had a case in the Court of Appeals or Georgia Supreme Court. They consider it too expensive and complicated to appeal if they lose your case at trail. Our firm appeals and wins appellate cases. For Example, in Frett v State Farm we appealed all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court and overturned 85 years of bad case law to get our client compensated.
“Will you give me your cell number if I need to contact you?” We believe communication is essential. Workers compensation claims can be stressful because of the litigation process. You will want an attorney who will guide you through the process and communicate openly with you. Every client has our cell phone numbers.
“How many years have you practiced workers compensation?” Workers compensation is a very specialized practice. It is good to know how much experience your lawyer has in this field. For instance, a personal injury lawyer might not be knowledgeable about workers compensation. At Bourne law, the majority of our practice has been workers compensation for over 30 years.
“How many cases have you had that are similar to mine?” All cases have different facts. For instance, some workers compensation cases involve deaths, drugs, respective motion injuries, car accidents, back injuries etc. An experienced workers compensation lawyer will have dealt with other cases that are similar to yours.
“How much are the attorney’s fees?” Your lawyer should be up front with you about attorney’s fees. In Georgia, virtually all workers compensation attorneys work on a contingency basis. That means that they get a percentage of what they can recover for you. The maximum that can be charged is 25 percent, and this is also the industry standard. In some cases, we are willing to negotiate a different fee structure. For example, where an unrepresented client already has an offer from the insurance company, we can modify the contract so that you don’t owe us anything unless your total recovery is greater than the original offer. The point is that everything is negotiable, and your lawyer should be able to explain everything to your satisfaction.
Virtually all workers compensation attorneys offer free consultations. Remember that your lawyer works for you. If they pressure you to sign a contract you can walk away. There is nothing wrong with interviewing multiple lawyers to find the best fit.
At Bourne Law Firm, all workers compensation consultations are free and there is absolutely no obligation to sign a contract.