You have injured yourself at work and the insurance company is denying your claim. You have contacted a firm which specializes in workers’ compensation law and you have a meeting with one of their lawyers. Here are 10 questions that we recommend you ask the lawyer at the meeting —and the answers you will get if you consult with a lawyer at Pearson Koutcher Law:
The standard attorneys’ fee a lawyer charges in a Pennsylvania workers’ comp. case is 20 percent of the benefits that you are awarded. So, for example, if you receive $5,000, you will pay your lawyer a fee of $1,000; if you receive $40,000, the fee will be $8,000.
Because you will be entering into a Contingent Fee Agreement, the lawyer’s fee will be contingent upon you receiving money. So if things go wrong and you lose your case, your lawyer will not receive a fee. You want to make sure that the firm is paying for all costs of litigation — money to pay doctors and hospitals for medical records, stenographers for court transcripts, and doctors for expert deposition fees. Most firms pay these costs, and win or lose, the injured worker doesn’t have to reimburse the firm. But you want to make sure that is spelled out in the Contingent Fee Agreement.
The amount of your weekly workers’ comp. benefits depends on the wages you were earning for your employer before your injury. Based on a formula, your “average weekly wage” is calculated on your earnings over the one year preceding your injury. Your workers’ comp. benefits will be between 2/3 and 90 percent of your average weekly wage, but no taxes are taken out of your check.
Even though your work injury may cause you to endure a lot of pain and suffering, unfortunately workers’ compensation law does not provide for the payment of money due to pain and suffering. An injured worker is only entitled to money for lost wages, payment of medical bills, and under some circumstances money for loss of the use of a body part and for disfigurement to the face, head, or neck.
The law provides that an injured worker is required to treat with the employer’s doctors, which are supposed to be contained on a list posted at the employer’s workplace, the first 90 days following the injury. However, this requirement does not apply if the employer failed to obtain a form signed by the injured worker, both at the time of hire and after the injury, acknowledging his or her obligation to treat with the company doctors for 90 days.
If the doctor for your employer releases you to light-duty work, and your employer makes a light-duty job available to you, you have to decide whether to accept the offer. If the doctor you are treating with doesn’t think you’re ready for light-duty work yet, you can decline the offer, and it will be up to the Judge to determine whether you are able to perform this light-duty job.
The process is not quick — a case typically takes nine months to a year, as the Judge presiding over your case will hold a series of hearings, and depositions will also be taken. After the final hearing in your case is held, and all of the evidence has been submitted, your lawyer and the lawyer for the insurance company will each submit a legal brief summarizing the evidence and arguing who should win. The Judge will then issue a written decision.
At some point in your case, you will have to appear before the Workers’ Compensation Judge and testify about your job, how you injured yourself, what medical treatment you have received, and whether you are able to return to work. Because of the pandemic, a video hearing via Skype or WebEx may be held instead so the Judge can observe you while you testify.
Your case may settle before the Judge makes a decision. Normally, within the first few months of your case, there will be a mediation — or settlement conference — in which a different Judge will work with both sides and see if a settlement can be reached. Even if a settlement does not occur at the mediation, your case still could settle anytime as your lawyer and the lawyer for the insurance company can keep negotiating between themselves.
This is the easiest question by far — you definitely should hire the firm of Pearson Koutcher Law to represent you in your workers’ comp. case. Workers’ comp. is all we do — we are knowledgeable, dedicated, and compassionate lawyers who will protect your rights and get the best result for you in your case. So call us for a free consultation and ask one of our lawyers all of these questions — and any other questions that you would like answered.