With your financial wellness and your ability to afford medical treatment on the line after a work-related injury, it’s important to hire the best workers’ compensation lawyer to handle your claim. To find the best fit, you should look for a lawyer with experience in Illinois workers’ comp cases, years of legal experience, and a reputation for success.
If you suffer a work-related illness or injury as an employee in Illinois, you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Under state laws, nearly all employers must provide workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. This insurance allows workers to file a claim with their employer and collect workers’ comp benefits through the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission (IWCC). When claims are approved, workers receive workers’ compensation benefits to cover the cost of medical expenses, lost wages, and disability. When claims are denied, workers must file an appeal through a Chicago workers’ compensation attorney or directly with the IWCC committee to obtain benefits.
Although state laws allow workers to collect benefits for work-related illnesses and injuries regardless of fault, Illinois workers’ compensation claims can be challenging to win. IWCC looks closely at how the illness or injury occurred, the severity of the illness or injury, and the medical prognosis for recovery.
What Questions to Ask a Workers’ Compensation Attorney
In some cases, workers’ comp claims are challenged by insurance companies with investigators who try to minimize or deny a claim. For this reason, it is essential to hire the best workers’ compensation lawyer who can tell you what not to say to a worker’s comp adjuster and handle your claim process from start to finish. You can find the best lawyer by asking the following questions:
How many years have you been handling workers’ compensation claims?
Since workers’ comp claims can involve complex legal issues, it’s important to hire a lawyer with specific experience in workers’ comp cases. A lengthy work history handling workers’ compensation claims indicates that the lawyer is well-versed in the claim process, as well as handling appeals and hearings for claims that are denied.
How much of your practice is devoted to workers’ compensation cases?
When meeting with a lawyer, find out how many workers’ compensation cases they handle each year. If the number is significant, it tells you that the law firm spends a lot of time and resources on work-related injuries rather than concentrating most of its efforts on personal injuries such as car accidents, falls, sports injuries, and medical injuries.
Can you represent me throughout the entire workers’ compensation process?
Workers’ compensation claims must go through a process that can take months, even years to complete. In some cases, claims are handled through insurance settlements which can take 12 to 18 months or longer, to reach an agreement. It’s important to hire the best workers’ compensation lawyer who can represent you throughout this process and get you a fair settlement to cover your damages.
Can I call you with concerns and questions?
When choosing a worker’s compensation lawyer, communication is an important factor. While some lawyers prefer phone conversations with clients, others prefer texts and emails. If you prefer to talk directly by phone, find out if you can call with concerns and questions about your claim. Make sure your lawyer explains the communication process, so you don’t get frustrated with a lack of communication or waiting on responses to your questions.
How do attorneys’ fees work? Will I be charged even if my case is unsuccessful?
It’s important to understand the costs of hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer. Generally, workers’ compensation lawyers handle cases on a “contingency fee” basis. This means if you win your case, your lawyer receives a percentage of your workers’ comp benefits or settlement. If you lose, there’s no fee. A contingency fee arrangement allows you to receive quality legal representation without substantial up-front fees and payments.
How do you estimate the value of my case?
Before you hire a workers’ comp lawyer, you should schedule a consultation to discuss your case. During this meeting, it’s important to discuss whether you have a valid claim, the strengths and weaknesses of your claim, and the value of your workers’ comp case. The good news is that most workers’ compensation lawyers offer free consultations to get started.
Are benefits available to remote workers?
A remote worker can be a temporary or permanent employee who works from a remote location outside the company’s office. If you have been working from home or telecommuting, you are considered a remote worker. Do remote workers qualify for workers’ compensation benefits? Generally, workers’ compensation for employees working from home is treated the same as for employees working on a company’s premises unless that employee is considered an independent contractor.
Does the Attorney Have References?
If you’re dealing with an experienced, qualified law firm that handles workers’ compensation cases, you can be certain the firm and attorneys have references. There are a variety of ways to check references to ensure that you hire the best workers’ compensation lawyer.
Review the Attorney’s Website
Reputable attorneys and law firms have websites that provide valuable information. With digital platforms, business websites have become very important forms of marketing services and acquiring new business. Reviewing an attorney’s website gives you access to the inner workings of a law firm’s scope of work, including:
- Information on attorneys
- Practice areas (types of legal cases handled)
- Case results
- Awards and testimonials
- Blog posts
- Contact information
Most attorneys’ websites also show reviews and comments posted by previous clients, as well as published articles and news reviews. Reviewing an attorney’s website will provide valuable information which can help you make your decision on finding the legal representation that’s a good fit for your case.
Check Online Reviews
Online reviews are user-generated pieces of content that provide feedback about a company, product, or service. They can be found on websites, apps, and social media platforms like Facebook, Google, and Yelp. Online reviews can be neutral, positive, or negative based on the customer’s experience. Yelp is a website and app where customers can write reviews for local businesses and rate businesses on a five-star scale. The average customer rating is displayed next to the business name on the website and app. In today’s digital marketing platform, online reviews are a word-of-mouth marketing strategy that has become a powerful tool for marketing a business.
Keep in mind that online reviews are written by customers and based on personal experiences, which can vary from person to person. When looking for reviews on legal services, it’s best to keep an open mind and look beyond the star rating and comments before making a decision.
Contact the State Bar Association
Every state has a state bar association that fulfills vital tasks for the legal system. A state bar association administers bar exams and disciplinary measures for attorneys. These tasks require diligent record-keeping that becomes public knowledge and is available to anyone who wants to evaluate a potential lawyer for legal representation. Each state bar in the United States has a member directory that the public can utilize to complete an attorney search. This search will give you information about the attorney, as well as any disciplinary actions filed against the attorney.
Does the Attorney Treat You with Respect?
When you want to hire the best workers’ compensation lawyer for your case, you want a lawyer with outstanding legal qualifications, understanding of the workers’ comp process, attention to detail, trustworthiness, and a lawyer who treats you respectfully.
Mutual respect between a client and a workers’ comp attorney is important to communication, addressing questions and concerns, and keeping the claim on track without needless delays. The initial consultation is a great time to evaluate the attorney’s professionalism and demeanor to ensure you feel confident and comfortable that this is the right attorney to handle your claim.
During the initial consultation visit, you can also take note of the behaviors and attitudes of other people you may be dealing with regularly, such as administrative assistants, legal assistants, and paralegals in the office. If they treat you rudely or dismissively or don’t return your calls promptly, you may need to keep looking for legal representation.
Before you hire a workers’ compensation attorney, make sure there is a mutual understanding and that the attorney and his or her employees treat you with respect by being courteous, polite, accommodating, and proactive. Workers’ comp cases can be lengthy and stressful when you’re waiting to find out if your claim was approved or denied by IWCC. You don’t need the added aggravation of being treated disrespectfully by your attorney’s office and feeling like your claim is not important. When you hire the best workers’ compensation lawyer for your case, you don’t have to worry about being treated without the respect you deserve.
Why It Is Important to Hire the Best Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
Workers’ compensation insurance is supported by state funds rather than federal funds. All states, with a few exceptions, require businesses with employees who are not owners to purchase workers’ compensation coverage for their employees. In Illinois, workers’ compensation is mandated for all employees. Workers’ compensation provides benefits for the following:
- Lost wages
- Medical expenses
- Rehabilitation expenses
- Vocational retraining
- Temporary disability
- Permanent disability
Illinois workers’ compensation benefits are available to all workers, but only when illnesses or injuries are work-related. A Chicago workers’ compensation attorney has the necessary knowledge and experience to prove work-related illnesses and injuries that result from a variety of workplace accidents caused by falls, unsafe equipment, hazardous chemicals, fires and explosions, and other co-workers.
Work-related injuries that occur off-the-clock are often denied unless they are covered under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. If you have an off-the-clock claim, your workers’ comp attorney can investigate how and when the injury occurred. Common off-the-clock claims include accidents that occurred:
- At Lunch or On Break
If you’re injured while at lunch or on a break on workplace premises, you may still be covered by worker’s compensation. For instance, if a leaky dishwasher or spill in the cafeteria or break room causes a slip and fall injury, you’re still eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
- Before and After Work
Does workers’ comp apply before and after work? Your workers’ compensation attorney can tell you that it does apply, as long as you were on company property while arriving to start your work day or leaving after your work day ended. Although these types of injuries are considered off-the-clock, they are usually always covered by workers’ compensation.
- During Business Travel
If your job includes business travel, your attorney can address a variety of activities that are likely covered by workers’ compensation. Such injuries include driving to and from a business meeting, conference, or seminar, driving to or from a restaurant, and injuries that occur in your hotel room.
- Business-Related Parking
If an injury occurs in a business-related parking lot or garage, a workers’ compensation claim is usually covered, but the lot or garage must be designated for employee parking.
Filing a Timely Claim
Another important reason to hire the best workers’ compensation lawyer is to file a timely claim. In Illinois, all workers’ compensation claims must go through a filing process. A claim must be filed according to the state statute of limitations, which is three years from the date of the work-related injury. Illinois filing statutes are rigid, and there are few exceptions to these filing requirements. Claims filed after the statute of limitations expires will likely result in immediate dismissal of your workers’ compensation claim.
If a claim is filed within the statute of limitations but denied for some other reason, a workers’ compensation lawyer can file an appeal with IWCC and schedule a hearing to review your claim. If medical evidence is needed, your lawyer can gather medical reports and records that show proof of a work-related injury.