Were you injured on the job? If so, you are entitled to workers’ compensation. It’s your employer’s responsibility to ensure a safe working environment, but accidents do happen. This is why any employer with more than three employees is required to carry workers’ comp insurance. Yet successfully filing a workers’ compensation claim with the insurance company can be a difficult task.
An Interview with Michael the Veteran Workers Compensation Attorney in Atlanta:
What can clients expect from a typical workers compensation case?
Michael: A real life workers compensation case won’t be like what you see on TV. We don’t start off with an opening statement. We’re picking out the jury at the beginning like you do in front of an administrative law judge for what we call a bench trial in Georgia.
So we’re arguing in front of one individual judge, not a jury of 12 peers or 6 peers. And instead of a closing argument after you do your directs and your crosses and put your evidence into the record, we write a brief, a written brief to file to the court and that’s our closing argument after the hearing.
Though in this way you don’t get the immediate gratification of a verdict at the end of presenting your evidence like you do in a civil jury trial, the process is still ideal for these kinds of cases. It allows you a chance to kind of collect all your thoughts and put them together in a concise and solid argument, and then reference the record and your exhibits throughout it and then hopefully by the time you’re finished putting that together and submit it to the judge.
Like I said, it’s just better communicated than maybe an oral closing would be in front of a jury. And then the judge is supposed to rule within six weeks of receiving the brief so there’s a definite timeline there for getting your decision.
Now, most cases don’t go to hearings. At my firm I usually only have a handful of hearings every year. A lot of the cases will end up getting picked up, meaning the worker’s comp carrier will accept the case if they were previously denying it. Once they do further investigate, they realize it was a legitimate claim and the process really starts. A some point the parties will do all the investigations that they feel are needed in order to have a good picture of what’s going on in the case and then sit together and try to settle the case.
Normally this is done through mediation, which is pretty common. Mediation is just where the parties gather with an impartial third party neutral, usually either at the state board of worker’s compensation or you can get a private mediator, and the parties kind of gather together at one point with a neutral and sort of give an opening statement about what’s going on in their cases and then they separate, or “caucus,” and the mediator kind of goes back and forth trying to get each side to compromise.
The insurance company will always try to get the case resolved as cheaply as possible and the injured person normally is trying to get the case resolved for as much as possible leading to several hours of mediation to try and reach a resolution. Personal injury claims are more than often brushed off by insurance companies. Sometimes a resolution can’t be found, but this is not common at all. Almost invariably at some points a worker’s comp case will resolve and settle in some way whether it’s after a trial or more likely through a mediation or just a negotiation process.
What advice do you have to somebody who has been injured at work for their next steps? What would your advice for them be?
Michael: The first thing anybody has to do is report the incident, this is what is going to allow the process to start and it will also ensure that your employers know that something occurred. Whether it’s a direct supervisor or someone from HR, make sure somebody is aware of the situation and of your injury. They’ll make sure that if you do need medical care, you’ll be sent to it right away.
Even if it’s not an emergency, but you’re in a lot of pain and you need to see somebody, the employer is supposed to show you a panel of doctors. You can usually find this list on a pink piece of paper that’s hanging up in a break room, or somewhere where employees can find it easily. Typically employees should have been educated on how it works so that they can make a choice between the doctors who are on that panel to get medical care.
Unfortunately, I often see that they’ve never been educated on what the panel is or does, or sometimes the panel is not valid and it’s old and the addresses and phone numbers are no good, or it doesn’t have enough doctors on it. Or sometimes they may have a panel but the injured person is never given the choice whom to see, having to go to a clinic already chose by the employer. You have to be able to make the right choices for your injury needs, and choosing the right place to go to in Atlanta is paramount. So, that’s the most important thing I think is reporting it right away and then getting good medical care.
Another thing you want to avoid is not seeking help until you’re in over your head. Some people don’t talk to a lawyer in Atlanta until things have gone bad, or until they feel like the adjuster is ignoring them or telling them something that is a little bit shady or sketchy. I often hear from clients that the adjuster was really nice at first and then all of sudden things turned kind of shady or sketchy.
But what a lot of people don’t know is that a consult with a lawyer is free. Beyond that, even being represented by a lawyer doesn’t cost you anything until the case finally pays out and resolves. So, I’ve had clients I’ve represented for years and I’m kind of shepherding through their case and they haven’t paid anything yet and at some point they’ll get paid and I’ll get paid at the end.
Anyone in Atlanta can benefit from having an advocate because the insurance company they’re going up against has trained people who are doing their best to get the case closed as quickly as possible and as cheaply as possible. So they’re not as worried about helping injured people get better. Even those who are knowledgeable about the law can use my help. I’ve represented a couple of adjustors and even one worker’s comp defense paralegal in my time so they knew a lot about law but still recognize the benefit of having a lawyer on their side.
What do you suggest people look for when searching for a worker‘s comp attorney in Atlanta to help them through this process?
Michael: I think looking for someone who’s got experience is number one. An attorney who has some experience on the insurance side honestly is beneficial because they’ve had a chance to not only see how the other side analyzes cases firsthand. Also, any smart lawyer has learned to make friends in the places where he’s worked because, as the old saying goes, you tend to get more flies with honey than with vinegar. I find that relationships I built when I did defense work have helped me and my clients a lot over the years that I’ve been on this side of the aisle.
Clients should also search for someone that they feel like is going to be responsive to them and someone they feel like educates them without talking down to them. I’ve heard horror stories over the years about past experiences that clients had with their former lawyers. Unfortunately there are a fair amount of attorneys who advertise they do worker’s comp work but they do a lot of other areas of law, too, and maybe a little or none of the comp and so they really just don’t know what they’re doing and, consequently, things get missed.
How would a free consultation with you typically go?
Michael: Most of the time it’s over the phone. I, like many lawyers throughout Atlanta, can be found online. Other clients come to me because they’ve been referred by someone who I’ve worked with previously. Other time’s, they’ll find me somewhere and come to meet me in person. I’m always willing to meet with people in person but sometimes they want to do what’s fastest and often that’s on the phone.
So usually they call me and we end up talking on the phone to try and figure out the details of their case and their potential for representation. Sometimes the talk reveals that they really don’t have a viable case, and so I tell people like “I don’t think you need representation at this time but call me in a month maybe if the other side doesn’t do what they need to be doing.”
The point of the consultation is to talk through their issues and figure out what’s possible and what isn’t. Then if they want to become a client, and if I want to represent them, then I’ll normally have them come in person to sign paperwork and then sometimes when people are really badly hurt I’ll send somebody to their home or the hospital in order to get the paperwork to them.
How You Can Contact Our Firm’s Workers Compensation Attorneys in Atlanta
At Moebes Law, we’re dedicated to fighting for the compensation you deserve. We understand that medical expenses, loss of income, and time out of work are just a few of the many things on your mind –that’s why we’re here to ensure you get the settlement you need.
During your free consultation, we will help you determine if your claim needs to be litigated. If not, we’ll offer the tips you need to proceed on your own. However, if you decide to work with our firm, your out-of-pocket costs are zero. Our firm only gets paid if you do.
Call (404) 354-5432 to schedule your free consultation with an Atlanta workers’ compensation attorney.