If you get injured on the job, workers’ compensation provides a financial safety net. If your employer has this type of insurance – as most are required to in Georgia – you can qualify for financial benefits without needing to prove fault or negligence. You may need a lawyer, however, to assist you in filing a workers’ compensation claim, depending on the circumstances.
As a general rule, you can most likely represent yourself if the workplace accident only gave you a minor injury or illness. While there are still complications that could make it important to hire a lawyer, most claims that are lower than $10,000 in value do not require legal representation. This is because insurance companies are more likely to handle these claims honestly and offer fair settlements, without making the claims process unreasonably difficult for the client.
If, on the other hand, you suffered a serious or catastrophic injury – such as broken bones, a permanent disability, a brain injury or paralysis – hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer can be critical. A lawyer can prevent the insurance company from taking advantage of you or using tactics to devalue your injury claim. Legal assistance can be especially important if you have future foreseeable medical needs, such as physical therapy or rehabilitation.
It is important to report your accident and injury to your employer right away. Although Georgia law gives you a maximum of 30 days to report an injury to an employer for a workers’ compensation claim, immediate reporting is best. Notifying someone about your accident without delay can reduce the possibility of your employer arguing that your injury did not happen at work. If your employer is refuting liability for your injury, such as by claiming that it is a pre-existing injury or something that you did not get from your job, consult with an attorney.
If you have received a rejection letter from the insurance company, call an attorney for assistance. You have the option of appealing the decision. You can request an internal review or a third-party review by an organization such as the Georgia Office of Insurance. A lawyer can determine the reason for the rejection and collect further evidence and supporting documentation to submit with your appeal, as necessary. Hiring a lawyer for the appeals process can improve the chances of the workers’ comp insurance company reversing its decision.
Even if you qualify for benefits, you may encounter the problem of the insurance company devaluing your claim and offering a lowball settlement – one that is inadequate for the extent of your injuries and the cost of your medical bills or disability. Insurance companies often offer low settlements with the expectation that the client will negotiate back and forth for a higher amount. This is why it is important to speak to an attorney before you accept the first settlement offer. An attorney can help you understand the true value of your claim and negotiate for maximum financial compensation.
Finally, you may wish to hire a lawyer to file a workers’ compensation claim for you if you would like to focus on healing and moving forward rather than the complicated legal process. Your lawyer can take over confusing legal paperwork for you, make sure you do not miss critical deadlines, help you get professional medical care and avoid mistakes that could hurt your chances of recovering compensation.
Working with an attorney from the beginning of your case can make the legal process easier, more efficient and more effective. For more information about how a lawyer can help you with a workers’ compensation claim in Atlanta, contact Hilley & Frieder to request a free consultation.