This is a good question. You might be surprised, but our first answer is not “of course.”
Most on-the-job injuries are not serious, are witnessed or reported right away, and result in quick medical care paid for by an employer (or its workers’ compensation insurance company) that acknowledges its legal responsibility without hesitation, question or complaint. We never shy away from talking to an injured worker with questions. But in circumstances like these, it’s likely that no attorney needs to be hired.
On the other hand, if the injury is more serious, or if it is not witnessed or reported quickly, or if it doesn’t heal quickly, or if medical care is discouraged or not provided when you need it, or if you do not receive compensation benefits, or if you get a “Form 43” denying responsibility for your injury, call a lawyer and don’t delay.
An attorney will help make sure you are getting the treatment you need to heal as quickly and completely as possible. An attorney will make sure that you receive the compensation benefits you are entitled to be paid under Connecticut law. An attorney will help you avoid the pitfalls that can severely limit or even end your entitlement to compensation benefits. We think the biggest problem with workers’ compensation is that it should be straightforward and simple-but it’s not.
You should also know that the Workers’ Compensation Commission regulates attorney fees in compensation cases, and the fees are quite modest. In almost all instances, the attorney fee is only 20% of some of the benefits you may receive.
For example, when your employer is making voluntary payments of weekly benefits for temporary total or temporary partial disability, an attorney may not take a fee, no matter how many calls are made to the compensation carrier about late checks. And an attorney may not take a fee from medical benefit payments, no matter how much work is done to get you seen by a doctor or to get a medical bill paid.
In fact, the most common source of the attorney’s 20% fee is the payment made for permanent disability after you have healed. Since healing usually takes time, the sooner an attorney is working for you, the more he or she will eventually do for the fee being earned.
Finally, because the Workers’ Compensation Act was originally intended to set up a system in which lawyers were not needed on either side, the Commissioners are quickly available to deal with any dispute an injured worker may have with his or her attorney.
Except for simple, straightforward cases, it’s always a really good idea to talk to a lawyer — it doesn’t hurt to call. At Glass, Lebovitz, Kasheta & Bren we’re always happy to talk with a worker about a work injury, even if it’s just to discuss the need for formal representation. And initial consultations are always free.