Rights of Injured Workers Part 2: Working with a Lawyer

IV. Whether to Hire an Attorney

The best advice for people trying to collect workers' compensation benefits is to speak with an attorney who specializes in workers' compensation law. This attorney should be actively practicing workers' compensation law on a daily basis. Many individuals do not receive the amount of workers' compensation benefits that the law prescribes for them, because both they and their attorney do not know all of their legalrights. Unfortunately, many workers believe that the employer and the insurance company are looking out for themand protecting their legal rights. Quite often, the employer and the workers' compensation insurance company are moreinterested in protecting themselves, and not the legal rights of the injuredworker.

Another problem is the employer who tries to get the injured worker to have his or her medical bills paid by the worker's private health insurance coverage. This is a mistake. In all cases of work-related injuries, the injured worker needs to file for workers' compensation benefits and needs to submit their medical bills for payment to the workers' compensation insurance company or he or she will have to pay costly co-pays and may harm their chances of receiving workers' compensation benefits. There are no co-pays in the workers' compensation system.

Injured workers usually receive two thirds of their wages in workers' compensation benefits. Each year there is a statewide maximum amount of workers' compensation rate that injured workers may receive. However, for those workers with wages which are less than half of the maximum rate, their compensation rate can be increased up to 90% of their gross wages instead of two thirds.

V. The Attorney Fee

Pennsylvania law states that an attorney can receive a fee of no more than 20% of the client's wage benefit. When a client comes to Lowenthal and Abrams for advice, if he or she is already receiving the proper compensation rate, we do not charge anything for our advice, even if we spend several hours or more helping the client.

It is not until we battle to obtain contested benefits, or successfully defend those benefits in court, that we begin to receive 20% of the client's rate. Keep in mind, without knowledgeable legal help, the client would have been steamrolled by the system and not gotten benefits in the first place or had existing benefits terminated. So, the client is much better off receiving 80% of his or her compensation rate than zero without good legal help.

VI. Lump Sum Settlements

Workers' compensation insurance companies may offer injured workers lump sum settlements so they can stop paying out workers' compensation benefits. Lump sum settlements of workers' compensation claims can be very beneficial to the injured worker at the right time and under the right circumstances. Lump sum settlements can be quite large and sometimes valuable to the client who can then change careers to a job which won't seriously stress the work injury. Often times the client may be able to receive Social Security or other health insurance benefits that replace the workers' compensation medical benefit given up by the worker in exchange for the lump settlement amount. There is no doubt that obtaining the best settlement requires the knowledge and skill of a workers' compensation attorney specialist. The results are well worth the 20% fee.

The information in this article is a cursory look at some important aspects of the workers' compensation system. Only an experienced and competent workers' compensation attorney can actually determine what the best course of action is for each individual injured worker.

An attorney client relationship requires a signed agreement between the client and attorney. Nothing in this article should be taken as legal advice to a client and no relationship with Lowenthal and Abrams is created without a written agreement for legal services.

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