What Can I Expect if I Hire a Lawyer for my Workers' Comp Claim?
When you hire a workers' comp attorney, one of the first things you should do is discuss your goals in claim with the attorney. Often an injured worker hires an attorney because he is being denied a benefit that the worker feels he should be receiving. When a benefit, for example medical treatment, is not being provided, the attorney will file a document called a petition for benefits. The petition is filed electronically with the state of Florida and delivered to the worker's employer and its workers' compensation insurance company. The company usually responds to the petition and states a position as to whether they will provide the benefits and if not why.
The filing of the petition also triggers several other events. The state will require and schedule a mediation. This mediation will take place usually within 4 months of the petition being filed. The mediation is a mandatory meeting between the injured worker, her attorney, the employer, its insurance company, their attorney, and a mediator. As you can see, there are numerous people involved in the mediation and the focus on that day is your case. Often the mediation will resolve the issues in the case or settle the case in its entirety.
If there isn't a settlement, many times the parties will proceed to trial. Workers' comp trials are non-jury trials where a judge decides whether the worker is entitled to medical and/of lost wage benefits. There are no awards of pain and suffering or other intangible benefits in workers' comp. These trials occur usually between 6 months and a year after hiring an attorney.
Because the process can be long and drawn out, it's important to hire an attorney who will fight for your rights out of the gate. Even in the best of circumstances, claims can be very stressful for the injured worker and her family. Make sure to hire somebody with experience in this area of the law who can guide you through the difficult maze of workers' compensation.