If you’ve been injured while working in Missouri, you might ask yourself whether it’s necessary to hire a workers’ compensation lawyer. Many injured workers wonder, “Do I need an attorney?” Some large local employers even advise their injured employees not to get an attorney, claiming an attorney will only “take some of the money you are entitled to.” While you might believe you can handle the claims process on your own, there are several reasons why it’s typically a better idea to seek the help of an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer.
Do I Need an Attorney for my Workers’ Compensation Claim?
The Missouri Workers’ Compensation system is complicated. If you make an error when filing your claim, your benefits could be delayed by months. Depending on the mistakes you make, your claim could also be denied. However, there are a few situations in which you might be able to handle your claim on your own, including the following:
- Your injury was minor, and you didn’t suffer any complications.
- You didn’t have to miss work beyond a couple of hours or one day.
- You don’t have a pre-existing condition that complicated your injuries.
Do I need an attorney? Typically, yes. Unless your injury was very minor and didn’t involve long-term effects or missed work, it is advisable to contact a lawyer. Let’s explore a few of the reasons why . . .
Your Injury Forces You to Miss Work
If your injury prevents you from returning to your job for a lengthy period of time, for three or more days, or even permanently, you should contact an experienced attorney. A lawyer can evaluate your accident and help you understand the value of your claim and the types of benefits you should recover.
If you suffer disabling injuries, you might be entitled to a lump sum settlement. However, you shouldn’t accept an offer unless an attorney has determined it is fair. A lawyer can determine how much your injury will cost, including lost wages, disability, and your current and future medical treatment costs, to determine whether a settlement offer is fair.
Ratings as Applied to Missouri Workers’ Compensation Claims
Were you injured at work? Under R.S.Mo. § 287.140, your employer or their insurance company will have the right to choose the medical provider who will treat your injuries. While you do have a right to choose a doctor for treatment, you will have to pay for the care if you do.
When you receive treatment from the workers’ compensation doctor, they will continue treating you until they determine you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). This is the point at which further treatment will not improve your injury any further.
At this point, the workers’ compensation doctor will assign a disability rating to your injuries. While Missouri doesn’t have a set rating schedule, workers’ compensation insurance carriers use ratings from physicians to determine how much to offer in a settlement. Your attorney can help you seek a second opinion through an independent medical examination (IME) and a rating from another physician if your rating is too low. This might help you negotiate a higher settlement for your workplace injuries.
Need for Expert Witnesses
Proving the severity of your injuries and their impact on your ability to perform work and activities of daily living will likely require you to rely on expert witnesses across multiple disciplines. An attorney will know the types of experts needed to support your claim and can help you find and retain relevant professionals. In addition to medical experts, you might also need vocational experts, occupational experts, and others based on your accident and injuries. Expert testimony and opinions can be invaluable in ensuring you receive fair compensation for your injuries.
Difficulty Obtaining Full Compensation Without an Attorney
Employers and their insurers want to pay as little as possible on workers’ compensation claims. This is because employers want to keep their premiums low, and insurers are for-profit companies that want to drive up their profit margins by paying as little as possible when a worker is injured. These factors make it difficult for injured employees to recover all of the compensation they deserve without the help of an attorney.
A workers’ compensation lawyer can help you understand all of the types of benefits you should receive and will work hard to protect your rights. When you have an experienced attorney on your side, they will understand the various tactics used by employers and insurance carriers and help you counter them effectively.
Attorneys know the workers’ compensation law in Missouri and can help you navigate the process. Your lawyer can negotiate with the insurance company for you and help to ensure you meet all deadlines. Finally, if your claim is denied, your lawyer can fight for your rights through trial and/or an appeal.
Determining Third-Party Liability
In some cases, third parties cause workplace accidents. For example, if someone else caused your workplace accident who wasn’t an employee of your employer, you could file a workers’ compensation claim with your employer and a third-party liability claim against the third party. This could increase your compensation. Third-party claims are fairly common in on-the-job car accidents. If you were injured while on the job in a car accident, you may be entitled to file a claim with your employer while also pursuing a negligence case against the other driver. There are often complicated issues with insurance in these situations, so consulting a lawyer is best.
Even if your workers’ compensation case seems fairly straightforward, it never hurts to meet with an attorney. If your employer and/or their insurer is advising you not to get an attorney, ask yourself why they do not want you to have an attorney. If you suffered serious injuries in a workplace accident in Missouri, you should consult an experienced attorney at the Law Offices of Bryan Musgrave to learn about your rights and legal options. Call us today for a free consultation at 417-322-2222 (Springfield) or 417-624-4258 (Joplin). You can also contact us online.