When a worker is hurt on the job, all too often they just call the 800 number they heard six times in a radio spot for a personal injury attorney on their commute in to work that morning. The fact is, though, worker’s comp claims represent an entirely different breed of case; one that requires a different approach and a different kind of law firm.
Enter the plaintiff-side worker’s compensation firm. These specialist firms have spent the time and resources to figure out the complex workings of federal and state worker’s compensation insurance systems. That knowledge sets them apart from the typical personal injury firm and puts them in a position to win big for clients injured on the job.
Mandatory worker’s compensation insurance laws were put in place as a way to eliminate the tortious negligence claims that would otherwise typically apply in cases of on-the-job injury with employer liability. The flip-side to the guaranteed coverage that comes with insurance is that negligence suits in worker’s comp cases are a very high bar for plaintiffs to try and clear.
Most worker’s compensation cases revolve around filing and appealing claims with regulatory agencies, and also bringing the fight to private and public insurers hard at work trying to deny claims.
To complicate things, the laws that govern worker’s compensation aren’t the same for all jobs and industries. Depending on the claimant’s profession, a claim may have an entirely different legal path to resolution based on the laws that govern work place injuries in that particular industry. For example:
All this adds up to make worker’s comp practice highly nuanced and vastly different from a traditional personal injury practice.
Worker’s Compensation Practice Isn’t For Amateurs
For starter’s, most defendants are large entities with deep pockets and with very capable defense teams on retainer.
Further, a work-related injury can actually implicate a whole raft of different violations and avenues for litigation, including:
Worker’s compensation is also governed by a different set of laws and overseen by regulatory agencies that have their own complex codes to abide by.
This means that a successful worker’s comp lawyer doesn’t just have a comprehensive understanding of the law—they also understand the ins and outs of claim processing and Labor and Industry investigations.
Many worker’s compensation claims come in cold. After being shuffled through the system and assured they are being taken care of, injured workers usually only realize they need their own lawyer after months or years of ineffective action from their employer and L&I.
This leads to scenarios where the cause and treatment of the injury may be called into question and where deadlines may have flown by without the worker realizing it. It makes complicated cases even harder to try.
It’s rare for a single lawyer or even a non-specialized firm to be well-versed in all these aspects of the law. For the kind of support and expertise that is required to take on and win against big companies and their insurers, a specialized firm will always have the edge.
You only need to look at Emery Reddy, a Seattle, Washington based firm that represents plaintiffs in worker’s comp claims for an example of what doing things right looks like. Since its founding in 2005, this firm has won nearly as many awards for excellence as monetary awards for the clients it represents…
Specializing in worker’s compensation but having a broad range of experience and expertise in labor law and injury claims seems to be the firm’s key to success.
It’s also notable that many of their team have previously worked as either in-house counsel or in insurance-related litigation. Understanding the complexities and considerations of worker’s comp cases from both sides of the table is vital for a firm to be consistently successful in winning the cases it takes.
Assembling a team of key support staff is also useful. Lawyers are too valuable to tie down with the minutiae of case management. Bringing in specialized case managers to handle those details frees up attorneys to deal with bigger questions.
Similarly, using specialists to screen clients on intake weeds out frivolous claims and keeps the firm focused on cases most likely to bring in big awards.
Not every law firm nor every lawyer are cut out to work in plaintiff-side worker’s compensation. It can be a risky business, and a complicated one. Although the meat and potatoes work of these firms tends to be making small nudges at important pressure points in the case management system, the big money comes on contingency cases-
If you don’t have the bones to take on big players and win, you’re unlikely to last long in that environment. Specialized outfits with broad experience, such as Emery Reddy, have the talent to rack up big wins in court and with settlements that less adept firms can’t manage.
Regular six figure judgments and settlements are the sugar plum dreams for lawyers getting into worker’s comp litigation. But they don’t show up without expertise and experience in your back pocket. Putting together the kind of portfolio that can offer those advantages is hard work.
Getting the right education is an important first step for lawyers hoping to hit it big in worker’s comp practice. Heavy doses of labor law and administrative law courses in law school is a good way to get started.
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