Workers Compensation Lawyer
Workers compensation lawyers help employees who are injured on the job to recover compensation for their injuries, including lost wages and medical bills. As every state has different workers compensation laws, a workers compensation lawyer is often needed to help injured employees to know and understand their rights under the law and to recover what is due to them.
Federal workers who file for workers compensation may receive wage replacement benefits, medical treatment, vocational rehabilitation and other benefits. Federal employees are covered by standard workers compensation laws, regardless of the state in which they work, such as:
- Federal Employees Compensation Act
- Federal Black Lung Program
- Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program
Workers compensation laws make the employer liable for injuries an employee sustains during the course and scope of employment, without regard to negligence of the employer or employee. Workers compensation lawyers may work on behalf of a claimant or for the business in which the claimant works (functioning as a defense attorney for the employer/employer’s insurance company against the claimant/employee).
Education Required to Become a Workers Compensation Lawyer
A workers compensation lawyer type must have a Juris Doctor degree, preferably from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA), and must pass their state’s bar examination.
Before you can go to law school, however, you must obtain pre-law, undergraduate education. This may be in a pre-legal field or another major. After that, you must pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) to be admitted into an ABA-accredited law school. You may choose to specialize in workers compensation while at law school, if your school offers specialized coursework. Once you earn your Juris Doctor degree, you must pass the bar exam in any state in which you wish to practice law.
Some states require workers compensation lawyers to pass specialized bar exams and will then allow them to call themselves Board-Certified Specialists. North Carolina, for example, offers the Workers Compensation Law Exam, and when you pass it you are listed with that state as certified to practice Workers Compensation Law. Texas is another state in which you may specialize in Workers Compensation Law.
You must keep current with continuing education in order to maintain your law license. Each state’s requirements are different, so be sure that you know what is expected of you.
Choose from the links below, depending on your education level that best describes your situation:
- Pre-law Undergraduate Programs
- Online and Campus Law and Legal Studies Programs
- ABA-Accredited Law Schools – Juris Doctor (JD) Degree
Job Description & Skills Required for a Workers Compensation Lawyer
Job functions of a workers compensation lawyer include (but are not limited to):
- Gathering medical records/evidence
- Taking depositions of the claimant, medical professionals, medical experts
- Conducting discovery
- Performing legal research
- Staying current with developments in workers compensation law
- Drafting legal document like pleadings, motions, findings of fact, opinions, briefs
- Litigating cases
If you are a workers compensation lawyer working for a claimant, you must thoroughly understand the claims filing process as well as compensation due to your claimant. Additionally, you must:
- Be able to contact your claimant’s medical providers and complete paperwork on the claim
- Represent your claimant’s interests at hearings, trials, depositions, arbitrations and other proceedings
- Assist your claimant with applying for and receiving available benefits, including medical care
- Have excellent negotiation skills in order to negotiate settlements on your claimant’s behalf
If you are a workers compensation attorney working for the defense, you will be representing self-insured employers or insurance companies, against a claimant. You must still have a thorough understanding of the claims process and procedures, and know how to budget costs. You must also know billing procedures inside and out. You must also:
- Represent the employer/insurer’s interests at hearings, trials, depositions, arbitrations and other proceedings
- Communicate with claims representatives
- Monitor loss run reports for increases and trends, alerting management to any concerns
- Assist with investigating accidents
- Manage workers compensation costs
- Compile and submit reports as required
- Coordinate and attend claims review meetings
- Negotiate settlements on behalf of the insurance company
Skills that you must have as a workers compensation lawyer, regardless of which side you work for, include:
- Ability to handle large, multiple caseloads
- Ability to handle competing priorities and deadlines
- Litigation experience
- Strong trial experience
- Good knowledge of workers compensation procedures and laws
- Excellent oral and written communication skills
- Great research and analytical skills
- Excellent negotiation skills
- Ability to work well independently and as part of a team
- Strong technology skills
- Understanding of medical, construction, scientific, products, engineering and other issues involved in workers compensation cases
Workers Compensation Lawyer Salary & Job Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor notes that as of May 2021, the average lawyer in the U.S. (regardless of specialization) was earning an annual mean wage of $148,030. Some of the highest-paying cities in which workers compensation attorneys work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are:
|San Jose, CA:||$231,200|
|San Francisco, CA:||$191,460|
|New York, NY:||$183,870|
|Los Angeles, CA:||$177,550|
|San Diego, CA:||$165,480|
The outlook for worker’s compensation attorneys is bright. An average growth rate of ten percent is projected for jobs for all lawyers from 2021 through 2031. As employment laws are ever-changing, especially during the COVID pandemic when people are working in different settings, it is expected that more workers compensation lawyers will be needed to help claimants and insurance companies navigate these changes for some time to come.
2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Lawyers reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed April 2023.