Finding a workers’ compensation lawyer is a tall order. Finding a skilled, experienced attorney is an even taller order.
After suffering a fractured wrist at work, I gained an appreciation for the fact that workers’ compensation is a specialty and that I was embarking on a search for a specialist in his or her field.
This realization wasn’t exactly earth-shattering on my part, but it did provide focus and an argument for symmetry. If I encountered a pipe burst at home, I wouldn’t hire a general contractor. I would hire a licensed plumber. If my company needed a logo redesign, I wouldn’t hire a freelancer; I’d hire a graphic artist.
So after a physician didn’t exactly fill me with confidence about my treatment plan, and I was waiting for my employer to review my claim anyway, I thought it would be in my best interest to not only hire a lawyer but the one I could find. It was a tall order indeed.
An Imperfect But Ultimately Successful Search
My search for a workers’ comp lawyer wasn’t without wrinkles, but I learned how to iron them out until I found the right one for me:
What I did: I began with the American Bar Association’s Florida division.
What I learned: This seemed like a logical start – until I saw that there is also an Orange County Bar Association because Orlando is located in Orange County.
What I did: In attempting to narrow my search to workers’ compensation, I ended up on Lawyers.com with, sure enough, a page of workers’ comp lawyers.
What I learned: With more than 50 names to sort through, I was struck by a question: Did I want a lawyer who was a member of a large firm or someone in a smaller firm?
What I did: Obviously, there are pros and cons to either choice. In the end, it’s probably a matter of preference. I strongly leaned toward finding someone in a small firm because I assumed I would derive a level of personability that I find appealing. But I thought I would do what many people do at the very beginning of their search for a workers’ compensation lawyer: they ask friends, family members, and coworkers for recommendations.
What I learned: It helps your cause if your friends, family members, or coworkers have filed a workers’ compensation claim. None of mine had, so I felt like I was starting over. For me, this was the low point in the process.
What I did: I rallied and decided to “go local” by conducting an Internet search of my own.
What I learned: I reminded myself that finding a workers’ comp lawyer can be a recursive process – like all research projects – so I decided that the time I was spending would ultimately pay off.
What I did: I spent hours reading the websites of various attorneys who were practicing workers’ compensation law. This wasn’t nearly as time-consuming as it sounds. First impressions really do speak volumes. I kept returning to the website I liked most – one that was informative, well written, and professional. It stood out, head and shoulders, among all the others.
What I learned: Trusting my own judgment was paramount. I wanted someone who conveyed skill and personability.
What I did: I dug a little deeper, probing the experience factor I sought most at the beginning. I really wanted a specialist – and a successful one.
What I learned: When I saw that this particular attorney cited the outcome of his workers’ comp cases, I was virtually sold. I didn’t see this information on any other website.
What I did: I called the lawyer to set up a meeting, treating this “initial consultation as the lawyer’s job interview.
What I learned: I liked this approach – both professional and friendly. I took notes as I asked some recommended questions:
- How many years have you been handling workers’ compensation claims?
- How much of your practice is devoted to workers’ comp?
- Can you represent me throughout the entire workers’ comp process, including at administrative hearings and appeals?
- Can you provide me with references?
- Will you be working on my case personally or will legal assistants and paralegals handle the bulk of the work?
- When I call your office with a question about my case, will I speak to you or a legal assistant?
- Can you explain to me how a workers’ compensation claim proceeds through the system? How do attorneys’ fees work?
- Will I be charged for litigation-related expenses, and if so, what do these expenses include? Will I be charged even if my case is unsuccessful?
In all honesty, I didn’t even finish my list of questions before deciding that I had found the ideal lawyer to represent me. His demeanor – highly intelligent yet personable, professional yet down-to-earth – won me over in mere minutes.
Yes, finding a workers’ comp lawyer is a tall order. But when you take the time to let the process evolve, you can fill that order, too.