How to Choose a Workers' Compensation Lawyer in SC
Being hurt on the job is a difficult experience for any worker. Fortunately, the South Carolina workers’ compensation system enables most injured employees to obtain benefits that help soften the financial blow from being out of work due to a job injury or illness.
Though workers’ comp benefits are provided for by law, eligible workers sometimes have trouble getting paid the benefits that they are owed. If you’re suffering from a job-related injury, an experienced South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer will work to remove those obstacles and help you recover the benefits you deserve.
How to Find a Good Workers’ Comp Lawyer
There are a number of resources you can rely on to find the right workers’ compensation attorney for you and your case:
- Family, friends, and neighbors: Asking trusted peers for attorney recommendations is a great start to any lawyer search. If you know someone who has had a positive experience with a workers’ compensation attorney, their recommendation should carry far more weight than just picking a name off a law firm billboard.
- State and local bar associations: Most state and local bar associations can point you toward law firms that work exclusively or primarily with workers’ compensation cases. The S.C. Bar provides a Lawyer Referral Service to the public to help connect them with attorneys who are qualified to meet their needs.
- Lawyers’ directories: Online legal directories can also point you toward attorneys who focus on workers’ compensation law and have been vetted through an independent rating system.
- Review boards: You might get a sense of an attorney’s performance through Internet review websites.
- Internet searches: Do an Internet search for a workers’ compensation attorney near you. You’ll likely find numerous law firm websites, which you should study carefully to determine which firm or lawyer might best meet your needs.
Although recommendations, reviews, and advertisements can give you some sense of an attorney’s experience and ability, you will get a far better idea of whether he or she is the right fit by arranging a free, in-person consultation.
Finding an Attorney Who You Can Trust
Finding a lawyer for your workers’ compensation case begins with the interview process. Most workers’ compensation lawyers don’t charge for an initial consultation, so you can meet with several attorneys and choose the one that feels right for you.
Prepare for your initial consultation by gathering all the information and documentation you have about your case. The attorney will want to know important details like when you were hired, how and when your injury occurred, how and when you notified your employer, when you first sought medical treatment, and the treatment you have received.
Documents you should bring to any consultation include:
- Accident reports from your employer, or your employer’s workers’ compensation insurer or risk management company
- Your medical records
- Your medical providers and their contact information
- The contact information for anyone who witnessed your accident
- Documents regarding any prior injuries or treatment to the same parts of the body you now claim are injured
- Correspondence between you and your employer or its workers’ compensation insurer
- Contact information for your employer and its workers’ compensation insurer
Finally, you should prepare a list of questions to ask your potential workers’ compensation attorney. Think of the process of finding a lawyer like you’re conducting a job interview. You want to hire the one lawyer who, in your opinion, has the best qualifications for the job.
Factors for Comparing Attorneys
As you narrow down which workers’ compensation lawyer to hire, consider these factors:
- The attorney’s main practice area(s): A lawyer can focus his or her practice in many different areas. You will want an attorney who works exclusively or primarily on workers’ compensation cases.
- Track record of success: Your attorney should also have a proven track record of helping clients secure the workers’ compensation benefits they deserve. Ask for a list of references for past clients that you can speak to about their experiences with the attorney and law firm.
- The law firm’s resources: Complex workers’ compensation cases may need significant research, including the hiring of expert witnesses to offer testimony in your case. Ask your prospective attorney about whether the firm has the financial resources to cover the costs that will be incurred in your case.
- The firm’s support staff: Just as you want to make sure of your attorney’s experience and qualifications, you’ll also want to know that the paralegals or legal assistants who are helping to prepare your case have the skills needed to handle a claim like yours.
- Commitment to customer service: Get a sense of whether the attorney will provide the level and quality of service that you are looking for, including being available and responsive to communications and taking a genuine interest in your case and your personal wellbeing.
It’s a good idea to interview at least three possible workers’ compensation attorneys before making a decision. No one lawyer is right for everyone. It is a highly personal decision.
Tips for Choosing the Right Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
To summarize, you should:
- Make sure your attorney focuses on workers’ compensation law, and just doesn’t list it among many various areas of law that he or she practices.
- Verify that your lawyer has extensive experience handling workers’ compensation cases and a history of successfully helping injured workers get the benefits they need and deserve.
- Find an attorney who is a good communicator, able to help you understand the complex legal and factual issues in your case, and who is responsive to all your communication requests.
- Be met by an attorney with a professional attitude, meaning he or she is well-prepared, respectful, and genuinely cares about how the outcome of your case will affect you and your family.
- Choose an attorney that you work well with. No matter how many accolades the attorney has received, you won’t have the most effective case if something feels “off” about your relationship with your lawyer.
- Ask for references.
- Understand what your attorney will do and what he or she expects from you. For example, are you expected to obtain all of your medical records, or will the law firm do that? Make sure that you are comfortable with whatever level of participation is expected from you.
- Ensure that the attorney and law firm have sufficient financial resources and manpower to thoroughly pursue your claim. You don’t want your attorney cutting corners simply because the firm is overwhelmed with a heavy caseload.
- Make sure that you understand the attorney’s fee structure and what you will be expected to pay if you win compensation, lose, or end the representation mid-case.
Questions to Ask Your Work Injury Lawyer Before Hiring
Questions you should consider asking a prospective workers’ compensation attorney include:
You will probably have many questions as your case proceeds. Be sure that your attorney will promptly respond to your communications and will keep you updated about every development in your case.
Find out if the attorney who you initially speak with will handle your case or if another lawyer in the firm will take over. You want to make sure you’re interviewing the right person.
You don’t want to hire an attorney who has a massive caseload and little time to give your case the attention it needs. Otherwise, you may not receive the benefits that a more available attorney might be able to secure for you.
You will want to find an attorney that has extensive experience in handling workers’ compensation claims.
Your lawyer should explain what the costs of their services will or might be. Many workers’ compensation attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, which means that they don’t get paid unless they receive benefits or an award. In those cases, the attorney will typically receive a percentage of the compensation you receive at the conclusion of the case.
With very rare exceptions, you cannot sue a South Carolina employer who provides workers’ compensation benefits to its employees. However, there are cases in which it’s possible to file a lawsuit against an outside third party. For example, if a defective power tool on a construction site malfunctioned and caused your injury, you may be able to sue the manufacturer for the faulty product. The prospective attorney should also have sufficient experience to honestly advise you about whether you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit for additional compensation.
Although it is very difficult to predict how long any case can take, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney should be able to give a rough estimate of how long your case might take based on the lawyer’s experience with similar cases.
Some cases may need to be resolved through a hearing or appeal before the S.C. Workers’ Compensation Commission. Some of those decisions will depend on where you are in the workers’ comp process by the time you consult with an attorney.
An attorney should help you understand what kinds of workers’ compensation benefits you may be entitled to in your case.
If you only missed a few days of work, your injury has healed, and your employer is paying out workers’ compensation benefits, you may not need an attorney. However, if you are having trouble obtaining benefits you think you are entitled to, a qualified lawyer can advise you of your legal options.
Hardworking South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers
Stewart Law Offices has been representing South Carolinians in job injury claims for 25 years. Our accomplished workers’ compensation lawyers understand that obtaining benefits can be critical to keep a family financially afloat. We work tirelessly to prepare solid workers’ comp claims for injured employees.
When you hire a South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer at Stewart Law Offices, you can count on us to:
- Return all of your phone calls and e-mails promptly
- Visit you at your home or in the hospital, wherever is most convenient for you
- Explain all of your legal options in a free and confidential consultation
- Aggressively pursue the maximum benefits you are entitled to
- Investigate if additional sources of compensation might be available to you (e.g., third party liability lawsuit)
- Prepare and file all necessary workers’ compensation documents for you
- Represent you in hearings and appeals before the S.C. Workers’ Compensation Commission
- Keep you updated on developments in your case
- Charge you no fees unless we obtain compensation for you
- Take the time to understand your needs, goals, and concerns
- Treat you with the compassion and respect that you deserve
Time is of the essence when you’re filing a workers’ comp claim in South Carolina. There are strict reporting deadlines that must be met in order to obtain benefits. To improve your chances of a maximum recovery, contact the workers’ comp lawyers at Stewart Law Offices today.
We’re standing by to help. Call or fill out our online contact form to get started.