What Are The Top Ten Ways To Screw Up Your Workers’ Comp Case?
The process of settling a workers’ compensation claim is notoriously difficult, but in today’s unpredictable economic climate, many employers are becoming ever-more reluctant to pay out on legitimate claims. Unfortunately, many workers unknowingly make a challenging situation even more complicated by making various mistakes.
In order to help you avoid sabotaging your own workers’ compensation claim, here are the top 10 worst mistakes when seeking workers’ comp benefits.
10. Skipping Medical Appointments
A strong workers’ compensation claim requires plenty of medical evidence. However, if you do not go to the doctor your attorney has selected for you or you skip appointments before you are released, your case may be delayed or denied. Without sufficient evidence of your work-related injuries or illness, your workers’ comp attorney will not be able to adequately support your case.
9. Not Showing Up for Depositions and Hearings
Not only will failing to appear at depositions or hearings waste a lot of people’s time, but it will greatly weaken your case. The judge may have your benefits stopped or simply dismiss your case altogether. If you are unable to appear at a scheduled deposition or hearing, tell your attorney immediately in order to reschedule.
8. Constantly Calling Your Attorney
Litigation can take a great deal of time and your attorney is likely busy with several cases that require him or her to make frequent court appearances. Unless it is an emergency, limit your calls to at least once per week. The process can be slow and your attorney may not have any new updates on your claim every day.
7. Abusing Voice Mail
When leaving a message on your attorney’s voice mail, try to be as brief as possible. Always give your name, area code, and full telephone number with a quick message about what you would like to discuss during your next call or meeting. It will be easier for your attorney to get in touch with you from outside the office with this information, which will make it all the more likely that he or she will be able to contact you sooner.
6. Being Vague or Forgetful
You are not expected to have a perfect memory, but the more specific information you can provide your attorney, the more he or she will have to build a strong case. If you suddenly can’t remember names, dates, activities, or other details, the less likely your chances for reaching a successful settlement.
Lying or withholding information will weaken your case and possibly get you into serious trouble. Your attorney needs to have a clear understanding of your situation, such as previous injuries and illnesses, in order to support your claim. If you do not disclose important information to your attorney, or lie while under oath, not only will it hurt your credibility, but you may even be investigated for insurance fraud or other felonies.
4. Threatening Your Attorney
You hired your attorney to represent your claim and to use his or her best legal judgment to support your best interests. Threatening your attorney that you will file a complaint with the State Bar or use violence in order to manipulate him or her is the quickest way to lose the experienced advocacy you need for success. Threats will generally cause your attorney to petition the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) to leave your case.
3. Comparing Your Case to Others
Every case will have a unique outcome based on each injured worker’s circumstances. The amount of your settlement will be determined by your age, occupation, salary, and the type of injury or extent of permanent disability you have suffered. Other people may claim to have received a significant settlement for the exact same injury, but there can be any number of reasons that your particular case will differ. Your attorney will help you have realistic expectations for your case.
2. Refusing to Compromise
Reaching a workers’ compensation settlement requires negotiation and compromise. In many cases, it can take several appearances to get to trial, followed by a multi-day trial that can take months to complete. Your employer and insurance carrier inevitably will not want to pay any more than what they believe you deserve for your particular circumstances. Your attorney will use his or her legal expertise to determine what your case is worth and then fight to ensure that you reach the best possible outcome for your case.
1. Demanding Justice
Workers’ compensation is simply a form of insurance coverage that provides financial compensation for an employee’s injury or illness suffered while on the job. However, pursuing your rightful benefits is not a way to punish your employer or to make your workplace safer. Insisting on going to trial when a reasonable settlement has been offered because you want to seek justice will not increase your award, and may in fact, turn the judge against you. If you want to file for punitive damages against an employer or co-worker, you will have to explore alternative legal options.