Personally, me and my law firm, we've had cases where we've come to represent people after that case has been litigated for a little while and we've jumped in the middle and we've got circumstances where we've doubled offers that were made to them by the insurance company to unrepresented a client.
We've got surgery and treatment authorized in circumstances where the insurance company was fighting it with the unrepresented client. We've gotten various other benefits for people that they didn't realize that they'd be entitled to until they came to speak to me and retain my services.
Oftentimes, to the layperson, when you don't know what the law is, you don't know what you're entitled to and sometimes there's a lot more out there in terms of benefits, whether it's money, treatment, surgery that you might be entitled to that you need that you wouldn't otherwise know about unless you read the book. so you got a lawyer and we've done all the heavy lifting so we know what we can get for you and it's a very important thing.
And why is it important to find good lawyers?
There are a lot of great lawyers out there. I'm not the only great New York State Workers Compensation Attorney. There are some very, very good lawyers out there and to be honest, it's more about just knowing the law, it's knowing how to properly apply the law. The law is easy.
It's not that easy, but it's a book. Anybody can read the book and understand it and have an understanding of the law, but it's knowing how to properly apply the law. And on top of that, it's also having the skills to be able to work with a variety of different people in different positions with different personalities.
When you go into court, you're dealing with a judge, you're dealing with an insurance company attorney. Behind the scenes, you're dealing with an adjuster.
You're dealing with doctors offices and every single person you deal with has a different personality and your lawyer needs to be able to adapt to those different personalities and be able to consistently drive your case forward and get you what it is you need and what you're entitled to.
So it's more than just being a smart attorney. It's being able to deal with people and knowing how to apply the law to the facts of your case while all this is going on. It's very, very important.
In my opinion, looking for a good lawyer is the same as looking for a good doctor. I call it the three C's. The things you want to look for in a lawyer are confidence, comfort, and communication.
You want to find a lawyer that you think has the confidence to represent you in court and is confident to get you the benefits that you're entitled to and the benefits that you need. And not only is it the confidence that you see in the attorney, it's the confidence that the attorney instills in you.
Knowing that by going into battle with this lawyer, I'm confident that we're going to do well in my case. I'm going to get the treatment that I need and the benefits that I need. He's going to help me succeed through this tough time in my life.
So it's not just the lawyer having confidence. It's the lawyer giving you confidence in yourself.
And that goes to the second point: Comfort. You should be comfortable with your lawyer. You should feel like things are going to be okay. This person is going to help me. I have comfort. I have a sense of comfort despite the fact that I'm hurt, despite the fact I'm disabled, despite the fact that I might not be working and not getting my salary. I feel comforted that this person is going to help me get through this and I'm going to come out and I'm going to be okay at the end.
And then the third thing is communication. You need to have an open line of communication with your lawyer. Communication is everything. And if you don't have an open line of communication, if you don't feel like you can confidently communicate with your attorney, it's not the recipe for a good relationship.
And it doesn't mean your lawyer is a bad person or you're a bad person. Sometimes people just don't connect and don't have that line of communication. But it is something that is very, very important.
Well, questions, general questions, you want to ask any attorney that you're potentially going to hire. You might want to ask how a case like yours will normally progress. How much time does it take? What should I expect? You know, what pitfalls should I avoid?
Medical questions, I would defer to your doctor. Your doctor's, the one that's going to help you map out your treatment regimen. But you want to talk to your lawyer about what you should expect.
Am I going to have to see the insurance company doctor? Is my money going to go up or down? What happens when I have surgery? What happens if a metal worked for a long time? What happens if I go back to work relatively quickly?
That's a question that I would say is that you're going to have to talk to your attorney. Ask questions, get the answers that make you comfortable and confident with your representation. You're going to have to be able to do that.
Get the answers that make you comfortable and confident with your representation in your case, you'll have a better outcome in the long term.
At what point should I consider changing my lawyer?
Again, we're going to go back to those three C's, the Open Lines of Communication, Comfort and Confidence. You want to always be able to have that communication, a lot of communication with your attorney.
If that breaks down or if you don't feel comfortable with the way things are being communicated or if you lose that sense of confidence and a discussion about it doesn't help, you might want to consider looking for another attorney.
Again, it doesn't mean that your attorney's bad or that he's doing a bad job. It might, but it doesn't necessarily mean that. It doesn't necessarily mean that you have a bad case or that you're something wrong with you. Sometimes people just don't fit well and a different attorney or a different firm might be suited for you and your case and your circumstances. It happens and nobody should feel bad about it.
Like I said, communication is very important and that confidence and at comfort level is very, very important. If that's not there, you might want to consider speaking to somebody and at least gain that confidence.
Again, when we talk about things like communication, it's important to have open communication and to be comfortable with your attorney.
A lot of times injuries could deal with certain body parts and certain disabilities, but you're a little personal. You want to be able to comfortably talk to your lawyer about that. Sometimes your injuries, your disabilities, the fact that you're out of work, the income that you're receiving or that you're not receiving because you're not working, all those things could have an impact on interpersonal relationships and you might want to talk to your lawyer about that.
There's a lot of other aspects, it's not always just so black and white as I'm hurt and I'm not working. There's a lot of other aspects here and you want to be able to express that to your attorney, get an understanding from them as to how things play into one another and you have to have open conversation. Again, it's probably the most important thing that you feel comfortable having a chat with your lawyer.
When it comes to finding a lawyer, if you don't know who to call and you don't know, you don't have a workers' compensation attorney in mind, talk to the people that you trust. Maybe you've had an attorney help you with a car accident years ago or helped you draft a will and helped you with an immigration issue years ago or you have an attorney in your life that you trust, you might not know a workers' compensation attorney, but as the other attorney, maybe they can refer an attorney to you.
Same thing with a doctor. If there's a doctor that you trust, a family physician, tell them you have a workers' compensation claim you're looking for an attorney. They might be able to help you find somebody that they trust and since you trust them, that goes a long way.
You can also talk to family members, coworkers, various other people who have had a workers' compensation claims and felt confident and comfortable and successful in how they were handled, they might be able to refer you to an attorney that could help you with your claims.
Talk to those around. You talk to the people that you trust. They should be able to help you out.
Other things when it comes to hiring an attorney and being, having a successful relationship, an attorney-client relationship is active participation. This kind of goes hand in hand with the communication, active participation. Some clients think, "I have a lawyer now, he's going to handle this."
Yes, he is going to handle it, but your participation is key. It's important. Talk to your lawyer. Tell them all the facts that you think are important that relate to your claim. Let them weed out the information that they need and they feel is important, but open communication, active participation is very, very important.
Same with all the evidence that you have, any documentation, any proof, anything you feel is important. Lay it all on the table. Be open. Be honest. Have that channel of communication and let your lawyer decide what's important there, and that's what's going to get you a favorable outcome in the long run.
"Why is going back to work the best thing to do?"
Very good question.
It's not a blanket statement here, but in many circumstances going back to work is the best thing to do in a lot of different circumstances because going back to work, when you're back at full duty, you're getting your full salary, generally speaking. Again, every case is different. The facts are always different on a case-by-case basis.
Workers' compensation will never pay you your full salary for your lost time. Workers' compensation, by definition, pays a portion of your salary. You get two-thirds of your average gross weekly earnings up to a statutory maximum, which changes every year. But when you're out, you're not getting your full salary. When you're working, the full duty, presumably, you are getting your full salary. So, your weekly money is higher when you're working.
In circumstances that revolve around what we call schedule loss of use injuries, and those are extremities to arms and legs and hands and feet, fingers and toes, vision and hearing. For every week of compensation that you're paid, generally, that week is credited back to the insurance company when it's time for your permanent injury award. So, every week that you stay out of work and you get paid workers' compensation, they're going to take credit for.
If you go back to work sooner, you're getting your full salary, and you're not taking credit for that. So, in the long term, you actually might wind up making more money over that period of time. Again, I don't want people to rush back to work. I don't want people to do things that are not medically advisable. But, generally speaking, in many circumstances, it is beneficial to go back to work sooner rather than later.
I hope that answers your question.
Thank you very much. Does anybody else has any other questions?
"What if my doctor places me at MMI with a permanent work restriction, and I am unable to return to that particular job?"
I just got off the phone with the client having this exact discussion. When a doctor provides a restriction or an opinion on your level of permanent disability, or your level of disability, whether it's permanent or temporary, those opinions, those medical opinions are with respect to your ability to find any work.
I know that's very confusing. A doctor could say that you have a 50% disability, and he's not, at least he shouldn't be saying that you have a 50% disability from your job. It's a 50% disability from any job. So, you might not be able to ever go back to your job that you were injured at ever again because of your injuries, but it doesn't mean that you're disabled from all work in New York State.
When a doctor places those restrictions on you, it's not necessarily reflective of your ability to go back to your job. It's your ability to go back to any job. And it does create a lot of legal obligations for you. If you're found to have a partial disability by your doctor, oftentimes you are obligated to start looking for work within those restrictions.
Any more questions?
"I worked for a company, had a truck accident, I had three injuries. I changed lawyers, and I see that after the promises this one is worse than the first. Finding a lawyer is like finding a needle in a haystack."
I'm sorry you're having a tough time. Again, speak to the people that you trust. If you're having issues with your attorneys, speak to people that you trust. If you trust your doctor, if you have that open communication with your doctor, speak to your doctor, maybe they can help find you an attorney that you have a good relationship with.
Speak to friends and family that have had cases. Sometimes people, you can call your local bar association. They can help you find an attorney. I don't like hearing that people are having issues with their attorneys. So you should certainly find somebody that you're comfortable with.
"What about if you are 100% disabled and can't go back to work?"
Terms like 100% permanent disability, and I'm not downplaying your level of disability by any stretch of the imagination. But the term disability oftentimes gets used as a generic term. Having 100% permanent total disability, if that finding has been reached by a judge, you have 100% permanent total disability.
You're entitled to two thirds of your salary up to that statutory maximum that we discussed before for the rest of your life. It's a very difficult finding to reach, unfortunately. But if you're 100% permanently and totally disabled and you can't go back to work, you should be entitled to benefits for the rest of your life, at least as far as New York State workers compensation is concerned, I don't know about other states.
I don't know about other tribunals, I don't know about New York State disability and things like that. But under the New York State workers compensation law, a permanent total disability gets you money for the rest of your life. Any other finding of permanent partial disability as a cap.
So for instance, if you have a 75% permanent partial disability, you get benefits for 400 weeks. You're capped at 400 weeks. 400 weeks is about 7, 6-9 years. A little more than seven and a half years of benefits and then your benefits are finished. So permanent total benefits for the rest of your life. Permanent partial, you are capped out.
Good question, thank you.