When you suffer a workplace injury or become ill due to on-the-job exposure, you can claim workers’ compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and other costs. Common workplace injuries that qualify you for workers’ compensation include slips and falls, heavy lifting injuries, repetitive strain injuries, and injuries caused by malfunctioning equipment.
But while the system is designed to support vulnerable people, any complicating factors can quickly turn your claim into a legal minefield. Knowing when to hire a workers’ comp lawyer in Kansas or Missouri helps you file, negotiate, and win your case without falling victim to typical pitfalls.
So when you suffer a workplace injury, it’s time to ask: Do you need a workers’ comp lawyer?
When can you represent yourself?
To understand when to hire a workers’ comp lawyer, it’s important to recognize the situations in which you can represent yourself. If you consider all of the following statements to be true, then you probably don’t need legal assistance:
- Your workplace injury is only minor, such as a small cut or sprained ankle, and there are no complications
- Your employer admits that your injury occurred at work
- You don’t need time off work, or you only miss a few days
- You don’t have a pre-existing condition that affects the same body part as your workplace injury
However, even in these simple cases, it’s always a good idea to schedule a free consultation with a local workers’ compensation attorney. They can clearly explain the claim process, advise you on common mistakes, and give you their honest opinion on whether you can handle your case personally.
When you should hire a workers’ compensation attorney
Unfortunately, there are many more situations in which you do need a workers’ comp lawyer compared to those in which you don’t. Here are 11 examples of when to hire a workers’ comp lawyer.
1) Your employer or their insurance company deny your claim
The main goal of both your employer and their insurance company is to make money and reduce costs. Since workers’ compensation claims can be expensive, it’s not uncommon for genuine claims to be denied.
When an authority tells you your claim isn’t worth pursuing, it’s all too easy to listen. But they’re counting on you not to appeal against them, and many people don’t.
2) Your employer retaliates against you for filing a claim
It’s illegal for your employer to discriminate against you in any way for filing a workers’ compensation claim. This includes firing you, demoting you, reducing your hours, or giving you a pay cut.
3) Your employer claims you’re not covered by their workers’ comp policy
The rules for workers’ compensation insurance change from state to state. In Kansas, all employers must take out a workers’ comp policy. But in Missouri, this is only required for businesses with five or more employees (though for contractors this applies when there’s at least one employee).
Unless you were responsible for your injury due to workplace negligence, it’s highly unlikely that your employer’s policy doesn’t cover you. They might even be trying to cover up the fact that they don’t have workers’ compensation insurance, which is a serious offense that demands investigation.
4) Your injury affects your ability to work
Workers’ compensation recognizes three types of disability:
- Temporary Total Disability: You’re unable to work, but are expected to recover
- Permanent Total Disability: You’re unable to work ever again
- Permanent Partial Disability: You’re able to work, but with reduced skill and efficiency
In these cases, you may be entitled to weekly payments or a single lump sum to cover your lost wages.
5) You’re accused of committing fraud
There are certain actions you should avoid while applying for workers’ compensation, as they could result in accusations of benefit fraud. This could be as simple as making an extra effort at work, refusing manual assistance, or posting about physical activities on social media. Insurance fraud is a very serious accusation, so you must hire qualified legal support to protect yourself against fines and imprisonment.
6) Your employer’s settlement offer is less than you deserve
In an attempt to cut costs, your employer or their insurance company might try to reduce your payout or benefits. If the settlement offer seems low, particularly if it doesn’t cover your medical bills and lost wages, it’s time to contact a workers’ comp lawyer. You can estimate whether or not the settlement offer is reasonable by learning how to calculate workers’ compensation yourself.
7) Your doctor insists you return to work too quickly
Refusing to return to work after being cleared by a doctor can be grounds to have your workers’ compensation claim denied. But being forced back to work too quickly can cause your injuries to worsen. If you don’t feel comfortable or capable even with a doctor’s approval, a workers’ comp attorney can help you make a case for absence.
8) You have a pre-existing condition
Many claimants worry that a pre-existing condition will invalidate their claim. But failing to mention relevant details like this during your medical examination can put your case at risk. If the insurance adjuster uses your pre-existing condition as evidence against you, get in touch with a workers’ comp attorney.
9) Your symptoms aren’t immediate but develop over time
Failing to report your workplace injury within the first 24-48 hours can make your claim seem less credible. But some injuries take days or weeks to present. A workers’ comp attorney can help you build a strong case even when you suffer delayed symptoms or the deadline for filing your claim has passed.
10) You receive or plan to apply for Social Security
Unless your workers’ compensation settlement is carefully structured, the benefits you receive could impact your Social Security disability payments. Your workers’ comp lawyer will understand how to draft a settlement that avoids or minimizes this issue.
11) You were injured by a third party
Workers’ compensation is intended to support you after a workplace injury. But in certain situations outside of the workplace, such as an injury sustained while traveling to work, you could still qualify for workers’ comp.
So, do you need a workers’ comp lawyer?
Since you’ve made it this far, the answer is probably “yes”. In most cases, even simple ones, hiring a workers’ comp attorney can result in better payouts and benefits than you could win by representing yourself.
At Phalen Law, you can get a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your workers’ compensation claim and confidently move forward with no-win-no-fee representation. We ensure that all the necessary steps are followed in good time and know how to gather evidence for a powerful case. Our expert team has over 50 years of experience in winning workers’ compensation claims across Kansas and Missouri, and we never back down until you receive justice.
Contact us today to discuss your workplace injury, or fill out our Free Case Evaluation form online to give us the details of your claim.