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Why get a lawyer when you can do it yourself?
Although California workers' compensation law provides a way for unrepresented injured workers to conclude their cases without a lawyer, there are several good reasons to retain counsel.
1. Expertise When you retain a workers' compensation attorney, you are acquiring expertise not available through reading books or information sheets. Attorneys who devote their practices to helping injured workers know people in the community who can help you get well and return to work. They know who their opponents are and have developed relationships with the defense community and administrative agency personnel.
2. Medical Treatment You are entitled to quality medical care, and I will help you obtain it as best I can given the limitations of medical treatment discussed here. I first started reading medical books at age 10, left around the house by my physician father. At age 16 I became a hospital volunteer. In college I worked as a ward unit clerk, a job where I was paid to do something I really enjoyed: I read medical charts and helped patients get things the nursing staff was too busy to do, whether order takeout from a deli or call a relative.
I went to law school with the intention of practicing in a medical area of the law. Workers' compensation law combined my interest in medical-legal work with interests and skills I acquired during a stint as a social worker in New York City.
3. Return to Work Workers' compensation law practice demands knowledge of the labor market, the requirements of various types of jobs, what is needed to get from where you are to where you want to go in terms of making a living. Over the close to 40 years I have been involved in law practice, I have had the opportunity to represent people from many walks of life. Did you ever wonder how plastic milk bottles were made? A client of mine explained how, and an ordinary object took on new meaning. Wherever I go, I try to learn more about what is involved in every job I come into contact with, and what opportunities there are in the labor market in these times of economic instability. While workers' compensation law no longer provides for vocational rehabilitation, I can assist with career advice and use of the voucher. Also, many workers wish to return to their former employer, even if they cannot do their former job as a result of their injury. I assist in getting reasonable accommodation.
4. Settlement of Claims At this point in the process, an experienced lawyer is invaluable. Unrepresented workers almost never get everything they were entitled to. Study after study shows that represented workers get more of their benefits than those who do it themselves. The small fee you have to pay is well worth it.
In an editorial in January 2012, David J. DePaolo, founder, chief executive officer and editor-in-chief of WorkCompCentral, wrote: "One of the stated purposes of the 2004 reform laws that instituted a new permanent disability rating system based on the AMA Guides 5th edition was to promote uniformity and predictability.
About the only thing that is really uniform and predictable is that if an injured worker does not have an attorney then that injured worker will get significantly less money as compensation."
5. Encouragement This is a hard time in your life. Loss of health, disability, and economic harm create anxiety and depression in many who previously experienced life on an even keel. I will help you hang in there.
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