Finding A Lawyer For a Workers' Compensation Case
If you need an attorney specifically for a disability determination
through Social Security, please see "Finding a Lawyer
for a Social Security Disability Case." If your case
is not related to Social Security or workers' compensation,
please read "Finding a Lawyer" which provides information
about finding a lawyer in general.
If you were injured at work and ended up with complex regional
pain syndrome (CRPS) as
a result of the injury, you may be eligible for workers' compensation (WC).
Under WC, your employer's workers' compensation
insurance policy pays for your injury-related expenses (e.g.,
medical expenses and lost wages). Any WC case can be difficult, but a WC case that
involves CRPS is typically even more difficult for a few
the disorder is not well understood
individuals have different signs and symptoms
the symptoms can come and go
If you are having trouble with your WC
paying for your medical care, you can contact your state's
WC official. WC laws
vary by state, but each state has a WC
official who heads an agency with a name such as "Division
of Workers' Compensation," "Industrial Commission,"
"Workforce Safety and Insurance," or "Division
of Labor & Management."
The contact information for
your state's agency is in the blue government pages of your
phone book and on the federal government's Department of Labor's
Some states, such as Oregon and Kansas, also have an ombudsman
to help injured workers through the process. The ombudsman's
office can be found through the state WC
agency and may also be able to help you find legal advice.
In addition, you may also want to see if there is a program
in your state that helps people with private health insurance.
To see if your state has a consumer health assistance program that serves privately insured individuals, use the program
locator on www.familiesusa.org/resources/program-locator.
If your state does have a program for private insurance, ask
if it can handle WC complaints. WC cases may be handled differently from private
health insurance complaints, but still the staff may be able
to help, especially if the complaint relates to provider billing
Getting a Legal Referral
Given the complications of CRPS WC
cases, they often require a lawyer who specializes in WC, and ideally a lawyer who understands CRPS
and how it affects you. If you decide to look for a lawyer
to represent you in a WC case related to
CRPS, first ask your friends, colleagues, family members,
fellow support group members, or neighbors for recommendations.
Word of mouth is often the best way to find a good attorney,
especially if you get the same recommendation from more than
one person. Another source of recommendations is through an
Internet chatroom or bulletin board support group.
If you cannot find an attorney for your case through personal
connections, several organizations have referral services.
The American Bar Association (ABA) has a referral service
by state on its website at www.abanet.org/legalservices/findlegalhelp/home.cfm.
(Click on "Learn More/FAQs" on the left-hand side
of that page to read helpful ABA publications, such as "Hiring
a Lawyer," "Paying a Lawyer," "Finding
Free Help," and "Legal Terms.")
let you search for a lawyer by specific specialties (such
as WC or the broader term of employment
law). There are also many state and local bar association
with directories of their members, often listed by specialty;
you may contact those associations for suggestions.
local bar associations in your state, see the ABA's State
and Local Bar Association Directory at www.abanet.org/barserv/stlobar.html,
or check your telephone book for their numbers.
many trial lawyers take WC cases, and the American Association for Justice has a referral service
for anyone who is considering suing another party in civil
(not criminal) court: www.atlanet.org.
The Association has a CRPS litigation group whose members
hold seminars to discuss strategies with CRPS cases and
exchange medical information, so someone who is a member of
this group may have a better understanding of your situation
than someone who is not.
There are several sources of referrals specifically for WC cases.
- The Workers Injury Law & Advocacy
Group, a not-for-profit association of plaintiffs' attorneys who
represent workers, offers a referral service at www.wilg.org/find_attorney.asp.
- Likewise, iLawyer, a not-for-profit lawyer referral network,
provides referrals for WC attorneys in
Texas, New York, California, and Kentucky at www.ilawyer.com/library/lawarea_workers_compensation.jsp.
- The California Applicants' Attorneys Association, a not-for-profit
association of lawyers who advocate for injured workers, also
offers referrals to its members on its homepage: www.caaa.org.
- The nonprofit Injured Workers Association of Utah offers
referrals and information specific to Utah at www.utahinjuredworker.com/
- Pennsylvania Federation of Injured Workers, also a not-for-profit,
has "panel attorneys" who have been screened by
its local chapters: www.pfiw.org/Panel%20of%20Attorneys.htm.
- Injured Workers of New York, Inc. (www.injuredworkersofnewyork.org),
a not-for-profit organization that sits on the New York State
Workers' Compensation Board's Practices & Procedures Committee,
helps injured workers in that state obtain the necessary medical,
legal, and financial help.
One commercial website, a Lawyer Directory from LexisNexis,
lets you search for a lawyer by specialty, including employment
The site gives you information about the firm's size and whether
or not the firm offers a free initial (or first) consultation.
(Remember that the order in which the lawyers are listed on
some websites may be due to fees the lawyers have paid to
You can also find an attorney through the listings in the
business pages of your local phone book under the subject
area "lawyers" or "attorneys." Still,
remember that it is often better to find a lawyer—like any
other professional you may hire—on the basis of a personal
recommendation from someone you trust who knows the attorney's
skills and abilities.
If you do not have much income, LawHelp at www.lawhelp.org may help you find a free or low-cost legal aid program to
help with a variety of issues, including employment issues.
(Keep in mind that legal aid programs typically focus more
on issues such as housing, bankruptcy, and disability.) You
may also find a legal aid clinic in the phone book or through
a bar association. Some bar associations may be able to refer
you to lawyers who may help you for reduced fees if your income
Choosing a Lawyer
If you decide that you definitely need an attorney—whether
for a WC case or other issue—it is generally
a good idea to speak with a few lawyers before deciding which
lawyer to hire or to retain. You may want to have a friend
or family member—someone whose opinion you value—come to the
meeting with you. Then asking the lawyers questions, such
as those below, may help you make a good choice.
- What do you charge, if anything, for the first or
- Do you accept workers' compensation cases on a contingency*
- What do you expect the fee for your services to be?
- What do you estimate your expenses will be?
- How long have you been practicing law?
- What experience and credentials do you have in workers'
- How much do you know about CRPS?
- Have you attended any relevant seminars or courses?
- How many similar cases have you had and how successful
have you been?
- What do you think my chances of success are?
- How long do you think it will take to resolve my case?
- What paralegals or other lawyers, if any, will work
with you on my case, and who will be my primary contact?
- Do you have malpractice insurance?
- Can I review your attorney-client contract that I would
be expected to sign? (It is a good idea to take it home with
you to review carefully before signing.)
You may also want to call the Better Business Bureau to see
if any complaints have been filed against the attorneys you
are considering. The lawyers' associations and some states
also keep a record of attorneys against whom complaints have
been filed or legal action has been taken, but these lists
vary by state. If you still are not sure about your choice
of attorneys, ask for a follow-up meeting if that will help.
Make sure you feel comfortable with your decision before you
agree to hire anyone.
Having Co-Counsel on Your Case
You may end up with more than one attorney, especially if
your case is complicated. If your lawyer needs the expertise
of another lawyer, your lawyer will arrange for the other
lawyer (the co-counsel) to help with the case. Sometimes the
co-counsel is a prominent expert in one aspect of your case
but is not licensed to practice law in your state; thus he/she
works with your attorney who is licensed to practice law in
If you become unhappy with your attorney, you do not have
to have that person continue to represent you. You may simply
inform the lawyer, in writing if required (or preferred),
that you wish to hire other legal counsel. (In some states
you must complete forms about your change in attorneys; ask
the state's WC agency for details.) However,
make sure that you know the status of your case, including
all upcoming deadlines, and that you are aware of any consequences
from firing your lawyer. In addition, you should expect to
pay for the services provided up to that point and for the
time that it will take for the next attorney to become familiar
with your case. Generally, your legal file belongs to you.
Two other resources on WC cases are the RSDSA Review articles How
to Lose Your Case in 12 Easy Steps and Workers'
Compensation 101: An Overview of WC for Employees With Work-related
CRPS, both by R. Steven Shisler, Esq.
April 10, 2009