Sometimes pursuing a worker compensation claim in the most favorable jurisdiction can make the difference in failure and success for the claimant. For example, my firm was employed several years ago to review the settlement offer of a truck driver injured on the job whose claim was being handled under Tennessee law, because the injure occurred in Tennessee, thought the driver lived in Alabama. The settlement offer to the claimant was less than $10,000 under Tennessee law for an injury that might require a knee replacement, would preclude further driving and possible having to file for social security disability. I questioned the client and discovered he was actually employed by being interviewed at a motel in North Georgia and the employer was even withholding Georgia Income tax from his checks. I informed the client he had a claim in both the state of injury and state of employment if they were different as was true in his case. I filed a claim in Georgia where I am licensed and claimed potential catastrophic status and settled the case for $140,000 and got the claimant approved for social security disability. It was another case of knowing the law and asking the right questions of the client to get a successful result.
In every case my firm determines the state of legal employment and the state where the injury occurred. In many cases workers near the Alabama and Georgia lines may live in one state and work in the other and may even be injured in a third state. Practicing law close to the Alabama and Georgia state line, as my son and I do, sometimes offers our clients options that attorneys either inexperienced or only licensed and practicing in one of the two states do not know or take into consideration in representing the best interests of their client. In fact, my son and I have books and go on the internet to determine the benefits and shortcomings of the worker compensation laws of any of the fifty states in the U.S. that might be applicable in a claim as some workers such as truck drivers may be injured in some far off state and have a claim there and also one back in Alabama or Georgia where they were employed.
Another very important consideration in worker compensation is the choice of the treating physician. In most states the employer initially tells the employe who to go see after an injury unless immediate emergency room treatment is required. Even then the physician taking over after initial treatment is chosen by the employer. Truth is that most states, including Alabama and Georgia, give the worker some rights in the choice of treating physicians but are not so informed and they wind up going to the company doctor. Why is the treating physician choice important? Because the treating physicians chosen by employers and their insurance companies usually know in advance whether the doctor is more patient oriented or employer oriented. One might ask why the doctor might favor the employer or its insurance company. Well it just so happens that doctors who handle a lot of worker compensation injury cases make big money doing it, have to get on and stay on an approved list to get patient referrals from the employers and the insurance companies handling their worker compensation insurance, and the employers and their insurance companies make their business to know which doctors will cooperate with them by having a history of releasing back to work quickly, setting minor work restrictions, awarding very conservative disability ratings, not recommending expensive treatments such as surgery until all more conservative and less expensive methods have been exhausted first. The fact that the employers and insurance companies pay the medical bills seems to have the effect that many doctors view the employer and the insurance companies as their clients while the worker is just the patient. The stereotypical doctor or medical provider is also at best conservative, and at worse biased, when it comes to any kind of claim for damages or benefits for any kind of injuries. The worker compensation laws of every state also give the employer and insurance company statutory exemption from having to get a written release from the worker to talk to the doctor and get medical records of the worker directly from the doctor. Plus there are the tattletale rehabilitation suppliers who are authorized to go to medical appointments with patient workers and even try to tell doctors how to treat the patient. But every patient has a legal right to their actual treatment in private with the physician. Then there are the impairment rating tables doctors use that are written by the medical and insurance industry, are very conservative, and are becoming more so with every new edition, and are recognized by most states as the standard.
To properly and competently handle worker compensation claims the lawyer should consider the different benefits applicable, the medical issues involved, the impairments of the worker, the awards allowed, and where might be the quickest and least expensive forum where the lawyer can get the matter before a judge should a dispute arise over benefits or medical treatment. Settlement should not be considered before truly and seriously evaluating and discussing with the claimant the severity of the injury and potential for return to employment or whether a social security disability claim should be filed and pursued. In my opinion most "Billboard" and "TV" lawyers do not approach the evaluation of claims in that way as they are constrained by the economics of big advertising budgets, the need for quick turnover of cases, and necessity of farming out cases to young and inexperienced lawyers to handle the case load.
The short and sweet of it is that the employers and their insurance companies have it very much their way. I my opinion it takes a lawyer who is knowledgeable and experienced in the applicable worker compensation law of the states of employment and injury, the medical issues involved and applicable rights of the worker to medical choices, the doctors who are the least partial to employers and insurance companies, and, last but not least, the lawyer should have experience evaluating and handling social security disability claims. My son and I have a combined + 60 years of successfully handling worker compensation cases in Alabama and Georgia. Our legal philosophy is to personally represent our clients, to always be available to them for questions, to fully evaluate and explain to them all their potential claims. We look at the long-run for the client. We believe we fulfill all the requirement. And the attorneys are very reasonable in both states. The fees are set by statute in Alabama at 15% and Georgia 25% of benefits awarded or agreed by settlement. No fee can charged on recovery of medical benefits. No fee is charged unless the claim is won or settled. And my son and I do not pad our attorney fees with large claims for out of pocket expenses like some attorneys. We welcome your inquiries and questions.