The truth is that only a small number of injured workers will need to hire a lawyer to handle their claim. Most injured workers have minor accidents involving a quick trip or two to a clinic for medical care. Most are not taken off work for more than 5 days in a row, or for 5 days within a 20-day period of time, and therefore are not entitled to lost time compensation benefits. Most also recover from their work injuries without any permanent problems.
The system works well for most injured workers, with most getting compensation checks on time, and most getting decent medical care. However, very few injured workers know what they are entitled to under Nevada law, and what their rights are following an injury. Valuable rights and monetary benefits can be lost forever in a very short period of time. So, while only a small percentage of injured workers will need to hire a lawyer, all injured workers need reliable information about their rights.
Free information regarding Nevada workers' compensation law is available in a guide written for injured workers by Attorney Virginia Hunt. Even more information on the law and links to all related government sites are found in the Job Injury Information Center. A legal checklist is also on the website to help you decide whether you should at least get a consultation with a lawyer. You should also read "8 Important Letters" so that you are aware of the most common situations requiring that injured workers take immediate legal action on a claim.
In general, injured workers with denied claims or those who already know they will have to file appeals to get all appropriate medical care and benefits, should hire an attorney right away. In addition, those injured workers with very serious injuries that involve surgeries and months lost from work, will probably benefit from having an attorney help them throughout the claims process. An experienced workers' compensation attorney can provide valuable input on obtaining the best medical care, can make sure that correct benefits are paid, and can help you start planning for retraining. Your attorney will also file appeals of any adverse actions by the insurer, and will assure that the highest disability award is paid to you when your claim closes. Appeal time are very short and valuable rights and benefits can be lost for good if the injured worker does not act timely.
Almost all attorneys practicing workers' compensation law in Nevada offer free consultations to injured workers who are not already represented by a lawyer. You can even consult with several attorneys to compare fees and what services each attorney provides before you decide who you want to hire. To get the most out of a consultation, be sure to bring all documents you have pertaining to your claim. Provide the consulting attorney with as much information about your claim as possible. Whatever you discuss during the consultation is confidential, even if you do not hire that attorney.
The decision to hire an attorney is an important one. It is very difficult to change attorneys later. Trust your intuition. If you are uncomfortable at any point in the initial consultation, do not sign a representation agreement hiring that attorney. Be aware that attorney fees can differ from one attorney to the next.
The Nevada Attorney for Injured Workers is a Nevada state agency that provides free legal services to injured workers. What those attorneys do is limited and the majority of the work of those attorneys is representing injured workers at the second level of appeals on contested issues. Private attorneys do much more than represent injured workers at contested appeals officer hearings. However, not all injured workers are able to hire private attorneys. For more information about the NAIW, please go to their website at www.naiw.nv.gov.