Gilbert Fisher: In my opinion, there are two or three very important things that an attorney does for a client in a workers' compensation case. If the attorney does those three things and those three things only, the client will be miles ahead of someone who doesn't have an attorney.
The first thing that an attorney does is discuss that person's specific case with them and come up with a plan of action, okay. Has the case been denied? Is it medical treatment that is being denied? Are they trying to send you to a QME? You know, these things are all issues that come up in a case. And only with the experience of an attorney and the knowledge of any attorney regarding which doctors to go to and which doctors to avoid and things like that can you really navigate that.
So, number one, the attorney listens to the client, finds out what is going on in their case and comes up with a game plan. The next most important thing that an attorney does is that an attorney files an application with the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board. I can't begin to describe how many times I've had clients come in who have filed a claim with the insurance company and thinks that that's all they have to do. Okay. Filing a claim with an insurance company may start the process, but it doesn't protect your rights. Once you have filed the claim, if the insurance company refuses to do things, you have time limits called statutes of limitation within which you have to take action, and if you fail to do so, you may lose your rights.
And the filing of only a claim or reporting it to your employer, filing a claim with the insurance company, that doesn't protect any of your rights really. The only thing that protects your rights is filing an application with the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board. And so very rarely does a client come in where they have actually done that. But always, probably the very next day, an attorney files that application. It protects their rights. Okay.
The next thing and probably just as important is that the attorney, having represented hundreds of clients and dealt with all the doctors in town, would generally know who has a good reputation. If you have a shoulder injury and you are going to need surgery, who do we go to? Who is the best doctor to do that? We've been doing this for a long time and generally tend to see doctors who get good results, and so we can generally make our own recommendation about let's try to get you into this doctor and see what he has to say or what she has to say.
Then also in a case at some point you are going to be probably seen by what is called the QME or a qualified medical examiner. This is also a doctor, but it's not a doctor who is going to treat you. It's a doctor who is going to make determinations in your case about whether you have a permanent disability, what the level of that permanent disability is, if there are disputed issues. This doctor essentially acts as the judge over the medical issues. And so choosing that doctor is again very important to the case.
And if you don't have an attorney, there are some time frames. The insurance company will suggest you request a QME and if you don't after like 10 days, they can make a request themselves. When they make that request, they get choose the specialty. The state medical board will then issue a random panel of doctors, and again the injured worker gets like 10 days to choose the doctor off the panel.
If the injured worker sets that list aside or if they look at the list and then say, "Okay, this doctor is closest to my home, let's pick this doctor," or they do anything other than choose the best doctor on that list for their case, they're really handicapping themselves. Okay. And attorneys, again, dealing with the doctors over and over and over again, we tend to know which doctors to avoid and which doctors are going to be better. And so the selection of that QME is probably one of the most important things that an attorney can do in your case.
Now, notice of these things that I've mentioned, none of those have been talking to the injured worker. Okay. That's important too, but in terms of the outcome of the case, it's not as important as protecting your rights under the statutes of limitations and choosing the correct doctors.
So workers' compensation, if you look on social media, you will see a lot of people complaining about their attorneys, okay. And the number one complaint is that the attorney is not returning their calls or not answering their questions well enough. And this is something that as attorneys we have to do better. But nevertheless, it's important for clients to understand kind of the nature of the client relationship in workers' compensation.
So attorneys in workers' compensation work on what is called a contingency fee agreement. And a contingency fee agreement means that the attorney is willing to take on the case and not get paid until the case settles. And so that might be a year, it might be two years while a person goes through medical treatment, has a surgery, recovers.
There is not many industries out there where a service is provided for a year or two with no payment. And unfortunately, this puts a lot of pressure on attorneys to try and take on enough cases, to have cases that are in all phases so that there is cash flow so that the attorney can take home a paycheck. And it puts on a lot of pressure on attorneys to ignore clients. That's one of the things that attorneys struggle with.
We have to do a lot job of communicating with our clients because the number one frustration is they didn't return my call or they didn't answer my questions well enough. Sometimes answering questions can take 30 minute or an hour, you know, to answer them adequately. And generally, when you're going to your attorney's office, you find that if you see your attorney and not just his paralegal, you get 10 minutes. It's one of the things we try to work on, you know. There are times in a case where I feel it's crucial to have that communication, and I make sure that we schedule our clients in.
And as far as I know, I don't know too many other attorneys in town who do this, but I try to spend face-to-face time whenever we get a doctor's report that has some critical information in it. And we have the client in, we go over the report together, and we work out a game plan every time. It's a big time commitment.
But that's I think an important part in, you know, attorney-client relationship. I guess to summarize it up, hopefully, clients will be patient with their attorney and realize that if the attorney is protecting their legal rights, helping them with the selection of doctors and with the selection of the QME, that at the very least, they're going to get a better outcome in their case. And then beyond that, if they can be patient with us, we will try to spend the time to answer their questions as best we can.
Narrator: If you or a loved one need help with a workers' compensation issue, call our office today.