Questions to Ask Before You Hire A Lawyer for Your Minnesota Work Comp Case

You‘ve been injured at work.  You are either thinking about filing a claim or have already done so.  Perhaps you are dealing with an insurance company claims adjuster you don’t really trust.  Maybe the insurance company has scheduled you for an independent medical exam (IME), or assigned a QRC to your case.  No matter the reason, you are looking for an attorney who can answer some questions for you and protect your interests, if necessary.

You have looked in the phonebook or done a Google search and found dozens of lawyers and law firms who advertise themselves as work comp lawyers.  Minneapolis.  St. Paul.  Duluth.  The Iron Range.  Who to call?  What questions to ask?

These would be some good questions to ask if you are looking for an experienced attorney to help you with your case:

Do you specialize in work comp cases?  What you really want to know is if the attorney focuses his or her practice primarily on workers’ compensation claims.  You probably don’t want someone who dabbles in work comp, along with divorces, DUIs, wills, real estate, etc.  While a general practice law firm can be very helpful on a number of matters, work comp is a complicated and specialized field of practice.  We develop skills and knowledge about work comp matters only after years of experience with a variety of injury claims.  If work comp is just one of many practice areas an attorney advertises, you may want to look elsewhere.  My practice is limited exclusively to workers’ compensation, injury and Social Security disability matters.

Have you taken many cases to trial?  There is no substitute for experience.  If an attorney has taken lots of cases to trial over a number of years, you can assume that you are talking to someone with a lot of experience.  Taking cases to trial is important for several reasons.  For one thing, at trials we appear before a variety of different judges and learn what to expect in each judge’s courtroom.  It’s also important to take cases to trial because sometimes that’s the only way to get a fair result.  If the attorney for the insurance company knows that your lawyer will take a case to trial, they are much more likely to make a fair settlement offer.  I’ve been trying work comp cases for my injured clients all across northern Minnesota for over 28 years.

Do you have experience with my type of injury?  Over the past 28 years, I have had experience with just about every kind of injury one could imagine.  So, when a new client comes to me and asks if I’ve ever handled a shoulder surgery claim, a lead poisoning claim,  a cervical fusion case, a brain injury claim, a quadriplegia case or a carpal tunnel claim, I can answer  “yes”.  I can also suggest a variety of surgeons or medical specialists who might be able to help my client with medical treatment and a supportive letter or medical report for the claim.

Are you familiar with northern Minnesota?  Why is this important?  Well, it certainly helps if your attorney knows the local medical providers, vocational rehabilitation consultants and employment services and opportunities.  It helps to know all about the mining industry, construction industry, tourism and logging industry across northern Minnesota, and what my clients do at those jobs.   It might even help if your attorney has actually operated a forklift, a loader, a chainsaw or a jackhammer.  (Or delivered Hamm’s beer from Eveleth to Ely, which I did many years ago : )   If you are looking for a new job after a work injury, you need every advantage you can get in a tough economy.  As an Eveleth native and resident of northern Minnesota for over 50 years, I know my way around the Iron Range – and that’s good for my clients.

What We Recommend

If you feel that it’s time to have someone in your corner while you battle the insurance company, or if you simply have a few questions about your claim or the work comp system, please give me a call.  Don’t be afraid to contact us, anytime, if I can answer some questions for you.  It won’t cost you anything and I will always give you my honest assessment about whether you need a lawyer to represent you.

Remember, you are dealing with an insurance company which handles hundreds or thousands of claims every day. They have experienced claims adjusters and attorneys managing their files.  Even if you don’t need a lawyer at the moment, a little information about how the work comp system works can make a big difference for you in your dealings with the insurance company.

If you have questions about how much it costs to hire us (nothing), this earlier post should answer those questions for you.

Was this post helpful? Did it answer your questions? If you would like to contact us for a free consultation or to send us an email, CLICK HERE.

Or, leave a comment below.

Thanks again for visiting our blog and please spread the word that we are a source of good work comp information for workers injured in northern Minnesota and anywhere on the Iron Range.

Bradt Law Offices Case Report: Gillette Injury and Back Surgery Accepted

Type of Case:   Workers’ Compensation

Legal Issue or Dispute:   Denial of claim for a work-related low back injury and surgery

Facts:   Our client worked for a mid-sized employer in northern Minnesota.  Her job involved assembly and the operation of various machines. She was on her feet throughout most of a work shift, standing on a concrete floor.  Her job duties involved a lot of bending, twisting and lifting, although she wasn’t lifting particularly heavy weights.  She developed the gradual onset of low back pain with her work activities and eventually started to have pain going down her leg.

The claim was completely denied by the employer and its workers’ compensation insurer, because she had never had a specific injury to her back while at work.  Our client was forced to undergo surgery and missed time from work.  Fortunately, she had medical insurance to pay for the surgery, but no coverage for wage loss.  We gathered her medical records, reviewed her medical history and filed a claim on her behalf.  Our claim was for a Gillette injury, which means that her daily work activities gradually led to the development of back problems and need for surgery. (These claims are  referred to as Gillette injuries,  in reference to a landmark 1960 Minnesota case, Gillette v. Harold, Inc,  which established that work injuries may occur as a result of   repetitive or cumulative minor trauma brought about by the performance of ordinary job duties.)

Result:   The case was settled at a settlement conference before trial.  The insurance company agreed to accept the claim and pay our client’s lost wages, medical mileage and outstanding medical bills.  The insurance company also agreed to reimburse the health insurance company and to pay all future claims related to her low back condition.  Best of all, our client was able to return to work at her regular job and at full wage within her work restrictions.

Contact Us Anytime with Questions about Your Claim

If your claim has been denied by the workers’ compensation insurance company, you should contact an experienced work comp lawyer right away.  Many people simply walk away from a work comp claim after they receive a denial letter.  The insurance companies know that many people will be intimidated by a denial and also afraid to contact an attorney.  If you walk away without a fight – they win.

Don’t ever be afraid to contact us if you have questions about a claim.  Your free consultation will never cost you anything and we will give you our honest assessment about whether you need a lawyer or whether we can help.

If you decide to hire us,  whether now or at some later time, there are no costs or expenses to you.  We don’t ask for any money up front and we only get paid if we win.  For more information about hiring us and how we get paid, please see this earlier post.

As always, thank you for visiting our blog and please tell your friends that we are a source of good work comp information for workers injured in northern Minnesota or anywhere on the Iron Range.


An Independent Medical Exam In Your Minnesota Work Comp Case

If you have been involved in a Minnesota work comp case lasting more than a few months, you may have had the experience of being ordered to attend an Independent Medical Examination (usually referred to as an IME).  Not everyone with a work comp claim will be subjected to an IME.  If your claim involves a relatively minor injury or you make a quick recovery, the insurance company may not spend the time or expense to have you examined by their own doctor.

However, in my experience, the longer your claim remains open, the more likely it becomes that the insurance company will send you for an independent medical examination.  If you are reading this article,  you probably have some questions.  Let me try to help.

What Is an Independent Medical Examination (IME)?  First of all, at Bradt Law Offices, we refer to these exams as AME’s, not IME’s.  In my world as  an employee’s attorney, AME stands for an adverse medical examination.  After representing injured workers for over 28 years, I have come to the conclusion that these examinations are anything but “independent”.  They are simply an opportunity for the insurance company to hire a doctor to give an opinion which favors the insurance company.

But I digress.  An independent medical examination is an evaluation performed by a physician chosen by the work comp insurance company. Because the majority of work injuries involve the back, neck, bones and joints, the physician will often be an orthopedic surgeon.  If your injury is something more unusual, the insurance company may have you seen by some other type of specialist.

Do I have to attend an IME?  As a general rule, yes.  The law in Minnesota states that  “The injured employee must submit to examination by the employer’s physician, if requested by the employer, and at reasonable times thereafter upon the employer’s request.”  (Read the actual statute here).  If you fail to attend a scheduled IME, unless you have a good reason (such as illness or an emergency) you could jeopardize your claim.  The insurance company will argue that you have failed to cooperate with them and will probably attempt to discontinue your wage loss, medical benefits or both.

How far do I have to travel for an IME?  The general rule requires that the examination must be scheduled within 150 miles of your residence.  However, you may be ordered to attend an IME beyond the 150 mile range if:

  • You are already treating with a doctor of your choice beyond the 150 mile range, or
  • The insurance company can convince a compensation judge there are no specialists available within the 150 miles, or
  • The insurance company can persuade a  judge that some other good reason exists to schedule the exam beyond 150 miles

Does the insurance company have to pay my mileage and expenses for traveling to the IME?   Yes

Why does the insurance company need an IME?  An insurance company is always trying to pay as little as possible on any injury claim. Even though your treating physician or surgeon may be in the best position to give opinions about your case, the insurance company might not agree with your doctor’s opinions.  For that reason, they need a contrary medical opinion which will allow them to cut off your benefits, limit your medical care, deny a surgery, establish more lenient work restrictions or give a lower permanent partial disability (PPD) rating.  For that contrary opinion, they hire an “independent” (adverse) doctor to examine you and write a report.

How do I fight against an independent medical examination report?  An experienced work comp attorney will usually be able to get reports from your treating doctors to support your claim.  Your treating physicians will generally have more credibility than the insurance company’s  “hired gun” at a workers’ compensation hearing.  In some cases, your own attorney may even send you to a medical specialist for an independent medical examination and report, if necessary,  to combat the insurance company doctor’s opinions.

If a deposition is taken of the insurance company doctor, your attorney will get a chance to cross examine him and point out how frequently he does examinations for insurance companies and how he almost never writes a report which supports the injured employee.

What We Recommend

If you have a work comp claim and receive a notice from your insurance company that you are being scheduled to attend an IME, that might be a good time to touch base with a lawyer. A workers’ compensation claim can be a confusing, frightening and frustrating ordeal.  Please don’t be afraid to contact us,  anytime,  if we can answer some questions for you.  It won’t cost you anything and we will give you our honest assessment about whether you need a lawyer to represent you.

You are dealing with an insurance company which handles hundreds or thousands of claims every day.  They have experienced claims adjusters and attorneys managing their files.  Even if you don’t need a lawyer at the moment,  a little information about  the work comp system  can make a big difference for you in your dealings with the insurance company.

If you decide to hire us,  whether now or at some later time, there are no costs or expenses to you.   We don’t ask for any money up front and we only get paid if we win.  For more information about hiring us and how we get paid,  please see this earlier post.

As always, thank you for visiting our blog and please tell your friends that we are a source of good work comp information for workers injured in northern Minnesota and anywhere on the Iron Range.

Was this post helpful?  Did it answer your questions?  If you would like to contact us for a free consultation or to send us an emailCLICK HERE.

Or, leave a comment below.

Thanks again for visiting our blog.