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.

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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.

Retraining in a Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Case

Among the many benefits available to an injured worker in Minnesota, retraining can be one of the most beneficial and life-changing.  If you have been injured and live in northern Minnesota, you may quickly find  that your employment options are extremely limited after you recover from your injury.  This may be  especially true if you are unable to return to your previous job and have limited employment skills.

Let’s say you graduated from high school on the Iron Range in the 1980’s and went right to work at one of the mines.  Maybe you went through a millwright program and learned some valuable skills, which allowed you to earn a good living for you and your family.  An unexpected back, neck or shoulder injury resulting in surgery or extended disability could change all of that in a hurry.  Even with a decent recovery from your injuries, you might be left with permanent physical restrictions or limitations which prevent you from returning to work as a millwright (or an electrician, shovel operator, production truck driver, lineman…… get the picture.)

Now what? If you can’t return to the type of work you were doing before your injury, and if you don’t have any other skills or training to help you earn a decent living, what options do you have?  Retraining might be one of the options available.

What is meant by “retraining” in a work comp claim?

Retraining can include any number of educational opportunities, from a short course at your local vocational school to full studies at a college. There is no standard definition of retraining.  If you are eligible for retraining as a result of your workers’ compensation claim, the insurance company is responsible to pay the costs of your education, including books, tuition, travel expenses, etc.  In addition, you may also be eligible for continuing wage loss benefits during the course of your retraining program.

Who is eligible for retraining?

In order to be eligible, you must first establish that you have physical restrictions or limitations from your work injury which prevent you from returning to your pre-injury job.  You also need to prove that retraining is necessary in order for you to return to a job with earnings close to your preinjury wage.  The process can be long and complicated and the insurance company will usually fight retraining claims because they can be very expensive.  Your best allies in a retraining claim will be an experienced attorney, a supportive doctor and a trustworthy  Qualified Rehabilitation Consultant (QRC).    (What’s a  QRC?   Read more here)

If your attorney and the QRC are able to put together a solid retraining plan, the insurance company can either approve or deny the plan. If the plan is denied, a hearing will be scheduled and the matter will be decided by a workers’ compensation judge, just like any other disputed issue in a work comp claim.

What would I have to prove at a hearing to win a retraining claim?

As a general rule, the work comp judge will decide a disputed retraining claim based upon what are called the Poole factors. The Poole factors come from the case of  Poole vs. Farmstead Foods, Inc,  which was decided by the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals in 1989.  In that case, the Court of Appeals identified several factors to be considered in determining whether a retraining plan should be approved. Some of those factors are:

1. The reasonableness of retraining as compared to other job placement activities;

2. Whether the injured worker has the ability and interest to succeed in the proposed retraining plan or schooling;

3. Whether retraining is reasonably likely to result in employment;

4. Whether retraining is likely to get the injured worker back to, or close to, earning his or her pre-injury wage.

Retraining isn’t the first option that we look at in a typical workers’ compensation claim, but it also isn’t only a last resort.  The facts of every work comp case are different and varied.  If you feel that retraining might be an inappropriate option in your case,  some of the factors that determine whether retraining is even a consideration might include:

  • your age;
  • your average weekly wage on the date of injury;
  • the nature and extent of your injury;
  • your ongoing physical restrictions and limitations;
  • your previous education, employment and training;
  • the quality and extent of your job search activities;
  • the availability of jobs in your geographic area;
  • your willingness to relocate, if necessary;

Get More Information

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.  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.

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When Should I Hire a Lawyer for My Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Claim?

A very common question.  In fact, a question that I am asked nearly every time I meet with someone about a work comp claim for the first time.  A very good question but one with no easy answer.  An easier question to answer would be  “when is it a good idea to talk to a lawyer about my work comp claim?”   Talking to a lawyer is not necessarily the same as hiring a lawyer.

We regularly speak with people who simply have questions about a claim or a potential claim.  They are just looking for information about the work comp system and where their claim might be heading.  Unless you’ve been through the system before, a work comp claim can be stressful and confusing.  At Bradt Law Offices, there is never a charge for a phone call or an office consultation to answer those types of questions.  Whether you have a claim that the insurance company is already paying or whether you are considering filing a claim, there are many situations where it’s a good idea to check with an attorney.  These are just a few:

You aren’t sure whether to file an injury report:   You’ve been hurt or have a medical condition that you feel is related to your work or job duties, but you just aren’t sure.  Give us a call.

Your claim has been denied:   The insurance company has denied your claim, for whatever reason. This is one situation where you definitely need to speak with a lawyer, and the sooner the better, because claims have deadlines. Don’t give up your claim without talking to an attorney.

You think the insurance company has calculated your wages wrong:   All wage loss benefits paid to you are based upon your “average weekly wage” on the date of injury.  Calculating the average weekly wage can be complicated and may include overtime and other compensation.   If the insurance company gets this wrong, they may be paying you less than they should.

Your benefits have been discontinued:   Your wage loss benefits have been discontinued but you disagree with the reasons given for the discontinuance.  Definitely give us a call – you only have a short time to object to the discontinuance and request a hearing.

There is a dispute over your work restrictions:   The insurance company may send you to one of their own doctors for an “Independent” Medical Examination (referred to as an IME).  Almost always, that doctor will disagree with your treating doctor about everything from diagnosis to treatment and restrictions.  The insurance company will then frequently use the IME doctor’s report to cut off your wage loss and/or medical benefits.

The insurance company won’t pay a medical bill:  This can occur for many reasons, but often occurs shortly after you receive the IME report.

The insurance company won’t approve a medical procedure:  The insurance company will not agree to authorize surgery, injections, physical therapy, an MRI,  a second opinion, a change of treating doctor, a referral to a specialist, etc.

A QRC is assigned to your case:   A QRC is a Qualified Rehabilitation Consultant, who will provide vocational rehabilitation services to you if you are off work because of your injury.  (For more information about QRC’s,  see this article.)  The choice of QRC is yours,  not the insurance company’s.  Unfortunately, they don’t usually explain this to you and most injured workers have no idea where to find a QRC they can trust.  We have a number of QRC’s that we work with regularly and can strongly recommend.

The insurance company offers you a settlement:  If the insurance company wants to settle your case, make sure to at least consult with an attorney before you do so. An insurance company claims adjuster is far more knowledgeable about workers’ compensation than you are. Any settlement must be approved by a workers’ compensation judge.  (For more information about settlements, read this earlier post)

Or, maybe you just have a few questions…

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.  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 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 upfront 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.

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How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer in Minnesota?

Let’s face it, nobody likes the thought of having to hire a lawyer.  The very idea of calling a lawyer or making an appointment can be very stressful. If you are like most people,  you’ve never needed to hire a lawyer and have no idea what’s involved.  You probably have a number of questions and concerns, but for most people, the # 1 question is:  “How much will it cost  (or, how do I pay a work comp lawyer)?”

In Minnesota, hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer is actually fairly painless.  In a nutshell, we only get paid if we are successful.  I can’t speak for other law firms, but at Bradt Law Offices, we don’t ask for any money up front to cover costs or expenses and you’ll never receive a bill from us. It costs you nothing to hire us and we only get paid if we recover benefits for you.

Attorney Fees Are Set by Law

Not only do we only get paid if we win, but our fees are controlled by law and are the same for every lawyer in every Minnesota work comp case. Attorney fees are 25% of the first $4000 we recover for you, and then 20% after that.  The maximum automatic fee under this formula is $13,000 for each date of injury.  In the majority of cases, attorney fees never come close to $13,000.   In some cases, however, we may receive total fees in excess of $13,000 where there are multiple disputes, prolonged and ongoing litigation or where our client receives a substantial amount of benefits or a large settlement.  We never request fees in excess of $13,000 without our clients’ agreement and understanding.

Situations Where We Might Receive a Fee from Your Benefits 

Attorney fees are only paid from disputed  benefits.  If you hire us and are already receiving wage loss benefits, we do not start taking a percentage of those benefits because we didn’t get them for you.   We would represent you from that point forward on any other issues that may come up during the course of your claim.  In fact, we sometimes open and close a file without earning any attorney fees because no disputes ever arise.  These are examples of some common situations where you might pay attorney fees out of benefits you receive:

  • Your claim is denied and we get benefits for you, either by settlement or after a trial
  • Your benefits are discontinued and we get them reinstated
  • The insurance company is underpaying you and we get your benefits increased
  • We negotiate a settlement of your claim

Some Attorney Fees Are Paid by the Insurance Company

Not every dispute in a work comp claim involves money payable to you.  For example, the insurance company may be voluntarily paying your wage loss benefits but refusing to approve surgery, an MRI or a referral to a medical specialist.  This would be strictly a medical dispute.  If we file a claim for the disputed medical issues and win, the insurance company will pay our attorney fees, not you.

Or, if there is a dispute involving a QRC or vocational rehabilitation issues and we win, the insurance company will again have to pay our fees, because we aren’t putting any money in your pocket.  Wherever possible, we  always try to get the insurance company to pay our fees.

Free Consultation Over the Phone or in Person

At Bradt Law Offices,  you can call us anytime with questions about your claim or to see if you might need a lawyer.  If you prefer, we can make an appointment to meet in our office, in the hospital or at your home to discuss your case.  We will explain the work comp system , what benefits you might be entitled to and whether or not you need a lawyer.  There is never a charge for this service or information.

What we recommend

Don’t be afraid to call a lawyer if you have questions about a work comp claim or feel that you’re not being treated fairly by the insurance company.  At Bradt Law Offices, we speak with people all the time who simply have questions about a claim but don’t necessarily need an attorney.  We are happy to help in any way we can and, very often, people we speak with later end up hiring us when a dispute arises on their claim.

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Hiring a Local, Northern Minnesota Lawyer for Your Workers’ Compensation Claim

It seems that everywhere you look these days, whether in the Yellow Pages, on the television and especially, the Internet, you will find advertisements for Twin Cities law firms seeking clients way up here in northern Minnesota.  Let me begin by saying that the point of this  post is not to attack or criticize Twin Cities law firms.  I went to law school in Minneapolis.  I have a lot of friends who are lawyers in the Twin Cities area.  The majority of the lawyers I see advertising up in our neck of the woods are experienced and top-notch lawyers.

My point is to ask why a person in Grand Rapids, Hibbing, Virginia or Ely,  for example, would decide to hire a lawyer 200 miles away to handle a local workers’ compensation claim.  If you have been hurt on the job and are looking for a lawyer to represent you,  I could not agree more that you are making a very important choice.  In fact, there are definitely certain things you should look for when you hire a work comp lawyer:

Experience with All Types of Work Comp Claims

Experience with a Variety of Employers and Insurance Companies

Experience in the Courtroom

Knowledge of the Local Economy and Labor Market

Availability and Convenience

With that in mind, let me make the case for contacting Bradt Law Offices when you have questions or need a lawyer to fight  for you in a workers’ compensation claim.

Let’s start with Experience with all types of work comp claims.   If you read my biography, either here or on our webpage,  you’ll know that I have been representing work comp clients for over 28 years.  I started in 1983 and the first cases I ever handled were work comp.  I’ve been a “work comp lawyer’ ever since.  In fact, I still have a file open for a guy who hired me in 1984.  He has been receiving permanent total disability benefits for many years now, but medical disputes with the insurance company arise now and then and his file remains open.  I’ve known this gentleman since before my now-grown children were even born – and we both have a lot less hair than we did in 1984  🙂

If there is a type of injury that a person can have,  I have probably handled it for someone.  Over the years, our office has handled back and neck injuries, injuries to just about every joint in the body, brain injuries, quadriplegic injuries, heart attacks, carpal tunnel, lead poisoning, fibromyalgia, repetitive use injuries, chronic pain issues, hearing loss, crush injuries, loss of vision……… the list goes on and on.  When necessary, we refer our clients to the same medical experts as any other lawyer, whether those experts are in your hometown,  in Duluth, the Twin Cities or Rochester.

Experience with a variety of employers and insurance companies.   Work injuries happen every day of the week to people just like you.  Over the years I have brought claims against the mining companies, the big-box retail stores, paper mills, construction companies, school districts, cities, counties and the State of Minnesota, to name a few of the big employers we have dealt with.  On the other hand, we also have claims against gas stations, convenience stores, cleaning companies, nursing homes and any other type of employer imaginable.  People don’t choose to get hurt and it makes no difference where they are working.  The workers’ compensation system is set up to help you when you’ve been injured, no matter how big or small your employer might be.

Whether you are dealing with State Fund Mutual, Liberty Mutual, Berkeley, General Casualty or a long list of other insurance companies, we’ve dealt with them all over the years.  The same laws apply in every case no matter how big or small the employer or insurance company might be.

Experience in the courtroom.   For over 28 years,  I have been taking  my clients’ cases to trial in front of workers’ compensation judges.  The majority of those trials have been in Duluth, although 20 years ago we  sometimes had to travel to Minneapolis for hearings.  If the case can’t be settled fairly, or if a client wants his or her day in court, we’ll take the case to trial.  Of course, my clients will always get the benefit of my advice and my evaluation of their claim, but ultimately the decision to take a case to trial is up to the client.  I have appeared and argued cases before the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals, the Minnesota Court of Appeals and the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Knowledge of the local economy and labor market.   I was born and raised on the Iron Range, graduating from Eveleth High School and attending UMD before going to law school at the University of Minnesota.  My practice has always been in northern Minnesota, mostly with an office in Grand Rapids, although I spent 7 years in Duluth as a partner with Cuzzo, Bradt and Envall from 1999 until 2006.  Our current office is in Grand Rapids but my clients have always been spread across northern Minnesota – from Ely to Bemidji,  International Falls to Duluth and everywhere in between.  I spend most summer weekends at our cabin on Lake Vermilion.

For job search or retraining issues,  we have used QRC’s with offices in Duluth, Cook, Grand Rapids and Brainerd, depending upon where my clients live and what issues might be in dispute.  As a native Iron Ranger,  if you call me with a question about your work comp claim,  I can promise you I won’t have to ask  “Where is Buhl?  Is that near Ely?”   Or even worse,  “Where is Ely?”.

Availability and convenience.   I truly believe that this is one of the most important factors to consider, all other things being equal.  If you can find an experienced and compassionate work comp lawyer in your own backyard, why would you drive 200 miles to hire someone else?  Why would anyone want a lawyer that far away?

Here’s what we can offer you at Bradt Law Offices:

I’ll travel to meet with you.   If you are unable to travel, are in the hospital or can’t make it to our office in Grand Rapids, I’ll meet you where it’s convenient for you.

I return all of my phone calls.   It might take me a few hours, sometimes even a day or two depending upon my schedule, but I will  always  call you back.

If you need to meet with me, I am always available for appointments.   If I’m busy, we’ll squeeze you in.

Hard work,  years of experience and honest answers, all the time.

Hiring a lawyer is an important decision.  Hiring a good lawyer is a smart decision.  If you have a workers’ compensation claim in northern Minnesota, please consider calling  Bradt Law Offices  to help you before you make that long drive to the Twin Cities.

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Choosing a QRC for Your Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Case

Let’s say you have been hurt on the job, are receiving work comp benefits, treating with a doctor and hoping to get back to work as soon as possible.  However, you may have work restrictions which prevent you from returning to your regular job, at least for the time being.

You receive a phone call from a woman (or man) who tells you that she has been assigned to serve as your “QRC”.   QR what?   Immediately, a few questions come to mind, such as:

   What the heck is a QRC?

   Who assigned this QRC to me and why?

   What will a QRC do for me?

   Do I have any choice in selecting a QRC?

Let’s take the questions one at a time.

What the heck is a QRC?   A QRC is a Qualified Rehabilitation Consultant, approved by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. A QRC provides vocational rehabilitation services to eligible injured workers within the framework of Minnesota’s workers’ compensation system.  In a nutshell, the job of a QRC is to help you get back to work at your previous job and previous wage as fast as possible.  Unfortunately, because of significant physical restrictions, economic factors or other issues, that’s not always possible.  If you are unable to return to your previous job, the QRC will assist you in finding another job, within whatever physical limitations you might have, at a wage as close as possible to what you were earning before you were injured.

Who assigned this QRC to me and why?   If you don’t have an attorney representing you, the QRC was probably assigned to you by the claims adjuster handling your file for the workers’ compensation insurance company.  Most work comp insurance companies have a relatively “short list” of QRC’s that they regularly use.  The QRC chosen for your particular case may be assigned based upon where you live and where the QRC has an office.  Or, the insurance company might choose a QRC who has experience with particular types of injuries or disabilities.  More likely, the insurance company will simply choose a QRC with whom they are comfortable and who they know may get your rehabilitation file closed quickly and cheaply (that would be the cynical, employee’s attorney viewpoint).

What will a QRC do for me?   A QRC might provide a variety of services.  In a simple case, the QRC might accompany you to a doctor’s appointment to get clarification of your work restrictions.  The QRC might then communicate with your employer to help you get back to work as soon as possible within those restrictions.  In other cases, where it isn’t possible to return to your job,  the QRC might assist you with a job search to help you find new employment.  Less often, it may even be necessary for the QRC to explore and assist you with retraining options in order to get you back to full employment.  Each case is different and you can find more information about QRC’s at the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry website here.

Do I have any choice in selecting a QRC?   Actually, you do.  If the insurance company assigns you a QRC, you  have 60 days to either accept or reject that QRC.  At any time within those 60 days you can simply advise the insurance company that you would prefer to select your own QRC. You don’t need to give a reason and the insurance company cannot refuse your request.  If you have an attorney representing you before a QRC is assigned or before the initial 60 days have passed, chances are that your attorney will have a number of QRC’s from which to choose.

The problem arises where you don’t have an attorney and the insurance company assigns you a QRC.  Unless you’ve been through the workers’ compensation system with a previous claim and a QRC  (or unless one of your relatives is a QRC),  you probably won’t have any idea where to even find another QRC, let alone one that you would trust with your case.

Now we’re not suggesting that a QRC assigned by the insurance company is a bad person or a bad QRC.  Not at all.  However, a workers’ compensation case is a very important matter in your life.  We simply prefer that our client’s,  not the insurance company,  select the people who provide care and services in their claims, whether a treating doctor, chiropractor, surgeon…. or QRC.

What We Suggest

The minute that the insurance company assigns you a QRC, it would be a good idea to contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney for a consultation about your claim. You don’t necessarily need to hire an attorney at that point, but many lawyers can give you the names of some QRC’s that we regularly use and would recommend.  You may end up hiring a lawyer eventually, but it can be very helpful to have a your choice of a good, trusted QRC on board from the beginning of your claim.

If you have any questions about QRC’s, vocational rehabilitation or any other aspect of your claim, feel free to give us a call anytime for a free consultation at Bradt Law Offices.

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