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Practicing Workers' Compensation Law

Workers' compensation is a mechanism for providing cash-wage benefits and medical care to victims of work-connected injuries and for placing the cost of these injuries ultimately on the consumer through the medium of insurance, the premiums for which are passed on in the cost of the product. When a claim for benefits is disputed, it must be litigated through the state agency in charge of workers’ compensation claims before it may be appealed to a state court. Workers’ compensation law is a form-intensive practice. Workers’ compensation law interacts with a variety of legal subject areas, including Medicare, Social Security Disability, Americans with Disabilities Act, State Disability Leave, Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, and employment law generally.

Workers’ compensation law is predominately practiced in firms of 1-20 attorneys, although some large law firms do handle workers’ compensation cases as well, working primarily on behalf of employers or insurance companies to defend claims. State agencies, such as the Division of Workers’ Compensation and State Insurance Funds, and insurance companies themselves also require attorneys.
 
Attorneys who practice workers’ compensation law handle a variety of different tasks, including
  • Performing client intake and identifying issues, including Social Security, Medicare, discrimination, negligence of a third party, etc. (if representing injured worker); Preparing and filing an application for workers’ compensation benefits (if representing injured worker) or an answer (if representing employer/carrier);
  • Assess defenses (if representing employer/insurer);
  • Preparing and filing various forms for medical treatment and examinations;
  • Filing subpoenas for medical records;
  • Reviewing medical reports;
  • Deposing physicians and other witnesses;
  • Filing objections;
  • Preparing ratings;
  • Making appearances at hearings before the workers’ compensation judge;
  • Preparing and filing settlement documents;
  • Preparing and filing appeals.
Attorneys practicing in the Workers’ Compensation field often turn to the following resources for practice insights:
  • State Bar Workers’ Compensation Section
  • Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA) (http://www.atlanet.org/))
  • American Bar Association (ABA) – Tort Trial and Insurance Section (http://www.abanet.org/tips/home.html))
  • Workers Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG) (http://www.wilg.org/index.asp))
  • Various private organizations in each state as well as local bar associations (e.g., California Applicants’ Attorneys Association (CAAA), California Workers’ Compensation Defense Attorneys Association (CWCDAA), New York Injured Workers Bar Association (IWBA), Florida Workers’ Compensation Institute (FWCI))
Like many other fields, the Workers’ Compensation practice area is rife with acronyms. The document attached below contains a quick primer on the acronyms most commonly used by practitioners.
 
For more in-depth information on the Workers’ Compensation field, jump to the LexisNexis Insurance Law Center.