by Lenin V. Perez
One of the most important questions I am often asked is: “Why do I need a representative?” First, you have to remember Abraham Lincoln’s quote: “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” This statement was true when President Lincoln made it, and is even truer today. Even if you are very knowledgeable in the field in which you are representing yourself, when you represent yourself, everything becomes personal, you can very easily lose sight of what you are doing, and you can become very emotional about what the other person is saying to or about you. I always like to use baseball players as a great example of becoming too emotional. Let’s say another second baseman gets twice the money you get for the same position. You argue that you should make the same amount of money that the other guy is making, and the representative for your ball club says that he gets more because he is better than you are. You would probably never want to play for that person again.
In Federal Workers’ Compensation cases, the claims examiner is trying his or her best to pay you the least money they can, and they are trying their best to deny your claim. When you represent yourself, you have no idea what your claim is worth or what you need to win a claim. A representative who has done thousands of claims over the years can make sure your claim is not only won, but also that you receive a fair settlement (including all the benefits to which you are entitled).
Many times, going to a hearing without a representative and saying the wrong thing can significantly delay the winning of your claim. I have had people who represented themselves for two or three years finally come to my office for help and ask how long it will take me to win their claims. I always ask them how long it took for them to mess up their claim. Then I always add, that’s how long it will take me to correct the claim and win. Hopefully, it will not take us quite as long to win the claim.
The most important part of being represented is your representative who, after doing thousands of cases, knows how much your claim is worth and what is needed to win that type of claim. If you have never settled an injury compensation claim with the federal government, how are you supposed to know how much your claim is worth, or what you are entitled to in your claim?
Remember, the federal government is self-insured and all the monies or benefits to which you are entitled will be paid to you by the Department of Labor, and then the agency that you work for. The agency has to reimburse the Department of Labor all the monies and benefits that you receive, so those monies come right out of your agency’s budget. Now, if you were in charge of your agency, would you tell your employees just how much they are entitled to when it is going to affect your budget? You probably can answer that question yourself.
Questions you should ask a prospective representative about federal workers compensation:
- How many federal workers compensation cases have you handled?
- At what levels have you handled these cases?
- At which level have most of your cases been won?
- What are the different levels of appeals in federal workers compensation claims?
- Explain to me what a schedule of award means and when one is entitled to a schedule?
- What is the difference between a CA1 and a CA2 injury and which one do you think is best for my case?
- Where is a medical facility in this area that handles federal workers compensation claims?
- When and how often will I hear from your office?
- How long will it take you to win my claim?
- What federal agencies have you dealt with in handling compensation claims?
How should you choose a representative to handle your workers compensation claim? There are many questions you should ask of the person that you want to hire to represent you. The first question should be: How many federal workers compensation claims has the person handled? Then you would certainly want to know how many cases has the person won, and at what level they were won. A person could have won cases at the initial part when the cases are first presented to the Department of Labor. It’s important to know how many cases the person has handled at the hearing and review level, and how many cases he or she has won at this level.
Ask how many cases the person has handled at the reconsideration level, and how many cases were won at this level. Ask how many cases were handled at the Employees Compensation Appeals Board (ECAB) level. Find out if the person even knows what ECAB stands for, and how many wins he or she has had at this level. Finally, ask the person what happens if you lose your ECAB appeal. If he or she tells you it is a final decision, then look for another representative, because after an ECAB decision you still have up to one year to produce new medical evidence and ask for a motion to reconsider your case.
Now it is also very important to find out just what your representative is going to charge you to handle your case from start to finish. The first thing that you are going to ask is: Is there a retainer involved for him or her to start working on your case? If yes, you should immediately ask what that retainer will cover. I have heard of retainers from as low as two hundred and twenty five dollars to as high as one thousand five hundred dollars, two thousand five hundred dollars, and even as high as ten thousand dollars. The question that you then have to ask is: Is that retainer the whole cost of my claim from start to finish?
The sad part is that when you do not ask these questions, after paying the retainer, you all too often find that the retainer was just the start. You may be billed further at from two hundred and ninety five dollars an hour to three hundred and ninety five dollars an hour, and even higher hourly fees. This means that after the representative has worked on your case for ten hours, your retainer is not only gone, but you now are going to be billed every month for the additional hours worked in that month. In addition to that, there may be a fee of up to twenty five percent of all monies recovered for back pay, as well as any schedule of awards to which you are entitled.
Questions you should ask about the charges involved in handling your claim:
- How many federal workers compensation claims have you handled?
- How many cases have you won and at what level were they won?
- How much would you charge to handle my case?
- If you charge a retainer, how much is the retainer?
- What does the retainer cover, and when would it be used up? Do you then charge me an hourly fee?
- Do you charge an hourly fee and how much do you charge per hour?
- What is the percentage that you charge for any back pay or schedule which I may receive?
- When I need to talk to you how often can I expect you to return my calls?
- Do you charge an hourly rate every time you talk to me?
- Do you charge me at an hourly rate every time I call your office?
It pays to shop well for a Federal Workers’ Compensation representative. There are some federal compensation reps that do not charge hourly fees, who instead charge only ten per cent of any back pay or schedule awards monies recovered. So do not despair. You can find good representation if you ask the proper questions and shop until you find the right representative, one who knows the federal workers compensation process, and one who wants you to get the most for your claim.
Call Federal Workers Compensation Consultants today for a free initial consultation at 813-931-1984
Federal Workers Compensation Consultants
Workers Compensation and Disability Retirement Specialists
9639 N. Armenia Avenue
Tampa, Florida 33612
Se Habla Espanol – 813-931-1984
Permission is granted to publish this article in print or online as long as the article is published in it’s entirety without changes and with the author’s contact information and URL hyperlinks included.
To view a printable version of this article, click here