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What to Look for In A Workers Comp Attorney

I read a competitor friend’s blog recently and it listed several things that an injured worker should look for in a workers comp attorney.  Some I agreed with, others I don’t – different strokes for different folks.  At any rate, I’ve made my own list of important things to look for in a workers comp attorney in Arizona:

1.  The attorney practices exclusively workers compensation.  Workers comp is an extremely specialized area of the law.  Attorneys who try and dabble in it are unaware of certain biases that doctors or judges may have, and some of the more subtle nuances of the law. 

2.  The attorney has great staff.  This is where I take exception with my competitor friend.  As an attorney, if I’m answering the telephone or on hold with your pharmacy, or tracking down your medical records, or making copies, that means I’m not doing real legal work on your case.  At Snow & Carpio, we have 10 paralegals and secretaries who have as much as 30 years experience in the workers compensation field.  This means that if you have an urgent matter, you don’t have to wait for me to get out of court or answer 20 other phone calls to deal with it.  It also means I have more time to spend meeting with clients and preparing their cases for court. 

3.  If you speak Spanish, it is extremely important that your attorney speak your language.  I don’t know how many times I’ve been doing a hearing in Spanish where the entire case has hinged on testimony that was interpreted incorrectly.  If I hadn’t been able to understand and correct the interpretation, the case would’ve gone the other way.  Also, attorneys have an ethical obligation to communicate with their clients.  My experience is that attorneys who can’t speak their client’s language, generally have much less communication with that client, usually handing them off to a spanish speaking paralegal or secretary. 

4.  You want an experienced attorney, but not too experienced.  I’ve always thought that the best doctors were the ones who had enough experience to have seen everything before, but not too much experience to where they don’t stay current on new developments or are just going through the motions.  I think the same is true for attorneys.  Some attorneys are still handling their cases the way they were handled in the 1970’s and haven’t kept up with the times. 

5.  Aggressive doesn’t necessarily mean effective.   I always laugh at attorney television commercials that tout how “aggressive” the lawyer is.  My experience is that some attorneys mask their incompetence by being aggressive or impolite to the opposing party.  It has taken me several years to learn that if I am rude to the claim adjustor or their attorney, I get much less accomplished on your case.  The saying “you get more flies with honey” is certainly true in Arizona workers/workmans comp cases. 

6.  Get an attorney who is willing to change your doctor.  One of the most effective things we do at Snow & Carpio is make sure our client is treating with a doctor that is more interested in their recovery, and less interested in saving the insurance company money.  If your attorney lets you treat with Concentra, for example, or doesn’t at least ask you if you feel comfortable with your treating doctor, you might need a new attorney. 

7.  Your attorney is a real person who gets to know you and treats you like a trusted friend.  I’ve seen many workers comp attorneys who act almost nervous around their working class clients and seem to talk down to them.  Alex Carpio and I both worked blue collar jobs for many years before becoming attorneys.  We come from humble backgrounds and know how difficult it is for our clients to survive from comp check to comp check.  We take a personal interest in our clients and their families.  Many of our old clients still come around and invite us to their kids’ quinceaneras, weddings, or just let us know how they’re doing.  Most of our clients come on referral from other clients, which tells us that our clients can tell that we care about them as people, and don’t just see them as a necessary means to make our living.

There are many more things to look for.  When looking for an attorney to handle your claim, you should meet with 3 or 4 attorneys and get a feel for who you are comfortable with.  It is one of the more important decisions you will make. 

Chad T. Snow is an attorney who handles exclusively workers compensation matters for injured workers in Arizona.  He has offices in Phoenix and Tucson with his associates at Snow, Carpio, and Weekley.

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