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Q: What is the amount of attorney fees in a workers' compensation claim?
There is no charge for the initial consultation in a workers' compensation claim. Attorney fees are payable on a "contingency basis." This means that if there is no recovery there is no fee. The attorney receives a percentage of the settlement or award at the end of the case. If a person chooses to be represented by an attorney, the attorney fees will be deducted from the settlement at the end. Attorney fees are usually 12% of the benefits awarded. The actual amount of the attorney fee will depend upon the complexity of the case. In complex cases, the fee may be l5%. The fee must be approved by a workers' compensation judge.

Q: Am I entitled to other benefits?
If you have an injury or illness serious enough to prevent you from returning to work, you may be eligible for Social Security disability if you have been off work for 5 months or more. To qualify, you must have paid into the Social Security system in 20 of the last 40 quarters, and are likely to be off work one full year or longer. If you feel this applies to you, you can get more information from your local Social Security Office.

Public employees who have retirement programs other than Social Security, may be eligible for disability benefits under the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS), State Teachers' Retirement System (STRS) or county, city or other retirement systems. Under certain situations you may also be eligible for State Disability Insurance, Unemployment Insurance, Long Term Disability etc.

Q: The insurance company is providing all benefits, should I wait to contact an attorney?
In deciding when to see an attorney, consider that the workers' compensation Insurance adjusters and their attorneys are experts in the how the system works, but it is their job to represent the best interests of the insurance carrier/employer. It is not the adjuster's job to advise you that you may be getting underpaid on temporary disability. It is not the adjuster's job to manage your medical care. It is not the adjuster's job to steer you to the best QME doctor to evaluate your work impairments and need for medical treatment.

Q: Am I limited to Workers' Compensation benefits?
A: Most of the time, yes. If, however, your injury is caused by the negligence of someone other than your employer or co-workers, you may be able to file a civil lawsuit in addition to your workers' compensation claim. You may also have an employment claim pursuant to FEHA laws.

Q: What is "lifetime medical care"?
A: Unless you choose to settle your rights, this system awards ongoing medical care rights. This is not a general health insurance policy, but medical coverage for your work injury. You are covered as long as you can connect the need for treatment to your work injury. However, there are limits on the type of care you can receive for a work injury. See section on Medical Treatment.

Q: Have Workers' Compensation laws changed recently?
A: Yes, in many ways. Vocational retraining has been eliminated, and replaced with a voucher system. There is a new method of determining disability, which tends to result in lower disability awards. There are also limitations to the type of treatment you can receive. Significant changes to the workers' compensation laws were made in 2004 and again effective January 1, 2013.

Q: Do I have to see the company doctor?
A: You have the right to change doctors. We will help you find a doctor that looks out for your interests and provides quality medical care.

Q: What Is the Statute of Limitations?
The Statute of Limitations includes the time limits within which a claim must be filed with the employer and within which an application must be filed with WCAB. It is important to know the time limitations which apply to your case.

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