FAQs

 

PERSONAL INJURY FAQs

What is the difference between a Personal Injury claim and a Workers Compensation Claim?
How does the lawyer get paid?

If I am entitled to benefits, shouldn’t the Insurance Company pay those attorney fees?

 

 

SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY FAQs

How do I apply for benefits?
Do I need an Attorney to apply?
How do I supply them with my records?
What if my claim is denied?
What does an Attorney do?
How soon should I hire an attorney?
How do I pay my attorney?

 

CRIMINAL DUI FAQs

If I was intoxicated, why should I still get a lawyer?
Should I go to trial?
How soon should I hire a lawyer?
If I am found guilty, or enter a guilty plea - will I go to jail?
How much will this cost me?
Why would I have to go to court so many times before my case is heard?

 

WORKERS COMPENSATION FAQs

What is the difference between a Personal Injury claim and a Workers Compensation Claim?
How does the lawyer get paid?
If I am entitled to benefits, shouldn’t the Insurance Company pay those attorney fees?


 




PERSONAL INJURY FAQs


What is the difference between a Personal Injury claim and a Workers Compensation Claim?

While we could spend hours on this topic, let me explain several of the important differences.

• In a Personal Injury action, you have two years to bring your claim. This means that if a lawsuit were to be filed for injuries sustained (for example in an auto accident), the action would have to be filed within two years. In a Workers Compensation claim, the filing limitation is one year. However in Workers Compensation injuries the one-year limitation does not always run from the date of the original injury. It could begin on that date, but it could run from the date of the last authorized medical treatment. This of course begs the question: When is medical treatment authorized? When is it not authorized? On this topic alone we could write for pages, but let is suffice to say that Claimant’s lawyers and Insurance lawyers debate this issue on a regular basis. Consider this when deciding on hiring a lawyer.

• In a Personal Injury action you are free to see any doctor you so desire for treatment for the injuries sustained. This is not so in Workers Compensation claims. In Workers Compensation claims you are generally required to select your doctor from a list of six doctors or medical facilities listed on a posted panel. The doctors are paid by your Employer or more specifically by their Workers Compensation insurance carrier. What most clients immediately ask is: Who is the doctor working for, the insurance company or me? Can’t I see my own doctor? Do I have to stay with this one doctor? Can I change doctors? How do I go about changing doctors? The answer to these questions and all like questions are different in each case. The answers to these questions are extremely important and many cases are jeopardized and eventually lost by injured claimants who attempt to change doctors or see other doctors without following the State Board of Workers Compensation Rules. You can see other doctors, and often the doctor of your choice. But you must be sure that the rules are strictly followed. To be frank, that is the lawyer’s job.

• In a Personal Injury action, if you are injured and are disabled and unable to work, your only source of income would be whatever sick leave you might have accumulated or payments made by some disability insurance policy that you the employer might have secured prior to the accident. To be frank, I find very few disability insurance policies in effect for injured and disabled workers. In this instance Workers Compensation Insurance is far better for the injury worker. Of course, if your claim is denied or otherwise controverted - the technical term for denying a claim – your are no better off.

In my many years of practice, I have encountered many cases where the biggest mistake made was not consulting a lawyer as soon as the injury took place. Many employers ask their injured employees to refrain from notifying the Workers Compensation carrier. Employers ask employees to see a group insurance carrier, and ask the injured worker to use their accrued sick leave. Often times sick leave pays more than the Workers Compensation weekly disability benefit. You may believe that your injury is minor, and you do not want to make you boss mad. However, invariably the injured worker’s claim is jeopardized when the Workers Compensation Insurer denies the claim for not following the rules. When the injured worker tries to explain why he or she did not follow the Workers Compensation rules, but at that point it will be his word against the Employer. Guess who generally wins those contests?

 

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How does the lawyer get paid?

 

In Georgia, as in most states, the same strict regulation that governs the handling and the administration of the case also governs the issue of attorney’s fees. Georgia law limits fees to 25% of any accrued benefits. The attorney fee contract is filed with the State Board of Workers Compensation, and the State Board must approve any claim to fees. If you are already receiving benefits and have been receiving benefits, your benefits would not be subject to division with any attorney. However, if your disability benefits have been controverted or have never commenced, then any benefit would be subject to the 25% attorney fee. I have been hired many times when the weekly disability checks were already being issued. My role is then to monitor the claim, and see that it is administered properly. More often than not, my services will be needed before the claim is concluded. Also, most cases are settled.

 

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If I am entitled to benefits, shouldn’t the Insurance Company pay those attorney fees?

 

If the case proceeds to a Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, and it is determined that the case was defended in whole or in part in bad faith, or without a reasonable defense the Administrative Law Judge can order the Employer or Workers Compensation Insurance Carrier to pay the attorneys’ fees. In such a case the Claimant would not be charged with the fees, from his/her portion of any recovery. However, more often than not attorneys’ fees are not awarded, despite my opinion that they are warranted in almost every case.

 

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SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY FAQs


How do I apply for benefits?

You apply by completing an Application for Benefits. This can be done in person or online. To do so online go to http://www.ssa.gov/applyfordisability/.

 

Do I need an Attorney to apply?

No, not initially. Your claim will be decided on the medical records you have which will address the nature and duration of your injury or illness. You can apply by yourself. However if you need aid and assistance to apply – that is to even complete your application help is available through the Social Security Administration. If you don’t want to do this online or need help, call toll-free at 1-800-772-1213. If you are deaf or hard-of-hearing, call the toll-free TTY number, 1-800-325-0778. They have representatives available Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

How do I supply them with my records?

The Social Security Administration obtains those records directly. You complete a form, which allows them to do so. You also supply them with the information including names and addresses that allows them to do so.

 

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What if my claim is denied?

More likely than not, it will be denied. In my nearly thirty years of experience it has become glaringly apparent that by simply denying all claim at the initial stage of the process probably eliminates 50% of the justifiable claims. I can count on one hand the number of claimants who are approved without first appealing the initial denial of their claim.

What does an Attorney do?

I handle the appeal. You case is then assigned to an Administrative Law Judge and a hearing is scheduled and conducted. Your attorney appears with you and you are allowed to present testimony and evidence on you behalf. As you attorney I am familiar with what issues are relevant and important. Also, many times the medical record is incomplete. As your attorney we see that your case is presented in a complete and through fashion.

How soon should I hire an attorney?

After your claim is denied, you should hire an attorney and proceed with an appeal as soon as possible. They are not going to change their minds after the Social Security Administration has entered the denial. Delaying does not benefit you, and it could cost you dearly, certainly in time lost. Generally you have sixty days to appeal your decision. Do not wait.

 

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How do I pay my attorney?

The attorney is paid through a percentage of past due benefits – generally 25% of past due benefits, with a cap of $5,300.00. The Attorney Fee Contract is filed with the Social Security Administration and they approve it. Advance retainer fees are not required nor are they authorized.

 

 

 

 

CRIMINAL DUI FAQs

 

If I was intoxicated, why should I still get a lawyer?

 

While DUI’s carry minimum fines and sentences, the maximum sentences vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and even from Judge to Judge. Several years ago, a Judge in the State Court of Fulton County decided to give all DUI convictions a minimum of 30 days in jail. Those represented by counsel knew to withdraw guilty plea’s and demand jury trials. This delay allowed many defendants the opportunity to challenge the charges and many escaped this severe sanction by entering a plea after challenging aspects of the stop and the arrest. When I am asked about representing oneself in Court, I often think of this Judge, and those who were unwittingly marched to jail for their 1st DUI.

 

Should I go to trial?

 

The ramifications of a guilty plea or a guilty verdict are huge. All guilty pleas result in the loss of one’s drivers license. However, if this is a first offense or a first conviction then you can generally get a work permit. That allows you to drive to and from work. However, if you should or should not go to trial depends on a myriad of circumstances and facts. For example: Did they have reason to stop you in the first place? What were you told by the arresting officer about your rights to take the breathalyzer? Were you told you had a right to an alternate alcohol test at your expense? Did you take a field sobriety test? Did you refuse to take the breathalyzer test? There are so many facts to be considered there is no way each can be discussed here. Let is suffice to say, that if you can fight these charges you should give it strong consideration.

 

How soon should I hire a lawyer?

 

My strong suggestion is that you should do so as soon as possible. The clock is ticking. While you are recovering from the shock and trauma if this DUI arrest and incarceration the clock is running on you right to request a hearing on these charges. You have ten days to request a hearing. The request is made to the Department of Public Safety and informs them that you intend on challenging these DUI charges. If you fail to do so your license is automatically suspended thirty (30) days after you were arrested for DUI. The suspension lasts for one year. Keep in mind that the suspension is by the Department of Public Safety and not by the Court where the charges are pending. The ten-day rule is critical. Do not ignore it.

 

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If I am found guilty, or enter a guilty plea - will I go to jail?

 

Jail time is mandatory for all DUI convictions, and yes this includes guilty pleas. If this is a first time DUI the minimum sentence is twenty-four hours. However, many times credit is given for time served. Since it takes close to twenty-four (24) hours to get bailed out of jail, the Court can give you “credit’ for time served. You may not have to go back to jail. However, it is not at all unusual for Judge’s to sentence a defendant to a weekend in jail.

 

How much will this cost me?

 

The fee could range between $2,000.00 for a plea to $7,500.00 for a jury trial. If you know that you have little chance in winning your case, there is no reason to pay the higher fees that one would pay for a jury trial. However, even a simple plea can require two to three Court appearances. The cost of a guilty plea can cost you upward of $4,000.00 in money and time, exclusive of attorneys’ fees. All guilty pleas or verdicts results require community service of at least 40 hours and often times up to 200 hours and more. Of course insurance costs are certain to rise.

 

Why would I have to go to court so many times before my case is heard?

 

Many jurisdictions use DUI’s as a source of revenue. For example while the City of Atlanta and the City of East Point are reducing their police force for budgetary constraints, the City of Sandy Springs is increasing their police force. The number of DUI citations in the City of Sandy Springs has increased drastically since the incorporation of their lovely city. Those charged with DUI in Sandy Springs should closely scrutinize the circumstances of their arrest. If they are charged with DUI, and a jury trial is requested, the case will be bound over to the State Court of Fulton County.


Generally appearances are required in both jurisdictions. When the City of Dunwoody is formed, they too will be paying for their police and new City buildings through tickets including DUI.

 

 

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WORKERS COMPENSATION FAQs

 

What is the difference between a Personal Injury claim and a Workers Compensation Claim?

 

While we could spend hours on this topic, let me explain several of the important differences.

• In a Personal Injury action, you have two years to bring your claim. This means that if a lawsuit were to be filed for injuries sustained (for example in an auto accident), the action would have to be filed within two years. In a Workers Compensation claim, the filing limitation is one year. However in Workers Compensation injuries the one-year limitation does not always run from the date of the original injury. It could begin on that date, but it could run from the date of the last authorized medical treatment. This of course begs the question: When is medical treatment authorized? When is it not authorized? On this topic alone we could write for pages, but let is suffice to say that Claimant’s lawyers and Insurance lawyers debate this issue on a regular basis. Consider this when deciding on hiring a lawyer.

• In a Personal Injury action you are free to see any doctor you so desire for treatment for the injuries sustained. This is not so in Workers Compensation claims. In Workers Compensation claims you are generally required to select your doctor from a list of six doctors or medical facilities listed on a posted panel. The doctors are paid by your Employer or more specifically by their Workers Compensation insurance carrier. What most clients immediately ask is: Who is the doctor working for, the insurance company or me? Can’t I see my own doctor? Do I have to stay with this one doctor? Can I change doctors? How do I go about changing doctors? The answer to these questions and all like questions are different in each case. The answers to these questions are extremely important and many cases are jeopardized and eventually lost by injured claimants who attempt to change doctors or see other doctors without following the State Board of Workers Compensation Rules. You can see other doctors, and often the doctor of your choice. But you must be sure that the rules are strictly followed. To be frank, that is the lawyer’s job.

• In a Personal Injury action, if you are injured and are disabled and unable to work, your only source of income would be whatever sick leave you might have accumulated or payments made by some disability insurance policy that you the employer might have secured prior to the accident. To be frank, I find very few disability insurance policies in effect for injured and disabled workers. In this instance Workers Compensation Insurance is far better for the injury worker. Of course, if your claim is denied or otherwise controverted - the technical term for denying a claim – your are no better off.

In my many years of practice, I have encountered many cases where the biggest mistake made was not consulting a lawyer as soon as the injury took place. Many employers ask their injured employees to refrain from notifying the Workers Compensation carrier. Employers ask employees to see a group insurance carrier, and ask the injured worker to use their accrued sick leave. Often times sick leave pays more than the Workers Compensation weekly disability benefit. You may believe that your injury is minor, and you do not want to make you boss mad. However, invariably the injured worker’s claim is jeopardized when the Workers Compensation Insurer denies the claim for not following the rules. When the injured worker tries to explain why he or she did not follow the Workers Compensation rules, but at that point it will be his word against the Employer. Guess who generally wins those contests?

 

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How does the lawyer get paid?


In Georgia, as in most states, the same strict regulation that governs the handling and the administration of the case also governs the issue of attorney’s fees. Georgia law limits fees to 25% of any accrued benefits. The attorney fee contract is filed with the State Board of Workers Compensation, and the State Board must approve any claim to fees. If you are already receiving benefits and have been receiving benefits, your benefits would not be subject to division with any attorney. However, if your disability benefits have been controverted or have never commenced, then any benefit would be subject to the 25% attorney fee. I have been hired many times when the weekly disability checks were already being issued. My role is then to monitor the claim, and see that it is administered properly. More often than not, my services will be needed before the claim is concluded. Also, most cases are settled.

If I am entitled to benefits, shouldn’t the Insurance Company pay those attorney fees?

 

If the case proceeds to a Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, and it is determined that the case was defended in whole or in part in bad faith, or without a reasonable defense the Administrative Law Judge can order the Employer or Workers Compensation Insurance Carrier to pay the attorneys’ fees. In such a case the Claimant would not be charged with the fees, from his/her portion of any recovery. However, more often than not attorneys’ fees are not awarded, despite my opinion that they are warranted in almost every case.

 

 

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The above information is simply offered as a brief oversight as to the Workers Compensation System, and to answer a few common questions that you might have. A far more definitive Web site is available at the State Board of Workers Compensation and that site is http://sbwc.georgia.gov.