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The Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
By: Michael W. Cardamone, Esq.
Blue Bell, PA
I’m a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer representing injured workers in Pennsylvania. I was recently thinking about how demanding yet rewarding it is to help injured workers. While the demands are high, the rewards are greater. Let me explain.
We race around to hearings, depositions, mediations, or client meetings, every week, if not daily. We have constant pressure to get back to clients quickly. We have pressure to keep up with the incessant deadlines- briefs, doctor depositions, and statutes of limitations. We have to review medical records that come in virtually every day to make sure our cases are viable. We have to correspond with counsel via phone, email, or letter in an effort to settle our cases amicably or for scheduling purposes. We make sure our clients are dealing with reputable physicians. We have a duty to keep our clients informed. We have to keep up with our clients’ ever changing work and treatment status- a new job, an alteration of their benefits, a new doctor or medicine. We have to hold insurers accountable with Penalty Petitions when our clients’ checks are late or when medical bills go unpaid. Sometimes we have to work weekends to meet a deadline or to talk to a new client who is anxious for advice and help. We have to prepare Mediation Memos outlining our cases before Mediations. We constantly worry about whether we’ll make our hearings and depositions on time and listen to traffic reports whenever we can. We have to constantly explain to our clients the intricacies of Workers’ Compensation Law, and translate mysterious legalese into plain English for them. Our clients don’t like “fancy talk”. We’re always fighting the tide of cynicism from defense counsel, adjustors, judges, and sometimes our very own clients thanks to the media who tend to only highlight the freak or fraudulent cases. We have to keep our clients grounded emotionally when litigation can seem like an eternity. We often spend as much time giving moral support as we do legal advice. We have to prepare our clients for hearings which can be very scary to them. We have pressure to win or settle a case in such a way that our clients are happy and willing to refer other possible clients to us. We have to predict outcomes as best we can so that our clients can make the right choices given the risks involved. We have to file petitions and make sure the details are accurate. We carefully review medical records to determine if the doctors are on their side. We have to make sure our clients are getting their settlement checks. We have to keep up with significant bookkeeping entries to account for inflow and outflow. We have to determine whether it’s prudent to spend thousands of dollars on a doctor’s deposition in a tricky case. We have to make decisions about what evidence to present and how. We often obsess over what Exhibits we’ll attempt to submit. We have to keep abreast of the constantly changing case law. We spend a lot of time crafting letters to doctors outlining a case so their opinions are based on the complete record and therefore more likely to be deemed credible. Sometimes we lose and have to weigh the costs and benefits of an appeal. We have difficult clients who lash out when we didn’t return a call or email because we were in hearings for hours and then had a long drive back to home or the office. We have to constantly keep an eye on the amount of work we take on and often struggle to say no to a really nice person but whose case facts leave us with that uneasy feeling. We have to keep our clients’ expectations realistic. We litigate more than just about any other type of attorney even though we don’t have jury trials. We’re generally more cordial with our opponents than other sections of the bar, without weakening our respective cases and duty to be a zealous advocate. When we lose, it hurts. We help people. Everything is personal. Nothing is better than winning or having a happy client. We level the playing field. Our cases don’t get a lot of press but to many of our clients, we’re a vital part of a scary time in their lives and give them peace of mind that they will be able to feed their families. We love our job. There are no academic wins. We recognize that every case is the most important one to each of our clients. We see ourselves in our clients because we know that anyone can get hurt and end up in their shoes in a heartbeat.