What do I give up when I represent myself in a workers’ comp case?

Oct 04 2014

Sometimes in life, all we need in order to make a good decision is to have information. Then we can ponder our options and make the choice that is most favorable. Bad decisions are often made when we simply don’t have enough information about the available choices.

Take for instance, a Colorado workers’ compensation case. When a claim is denied, you have a couple of choices to make: do you appeal? If you do appeal, do you do so with an attorney or on your own? And if you do it on your own, will you give up any benefits?

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employments warns people facing these choices that it is wise to enter the complicated world of workers’ comp with an attorney at your side.  It notes that most claims are settled without litigation, but “…it is important to understand that resolution of some of the more complex issues may be facilitated through the technical expertise provided by an individual who is well-versed in Colorado workers’ compensation law.”

If you decide to go it alone, you should understand that “you will be held to the same standard as an attorney practicing workers’ compensation law, and will be expected to have knowledge of the law and rules of workers’ compensation in this state.”

OK, so you’ve read the warnings but decided to go ahead on your own. Will you give up anything in a settlement you reach with an employer or insurer? Unfortunately, pro se claimants (people representing themselves) far too often sign away future rights and benefits, including wage replacement and medical care for their injuries or illnesses.

You might have past and future hospital bills resulting from your injury. By entering a settlement without the aid of an attorney, you might inadvertently agree that all past and future medical bills are to be paid by you, and not by the insurance company or by your employer.

It’s something worth thinking about, that’s for sure. A workers’ compensation attorney will discuss with you the details of your unique situation so that you can make informed choices.