We attorneys would all like to boast perfect success rates. But in reality every case ends with success and loss. That means attorneys sometimes have to deliver the bad news. In fact, in workers’ compensation, even good news can be bad news. For example, successfully getting a claim accepted for treatment also means the injured worker must acknowledge a life altering injury and accept that there will be a long road to recovery. Similarly, being placed on a pension, a significant monetary benefit, means that you’ve lost all reasonable wage earning capacity.
As you can imagine legal successes in workers compensation aren’t always cause for celebration. Even with the best outcomes, injured workers aren’t always satisfied. As a result, I truly cherish conversations like the one I had today. A client shared how a new volunteer opportunity restored joy and meaning to his life. This kind of joy is far greater than any claim related outcome will ever be. I’m glad clients allow me the opportunity to share in these kinds of joys. It helps me get through the darker days when all news seems like bad news.
Ever since January 2013, any medical providers treating injured workers in Washington State have been required to be part of the Medical Provider Network (MPN). This includes physicians, chiropractors, naturopathic physicians, podiatrists, ARNPs, PAs, dentists and optometrists.
Over the past few days I’ve spent some time introducing myself to local MPN members that treat the injured workers I represent, and it has been a wonderful experience. I have really enjoyed meeting other professionals who are equally committed to helping injured workers successfully navigate through their claims.
What I’ve learned from these conversations is that I share many of the same concerns, frustrations, and challenges as the medical providers treating injured workers. As a result, I’m looking forward to continuing collaborative dialogues with these providers in an effort to find solutions for our shared concerns, frustrations and challenges, as we work together to achieve productive claim progress and appropriate outcomes for the injured workers we help.
One of my frustrations is when clients fail to show up for scheduled meetings like an L&I vocational meeting or hearings. They don’t answer calls or return messages, and don’t respond to letters. Luckily this happens as an exception and not a rule. But as an attorney it puts me in the difficult position of having to simultaneously avoid breaking any rules of professional conduct while looking out for my clients’ best interest.
To remedy the situation, I start by turning over every stone to locate my client. Having emergency contact information on file is always a good start. Sometimes the search includes contacting medical providers, checking jail rosters, and driving to the client’s house. If all else fails, I may have no option but to send a certified letter noting I’ll have to withdraw my representation if the client does not contact me by a certain date.
This is very frustrating, and I wonder how people don’t know the importance of staying in contact with their attorney when so much is at stake. I also wonder what I should do differently to prevent this from happening. However, when all is said and done, I’m usually reminded that injured workers have found themselves in some of life’s most challenging circumstances making even simple things like communication, difficult.
I represent injured workers from all different parts of Washington State. From Vancouver to Twisp, Spokane to Aberdeen, Sequim to Walla Walla. Many of my clients can’t easily travel to my Port Orchard or Mercer Island locations. Technology enables me to effectively represent these injured workers, even if I’ve never met them in person.
At the same time, it is also nice to have an office in a comfortable location where local clients can drop in. Whether they want to discuss their claims or just say hello. Today I got to meet two clients that I hadn’t met in person before. It is always nice to shake hands with someone you represent.
I guess what I’m saying is, whether they live on the other side of the State or just around the corner, I appreciate my clients and I consider it a privilege to represent injured workers.
My days have been filing up quickly. Lately it seems that if I’m not in a meeting, then I’m on a telephone conference. Throw in the impromptu meetings with clients that need to drop in for a variety of reasons, the days seem to fly by in the blink of an eye. Sometimes at the end of the day, I wonder if I’ve accomplished anything at all.
Luckily today I know I accomplished something. Today I had a great meeting with a client and his vocational counselor, and we exchanged a lot of important information. After the meeting my client and I had a good conversation about his opinions and he was able to confidently make an important decision that will, no doubt, impact the rest of his life.
Getting to be a trusted adviser at a critical time in my clients’ claims and lives is a source of great pride and accomplishment for me. Knowing that my client and I were on the same page, and that he trusted me enough to be able to make his own decision with complete confidence has made me feel like I accomplished a lot today.
Today I had a difficult conversation with an upset client. The difficulty is that many of the things he was upset about may have been very valid, but had occurred in the past and aren’t necessarily things I can fix now.
Luckily, both of us stuck with the conversation long enough to get to a much more productive place. We were able to communicate effectively and create a plan for moving forward that we both could understand and agree too.
Workers’ compensation claims are frustrating and injured workers have multitudes of reasons for being angry and upset. But interactions with their attorney shouldn’t be one of them. I’m so happy that today my client and I could get on the same page so that going forward, I can be a source of knowledge, advice, and support rather than another frustration.