Atlanta Workers’ Comp Lawyer

This video features Rebecca K. Halberg, a Workers' Compensation attorney based in Georgia.

Using Past Experience as a Defense Attorney to Help Injured Workers

Video Transcript:

Rebecca Halberg: 

Workers' comp clients have it harder than anybody else. Because they're relying on these insurance companies to start paying them benefits. They're relying on the insurance company to authorize benefits. And if there are delays, it can really put people behind.

Rob Rosenthal: 

So how can a former insurance defense attorney help you with your workers' comp claim? Well, we're gonna find out right now. Because that's what we're gonna ask the lawyer on this episode of Ask the Lawyer. Hi everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal with askthelaywers.com. My guest is Atlanta attorney, Rebecca Halberg. I'll remind you right at the top, if you'd like to ask Rebecca questions about your situation, it's easy. Just go to askthelawyers.com. Click the button at the top that says Ask A Lawyer. And it'll walk you right through the process. Or you can always call the phone number that you'll see on the screen during our conversation. Rebecca, good to see you. Thank you for making some time to help us out today.

Rebecca Halberg: 

Absolutely. Great to be here.

Rob Rosenthal: 

So we're talking about people who are injured on the job. In your experience, when someone's injured on the job, do their employer and the insurance company make it easy for them to get their medical bills paid and loss of earning capacity taken care of and that sort of thing, or is it a difficult process?

Rebecca Halberg: 

The system was designed for it to be an easy process. But unfortunately, as the world has become more litigious and employers and insurance companies have started to guard their pocket books a lot more closely, it has become a more difficult system.

Rob Rosenthal: 

And you used to work on the insurance company side. You worked for an insurance defense law firm. Tell me what about that helps you with your clients now who are hurt on the job and seeking help?

Rebecca Halberg: 

Absolutely. Before I started representing injured workers, I was on the defense side for about 10 years. And during that time, I've represented employers and insurance companies, defended their workers' compensation claims, took a bunch of depositions. The benefit to doing that, I think, is that I got to see the inner workings of how these cases go. I know what insurance companies are looking out for when they're reviewing cases. I know how they make decisions about if they're gonna accept a case or if they're gonna fight it. And then most importantly, for a lot of clients, I understand how they evaluate cases when it comes time for settlement.

Rob Rosenthal: 

And does someone, when they're injured on the job and they have a workers' comp claim, do they always need an attorney to help them through the process?

Rebecca Halberg: 

Not all the time. And in fact, I interview a lot of potential clients that ultimately end up not needing an attorney. And I don't take their cases on. And where we typically see people need attorneys is when the cases are either denied or if the insurance company starts dragging their feet regarding treatment.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Are there laws, are there rules about how quickly insurance companies are supposed to handle these things?

Rebecca Halberg: 

Oh yeah, absolutely. In Georgia, there's actually a 21-day requirement for an insurance company to accept a case or to deny it. So typically, if I've got a client call me within those first 21 days and a decision hasn't been made yet, we take steps to either get it... To get it accepted within those first 21 days. But once that 21-day period has passed and the insurance company hasn't accepted it, we tend to request a hearing to get the process moving forward for our clients.

Rob Rosenthal: 

And this is purely anecdotal. But from what I've heard, sometimes it seems like, Rebecca, that sometimes the insurance companies just automatically deny claims to start with. That's like their default position, is to deny it. And then that starts the appeals process. Is that what you see in your experience?

Rebecca Halberg: 

Absolutely, especially these days, I see they either outright deny the cases or they just ignore any requests that we make to find out whether or not they're going to start paying benefits and authorizing medical treatment. I think there's certainly some strategy in that. I think their ultimate goal is to hope that people get tired of the process and just settle, or that people will just give up and go away.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Wow. And these situations a lot of times, Rebecca, these are people that their lives are turned upside down. They may not be able to make a living. They don't have an income. Tell me a little bit about that, what people are going through usually in these situations.

Rebecca Halberg: 

Oh yeah, absolutely. So when someone's injured on the job, especially if they're unable to work due to their injuries and medical needs afterward, there is a complete loss of income. And so not only are people out of work, they don't have money coming in. But a lot of times, they're also in pain and need medical treatment. And I talk with my other friends that practice in other areas of the law, and I really think that workers' comp clients have it harder than anybody else. Because they're relying on these insurance companies to start paying them benefits. They're relying on the insurance company to authorize benefits. And if there are delays, it can really put people behind. We've got clients all the time that lose trucks, they lose their houses, their marriages start falling apart. And that's kind of one goal that I have when I get involved in these cases, is to help people get back on the road to recovery, both financially and medically.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Once a case has been denied, say the initial filing has been denied, what happens then? What's the options? There's appeals process. Tell me a little bit about that.

Rebecca Halberg: 

Yeah, absolutely. And when a workers' compensation case is denied, the next step is to request a hearing. And that puts the clients and their attorney in front of a workers' compensation judge. We call them ALJs in Georgia. And the ALJ reviews the medical evidence, any factual evidence such as witnesses. Our clients then also have a chance to testify and talk about how the injury occurred and how it's affected them. And that judge is who makes the initial decision.

Rob Rosenthal: 

And is that the kind of thing that somebody could try to do on their own without an attorney?

Rebecca Halberg: 

They can. But I do not recommend it. An attorney... There are a lot of... We call it burden of proof. So there are a lot of things, as the injured worker, that you have to prove in order to have your case be found compensable by the Workers' Compensation Board. And an attorney will understand what those specific things are. It's very difficult, I think, for a lay person, if their case has been denied to win their case in front of a judge.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Last question, Rebecca. If someone didn't use an attorney, say from the beginning for the initial filing, and then it gets denied. And then they wanna... Is it okay to have an attorney then or is that too late? Tell me about that.

Rebecca Halberg: 

Really, the only time it's too late is if the statute of limitations has passed. In Georgia, the statute of limitations is one year from the date of accident or one year from the last time the injured person received medical treatment. So as long as somebody contacts me within that year, I'll take it. It's certainly best to consult with an attorney earlier on if possible. Because again, as a lay person, you may not understand the finer points of the law or what might help your case long term. But if it's in with that one year statute of limitations, absolutely. I would take a case.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Really helpful information, Rebecca. Thank you so much for making some time to answer our questions.

Rebecca Halberg: 

Absolutely, glad to do it. Thanks for having me on.

Rob Rosenthal: 

That's gonna do it for this episode of Ask the Lawyer. My guest has been Atlanta attorney, Rebecca Halberg. I'll remind you, if you'd like to ask Rebecca questions about your situation, go to askthelawyers.com, click the button up at the top that says Ask A Lawyer, and it'll walk you right through the very simple process right there. Thanks for watching. I'm Rob Rosenthal for Ask the Lawyers.

Disclaimer: This video is for informational purposes only. In some states, this video may be deemed Attorney Advertising. The choice of lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.


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