The lawyer that you hire for your workers’ compensation claim matters. A skilled lawyer can’t guarantee a favorable outcome, but can significantly increases your chances. On the other hand, a bad or inexperienced lawyer can break you case with mistakes or oversights. The following two New Jersey examples look at injured workers who wish they had hired better lawyers.
Unresponsive and Dishonest Lawyer Nearly Loses All Compensation for Client
The case of Kost v. GPU Energy, A-0858-13T3 (App. Div. 2015) was nearly dismissed because the lawyer did not follow through or keep in touch with his client. Richard Kost filed several claims and a civil lawsuit against GPU Energy in 2003. His lawyer, Eric Lentz, left his law firm in 2005 but chose to keep Kost as an independent client. Lentz was uncooperative with several requests made by the Judge of Compensation after he left his law firm. As a result, GPU Energy filed and was granted a motion to dismiss for lack of prosecution in 2008. Lentz was sent an order of dismissal but never notified his client. Kost had tried to contact his lawyer and was not successful until over a year later.
Kost’s lawyer was unfortunately misleading and gave him the impression that the cases were still ongoing. Lentz even had Kost sign medical authorization forms and attend doctor’s exams from time to time in order to keep up the facade. Kost became suspicious and questioned his lawyer, who again assured him that the cases were still active.
Kost chose to go with his instincts at that point and hire a new lawyer. The counsel found out that the cases were previously dismissed and attempted to reinstate them. However, N.J.S.A. 34:15-54 states that there is a one year deadline to reopen cases dismissed for lack of prosecution and that date had already passed. The Judge of Compensation would not reinstate the case and Kost appealed.
Thankfully the Appellate Division realized that Lentz had intentionally hid the status of his cases from his client and chose to make an exception to the rule and reinstate the cases after the deadlines, citing an exceptional circumstance: “Petitioner’s dilemma was not caused by his own dereliction or ambivalence. Instead, fault for the dismissal rests squarely on his prior attorney. Here, petitioner made significant effort to keep in contact with Lentz. He was affirmatively mislead, and assured his cases were still active. It was not until new counsel took over in 2010 that petitioner was informed his cases were dismissed.”
Lentz risked losing all of his compensation by hiring a dishonest and unreliable lawyer. Had he originally worked with a quality lawyer, he could have received his compensation years earlier and saved himself the complications.
Inexperienced Lawyer with Limited Knowledge Loses Potential Compensation for Client
Another case that nearly failed at the fault of a lawyer is Garofalo v. East Whitehouse Fire Department, A-3649-12T2, A-4687-12T2, (App.Div.March 28, 2014). Anthony Garofalo worked as a volunteer firefighter when he fell on the stairs at fire department because of an improperly installed runner. Garofalo received workers’ compensation payments and filed a civil lawsuit for negligence. However, because New Jersey is a “no fault” state, injured workers may not sue their employers outside of the Division of Workers’ Compensation.
The attorney requested to move the civil case to the Division of Workers’ Compensation and this request was denied and the case dismissed. Garofalo did not appeal.
By the time this had occurred, almost three years had passed since the original work injury. Garofalo then chose to file a claim petition in the Division of Workers’ Compensation. Unfortunately the deadline to do this is two years after the last compensation payment and the petition was denied. Had Garofalo’s lawyer been more knowledgeable and originally filed a claim petition instead of a civil lawsuit, Garofalo could have potentially gained more compensation.
Find a Quality New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today
As you can see, the quality of your lawyer has the power to make or break a case. Don’t make the mistake of hiring an inexperienced or unreliable lawyer because they are the first one you meet. If you need a quality New Jersey workers’ compensation lawyer, The Hayes Firm can help. We are a free lawyer finding service with an extensive network of local lawyers. All of the attorneys in our network are skilled, knowledgeable, experienced, and successful. Contact us today and and we will review the details of your case as soon as possible. If we find your situation can benefit from further legal action, we will match you with a compatible, quality lawyer completely free of charge.