Question: When did you start the Al Sturgeon Law Firm?
Answer: The Al Sturgeon Law Firm was started in 1991. When I first started the firm we were general practice but we quickly focused more on representing injured workers. It’s really what I’ve always wanted to do and why I went to law school in the first place. I’m very lucky to be someone who is doing exactly what I wanted to do.
Question: Why Workers’ Compensation?
Answer: I grew up in a working-class family. My father worked for Wonder Bread before working for the school district. I worked at the same factory for eight years. Unlike some lawyers, I know what it is like to punch a clock and work for a living and what it’s like to work paycheck to paycheck. When people get hurt on the job it can be a life-changing experience, not just for the injured worker for for their families as well. Representing people who get hurt and trying to make the outcome the best for them, both in terms of their medical care and settlement, is an honor. I go to work every day knowing that I am doing something very important for people who deserve a fair shake.
Question: How is your firm different from other law firms?
Answer: First of all, we are one of the very few law firms int he state that specializes in Workers’ Compensation. And, we only represent injured workers, never insurance companies or employers. In terms of numbers of clients, we are easily one of the top five in the state of Iowa. We simply have the experience and contacts to get injured workers the best outcome possible.
We also have experience and knowledge about unemployment law and Social Security Disability. Believe me, there is a very important interaction between these other types of areas of the law and workers’ compensation. Knowing how those other areas of the law impact the injured worker can be very critical for their financial survival. Not knowing the interaction between workers’ compensation and Social Security Disability, for example, can cost an injured worker tens of thousands of dollars of benefits. Law firms like ours that do nothing but workers’ compensation understand these important differences and protect the injured worker.
Additionally, we are one of only two law firms in the state of Iowa that charge a 25% contingency fee. All others start at 33% and some go even higher.
Question: Do all lawyers charge a 25% contingency fee in workers compensation cases?
Question: Have you seen any changes in your area of law over the past several years?
Answer: Yes. And not good changes. There are a lot of 1-800 firms out there with famous Hollywood spokesmen promoting these firms. The problem is they give the misconception that they have local offices. They do not. One frequent advertiser’s office is over 200 miles away. And, in most cases, these 1-800 law firms contract with other attorneys so you do not have any idea who you attorney will be or where they are located. The only thing you know for sure is they will charge more than we do. We only charge a 25% contingency fee and I believe we are one of only two law firms in the state of Iowa representing injured workers’ that does that. Most start at one-third and some even take more than that.
We have a lot of clients that stop buy our office after an important doctor visit – you can’t do that with a 1-800 lawyer. Gina answers the phone here, not a long-distance operator.
We have been at the same office for over ten years and we are accessible by a phone call or a short visit. We represent people from all over western Iowa and it is not unusual for us to travel to their city or some places in between.
Question: What’s the biggest obstacle you see in representing injured workers?
Answer: Getting them through the door. A lot of people are concerned that if they go to a lawyer’s office they are going to have to pay some type of hourly fee just to talk with us. We don’t charge an hourly fee for anything. We take a 25% fee for what we help them earn, nothing more. They never have to write us a check for any kind of expense. We cover that up front, and we keep you informed about your case and won’t do anything unless you want to.
The injured worker is at such a disadvantage when they get hurt. They know nothing about workers’ compensation which is a very unique area. It is not confusing, just different. And, there can be much at stake, including the injured workers’ health, recovery, and ability to make ends meet during a difficult time.
Question: Who is responsible for expenses related to the litigation?
Answer: Ultimately, you are. However, most of the expenses in a workers compensation are fairly small and they are fronted by the law office and taken out of the final settlement. You will never be asked to write a check for expenses. If we are unsuccessful, we will not charge your for expenses.
Question: What type of expenses are involved in a workers compensation claim that I would be responsible for?
Answer: For example, when you file a petition with the Iowa Industrial Commissioner’s Office there is a $100 filing fee. Again, the law firm fronts this but you are ultimately responsible. Sometimes in order to obtain medical information including letters from doctors, the doctors office will require a payment usually between $100 and $200. It is rare that workers compensation expenses exceed $500 in total.
Question: What kind of benefits can I expect to receive if I’m hurt on the job?
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