Frustrated With Your Ombudsman?
You're Not Alone
Texas Office of Injured Employee Counsel (OIEC)
*** NOTE ***: THE OIEC IS NOT LEGAL AID.
The Office of Injured Employee Counsel is a state office that exists to help injured workers who are not represented by a licensed Workers’ Comp Attorney. The OIEC is staffed by employees called “Ombudsmen” who are assigned as case workers for injured employees.
What Is The Ombudsman’s Job?
It’s important to remember that an ombudsman is not a licensed attorney. The ombudsman is simply a state employee whose job it is to help you know and understand the workers’ compensation rules and procedures, and to assist with filing forms.
Remember: if you are obtaining help from an ombudsman with your Texas Workers’ Compensation case, you are literally representing yourself.
Things The Ombudsman CAN Do For Your Workers Comp Case
The OIEC website lists things that an ombudsman can do to help with your workers’ comp case as follows:
- Answer questions you have regarding your dispute
- Remember: The ombudsman cannot “guide” you or “advise” you in your case. When it comes to helping you know how to proceed, the ombudsman can only answer questions about the rules, inform you of the process, and instruct you on procedures and policies of conferences and hearings.
- Communicate with your employer, insurance carrier, and doctor
- Remember: The ombudsman can only communicate with other parties to gather records and learn information. The ombudsman cannot speak on your behalf.
- Gather information and documentation to try to resolve the dispute in your claim
- Remember: The ombudsman cannot “try to resolve the dispute in your claim”. That’s just tricky wording. Notice it says here they can “gather information and documents”, but it is YOUR responsibility to then use that information and those documents so that YOU can resolve the dispute in your claim on your own.
- Provide you with information that may help you make decisions
- Remember: This is just restating the items, above. “Providing you with information that may help YOU make decisions” says it all.
- Give you information about the Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) hearings process
- Remember: Again, this simply re-states what they’ve already said.
- Prepare you for proceedings and attend them with you.
- Remember: It’s true that the ombudsman may attend your conferences and hearings with you. However, they are there ONLY to provide you with information about HOW the process works.
Things The Ombudsman CANNOT Do For Your Workers Comp Case
From the Texas OIEC Agreement Itself
When an injured worker agrees to use the services of an ombudsman, he or she must first sign an Agreement that clearly stipulates that the ombudsman is not allowed to give advice, and will not give any advice. (Source: Office Of Injured Employee Counsel Assistance Request)
I know and clearly understand that the Ombudsman:
- is an employee of the Office of Injured Employee Counsel.
- is not acting as an attorney nor performing services of an attorney.
- will not be representing me as an attorney or in any other capacity.
- will be assisting me to present my claim for benefits.
- provides assistance at no charge to unrepresented persons requesting assistance.
- cannot and will not provide legal advice.
- cannot and will not make or sign any agreements for me.
- cannot and will not make any decisions for me.
Tired of Getting The Runaround?
Although there are certain situations where an ombudsman can be of service and assistance, if you are using the OIEC you are still representing yourself. The ombudsman 1) cannot negotiate on your behalf or make demands, 2) cannot give you any advice whatsoever beyond telling you how the rules and policies work, 3) cannot represent you in a hearing, 4) cannot cross-examine the insurance company or company doctor in a hearing, 5) cannot draft or file pleadings on your behalf, and 6) shares no liability in the event mistakes are made and your case is damaged because of missed deadlines, lost opportunities, or other pitfalls that may present themselves during your workers’ comp claim.
Don’t Let Them Fool You Into Not Hiring An Attorney
The Office of Injured Employee Counsel is a government agency, administrated and staffed by government employees. An Ombudsman is underpaid, overworked, and not equipped to adequately and reasonably handle their (often) high caseloads. Every day, injured workers report that it’s hard to get their ombudsman to return their calls. We’ve even heard credible reports of ombudsmen missing deadlines and (illegally) giving bad legal advice.
Nothing can take the place of an experienced, seasoned workers’ compensation attorney who knows and understands the law, can advocate and negotiate on your behalf for your best interests in your workers’ comp claim. Don’t wait. Call us at 713-223-1234 today.
12600 N. Featherwood Dr, Ste 200
Houston, Texas 77034
Phone & Fax
Main Office: 713-223-1234
Fax Number: 713-910-9010
Toll Free: 888-434-2667
Toll Free 888-434-COMP
Abbott & Associates attorneys are licensed only in the state of Texas unless otherwise indicated in the biographical section. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. We consider employment in another State only in association with co-counsel licensed in that State. References to laws are limited to federal and State of Texas law.