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Brian Smith’s Skill and Experience Enable Clients to Navigate an Evolving Workers’ Comp Landscape


Brian Smith’s Skill and Experience Enable Clients to Navigate an Evolving Workers’ Comp Landscape

April 24, 2024
Brian L. Smith

The world of Workers’ Compensation law in Connecticut looks vastly different today than it did when Goldberg Segalla partner Brian L. Smith began practicing more than three decades ago.

No longer is there only one or two prominent law firms dominating the arena. Competition is fierce. Medicare Set-Aside Trusts have not only exploded but have complicated the settlement process. Meanwhile, as evidenced by the seemingly endless parade of billboards along Connecticut interstates, the market is flooded with advertising — a practice that at one time was considered almost taboo in the profession. And misinformation, often spread by those who feel they’ve been wronged by the system, now spreads at lightning speed via social media, further muddying the landscape.

“It’s become even more important now to have someone who is a specialist working on your case because there are so many pitfalls,” Brian said, reflecting on the industry’s evolution. “For example, if you didn’t abide by Medicare’s rules, and Medicare figures out that you’ve done what you’re not supposed to, they can come back and seek penalties against the claimant, the insurance company, the employer and the attorneys. It’s a big deal.”

With more than 32 years of experience, Brian — who joined Goldberg Segalla’s Workers’ Compensation practice group in June 2023 — is more than just merely a specialist. He is one of only 48 workers’ comp attorneys in the state, out of a pool of several hundred, certified by Connecticut’s Workers Compensation Board.

That’s no small achievement. The certification process is a demanding one, and navigating it successfully reflects a substantive, in-depth knowledge of Workers’ Comp law. Not only must 25 percent of an attorney’s practice involve workers’ compensation cases, but one must also pass a rigorous written test, characterized by some as a mini-bar exam. And even after passing the exam, one must undergo continuing education requirements of 60 credits every five years to retain the distinction.

Brian has held certification since 2005, but his expertise in the field doesn’t end there. His practice also includes Alternative Dispute Resolution. Brian serves as a mediator for both workers’ compensation and general civil matters, and he’s conducted arbitration hearings in multiple matters involving motor vehicle accidents.

“It’s a totally different skillset,” Brian said in comparing ADR to trial. “During litigation, you’re trying to advocate for one side. You’re being aggressive and you have an outcome in mind. When you are a mediator, it’s really about knowing the law, knowing the issues and the parties, and personality. You really have to be able to talk to people.

“In mediation,” he added, “you may be dealing with a really disgruntled plaintiff and a lot of times lawyers agree to mediation because they’ve lost control of their client and so they’re looking for a mediator to kind of talk some sense into them. You really have to be able to talk to difficult people. And that’s not just on the plaintiff’s side. You can have an employer that’s dug in their heels. Or, you may have a lawyer doing the same thing. So, you really have to get parties who have come to the table with an agenda to kind of see things in a different light to get the case resolved, which is completely different than going to court and just arguing your position.”

While ADR is often a way to avoid the significant expense that comes with litigation, Brian said it can also reduce the emotional turmoil parties often experience while going through the process.

“Being involved in a workers’ comp case is very stressful for the injured worker. And more times than not, by the time you get a year into their case, they have a lot of animosity toward the insurance company. They have a lot of animosity toward their employer and animosity toward the process. As well-intentioned as the system is, it doesn’t always operate smoothly. So, the nice thing about ADR is you can say, ‘Listen, if this is successful you can put it all behind you. You can move on, you can get paid, and then you’ll have money to pay for your medical treatment, money to replace your lost wages, you can retrain and maybe you can start fresh.’ And that’s a big selling point to people.”

While those represented by Brian are served well by his depth of skill and experience, he said people benefit too from Goldberg Segalla’s unique client-focused approach, an aspect that factored into his own decision to join the firm after being in the profession for more than 30 years.

“The thing about Goldberg Segalla is, they want you to handle a file from start to finish. In our business that isn’t how things are normally done,” Brian said. “The way most firms work is, if I cover your case today in Hartford, then I keep the file until the next hearing when it is picked up from there by another attorney. And a lot of clients were used to that. But as we got younger and younger adjusters, and more sophisticated ones, they hated that process because they were like: ‘Who am I supposed to call? Who’s in charge of this file?’

“The GS model is: you take a file from start to finish; you handle fewer cases, but you know everything about a case you’re on. Clients love that. They absolutely love that. And we are constantly in communication with our clients about every development in their case and we listen to what they have to say. They look to us as the experts, but I think we do a really good job of listening to what their concerns are as they operate day-to-day and do business.”

Brian’s determination to advocate for his clients and streamline the entire process has underscored the firm’s commitment and breadth of experience in the Connecticut workers’ compensation field and demonstrates a deep understanding of the processes necessary to maximize efficiency and optimize outcomes.