If you're thinking about hiring a workers compensation attorney because you have been injured while working, it's a good idea to fully understand just what the costs will be. As with other types of personal injury cases, lawyers handling worker's compensation cases usually charge based on a contingency fee. This means that if the lawyer is successful and you win, he or she will be paid based on a percentage of your settlement or benefits. On the other hand, if you don't win there is no fee. One of the benefits of eliminating any upfront or guaranteed payments is that it will allow injured workers with limited financial means to still hire a qualified lawyer. It also gives the lawyer excellent motivation to get you the maximum possible benefits. Here is some more information on the cost.
Workers Compensation Lawyer Fees
All states have in place a fee cap of some sort that limits how much a lawyer can charge in a workers compensation case. This is usually no more than about 20% of any settlement amount. Moreover, whatever fees are charged must first be approved by an appeals board or a workers compensation judge before your lawyer will be able to collect any part of the fee. However, states generally also take into account the complexity of the case and its difficulty when deciding how high a percentage a lawyer can charge.
Charges for Matters Not in Dispute
In most states, lawyers are prohibited from charging for obtaining benefits that were not in dispute, such as lost wages or medical bills. In those instances where an insurer or your employer has engaged in unnecessary delays or outrageous conduct, your lawyer can ask the court to demand that the opposing party pay an additional sum as a penalty or as a way to cover all of the lawyer fees. Although unusual, such penalties are not subject to the same percentage caps that apply to the rest of the settlement.
Charges for Case Related Expenses
While law firms will usually pay all of the upfront court costs, you will be expected to repay these expenditures if you win the case. These expenses are not covered as a part of the percentage the lawyer receives. They are instead an additional legal fee you will have to pay. Below is a list of some of the most common expenses you might be charged for:
- Obtaining medical records
- Independent physician examinations
- Deposition costs
- Lawyer travel expenses
- Costs for copying, postage and filing court documents
Make sure that you examine the expense agreement and understand what you will be charged for. Ask if the lawyer can provide you with a rough estimate based on an average case. Keep in mind that some law firms will charge for these types of expenses even if you don't win your case.