Attorneys for a 42-year-old Connecticut man recently made the case for legal representation in a workers’ compensation matter when they obtained a $105,000 settlement for the food delivery employee, after an initial demand of $177,500 and a settlement offer of $95,000 from the insurance company.
Workers’ compensation was established to protect both the employer and the employee and to eliminate the need for litigation, but injured employees need to understand that a workers’ compensation attorney will not only protect their legal rights, but could also help them recover a more substantial settlement than what might be determined by the workers’ compensation system alone.
A worker who was injured on the job will typically file a workers’ compensation case without legal representation, particularly if their injuries are minor and temporary in nature, although there are times when it might be in the employee’s best interests to seek legal representation. But before they do so, it is important to understand the costs involved when retaining a workers’ compensation attorney.
Legal Fees in Workers’ Compensation Cases
When an injured worker hires an attorney to represent him in his workers’ compensation case, the lawyer will usually take the case on a contingency basis, meaning that the worker won’t be required to pay anything out of pocket at the onset of the case. Instead, the attorney will receive a percentage of the settlement, the amount depending upon state laws and the complexity of the case.
By eliminating the need to pay a large upfront retainer, such contingency fee arrangements allow all injured workers, including those with limited financial resources, to obtain legal representation. Contingency fee arrangements also provide an incentive for workers’ compensation attorneys to pursue maximum benefits for their clients. Generally, a workers’ compensation case that settles prior to an administrative hearing will require a lower percentage fee than one that requires a hearing or a trial in circuit court.
Workers’ Compensation Regulated by the States
State laws regulate the fees attorneys may charge in workers’ compensation cases, and these regulations vary from state to state. States often cap the amount an attorney can charge and also require that fees be approved by the workers compensation judge or appeals board before the attorney is paid. These laws vary substantially:
- A California workers’ compensation judge is free to approve a fee of between nine and 15 percent, depending on the complexity of the case.
- Florida workers’ compensation attorney fees are set at 20 percent of the first $5,000 of workers’ compensation benefits, 15 percent for the next $5,000, and five to 10 percent of the remainder, depending upon the time the attorney spent on the case.
- In Texas, an attorney is paid by the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier, the percentage is are determined according to the attorney’s time and expenses and must be approved by the Division of Workers’ Compensation. Once the attorney’s fees are approved, the insurance carrier is ordered to deduct the fee amount from the injured worker’s benefits, up to 25 percent of the recovery amount.
Many states prohibit attorneys from charging fees for obtaining routine benefits for their clients, such as compensation for undisputed medical bills and lost wages, but may allow attorneys to petition the judge to order the employer or insurer to pay additional fees in certain circumstances, such as when benefits have been unnecessarily delayed or denied after they have been awarded. Percentage caps do not usually apply to these sanctions or penalties because they aren’t considered part of the injured worker’s compensation award.
Other Out-of-Pocket Costs
In addition to attorney fees, injured workers may be required to pay other out-of-pocket costs for:
- Court filing fees
- Copies of medical records and billings
- Fees for independent medical examinations
- Deposition costs
- Attorney travel expenses
- Postage and copying fees
These costs are typically not covered by the standard contingency fee agreement, and most law firms will cover these expenses as they arise, but the client will need to reimburse the firm for these costs if they are granted an award.
If you were injured on the job and have questions about retaining an attorney to represent you in a workers’ compensation claim, or need more details about the costs involved, contact DDB Law or call 863-213-1608 to schedule your free initial consultation today.