Navigating the workers’ compensation world can get a little confusing. That’s why it really helps to have someone in your corner who knows the ropes. However, many people hear the word “lawyer” and think “Well, that’s going to cost me a fortune.” And in some cases, that might be true, but not when it comes to hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer.
Why? A workers’ compensation lawyer generally works on contingency, meaning that they don’t receive payment unless you win your case. And when you do win? They cannot charge more than an agreed upon amount that the court must pre-approve. Plus, that fee has a maximum cap in each state.
In other words, when hiring an attorney, you will end up with fairly priced and highly motivated representation. And you won’t be robbed of your just rewards because the amount a workers’ compensation lawyer can request from your settlement is set.
How You Can Hire an Attorney for No Money Up-Front
As we mentioned above, in general a workers’ compensation lawyer will work on a contingency fee basis. If you’re seeking representation for a workers’ compensation case, this eliminates the need for substantial up-front payments. A contingency arrangement allows all injured workers, even those with limited financial resources, the chance to receive quality legal representation. It also provides a strong incentive for a workers’ compensation lawyer to obtain maximum benefits for their clients.
Since money is often tight for injured or ill workers, the ability to “hire” a workers’ compensation lawyer this way can make all the difference. Plus, research has shown that injured workers who retain lawyers consistently receive larger settlements — as much as 30% more! So, though you’ll give a percentage of your settlement to your lawyer, you’re still likely coming out ahead.
State Rules on Workers’ Compensation Maximum Legal Fees
The rules on what a workers’ compensation lawyer can charge vary from state to state. Typically, the maximum runs in the range of 10-20%, with an average being about 15% of your settlement. This will depend upon the complexity of your case as well as your state’s regulations.
For example, in Oklahoma, there is a maximum of 10% of any award for a temporary disability claim (like if you need time off to heal a hand broken at work). The cap is 20% of any award for permanent disability (like if your hand was accidentally cut off), or a contested death case. In neighboring Texas, however, the percentage fee for a workers’ compensation lawyer caps at 25%, so make sure you check your state’s maximum.
In all workers’ compensation lawyer scenarios, however, attorney fees are subject to court approval. The workers’ comp board in your state will decide if the fee requested by your lawyer is appropriate. This usually happens before you retain said attorney since most states recognize injured workers may not know what is reasonable. This is an added layer of protection for you such that you don’t get overcharged.
Keep in mind, however, you may also be responsible for additional expenses in preparing your case for settlement or trial. These might include fees for medical records, charges for independent physician examinations, or costs of filing depositions. Most lawyers will be willing to cover these charges as they come up and later deduct them from your settlement. But make sure your lawyer discloses any additional fees for you to approve before you sign a retainer.
Can I Negotiate with a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer for a Lower Rate?
Most workers’ compensation attorneys will quote your state’s maximum as their fee. However, there is nothing stopping you from asking for a better deal if you wish. Keep in mind, though, that you must do this before you sign any representation agreements.
Even if you don’t ask for a lower rate, however, know that you’re likely getting a fair deal with a workers’ compensation lawyer who works on contingency. And having an attorney on your side will make it more likely you get the benefits you deserve. Just be sure to consult one before you miss your state’s deadline to file a workers’ comp claim!
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Kimberly Dawn Neumann
Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a multi-published NYC-based magazine and book writer whose work has appeared in a wide variety of publications ranging from Forbes to Cosmopolitan. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland, College of Journalism. For more, visit: www.KDNeumann.com, Instagram @dancerscribe, and Twitter @KimberlyNeumann