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Can work comp judge lower my lawyer fee of 35% i signed for it was desperate for help saw most lawyers get 10 to 15%

Davenport, IA |

there is settlement offer of 100,000 i owe him 2000 in fees so far i went first lawyer i went to he took advantage i feel after said and done i would only get 63000

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Attorney answers 5


As a general rule, a judge cannot rewrite a contract for an attorney fee percentage (or anything else).

The wild card here is whether or not attorney's fees are regulated in your state, or whether your Industrial Commission has to approve the fee and has a customary amount it approves. Here in my state, our Commission by custom will not approve a fee of 35%, even though a fee in that amount is technically lawful.

This answer is intended as general information and not as specific legal advice. If you want to have a free consultation with me, please contact me through AVVO.

Peter Leehey

Peter Leehey


In Iowa, the Commission must approve any workers' compensation settlement, but most settlements in Iowa do not require the Commission to approve the attorney fee. There is no predetermined amount that an Iowa lawyer may not exceed.


Have you discussed your attorney fee issue with your own lawyer? Does Iowa law permit a 35% fee for a workers compensation case?

If yes, why would a judge interfere with an agreement you voluntarily (being desperate hurts your argument because it implies that your case is one which the 10 or 15% lawyers may not have wanted to accept) entered into with your lawyer? Is that not "unthinkable"?

Maybe the lawyers who charge 10 or 15% are recovering less for their clients as settlements?

Not legal advice / No lawyer/client relationship.

V. Jonas Urba

V. Jonas Urba


Iowa Code section 86.39 provides that all fees or claims for legal (and certain other services rendered in workers’ compensation litigation) are subject to the approval of this agency. It is appropriate in this case to award Attorney Drew the fee he earned: one third of the monies received (or to be received) as a result of Attorney Drew’s representation. Claimant will receive $65,932.00 as the result of Attorney Drew. Attorney fees equaling $21,977.33 plus unpaid expenses of $160.09 for a total of $22,137.42 are therefore awarded. (GOOCH was the claimant).


The Judge is probably the only one who can disapprove the fee request.

I represent Employers, but I can recommend Worker Attorneys in So Cal if you ask.


It is unlikely a workers' compensation judge is going to interfere with the attorney fee contract you signed. 35% might be slightly higher than the industry norm, but there may have been special circumstances about your case that justified a slightly higher fee. You yourself state that you were "desperate" when you signed the contract, which tells me that you were having a hard time finding a lawyer. I can tell you you are wrong when you say that most lawyers charge a contingency fee in the range of 10 to 15%.


All fees or claims for legal, medical, hospital and, in death cases, burial services, at the agency level in Iowa, are subject to the approval of the Iowa Workers' Compensation Commissioner. That said, I do agree with Peter on all points. If this was a disputed claim, and the attorney charging you the 35% got you this $100,000 offer, the fee will probably be approved as having been well earned. Also, I know of no one in Iowa charging 10-15% for such a case.
If, on the other hand, all you were looking for was someone to draw up a settlement already offered to you, and accepted by you, you should consult other counsel.
Whatever you do, be sure to give anyone you consult all the details.

WARNING: These answers concern Iowa law only, and should not be construed nor relied upon as reflecting the law in other States, nor as giving legal advice. You are warned that circumstances often vary greatly and that, due to changing decisions and law, the answers to these questions may change over time and not be current, and you should consult an attorney in any specific case, and NOT rely on these questions and answers as giving anything other than general information.

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