Look at your fee agreement with the attorney, but typically once the fee is approved by a Workers' Compensation Judge the attorney will receive a 20% fee on both weekly or biweekly installments and a final settlement, if there is one. Some cases can go on for years and the attorney receives 20% of the weekly or biweekly checks. Some cases never settle. If you have questions about the fee, you should feel comfortable sitting down with your attorney to discuss them.
You should read the terms of your Fee Agreement with your attorney. Usually, when there is a hearing the attorney will submit the fee agreement to the Workers Compensation Judge, who will approve the fee agreement as being reasonable and Order that 20% of your compensation benefits be deducted and paid directly to your attorney. If there is not (or never has been) a petition pending before a WCJ, the attorney would have to petition the Workers Comp Appeal Board for approval of counsel fees.
The rationale for an ongoing fee is quite simple, however, either your attorney has done something to get you benefits awarded; or is in the process of defending a petition seeking to terminate, modify or suspend your benefits which is the basis for payment. He will then be entitled to 20% of the settlement as well, or whatever terms your fee agreement provide.
Francis J. Lafferty, IV, Esquire Helping injured workers throughout Pennsylvania. firstname.lastname@example.org www.norlaflaw.com DISCLAIMER: This post is intended as general information applicable only to the state of Pennsylvania and is personal in nature, not professional in nature. The information given is based strictly upon the facts provided. This post is not intended to create an attorney client relationship, or to provide any specific guarantee of confidentiality.
It is not at all unusual for a workers' compensation attorney to collect a fee outside of a lump sum settlement. But, as indicated above, be guided by the fee agreement that you signed.
I would agree with Levi and Francis. This is a conversation that you should have had with your lawyer when you signed the fee agreement or when your attorney asked the Judge to approve it. Keep in mind, that your claim is just that, i.e. your claim. It is not your family member's claim. They may have had a claim in another state or just "forgot" that they had been paying a fee prior to resolving their claim. Regardless, best of luck to you!
This is a completely acceptable practice. The exception would be if the case was never litigated. I would not be surprised if your family members workers' compensation claims were not litigated before they were settled in which case the attorney very well may have monitored the file without a fee pending settlement. However, the situation you describe is normal procedure in workers' compensation matters.
Timothy D. Belt, Esquire Helping injured workers in Northeast Pennsylvania. email@example.com www.belt-law.com DISCLAIMER: This post is intended as general information applicable only to the state of Pennsylvania. The information given is based strictly upon the facts provided. This post is not intended to create an attorney client relationship, or to provide any specific guarantee of confidentiality.
While I agree with my colleauges, it is not clear from your question how your attorney is being paid his fee. If his fee has been approved by the workers' compensation authorities and is being paid by the insurance company, then the fee is appropriate. If you are paying the fee directly, then it is contrary the WC Act and you should stop making the payments and consider requesting a refund. I have run into such direct payment arrangements (client to lawyer) before, and they are almost always contrary to the law.
This answer to your legal inquiry is based upon the limited facts stated in your question. Accurate legal advice is based upon an exchange between a lawyer and a client. The lawyer can then ask about other facts that may change or confirm the answer. Without that exchange, this reply should be considered limited in value. You should rely on this answer only at your own risk. Direct consultation with a lawyer is always recommended. Answering your question does not create an attorney-client relationship. The answering attorney is licensed in Pennsylvania and all answers are given pursuant to Pennsylvania law, unless otherwise indicated.