If you’ve suffered an injury on the job, or have health complications due to your employer’s work environment, workers’ compensation is one of the best options available to you. Depending on the seriousness of your work-related injury, it’s possible you might not need an attorney to help you sort things out. However, if you’re dealing with long-term injuries, a dispute with your workers’ compensation insurer, or your employer, it might be time to hire an attorney.
Since the Boynton Act of 1913 in California, workers’ compensation has been available to U.S. citizens. Obviously, one of the first things you’ll want to consider is the cost. How much would a workers’ compensation lawyer bill for services? What should you expect? What happens if your case is unsuccessful?
Something to consider: the laws governing workers’ compensation vary by state and this will directly impact the money both you and your attorney might collect.
Following is a guide to help you get started.
When starting your search for an attorney, you should be aware of the costs involved. Most lawyers will provide a 30-minute consultation session to begin. As it relates to workers’ compensation, the most common fee structures are hourly and contingent.
With hourly, you will likely have to pay a retainer (essentially, a down payment) to get started and thereafter a monthly installment plan until your balance is paid. Other legal expenses, such as filing fees, photocopies, and other administrative costs might apply.
Conversely, a contingent fee doesn’t require any up front money. Your attorney will take the fee from the workers’ compensation award. If in fact, your case is unsuccessful, there are no costs to you. This means (at least in theory) that your workers’ compensation attorney should be motivated to help you win your case; the higher the award, the higher the percentage will be. Additionally, you can ask your lawyer to apply the minimum fee, which can be deducted from your net award (once all expenses have been taken out).
Depending on the state you reside in, the amount of fees your attorney can collect may vary. Here are some common examples from across the U.S.
In California, your attorney can take a fee of either 10, 12, or 15 percent. The judge makes the final determination. Your attorney’s fee will depend upon how much work was spent on your case and its complexity.
In New York, your attorney’s fee is decided by the judge. If your case is unsuccessful, it’s possible that you could be responsible for paying the filing fee and other legal costs.
In Washington, D.C., your attorney cannot collect a fee unless your case is successful. You pay nothing out of the pocket. If successful, your attorney can collect up to 20 percent of your claim.
In Texas, your attorney can collect up to 25 percent of your claim, but there’s a difference: the fees are collected from your employers’ workers’ compensation insurance carries. The fee must be approved by the Division of Workers Compensation.
In Michigan, the attorney collects 15 percent of the first $25,000 and 10 percent on anything else that’s left.
In Florida, your attorney’s fees are broken up into several possible tiers. They can collect 20 percent of the first $5,000 collected, followed by 15 percent of the $5,000. Anything above this can range from an additional 5-10 percent of the benefit reward.
It can be a web of confusion trying to find the best solution to a legal problem. Avvo has many resources if you have additional questions regarding workers’ compensation and the attorney fees associated with it.