When determining whether to hire a lawyer to represent you in your workers’ compensation claim, you should consider hiring an attorney as an investment to ensure you receive the maximum workers’ compensation benefits that you are eligible for. Often, you will receive greater benefits, even after paying the attorney’s fees, than if you choose not to retain an attorney, simply because the attorney understands and can navigate the workers’ compensation system in your state.
If your injuries are relatively small and temporary, hiring a worker's comp lawyer may not be essential. However, if your injuries are significant, your recovery time lengthy, you are unable to return to work, or you are permanently impaired, then an attorney may be well worth the costs involved. (Learn more about when you should hire a workers' comp lawyer and when it's not necessary.)
A contingent fee arrangement means that the attorney will take a percentage of the amount of workers' comp benefits you receive if you win. (The percentage that a workers' comp lawyer can charge on contingency varies by state, but ranges from about 10% to 35%--see below.) Typically, the attorney does not receive any payment until you win your case. If your lawyer does not successfully win your case for you, your lawyer does not receive any compensation. However, your attorney may require you pay the amount of costs involved with the representation, such as filing fees, copy costs, and other charges.
Attorney Fee Amounts Vary by State
The amount that an attorney can receive for representing you varies by state, and is usually governed by state laws or regulations. In most states, the attorney will represent you on a contingent basis.
In New York, for example, a workers’ compensation judge is responsible to set the attorney fee to be awarded to your attorney. The amount of the attorney fees will be deducted from the benefits you are found entitled to receive at the time your attorney wins your case. If your attorney is unsuccessful in securing additional workers’ compensation benefits for you, you may be responsible for paying the costs associated with the legal services. This includes filing fees, copy costs, and other charges. You and your attorney should agree at the time you retain your attorney regarding the types and/or amount of costs you will pay.
In contrast, in Texas, your attorney is paid by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier out of the income benefits you receive. The amount of attorney fees must be approved by the Division of Workers’ Compensation, and are determined by the attorney’s time and expenses. Once the Division approves the attorney’s fees, the insurance carrier is ordered by the Division to deduct the fee amount from your benefits, up to 25% of your recovery amount.
In California a judge can approve a fee of 10%, 12%, or 15%, depending on the complexity of the case.
In Florida, fees are 20% of the first $5,000 of workers' comp benefits, 15% of the next $5,000, and 5-10% of the reminder, depending on how much time the lawyer spent on the case.
Most workers’ compensation lawyers will offer a free initial consultation, usually around 30 minutes, to discuss your case and whether you need an attorney. In some states, like California, the initial consultation must be free. Your attorney should explain during this consultation how the attorney will be paid if you choose to hire the attorney. While you should be able to get a consultation for no cost, don't expect to get a workers' comp lawyer to represent you for free, as in other fields of the law. Read more in our article on whether it's possible to get a workers' comp lawyer for free.