Can I Get a Lawyer for Free in a Workers' Comp Case?

If you win your workers' comp case, you'll almost always have to pay your lawyer a small percentage of the permanent disability award you receive from the insurance company.

By , Attorney · UC Law San Francisco
Updated 4/03/2024

If you need a lawyer to help you with your workers' comp case, you may be able to find one at a legal aid office, but you will still likely have to pay the standard workers' comp fees in your state.

Some legal aid offices don't handle workers' comp cases, because the rules regarding workers' comp attorneys' fees make hiring a lawyer affordable for most people.

Other legal aid offices, as well as some law schools, may offer injured worker clinics where you can get your questions answered for free, but the lawyer or law students won't be able to help you with your case.

Are Workers' Comp Attorneys Expensive?

In all states, lawyers are limited to getting 10% to 20% of the cash benefits a worker wins in a workers' comp settlement or court award. And, if the worker doesn't win benefits, the lawyer doesn't get paid. To further protect injured workers, the workers' comp division, appeals board, or a judge must approve the attorneys' fee as reasonable before the lawyer gets paid.

In fact, because of these stringent rules, it can sometimes be hard to find a workers' comp attorney to take your case if the amount of permanent disability benefits you stand to receive is low or if you're just seeking reimbursement of medical costs from the insurance company.

A workers' comp attorney has to take on a lot of cases with potential for winning a high amount of benefits to be able to make a good living.

For more information, see our article on how much workers' compensation lawyers charge.

Why You Should Hire a Workers' Comp Applicants' Attorney

It's better to pay more for an attorney with a lot of experience in workers' comp cases than less for an attorney at a legal aid office without much experience. The field of workers' comp, and especially calculating what an injured worker's compensation should be, is very complicated and takes years of experience to learn.

The workers' comp settlement or award that an experienced workers' comp lawyer is usually able to win for you is almost always higher than what an injured worker can negotiate or win on their own, and usually more than makes up for the attorney's fee.

When you contact potential lawyers, ask them if they are a specialist in workers' comp or a member of their state bar's workers' comp division.

How Out-of-Pocket Costs Are Handled

Your workers' comp attorney will incur out-of-pocket costs associated with your case. Such expenses might include paying for the copying and mailing of your medical and work records, or even arranging for a physical or psychological examination.

Often a workers' comp attorney will cover these costs up front and ask you to reimburse him or her when you win your case, or sometimes even if you don't.

But some attorneys ask you to cover these costs in advance. If you pay in advance, the lawyer has to hold the money in trust until it is used.

Before you hire a workers' comp lawyer, ask what types of out-of-pocket expenses you'll be charged in addition to the lawyer's fee (especially whether you'll be charged for the attorney's travel costs), how much these expenses might be, and whether you have to pay them if you lose the case. Try to negotiate an agreement where you don't have to pay the charges if you lose your case.

Free Consultation With a Workers' Comp Attorney

In most states, if you meet or talk with a workers' compensation lawyer to discuss your case, your initial consultation must be free. Try speaking to a few attorneys to assess whether they have the skills and experience you're looking for, and make sure you understand all the fees involved before signing a representation agreement.

Talk to a Lawyer

Need professional help? Start here.

How it Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you
Make the Most of Your Claim

Get the compensation you deserve.

We've helped 265 clients find attorneys today.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you