Ever wondered why you can’t go to just any lawyer no matter what type of legal issue you have? You’re not alone. It might be confusing to understand, for example, exactly what the difference is between a workers’ comp lawyer vs. a personal injury attorney. Or why one or the other can’t handle any claim from injured people, no matter how they got hurt.
Because the law is such a vast subject, you want someone who understands how local and state statutes may apply. So, you want someone with plenty of experience settling claims that most closely resemble your own. To better understand that you must know some basic differences between these two types of claims.
The first difference is that workers’ comp attorneys handle claims and appeals, not lawsuits. Second, a workers’ comp claim does not pay out based on finding someone or something liable for injuring you. Instead, the only determination is that your injury happened at work while doing your job.
By contrast, an injury attorney typically files a lawsuit. Successful injury claims mean a court can rule that another party is responsible for the harm you suffered. In other words, another person or entity’s direct actions or negligence directly injured you.
Comparing Injury Attorney vs. Workers’ Comp Lawyer Fees
If an injury case is different from a workers’ comp claim, you might also guess they’ll each charge different fees. But exactly how much will either one cost you?
The amount an injury lawyer will charge can vary. Typically, injury attorneys accept cases on a contingency basis. This means that you pay nothing up front and the lawyer only makes money once you win your case. How much money they make depends on the fee agreement you sign before they agree to represent you. However, nationwide, the usual fee amount is 30% of your cash award. The firm also agrees to cover any costs required to file and manage your case until it’s resolved. Unlike the attorney’s fee, you’re responsible for paying for things like court filing costs, regardless of the outcome.
Important: You won’t owe income taxes if an injury attorney gets you a cash settlement.
A workers’ comp attorney’s fee is often quite a bit less, depending on which state you live in. Like an injury lawyer, you only pay the workers’ comp attorney only after your claim is successful. You’ll also pay no out-of-pocket fees to start, but the fee percentage you pay varies by state. Under your state’s law, a workers’ comp attorney must disclose their fee (typically the highest percentage your state will allow) before they agree to accept your case. What’s more, your state’s government must also approve that fee before the attorney receives any payments. On average, workers’ comp attorneys charge 10%-20% of your award payout.
Important: Texas allows workers’ comp lawyers to charge up to 25% — but most states cap them at 10%, 15%, or 20%.
No Injury Attorney Will Accept Your Workers’ Comp Case
What happens if you approach an experienced, successful personal injury attorney and ask for help with your workers’ comp case?
That attorney will say no. This is because personal injury law is completely different from workers’ compensation as a practice area.
The most common personal injury cases an injury attorney will accept include:
- Dog bites
- Medical malpractice
- Slip and fall injuries
- Product liability cases (i.e., you bought something defective that hurt you)
The intricacies and complexity of personal injury cases mean that successful attorneys are completely devoted to that practice. In other words, an injury attorney is an expert at that specific subset of your state’s laws, not workers’ comp.
Similarly, experienced, successful workers’ comp attorneys are experts in handling only those types of claims. They understand the process for filing initial claims and handling appeals. Finally, workers’ comp attorneys usually get their clients 30% more money than those who file claims without using a lawyer.
Injury Attorney = Lawsuit; Workers’ Comp Lawyer = No Lawsuit
As mentioned above, workers’ comp claims never ask the question of who caused your injury accident at work. State laws require employers to carry this insurance policy to provide no-fault benefits to eligible injured workers.
Workers’ comp awards are set amounts that cover either your medical bills alone, or in some cases, partial lost wages. In other words, you cannot get pain and suffering money from filing a workers’ comp claim.
A personal injury lawsuit can include both real and punitive damages. Your injury attorney will negotiate these amounts based on how severe your injury is and how it affects you financially.
What if you want to sue your former employer? There are instances in which you can sue your employer even if you receive workers’ comp, but it’s extremely rare. In most cases, state law says you give up your right to sue the moment you accept workers’ comp benefits.
How to Get a Free Claim Review from the Right Lawyer Near You
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Lisa Allen is a writer and editor who lives in suburban Kansas City. She holds MFAs in Creative Nonfiction and Poetry, both from the Solstice Low-Residency Program in Creative Writing at Pine Manor College. Prior to becoming a writer, Lisa worked as a paralegal, where she specialized in real estate in and around Chicago.