If you’re injured or get sick on the job, a workers’ comp lawyer can get the maximum benefits you deserve. You shouldn’t have to worry about fighting your employer or the insurance company while you’re busy healing. Unfortunately, many injured workers believe they cannot afford an attorney. For anyone worried about paying high legal fees, we’ll explain how the process works to clear up any confusion.
States actually regulate workers’ comp legal fees to make sure they’re never too high. These laws protect injured or ill employees from paying more than the state thinks is reasonable.
Laws do vary by state, so read on for examples showing how these regulations typically work.
State Laws Protect Workers’ Comp Claimants From Being Overcharged
First, the workers’ comp board in your state decides whether or not your lawyer’s requested fee is reasonable. This protects you before you agree to retain that attorney’s services. The state understands that most people won’t necessarily know what’s reasonable in terms of legal fees for workers’ comp cases. In many areas, that board must sign off on your lawyer’s proposed fee agreement before accepting your case.
How State Rules Limit Legal Fees For Injured Workers
Just as workers’ compensation program guidelines vary by state, so do rules for legal fees. Again, these rules are in place to protect you — the person who got sick or injured in the workplace. Each state sets its own guidelines for how much a workers’ compensation lawyer can charge each client.
Most states have a maximum cap on how much each lawyer can charge for winning cases. This amount is generally 10-25% of your final award.
And there’s another layer in place to protect claimants: Attorneys must submit all legal fees to the state workers’ compensation board for approval. That’s true for every workers’ comp case they accept, so there’s no way your lawyer’s fees can escape scrutiny.
For example: In Pennsylvania, workers’ comp attorneys can’t charge more than 20% in legal fees. Plus, the state’s board must approve your fee agreement and final fee amount before you pay a dime. Another PA state law can compel employers to pay workers’ comp attorney fees for eligible claimants. Under the Pennsylvania Heart and Lung Act, employers must cover attorney’s fees for injured police officers and firemen who win their workers’ comp cases.
Should You Try to Negotiate a Lower Lawyer Fee?
There’s nothing to stop you from asking your lawyer to accept a lower payment than the state’s maximum amount. You just have to make sure you do this before you sign a fee agreement. Most lawyers have standard legal fees set in advance, but it doesn’t hurt to ask if there’s any wiggle room.
Keep in mind that workers’ comp attorneys generally offer contingency-based representation. In other words, they can only charge clients for cases that win benefits. This “no win, no pay” fee structure motivates them to only accept clients they believe have winnable cases.
Related: When Do You Actually Need a Workers Comp Attorney?
Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls, The Secret Ingredient, and Littler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at lauraschaeferwriter.com and linkedin.com.