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How Much Does a Workers' Compensation Attorney Charge

If you're having a tough time getting workers' compensation benefits from your employer to cover the medical costs of your work-related injury, it may be time to call a workers' compensation attorney. But if you've never had the need to hire an attorney before, you may be concerned about how much it will cost.

The cost of hiring a workers' compensation attorney is influenced by several factors, including:

  • How the lawyer bills for his or her time
  • How much the lawyer charges
  • How long it takes to resolve a workers' comp claim
  • Whether you receive workers' compensation benefits and how much
  • The amount of legal expenses your attorney incurs while negotiating a settlement or arguing your case before your state's workers' compensation administrative board

Perhaps the factor most important to determining how much you will pay your lawyer is his or her billing method. Most workers' compensation attorneys will charge either a contingency fee or an hourly rate. The two methods couldn't be more different.

Under a contingency billing method, you usually do not pay any money up front but give a percentage of your settlement or financial award-plus legal expenses-to your lawyer as payment. If you do not collect any money, your lawyer receives nothing. And most lawyers who work on contingency will also waive any legal expenses should you not receive any compensation.

Lawyers who charges an hourly rate, also referred to as an hourly fee, send you a bill for their hour billing rate multiplied by the number of hours they worked on your workers' compensation case, plus any legal expenses connected to your case. You must pay this bill whether you are successful in your claim or not.

But whichever way you are billed, make sure you understand the details up front. If there are changes you would like to make in the billing arrangement, negotiate these details before you hire an attorney, not after.

Hiring a Workers' Compensation Attorney on Contingency

Many workers' compensation attorneys prefer to work on contingency, because it offers a number of advantages to their clients:

  • You don't owe any money initially, freeing up funds to help cover medical and living expenses while sorting out workers' comp benefits
  • If the lawyer is unsuccessful, you owe nothing, making it a very attractive arrangement
  • Because they share in the case's outcome, the lawyers are motivated to extract the biggest financial award they can

A disadvantage to paying a lawyer on contingency is that should your case resolve quickly, you may believe your lawyer earned too much for too little work.

If you decide to hire a workers' compensation attorney on contingency, you can try to negotiate several points in the agreement. You can ask the lawyer to take a smaller percentage of any money you receive. You can ask that the lawyer's share be calculated from the net proceeds (after paying the related legal expenses), not the gross.

You can also ask for a graduated pay scale, meaning the lawyer takes less money if you are able to get a quick resolution, more if he or she has to represent you at an administrative hearing to secure your workers' compensation benefits, even more if you file appeals.

Hiring a Lawyer for an Hourly Rate

Many lawyers who practice in other areas of the law-such as estate planning or corporate law-charge by the hour. This billing practice is used less frequently by workers' compensation attorneys.

If you do hire a lawyer at an hourly rate, he or she will probably ask you to pay a retainer,or deposit. You would then most likely make monthly payments after that.

You would also be responsible for other legal expenses, such as the hourly rate for a paralegal's service and photocopying costs.

If you are having a hard time finding a lawyer to take your case on contingency, that may be a sign your claim is not strong enough or not worth much money. Before you hire an attorney who charges by the hour, ask for a complete assessment of your case.

Also, make sure you understand how costly it will get if you have to take your claim to an administrative board. You'll want to understand the costs before making a hiring decision.

The Cost of Hiring Workers' Compensation Attorneys

When interviewing workers' compensation attorneys, ask for a detailed cost estimate before you decide which one to hire. You'll want to know which fee arrangement the attorney uses. If it is a contingency fee, know what percentage of your benefits the lawyer will receive. If it's by the hour, you'll need to know what the hourly rate is.

You should also learn:

  • How much the attorney thinks your case is worth
  • Approximately how much you would pay in legal fees if the case settles or goes to an administrative hearing
  • Approximately how much you would pay in other legal expenses if the case settles or goes to an administrative hearing
  • How much money you'd receive after deducting legal fees and expenses, either with a settlement or after an administrative hearing

The answers to these questions will give you a much better understanding of how much it costs to hire a workers' compensation attorney.