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How Much Do Workers' Comp Lawyers Charge

If you've been butting heads with your employer, your employer's workers' compensation insurer, or your doctors about your work-related injury, it may be time to interview a few workers' comp lawyers to find the right one for you. But you may be wondering if you can even afford one.

How much workers' comp lawyers charge may depend on several factors, including:

  • How the lawyers bill for their time
  • How much the lawyers charge
  • Whether you can get a quick resolution to your workers' comp claim
  • Whether you are able to collect benefits and the amount
  • The amount of legal expenses involved with negotiating a settlement or arguing your case before your state's workers' compensation administrative board

How lawyers bill for their time may have the single biggest impact on your legal bill. Workers' comp lawyers generally will charge either a contingency fee or an hourly rate. These are very different billing systems.

Workers' comp lawyers who ask for a contingency fee will take a percentage from your total settlement or financial award, plus expenses. If you recover no money, you do not owe the lawyer anything. (Most lawyers will waive the expenses if you do not receive any money.)

An hourly rate, also called an hourly fee, is just like it sounds: You pay the lawyer by the hour regardless of the outcome of your workers' compensation case.

Regardless of which method your attorney prefers, make sure you understand all the details about billing and what you will owe. If you want any changes to the billing arrangement, you must negotiate them before hiring the attorney, not after.

Workers' Comp Lawyers Who Work on Contingency

Many workers' comp lawyers prefer to work on contingency. That's because it offers you, the potential client, many advantages:

  • You don't have to pay any money up front
  • You pay nothing if your lawyer is unable to secure a financial settlement or award for you
  • Your attorney is financially motivated to obtain the highest monetary award possible

One disadvantage of hiring a lawyer on contingency is that if your claim is resolved quickly, you may feel that the lawyer did not earn his or her entire paycheck.

If you decide to go with a workers' comp lawyer who works on contingency, you may be able to negotiate some changes to the arrangement. You can ask for him or her to take a smaller share of any money you receive. You can also ask that the percentage be calculated from your net award (after the expenses have been deducted), not your gross award.

Finally, you can ask the lawyer to accept different percentages, depending on how long the claim takes to resolve. For example, you could pay a smaller percentage if you receive your benefits without having to go to the state's administrative board that oversees workers' compensation.

Hiring a Lawyer for an Hourly Rate

Although hourly fees are more common in certain areas of the law-such as divorce or business law-many workers' comp lawyers prefer to work on contingency. This is because many workers who are injured on the job need money while waiting for their benefits. Their injuries and disability may prevent them from providing for their family and the medical bills may be mounting.

If you do hire an attorney for an hourly rate, he or she will probably ask you to pay a retainer, which is an up-front fee similar to a deposit. You will then likely pay monthly legal bills. You will also be billed for other legal expenses, such as filing fees and photocopying costs.

If you are having a tough time finding an attorney who will take your case on contingency, it may mean your workers' comp claim is weak or would not generate enough money to make it worth the attorney's time. If you do decide to hire an attorney by the hour, make sure you get a clear, realistic assessment of your injury and claim.

The Cost of Hiring Workers' Comp Lawyers

When meeting with workers' comp lawyers, always get a detailed estimate of the cost to see your claim to resolution. Make sure you understand whether the attorney charges by the hour or will take the claim on contingency. Be clear about what you'll owe, if anything, if you are unsuccessful with your claim. Ask:

    About how much does the attorney believe you can get for your claim if it settles or if you have to go to an administrative hearing?

  • About how much you would have to pay in legal fees if your claim settles or goes to an administrative hearing?
  • About how much you would have to pay in legal expenses if your claim settles or goes to an administrative hearing?
  • About how much money would you take home after paying legal fees and expenses, if your case settles or goes to an administrative hearing?

Once you get the details on the billing arrangement, you'll have a much better understanding of how much it costs to hire a workers' comp lawyer.