Injured workers are better compensated when hiring an attorney rather than going it solo, but how expensive is legal representation, and does it negate the benefits?
Prior to hiring a lawyer, it might be wise to determine whether your claim has merit with a free case evaluation. If your injury is minor or temporary in nature, it’s likely unnecessary.
On the other hand, injuries that create prolonged absences from work absolutely are substantial and merit contacting a lawyer. Unfortunately, the thought of paying legal fees and the hassle of finding an attorney keeps many victims of injury from seeking an attorney, or delaying it until they figure it’s too late to try. But is it really that expensive, and how exactly are workers comp attorneys paid?
You can expect a workers comp lawyer to ask for around 15 to 25 percent. While this number might sound high to you, the reality is that having legal representation is likely to pay much greater dividends. Because they specialize in these types of claims, workers comp attorneys are better equipped to quickly and effectively handle your case.
Additionally, fees are generally charged from the settlement, and not your own funds. In other words, if you’re injured at work and don’t think you can afford an attorney, don’t worry—the settlement is likely to pay for everything, and then some.
What is a Contingent Fee?
It’s important to understand that with a contingent fee arrangement, your lawyer will only be paid if your case succeeds. This can provide great peace of mind, as the fees will be paid directly from settlement winnings. Depending on the arrangement, however, there may be some copy costs, filing fees, or other associated expenses, but you won’t have to worry about the primary cost of hiring a lawyer.
Montana Law on Contingent Fees
In Montana, while there is no statutory limitation on contingency fees, the amount will still be subject to court scrutiny. Information on the laws that govern your lawyer’s conduct and how they can charge fees are available on the official Montana State Website.
Depending on the state, the workers compensation agency may need to approve the lawyer’s fees. If your case takes place in Montana, you can expect this to happen. This is for your protection, and after approval, the lawyer will ask the judge for his or her authorization once the case is completed. Generally, it’s illegal for your lawyer to charge or accept any fees prior to agency approval.
Fees According to State
Every state is different, and has different laws governing how much a lawyer is able to charge. Since your case will likely take place in Montana, Montana laws will apply, and while fees are not legally capped, the responsibility is on the judge to approve your lawyer’s fee. Again, a typical fee is around 15 to 25 percent, but this is subject to judge approval. You should certainly feel free to discuss—and completely understand—all applicable fees with your lawyer, and ensure that it is in line with the average.
Determining Whether Fees are Appropriate
When the judge considers your lawyer’s proposed fees, the following considerations are generally made:
- The amount of time and effort required of your lawyer by the case
- Any applicable time restrictions
- How complex the case is
- The lawyer’s results
- How qualified your lawyer is
- How the proposed rate compares to your attorney’s peers
If these factors are all in line, the judge is likely to approve the proposed rate.
Other Cost Factors
How Far the Case Goes
These aren’t the only factors to consider, however. How far a case goes prior to settlement also matters. A case may be settled before an administrative hearing takes place, or after said hearing, and even during the trial itself. If necessary, a judge will make a final ruling.
The Insurer’s Role
If your workers compensation insurer approves routine benefits, like medical bills or lost wages, your lawyer can’t levy fees for obtaining them.
A lawyer may elect to ask the judge for the opposing side to pay some additional fees if there is any evidence of wrongdoing or misconduct. Additionally, if they decide to refuse to pay fees that have already been decided in your favor and awarded to you, that may also incur additional fees to offset the unnecessary delay.
If you have any questions feel free to reach out. Kalispell’s best personal injury & workers comp lawyer servicing all of Montana.