One of their biggest concerns an injured worker has is can I afford a workers compensation attorney or not.
First, all attorneys that I know who do workers compensation offer an initial free consultation. I go a step further and offer a free strategic plan after our first meeting. So it’s in your best interest to always at least meet with an attorney to know what your rights and obligations are under the laws of workers compensation.
Secondly, the workers compensation Commission is in charge of attorney fees as, well as everything else related to a work injury. They have rules for attorney fees. The Commission is in charge of setting these fees as a way to protect the injured worker from having to pay any outrageous fees for legal services. This is a good principle but it makes explaining attorney fees to my clients more complicated. I would prefer being able to give exact numbers that my clients could depend upon.
Generally, if we win, the attorney fee is taken out of the back pay that you are owed and maybe a small portion out of your future weekly checks. Rarely will the insurance company have to pay your attorney fees. You will be responsible, win or lose, at a hearing.
At my office, initial consultations and what I call management, maintaining a file, and being proactive to make sure everything is going right in your case, doesn’t cost anything.
There are, however, a few situations that will trigger an attorney fee. One would be if something in your claim gets contested and you have to go to a hearing. At that time, the Commission will award an attorney fee, and the fee varies. So I can’t even tell you what the Commission would award. It could be as little as $300 or as high as several thousand dollars.
It might be a bit more if you win, or a bit less if you lose. I can give you a better estimate based upon the specifics of your case but it will still be an estimate.
If you would receive a benefit of $300 for mileage reimbursement and the attorney fee would be $500, I am telling you how to go do it yourself because from a financial point of view you lose even if we will win at the hearing.
If we are going for lifetime lost wage benefits that will give you $300,000 in future benefits, even a $10,000 attorney fee would be worth it if you are guaranteed to win.
Another situation that will trigger an attorney fee is obtaining an Award Order. In uncontested matters, the Commission usually awards an attorney fee of $400 to $500.
Usually, the attorney fee is deducted from your weekly check at about $25 a week. An attorney fee is also triggered if I help you to settle your case.
Usually, the Commission awards an attorney fee of 20% of the settlement.
Bottom line, I am saying that hiring an attorney is not expensive because you would need to trust me or the attorney that you hire to pursue only benefits that would be financially worth the cost to you and if it would not be, to tell you not to pursue it.
About the Author: Michele Lewane
The Injured Workers Law Firm is a Richmond, Virginia based firm solely focused on serving clients with workers' compensation claims in Virginia. If you have questions about your benefits or if you would like more information on the Virginia workers’ compensation system, order our book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia” , or call our office today (804) 755-7755.