How Much Will It Cost To Hire a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer?

Understanding lawyer costs in workers’ comp cases

By Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on January 29, 2023

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If you have been injured at work and need to file a workers’ compensation claim, you may be wondering if you should hire a workers’ compensation lawyer. 

Aren’t lawyers expensive? Can you even afford a lawyer? Will a lawyer make a difference in your case? 

In many workers’ comp cases, hiring a lawyer is essential to get the best settlement.  

“Getting an attorney puts the injured worker on equal footing with their employer and the insurance company,” says Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney Alfred J. Carlson. An experienced attorney will fight for the best outcome on your behalf. 

And when it comes to the cost of having a worker’s comp lawyer, most work on a contingency fee basis, meaning the lawyer only gets paid if you win your workers’ comp claim. Generally, there are no upfront costs to getting a workers’ comp lawyer.  

The contingency fee is a percentage of the money you win in your case. For workers’ comp, contingency fees are commonly ten to 25 percent of the settlement, although the amount can be higher depending on case complexity and state law. This means you won’t be paying a lawyer an exorbitant amount. 

When Should You Hire a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer? 

Nearly every state has workers’ compensation laws designed to financially assist workers who were injured on the job. Typically, workers’ comp benefits cover medical bills and lost wages. Settlements can be paid out in a lump sum or in smaller payments depending on the injured worker’s needs. 

An important feature of workers’ comp is that it’s a no-fault system. Injured workers don’t have to prove their employer was at fault for their injuries. They just have to show that their injury occurred while working for the employer. 

When an employee gets injured, the employer’s insurance company will investigate and determine if the employee has a compensable claim.  

State law sets the timeframe for these investigations. Generally, they last anywhere from a couple of weeks to a month. The workers’ compensation insurance company will interview the injured worker, as well as coworkers who witnessed the workplace accident and the employer. The insurance company will also examine the injured worker’s medical records and other information to assess the claim.  

At the investigation’s conclusion, the insurance company either approves or denies the workers’ claim. In most states, workers have a process for appealing a denial

How Can a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Help You with a Workers’ Comp Settlement? 

Some workers’ comp claims can be handled without a lawyer. For example, getting a lawyer is probably unnecessary if your injury is minor (a sprained ankle) and you’re only out of work for a few days.  

However, there are many situations when hiring a lawyer can make a huge difference in getting a fair workers’ comp settlement: 

  • If your injuries require significant medical attention  
  • If you are out of work for weeks or months due to injuries 
  • If you have a temporary or permanent disability resulting from your injuries  
  • If there are delays or disputes over your workers’ comp payments 

The workers’ comp process can be complicated, and injured employees who don’t have an attorney are often at a disadvantage against their employer or insurance company.  

“I think every employee should consult an attorney when they get injured at work,” says Carlson. “The laws with respect to workers’ compensation can be very complex. It’s important that an injured worker understands their rights as well as their responsibilities if they’ve suffered a work-related injury,” he says.  

How Much Do Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Cost to Hire? 

But even if it’s good to have a lawyer, what about the cost?  

Fortunately, most workers’ comp lawyers are required by state law to work on a contingency fee basis. A contingency fee means the lawyer is paid only if you win your case.  

“Workers’ compensation attorneys typically handle cases on a contingency fee basis,” says Carlson. “By statute in Pennsylvania, the contingency fee is 20 percent of any settlement or award of workers’ compensation benefits.” 

The benefit of a contingency fee is the injured worker “[gets] legal representation without having to pay out of pocket. If it’s a minor injury and the employee goes back to work, or the claim doesn’t involve any litigation, then the injured employee doesn’t have to pay the attorney anything,” he says. 

States differ on the contingency fee percentage. When you meet with a lawyer, ask what the percentage is in your state. But say you live in a state like Pennsylvania, where the fee is 20 percent of your settlement. In that case, if your settlement is $20,000, you will pay the lawyer $4,000 at the end of the process. 

Questions for a Workers’ Comp Attorney 

Having an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can make a big difference in your case.  

In addition to charging no upfront legal costs, many workers’ comp attorneys provide free consultations to learn about your case. These initial consultations let you get legal advice and decide if the attorney or law firm meets your needs. 

To get the most out of a consultation, ask informed questions such as: 

  • Do you charge your attorneys’ fees on a contingency basis? 
  • What percentage of my settlement will be taken out for your contingency fee? 
  • What filing fees or other legal fees will be involved in bringing a claim? 
  • What will my workers’ comp settlement be worth? 
  • How do we file a workers’ comp claim in my state? 
  • How long do I have to file a claim? 

Once you have met with a workers’ comp lawyer and received answers to your questions, you can begin an attorney-client relationship. 

Look for a workers’ compensation attorney in the Super Lawyers directory to help with workers’ comp issues.

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