Virginia Workers’ Comp Attorney Fees – Can I Afford a Workers Compensation Lawyer?
Attorneys like us who help accident and injury victims who become disabled sometimes get a bad reputation when it comes to attorney fees. Many employers, insurance companies, and doctors like to blame attorneys for driving up the cost of workers’ compensation insurance, auto insurance, and medical care. But that’s not true.
Here are the facts. Attorney fees in workers compensation cases are usually a small percentage of the overall amount of compensation an injured worker receives in medical treatment, wage loss benefits, and permanent disability benefits.
Attorney fees in Virginia workers compensation cases are regulated by the Workers’ Compensation Commission on a case by case basis. The Commission reviews, approves, and sets the fee charged by your lawyer based on the legal work completed, the quality of the legal work, and the recovery you obtained.
Attorney fees in workers compensation cases are contingent fees. This means you pay no fee unless you get awarded benefits or settle your workers compensation case. If you lose your case, you owe your attorney nothing.
The Attorney Fee Percentage Depends on the Workers Compensation Claim Type
Workers compensation attorney fees can be paid to your attorney at different stages during your case. They are only awarded if your attorney gets benefits moving. This means that your attorney may get a fee if he or she obtains ongoing weekly wage payments for you, secures retroactive wage loss benefits for time you were out of work, gets you permanent partial disability benefits for loss of use of the injured body part, or negotiates a settlement.
If you get a settlement or an award of total disability compensation, partial disability compensation, or permanent total disability benefits, my office gets 20% of the benefit amount. The 20% attorney fee is paid from your accrued benefits. If you do not have any accrued benefits, the Commission may order you or the employer to pay the attorney fee directly.
If you get an award of permanent partial disability benefits, my office gets 15% of the benefit amount.
In cases where we seek authorization and payment of medical care, I can request an attorney fee from the medical provider who benefits from performing the procedure or providing the medical treatment. For example, if I win your claim for a total knee replacement, the surgeon who performs the surgery will be paid by the workers’ compensation insurance carrier. The surgeon must then pay me a percentage of the cost of the procedure. The Commission’s authority for assessing an attorney’s fee against a health care provider is found in Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act Section 65.2-714.
If the employer or insurer defends your claim without reasonable grounds, or files an application to suspend benefits without reasonable grounds, the Commission may assess against the employer or insurer the cost of the legal proceedings, including a reasonable attorney’s fee. The Commission’s authority to assess fees against the employer and insurer is found in Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act Section 65.2-713.
Virginia has one of the lowest percentages for attorney fees in the country. Usually the Workers’ Compensation Commission awards 15% to 20% of the benefit amount, but sometimes there are no accrued benefits. This low attorney fee percentage is one reason that many personal injury lawyers do not handle workers comp claims.
As you can see the workers compensation attorney fee structure is different from that of most other lawsuits, where an attorney may charge you by the hour or demand at least 1/3 contingency fee on the overall settlement. Workers’ comp attorney fees are based on the actual monetary value of the benefits you receive. Your attorney does not receive a fee for the value of medical treatment you receive unless that treatment is disputed and he or she has to fight to get it approved.
Don’t let concern over how you’ll pay your workers compensation lawyer’s fee keep you from getting help from an experienced attorney. Because we work on a contingency fee basis, you’ll never have to pay a fee unless you get approved for benefits or settle your case. And all fees must be approved by the Workers’ Compensation Commission. This added protection ensures that you will never be taken advantage of.
Though there is no exact data available, overall workers comp attorney fees are just a fraction of what you may be able to receive in your workers’ comp case. Call or e-mail now for a free consultation.