When you have a workers’ compensation claim, getting help from a lawyer is the best way to make certain that you get the full benefits you deserve under state law. The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission controls and limits the amount of attorney’s fees in a workers’ compensation case, to ensure that injured workers can access legal representation and that the fee system is fair to injured workers.
Basics Facts About Attorney’s Fees in Virginia Workers’ Compensation Cases
The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission reviews, approves, and sets all attorney’s fees charged in every workers’ compensation case. Generally, your lawyer’s fees are based on the legal work completed and the amount of compensation recovered for the injured worker. While you enter into a fee agreement with your attorney at the beginning of representation, the Commission still must approve the fees.
Attorney’s fees are typically awarded in three situations. First, attorney’s fees are awarded by the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission when your attorney resolves a contested issue in your favor. These attorney’s fees could result from the insurance company agreeing to accept your case as compensable, or if a Claim for Benefits has been filed and is resolved in your favor, whether by agreement of the defendants or a hearing at the Commission that your attorney wins. The fees awarded to your attorney are at the discretion of the Commission, but are usually based on the benefits received by the injured worker and the amount of work your attorney had to perform for you to receive the benefits.
In addition, your attorney receives a fee if they obtain an award for permanent partial impairment to one of your injured body parts. The Virginia legislature has limited the body parts that can be awarded permanent impairment. One important body part that cannot receive permanent impairment in Virginia, but does in many other states, is your back. However, if your back pain is causing radiating pain and weakness into one or both of your legs you may be entitled to a permanent impairment rating to your leg(s).
Lastly, your attorney will be awarded an attorney’s fee if they are able to reach a settlement with the workers’ compensation insurance company. Typically, your attorney receives a percentage of the total settlement amount. Your attorney is not entitled to a fee for any amount set aside in a Medicare Set-Aside, which is intended to protect Medicare’s interest in paying for your future medical treatment needed as a result of your accident.
In most cases, workers’ compensation attorneys charge a contingent fee, which means you do not pay any fees unless the lawyer recovers compensation for you. It also means that you pay no fees up front. Contingent fee arrangements, like all attorney’s fees in a workers’ comp case, are subject to Commission review. After Commission approval, the fee is deducted from the compensation paid by the insurance company following resolution of the case through settlement or Commission decision.
A contingent fee arrangement provides that the lawyer receives a percentage of the amount of your settlement or award. In Virginia, the maximum allowable contingent fee for attorney’s fees in a workers’ compensation case is 20 percent. In some cases, additional attorney’s fees awarded earlier in the case may be added to the 20% amount. The Commission has authority to award less than the maximum allowable percent, even if there is a signed fee agreement in place.
When payment for medical treatment is disputed and awarded to the worker, state law provides that your attorney can request a fee from the health care provider who receives the payment. The Commission has authority to assess attorney’s fees against a health care provider in these circumstances. As such, the health care provider pays the attorney’s fee, not the injured worker.
Other Legal Expenses and Costs in a Workers’ Compensation Case
In addition to attorney’s fees, other expenses may be involved in a workers’ compensation case. These other costs vary, depending on whether there are disputed issues and what those issues are, the nature of the injury, and the stage at which the case is finally resolved.
Some of the expenses are related to developing medical evidence, such as obtaining supportive opinions from medical professionals, who are compensated for their expertise and time providing reports and testifying, if necessary. If a hearing takes place, there also may be additional fees associated with the proceeding. Your attorney may incur additional costs in hiring court reporters for depositions and deposition transcripts and for retaining experts if they are necessary in your case.
Your attorney may pay for other costs as they arise, and then deduct those expenses from the settlement or award that you receive, providing an itemized account of all the additional costs. The attorney’s contingent fee is calculated on the settlement or award amount after costs are deducted.
Discussing Attorney’s Fees with Your Lawyer
Attorney’s fees should be discussed in your first meeting with a workers’ compensation attorney. At Renfro & Renfro, your initial consultation and case evaluation are free of charge and without obligation. In that discussion, we explain our contingent fee arrangement for attorney’s fees in a workers’ compensation case, as well as what other expenses and costs may be involved and how we handle them.
Our goal is to minimize the financial stress during the claim process. You pay us nothing unless we recover compensation for you through settlement or an award from the Commission. If we recover payment for medical expenses, we receive our fee from the health care provider, so that amount is not covered by the contingent fee agreement. In all cases, the Commission must approve our fees either as part of the settlement terms or following an award order.
We always welcome questions about our fees for representing you in a workers’ compensation case. We also make certain that you fully understand the fee agreement before you sign it. And we welcome any questions you have about fees and costs throughout the process.
If you are considering talking with us about your workers’ compensation case, we invite you to read about whether you need an attorney and how the workers’ compensation process works. We also provide helpful answers to some frequently asked questions about workers’ compensation. Finally, you can also learn what our clients have to say about us.
Schedule a Free Consultation with Our Virginia Workers’ Compensation Attorneys
If you received an injury at work, our experienced Virginia workers’ compensation attorneys at Renfro & Renfro are here to help. We welcome you to call us at (804) 601-4433 or to contact us for a free consultation.