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How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Workers’ Compensation Attorney

May 2, 2013 by James Gardner

At some point in your workers’ compensation claim, you may find yourself realizing that you need the help of a lawyer. It’s understandable. Navigating your way through a workers’ comp claim can be a frustrating and confusing process. Hiring an attorney who knows their way around the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) can not only ease the process, a good lawyer can ensure that you receive all benefits to which you are entitled.

The problem though, with mounting medical bills and possible lost wages due to a workplace injury, many people feel that they can’t afford the added expense of a workers’ compensation attorney.

How Much Do Lawyers Charge? Lawyers typically bill their clients either one of two ways—hourly or on a contingency basis. Hourly rates usually start at around $150 per hour and can go up depending on the practice and the lawyer’s specialty. This means that every time the lawyer talks to their client on the phone, files documents, writes letters or attends hearings or anything else on the client’s behalf, he is on the clock and the client is being billed.

Attorneys who work on a contingency basis take their fee out of any award or accrued benefits the client receives from the case. If the lawyer fails to help the client, the client doesn’t pay anything.

Advantages of Contingency vs. Hourly Fees One of the biggest advantages of working with an attorney on a contingency basis is that you pay no out-of-pocket attorney fees (medical records and other documents sometimes require a fee). The attorney doesn’t get paid unless you get paid. The fees are generated from either awards or accrued benefits.

An attorney working on a contingency will review your case free of charge and provide advice on the next steps without any cost to you. If they feel you don’t have a case or they can’t help, they will tell you straight out.

An attorney working on an hourly basis will be paid either way, regardless of what happens in the case. If you lose the claim, you still will still need to pay the lawyer’s bill.

Most workers’ compensation attorneys who represent injured workers work on a contingency basis.

But I Need All of my Wages When hiring a workers compensation attorney on a contingency basis it is important to know that the attorney fee should only come from accrued benefits. This means the attorney fees come only out of any award he directly helped you receive.

For example, if you are currently receiving payments for lost wages (temporary total) those payments will not be considered in the attorney fees. However, the attorney will often find that you are being paid at the wrong rate and will be able to get that rate increased. The attorney fees would come out of any difference between the rate you were being paid and the increase he was able to obtain. If the attorney helps you receive both lost wages and also ongoing wages, he will take his fee only out of the back wages he helped you recover and only if those back wages were awarded due to actions on his part.

Chances are, you did not even know you were entitled to this money and would not have received it without the help of an attorney.

This is where the power of a lawyer working on your side can really help. An attorney can often uncover benefits which you are owed which you didn’t even know about. Yes, you may have to pay a percentage of those benefits to your attorney but they are benefits you would never have received without an attorney.

A Real Life Example—The Win Win Situation Consider a workplace injury that prevents the injured worker from returning to her previous job. Along with mounting doctors bills there is a loss of income. The injured worker was diagnosed by the BWC doctor, accepted his findings and is receiving lost wages—a percentage of what they earned before the injury.

Now that the injury prevents her from returning to her old job, a job she truly enjoyed, she needs to return to school to learn a new career. She is also experiencing complications which she thinks may be related to the original injury resulting in more doctors bills. She doesn’t know what to do so she calls an attorney.

The attorney arranges for another doctor to examine the original injury and in doing so, finds that the injury was more extensive than originally diagnosed. Also, the attorney looks into her case and finds that when determining lost wages they failed to account for a significant annual bonus she received prior to her injury.

The attorney goes before the Industrial Commission with his findings and helps his client receive medical coverage for extended injuries which were not originally diagnosed along with back wages which she was owed due to the miscalculation in prior income . Finally, the attorney files for a permanent partial disability award and the injured worker receives an award over and above her lost wages.

On her own, the injured worker didn’t even know her lost wages had been miscalculated not to mention the other benefits she was owed. The lawyer takes his fee from a percentage of these earnings which the injured worker would never have received without his help.

The injured worker gets the benefits she is entitled to, as well as, proper diagnosis and treatment which enables her to return to her normal life before the injury. The lawyer is paid for his services. Both are happy.

So What are You Waiting For? If you have suffered a workplace injury that has affected your ability to work, resulted in lost wages or has changed your quality of life, you should talk to a workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the better chance you have of making a mistake that can affect your claim (ie. missed deadline, FROI-1 not properly filed).

A good workers’ compensation attorney will review your case free of charge and let you know what to do next. If he takes your case, you will only pay from the benefits he helps you receive. If you don’t have a case or he can’t help you receive workers’ compensation benefits, you pay nothing. There is no risk to you, the injured worker.

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