One of the biggest advantages of hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer compared to a criminal defense lawyer or a family law attorney is that most work comp lawyers only charge you a fee if you win your case. There are specific reasons why the system operates this way, but clients like it because it gives them assurances that their attorney has the same interests as them, because the more you get paid, the more they get paid.
That being said, there’s more to workers’ compensation cases than filing a simple claim and getting an award. There are a number of fees and costs along the way, and you’re going to want to ensure you address how these fees will be handled with your lawyer prior to the case so there aren’t any surprises down the road. Today, we explain what expenses you might incur during your trial, and how to plan for them.
Hidden Costs During Work Comp Cases
Here are some examples of some types of fees you might run into during your workers’ compensation case:
- Filing Fees – Most states don’t have filing fees for the initial claim, but every state is different. In Minnesota, there is a $25 fee to file an appeal of a workers’ compensation decision.
- Records and Subpoena requests – You’ll need to have your medical records as part of your workers’ compensation case. Oftentimes there are some minor fees associated with requesting these records, and they typically run from $0.25 to $1 per page.
- Doctors’ Fees – We’re not talking about medical bills, rather, we’re talking about the cost of getting your doctor to testify on your behalf. Doctors are usually entitled to fees for the time they spend preparing for and giving their testimony. This usually runs between $300-$1,000 per hour based on their testimony and credentials.
- Postage and Copying costs – Workers’ compensation cases often involve a lot of paperwork and copies. There may be some small costs associated with making copies or mailing documents, and these can add up if you have a complex work comp case.
- Travel costs – If you’re hiring a lawyer from far away, they may mention that travel costs will be taken out of any award.
Avoiding Costly Surprises
The key to avoiding costly surprises is to discuss how these expenses will be handled with your attorney at the initial consultation. For example, some lawyers may request a small retainer to cover the cost of these expenses. Others realize that an injured worker may not be in the best position to pay these fees right now, so the lawyer will offer to pay for them with the promise of being reimbursed down the road.
If your lawyer will willing to cover the costs and then get reimbursed after your settlement, discuss the terms of the reimbursement. More specifically, will they be taken out before or after your lawyer takes his cut. This is important because it can affect your total payout.
For example, in Minnesota, a lawyer is entitled to 20 percent of the first $130,000 in awards, so a maximum of $26,000. Let’s say you’re awarded $100,000, and your lawyer paid $3,000 in fees on your behalf that he expects will be reimbursed. If the reimbursement comes before the lawyer’s fee, that means your lawyer will take 20 percent of $97,000, leaving you with $77,600. However, if the reimbursement comes out after the lawyer’s cut, the lawyer will take $20,000, leaving you with $80,000 before the $3,000 in expenses are accounted for, leaving you with $77,000. It’s only $600, but you can see how when reimbursement is calculated can affect your total payout. Ideally, expenses will be taken out before your lawyer takes their cut.
Finally, it’s also worth noting that although your lawyer doesn’t get paid unless you win your case in Minnesota, your contract may include language that requires you to reimburse them for certain expenses they pay on your behalf, even if you lose your case. Make sure you understand the contract prior to signing it, and if you have any questions about your work comp case, reach out to Dean Margolis today.
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