How Does A Workers Comp Lawyer Get Paid?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions posed on the internet regarding workers compensation cases in Massachusetts. Fortunately, the answer to this question is relatively simple, and, in most cases, the injured workers does not pay anything out of pocket.
The attorney’s fees in workers compensation cases are located at M.G.L. Chapter 152, Section 13A. Most of the fees payable to an employee’s attorney are known as the “statutory fees.” These are fees that are generated when a workers comp claim becomes active in litigation at the Department of Industrial Accidents. Litigation can arise from an employee’s attorney filing a claim on behalf of the injured employee. Or, in the alternative, an insurer may initiate litigation by filing their own complaint for discontinuance or modification of an employee’s benefits.
The point is, when a case becomes active like this, an attorney’s fee may become due. However, in these instances, the Insurance company pays the attorney’s fee. It is not paid by the Employee.
For example, let’s say a worker sustains an injury and is forced to go out of work. Very often, the workers comp insurer will deny the case from the outset. This forces the injured worker to hire an attorney, who must then file a claim for benefits at the Department of Industrial Accidents. If benefits are later paid by the Insurance company (either be agreement, a Judge’s Conference Order, or a Judge’s Hearing Decision), an attorney’s fee will become due. In these instances, the Insurance company, in addition to being ordered to pay the injured worker’s benefits, will also be ordered to pay a fee to the employee’s attorney.
The other main way an employee’s attorney will get paid is upon a settlement of the claim. Settlements can arise in a variety of situations. If the case settles, the employee’s attorney will take a fee as a percentage of the settlement. Section 13A provides that the attorney’s fee on settlements where liability is established to be no more than 20%. On settlements where liability is not established, the attorney’s fee is to be no more than 15%.
Section 13A(10) also provides that “…attorneys’ fees specified in this section shall be the only fees payable for any services provided to employee’s under this chapter unless otherwise provided by an arbitration agreement pursuant to section ten B.”
Section 13A(10) also provides that a portion of the Employee’s benefits (if paid pursuant to a Judge’s Order or an agreement) can be reduced up to 22% for the first month of benefits to make up a portion of the attorney’s fee. This is a little known section that isn’t invoked very often. However, it is important to note that the section does exist, and can result in a reduction of benefits for the first 30 days.
If you have sustained a work related injury and hire an attorney, it is essential that the attorney be an experienced Massachusetts Workers Comp Lawyer, who is familiar with the attorneys’ fees specified in Chapter 152.
At Troupe Law Office, we have over 50 years of experience solely in the representation of injured workers and their families. Please visit our web site for more information. Or, call us at (978) 531-7401. We offer free consultations for all cases.