People call me every day to consult about their workplace injury claim. Some of them are looking for representation. Almost always, attorney fees are a concern. The purpose of this article is to explain all L&I attorney fee considerations and costs.
Do I need an attorney after an injury at work?
Many work injury claimants can manage their claim on their own. Some people call it the “DIY” method. If you have an L&I claim, you don’t always need a workers’ compensation attorney. Moreover, the same applies to self-insured employer claims. Many people, especially with simple claims, can manage themselves just fine.
The Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) oversees all work injury claims in Washington State. Certain times, there are situations where you want to involve an L&I attorney. For example, when you have a claim appeal at the Board of Appeals. There are other cases where it’s best to have an attorney for your L&I claim. For instance, if your claim is complex, it’s probably best to let an attorney manage the claim.
Workers’ comp attorney fees are not like others
Many workers assume that L&I attorney fees are similar to other areas of law. If you ever dealt with other attorneys, then you probably know how they work. First, they charge you an initial retainer fee. Then, they bill a certain dollar amount for each hour of work. That’s not how it works with workers’ compensation attorneys.
Here, in Washington State, we have the Industrial Insurance Act. Under the act, work injury attorneys must work on a contingent fee basis. This means we get paid from the benefits we secure for our clients. In fact, we cannot charge on an hourly basis. It’s not allowed.
L&I attorney fee – Maximum limits
By law, an L&I attorney can charge a reasonable contingent fee. In general, the fee cannot be more than 30% of the L&I benefits that we secure. For structured settlements or CRSA, the L&I settlement fee is 15%.
Some claimants think that if they win their case, then the other side will pay their workers’ comp attorney fee. That’s not true for board appeals. It’s also incorrect for benefits at the Department level. However, most workers’ compensation attorneys charge less than 30%. It mostly depends on the amount of work it takes to secure the benefits. In other words, if less work is required, then the fee percentage gets lower.
Cost of L&I claim appeal
Appeal costs are different from attorney fees. Overall, costs refer to the money you need to win a board appeal. To win, you must meet the burden of proof. Here, costs come from things like ordering medical records and paying court reporters. On top, you must pay expert witnesses for their time. Good witnesses spend time preparing and then giving a thorough testimony. Win or lose, these costs are the responsibility of the work injury claimant.
Workers’ compensation and free consultation
A workers’ compensation claim can be very complex. Furthermore, hiring an attorney is not an easy decision. Therefore, it’s important to think and decide if hiring a workers’ compensation attorney makes sense for your case. That’s why most L&I attorneys offer free consultation. During the consultation, the attorney can explain your situation. A good L&I lawyer will help you figure out if hiring an attorney is the right thing to do.
It’s important to have a candid and genuine conversation with the attorney during a consultation. It’ll help you make a fair assessment about your claim. Personally, I’m always happy to help work injury claimants understand all their options. Many times, I tell people they don’t need an attorney and I explain why. However, if you think you need L&I claim help, feel free to give my office a call. Let’s chat and make sure you’re on the right track.