When you get hurt on the job, you are no longer an employee; you are now an opposing party in a legal matter. This can make for a tough workday. What’s worse, your employer may require you see their doctor. This person is supposed to be a physician who is looking out for your interests and treating you for your injuries. But you know better. This doctor most likely receives a lot of business from your employer or other companies. This means he or she has an unfortunate incentive to not work for you.
Chances are good if you have done your homework on the web, you know there are a lot of attorneys ready and willing to take a new case, but can you afford to hire one? Who do you hire? How on earth do you choose? First, it helps to understand how workers’ compensation lawyers charge for their services.
How Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Are Paid
Many workers’ compensation lawyers work on a contingency basis. This means their fee (or payment) is based on whether or not they succeed at representing you and obtaining the recovery you need. These charges can seem high at first, but it is important to note that with a contingent fee, the lawyer takes all the risk. If they lose, they collect nothing for all their time. If they win, they get paid.
Other workers’ compensation attorneys will charge an hourly rate. This is less common for workers’ compensation attorneys, but there are some who still do it this way. There can be benefits to this type of representation, and in some cases clients actually prefer it. With this type of payment, the lawyer charges an initial deposit (“retainer”), which they hold in a separate bank account called a “trust” account. As the lawyer does work, a bill is generated. The money held in the trust account is then used to pay the lawyer as the work is completed. One obvious downside of this type of agreement is that you may end up spending more than your case is even worth. Further, workers’ compensation cases can be costly to file and litigate, and when you are out of work and hurting financially, it can be very difficult to come up with large fees upfront.
How Much Should I Expect to Pay?
This is a very difficult question, because it depends on so many factors. This is similar to asking how much an expensive car is. The answer depends on which car and what you consider expensive. However, there are some basic things to consider:
- If the lawyer charges a contingent fee, what is the percentage charged?
- Is your lawyer advancing costs upfront so you do not have to pay them?
- Can your lawyer use his knowledge and experience to leverage your case and get it resolved quickly without lengthy and protracted litigation?
What Is the Typical Contingent Fee Charged in Georgia?
According to Board Rule 108, a Georgia workers’ compensation lawyer can charge up to 25 percent of the total weekly benefits recovered, provided there is no board hearing required. However, this number goes up as workload increases. According to the rule, once your lawyer has to engage in significant work toward preparing for a hearing, such as issuing or responding to discovery, then he may charge up to 30 percent of weekly benefits recovered. Finally, if a board hearing is required, the fee can go up to as much as 33.33 percent.
What Is a Board Hearing?
A hearing is much like a court appearance, only instead of the typical image of a judge on a bench with a black robe, you go before an administrative judge who works for the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Commission. His or her job is to adjudicate your claim. Simply put, this “ALJ”(Administrative Law Judge) is charged with hearing the evidence and making a determination. This is a formal process without a jury and can feel less formal than court. However, it is absolutely every bit as important to your case. You should take it seriously and treat it like just like you would any other court matter.
Should I Hire a Lawyer to Represent Me at the Hearing?
Yes. Just like you would not go to court to represent yourself in a major lawsuit, you should never represent yourself in front of the board. An experienced attorney who focuses his or her practice on workers’ compensation is in the best position to understand the complex rules that apply to getting you the best deal possible. Often, but not always, your lawyer can negotiate an early deal with the insurance company, which allows you to get paid sooner and with less hassles. This may even mean avoiding the hearing altogether. Insurance companies and large employers know who the best lawyers are. They know the lawyers who routinely make them pay. You have the best chance of success if you hire this type of lawyer from the start. If you are injured on the job or are expected to attend a board hearing in Atlanta, contact Bader Scott Injury Lawyers right away to protect your rights.