How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Work Comp Attorney?

10.14.2019 Written by: Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd.

Wayne J. Studer

How can I afford a Work Comp Attorney?

Injured workers in Minnesota should not worry about being able to afford to hire a work comp attorney. When I meet with new clients, people typically ask how much it costs to hire a work comp attorney.

All Work Comp attorneys in the State of Minnesota must abide by the rules for attorneys fees set forth in Minnesota Statute § 176.081.

  • Work Comp attorneys do not require payment of a retainer, or money down to a lawyer from which attorneys bill their hourly time.
  • Work Comp attorneys are paid on a contingency fee basis. A percentage of indemnity benefits (wage loss or permanent partial disability benefits) “won” are deducted and paid directly to the claimant’s attorney.
  • If the work comp attorney does not recovery any money on your behalf, he or she does not get paid.
  • If there is not a genuine dispute, then no attorney fees are payable. Attorneys fees are not paid when insurers or self-insured employers pay without a disagreement.
  • For injuries sustained between October 1, 1992 and September 30, 2013, contingency fees are 25% of the first $4,000 of compensation awarded and 20% of the next $60,000 in awarded benefits. For example, if someone is awarded $15,000 in benefits, an attorney receives $1,000 of the first $4,000, then $2,200 of the next $11,000, for a total of $3,200 in attorneys fees.
  • For injuries sustained on or after October 1, 2013, contingency fees are 20% of the first $130,000 of compensation benefits awarded to the employee. Using the same example, if someone is awarded $15,000 in benefits, an attorney will receive $3,000 in fees.
  • The maximum fees for injuries between October 1, 1992 to September 30, 2013 is $13,000 per date of injury.
  • For injuries on or after October 1, 2013, the maximum fee is $26,000 per date of injury.
  • Employees are not charged hourly for phone calls or in-person meetings with work comp attorneys. Attorney fees are a straight percentage of awarded compensation.

What if the Insurance Company Disputes my Medical Bills, not my Wage Loss?

There are other types of attorneys fees that are not paid out of employee’s benefits. For example, if an employee has a medical only dispute (an insurer refuses to pay for surgery), an attorney will still be able to be paid for his or her time.

Roraff attorney fees are hourly fees paid by the employer and insurer, not the employee. Roraff attorney fees are specific to disputes over medical benefits. Roraff attorneys fees may be paid in addition to contingency fees.

Heaton attorney fees are also paid by the employer and insurer and are paid when vocational rehabilitation benefits are disputed. For example, if a self-insured employer or an insurance company disputes that an employee is entitled to a Qualified Rehabilitation Consultant or a QRC or retraining benefits, then an attorney may claim Heaton attorney fees on an hourly basis.

Minnesota Statute § 176.191 Attorneys Fees, are fees payable to an employee’s attorney when the dispute is over which employer or insurer is liable to pay for employee benefits, when more than one may be responsible. For example, if an employee has multiple back injuries at two different employers and eventually requires surgery, the employers and insurers may dispute what entity must pay for the surgery or percentage of the costs.

Can I Make the Insurance Company Pay for My Attorneys Fees?

The short answer is no. Contingency fees are taken from the employee benefits and are not paid in addition to employee wage loss or indemnity benefits. Employees may be entitled to “Subdivision 7 fees.” If an employee’s claim is successfully resolved, an employer and insurer must reimburse the injured worker 30% of the attorney fees awarded over $250. Most employer and insurers require this amount to be waived if a claim settles before a formal hearing. So generally, these are only payable after a successfully litigated formal hearing in front of a judge.

Can Work Comp Attorneys Claim More than $13,000 or $26,000 in Contingency Fees?

Yes, a work comp attorney may claim more than the $13,000 or $26,000 maximum fee amount under Minnesota Statute § 176.081. If the contingency does not adequately compensate an attorney for the amount of time spent in representing an employee, then the work comp attorney may petition the court for “Excess” or Irwin fees. The work comp attorney must demonstrate why the additional fees should be awarded. Employees are not under any legal or moral obligation to pay legal fees in excess of the maximum fees.

Mary Beth Boyce, Work Comp Attorney with Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd

Because all work comp attorneys are paid the same in the State of Minnesota, injured workers may hire a knowledgeable experienced work comp attorney without fear of being able to pay. If you are injured, contact Mary Beth Boyce at (763) 560-5700 at Henningons & Snoxell, Ltd. for a free no obligation consultation.

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