Attorney Fees in Washington Workers Compensation Cases
Attorney fees are an important consideration when looking for legal help. Let’s talk about attorney fees right now.
Do I Want an Attorney? Do I Need an Attorney?
These are important questions. Answer them by looking at the facts of your L&I claim. Look also at the medical and vocational opinions in your claim file. Think about how much money is at stake? Can you can afford to lose it? How much experience do you have with L&I claims? Do you understand the law? Do you have the evidence you need to prove your case and make it a winner? Is your case good enough that a lawyer will take it?
Not sure? Call us for a free consultation and strategy session. 206-343-1988.
Can I Afford an Attorney? What are Lawyer Fees Going to Cost Me?
Contingent legal fees mean that you do not have to pay attorney fees up front. It also means that if you don’t win your case, you don’t pay any attorney fees at all. If you win your case then you pay a percentage of the recovery. With a contingent fee, you can afford a good lawyer.
L&I attorney fees at our law firm and most workers compensation firms are based on a contingent fee agreement. Lawyers offer to handle an L&I claim on a contingent basis when they believe in the case and the client. At the Sharpe Law Firm, we only take cases for clients we believe in. We offer contingent legal fees.
If and when you get paid, attorney fees are a percentage of the money the attorney recovers for you. If you are offered a contingent fee agreement it will be in writing, read it. No matter how much you trust your new lawyer be sure to carefully read any fee agreement put in front of you. Ask questions. Know what the deal is. It’s the smart thing to do.
How do a Contingent Fee Agreements Work?
A contingent fee means you only pay a legal fee if you win. And then only out of the money your lawyer recovers for you.
Why Would a Client Want a Contingent Fee Agreement?
- Contingent legal fees provide access to justice. Persons who can’t afford or don’t want to pay attorney hourly fees up front can still get first rate legal help. The contingent legal fee opens the courthouse doors to all persons with a good legal case. If you are offered a contingent fee agreement, then your lawyer believes he can win your case.
- Injured persons have suffered a loss before they ever needed an attorney. Paying a lawyer up front feels like losing twice. Nobody wants to do that. Injured persons with a strong case but limited funds need to get legal help. The contingent fee agreement allows that.
Why Would a Lawyer Agree to a Contingent Fee?
Dentists don’t do that. Doctors don’t do that. You’ll never find a doctor who gets paid only if the surgery is successful. Why would an attorney agree get paid only if he wins?
- It provides access to justice. Contingent fee agreements allow deserving clients to get a fair legal result without the risk of losing both the case and the fees.
- Keeping track of time in a case is distracting and a waste of time for the lawyer.
- Contingent agreements motivate the lawyer. Everybody loves a winner, and lawyers are no exception. They will be motivated to work smart and get that win.
- Contingent fee agreements encourage the lawyer to only take cases he believes he can win.
Contingent Fee Agreements Work
- They work for the client if a lawyer will take their case
- They work for the lawyer when they win
- Contingent Legal Fees level the playing field. They allow injured workers access to good lawyers
Limits on Attorney Fees. Average Attorney Fees in L&I Cases
There are legal limits on attorney fees in L&I cases. Attorney fees either before L&I or at the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals are limited in three ways; by statute, by reasonableness, and by best practices.
- Statutory attorney fees. By statute L&I attorney fees are limited to 30% of the increase in award secured by attorney services. RCW 51.52.120
- Reasonableness. Pursuant to the statute and the Washington State Bar Association, attorney fees must be reasonable.
- Best Practices. Attorney’s informally set additional limits on their own fees based on what they believe is fair. For example for time loss benefits secured by attorney services, 30% of past due time loss and 15% of ongoing time loss is considered fair by most attorneys. However, 30% of ongoing time loss is probably not fair in most cases. Have a discussion with your attorney. If your current attorney or the attorney you are thinking of hiring charges you too much, say something.
Case costs are different than attorney fees. Case costs are expenses incurred in the handling of your case. For example, an injury case needs medical records. We order your medical records, we review the records, and we use these records as part of your case; we do not charge for that. The doctor however charges for a copy of the records, that charge is a case cost. The client is responsible to eventually pay this case cost.
Some lawyers want clients to pay costs in advance, some want costs paid as the case proceeds, and some will advance costs until the end of the case when money is awarded. At the Sharpe Law Firm, we are successful recovering money for the client in almost every case. If we advance costs for our clients, we are repaid out of the money we make L&I pay you.
If you hire a lawyer, the fee agreement presented to you will provide the specifics about attorney fees and case costs. Read it with care. Ask questions. Know your rights.
Information and Referrals
Information for free. This information on this website is provided as a free service, so you can make informed choices about your L&I claim. If you contact us, we will do our best to answer your initial phone or e-mail questions about your injury claims, at no charge to you.
Referrals. Christopher Sharpe is the “of counsel” attorney at the Walthew Law Firm. He often refers clients needing active L&I legal assistance to the partners and associates at the Walthew Law Firm