Attorney’s Fees in North Carolina and Virginia Workers’ Compensation Cases

Posted on Friday, July 22nd, 2016 at 2:00 pm    

The legal fees in North Carolina work injury cases are regulated by state law. All legal fees must be approved by the North Carolina Industrial Commission or Virginia Workers Compensation Commission. Most attorneys such as Joe Miller Esq. handle workers’ compensation cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that the injured client may only owe minimal fees in the earlier stages of the case, unless and until the case is settled. When cases settle and an Order is entered, the employer or the insurance company is ordered to pay the injured worker a specific lump sum to the attorney.

Insofar as the earlier fees, there are no ‘up front’ or retainer fees on workers comp cases.

After the attorney has performed some work on the case, or in Virginia, after obtaining an Award for the client, whether by agreement or otherwise, the Commission will typically Award a small fee such as $500.00 or $1000.00 to the attorney. The money is not taken out of the client’s money all at once, but the Comp Carrier will typically agree to pay the attorney between $25.00 and $100.00 per week out of the claimant’s comp check, taking into account the amount of each week’s check.

In North Carolina, if the attorney wins some kind of significant Motion on behalf of the client, the Industrial Commission will typically Award the attorney every 4th Comp Check (25%). Most of the time in North Carolina cases, this does not occur. The only fees ultimately paid relate to settlement.

The advantages of hiring an experienced North Carolina or Virginia work injury lawyer are many. Attorney Joe Miller has helped thousands of injured workers get strong recoveries. He has been fighting for injured workers for over 25 years. His experience and tough advocacy helps clients demand all the benefits the law allows.

The benefits include more than just obtaining your weekly compensation checks. They include payment for all types of medical bills such as hospital bills, doctor visits, medical devices and medications. Injured workers may also be entitled to vocational rehabilitation, travel expenses, and other benefits. Most importantly, a skilled lawyer fights to get the right classification of injuries for the workers. An experienced lawyer also works with your medical team when the employer tries to force the worker back to work too soon.

Common legal charges

The main legal expense is the overall contingency fee. There are also some other expenses that the lawyer may be allowed. The common legal fees are:

  • The Final Contingency Fee at Settlement. The main legal expense for the injured worker is the contingency fee. For example, the lawyer and client may sign an agreement that the attorney is entitled to twenty five or twenty percent of any recovery. If there is an overall full and final settlement of past and future comp payments plus a medical settlement, then they attorney gets one lump sum payment which is deducted from the settlement. North Carolina generally will authorize 25% of the recovery for legal fees. In Virginia, the amount is typically 20% of the recovery.

 

The 25% or 20% fee applies to even the most experienced lawyers. So, there is no real advantage in hiring a new or less skilled lawyer to get lower fees. Because the fees are capped at these amounts, injured workers should look to hire the experienced and highly skilled lawyers for their case.

 

The percentage does not apply to payment for past expenses such as medical bills. These are usually not part of the contingency fee and doctors and hospitals are normally paid directly by the employer without the lawyer getting a percentage of the medical bill; however, in Virginia, (not North Carolina), in a denied claim, your attorney may enter into a separate fee agreement with your medical providers to obtain a contingency fee once the providers are paid by the workers comp insurance company. That fee will not affect your fee agreement between you and your attorney.

 

The Smaller Early Attorney fee Awards in Virginia. In Virginia, if the attorney is able to secure an Award for the client, either through a hearing or Agreement, the Commission will typically Award the attorney a small fee, usually between $500 and $1000.00 It will usually only be larger if the Award results in the worker receiving a large lump sum of back pay owed. In that case, the Award may equal up to 20% of the back pay Awarded. If there is no back pay Award to draw from, the fee is not taken all at once, but satisfied through weekly payments deducted from the worker’s ongoing workers comp checks. The amount paid each week to the lawyer is adjusted based on what the worker can best afford.

 

Medical records. While the workers’ compensation lawyer is generally not paid a percentage of the medical bill, the attorney is entitled to be reimbursed for the cost of obtaining medical records and reports. In most workers compensation cases, the workers’ compensation lawyer will advance the funds to get the medical records and reports from the doctors who are treating the injured worker. The records are basically the office notes and other doctor or facility records and the charges are usually fairly small.

The larger fees may come into play if the doctor is asked to answer important questions in writing that are critical to the worker’s claim. The report will usually say that in the doctor’s reasonable medical opinion, the worker’s diagnosis and prognosis is whatever matches the true facts of the case.

 

  • Deposition costs. The North Carolina Industrial Commission recognizes that the time of the doctors is valuable – they should be spending their time helping people with injuries get better. For this reason, instead of appearing in court, the attorney for the employer and the lawyer for the injured worker will depose the doctor if necessary to determine the workers’ condition. Doctors’ depositions in North Carolina will usually take place within 60 days after the hearing. Doctors can charge up to several thousand dollars for their deposition. A qualified stenographer will also have a fee. Lawyers who advance the deposition costs are entitled to be reimbursed.

In Virginia, doctor’s depositions are usually not required, but if taken, need to occur before the hearing takes place. The same applies insofar as the attorney being reimbursed for advancing those costs.

 

In addition, oftentimes the defense lawyer may depose the Plaintiff in North Carolina (referred to as the Claimant in Virginia). If your attorney orders a copy of the transcript, there are costs associated with that as well.

Finally, depending on the facts of your case, there may be eyewitnesses or other witnesses whose testimony is critical to pursue or defend your claim. There are obviously costs for such transcripts as well.

 

  • Free consultations. Most work injury lawyers provide free consultations. Our firm has what we call our Free Seven-Step Elite Case Evaluation Process that only takes about 10-15 minutes to complete. The first time you see or speak with our firm you will speak with our intake specialist on the phone.

 

The intake specialist will typically ask you precise questions about your specific situation, which questions constitute our Seven-Step Evaluation Process. Based on such items as the facts of the accident, your injuries, and other factors – the lawyer will be presented with your responses to these questions then decide whether you have a chance of success or if it is a case our firm is best suited to handle.

 

The consultation is also a chance for the injured employee to have his or her case reviewed by an experienced profession and it is absolutely free.

 

If both sides agree to pursue the workers’ compensation claim, then the lawyer will prepare a fee agreement to be signed by the lawyer and the client.

 

  • Mediation Costs. In North Carolina, there are costs involved if the case mediates, which are costs advanced by the attorney. In Virginia, this process is a free service provided by the Commission.

 

  • Proper representation. A skilled lawyer understands that if you reach an overall settlement of your case, often times through the mediation process, that you can’t come back later and ask for more money. This is why a good lawyer reviews all of your expenses before settlement and also reviews some of the problems that might arise after settlement such as new medical problems.

 

  • Court filing fees. Generally there is not a court filing fee to process your North Carolina worker’s compensation case. In personal injury actions, the injured person normally has to pay some funds upfront to get into court. Workers’ compensation cases are different. There are usually no or little fees to process a work injury claim.

North Carolina Industrial Commission and Virginia Workers Comp Commission rules on legal fees

The lawyer normally files the fee agreement with the Commission. It is the same in Virginia. If the fee is reasonable, the lawyer’s fees are approved. If the Commission finds that the fees are unreasonable, the reasons are given. The lawyer then can Appeal the decision to the Full Commission.

Some of the factors the Commission will review are the time spent on the case, the amount involved, the results achieved, whether the fee is contingent of fixes, what other lawyers normally charge, the experience level of the lawyer, and the overall nature of the lawyer’s services.

Contact an Strong Advocate for your North Carolina Worker’s or Virginia Compensation Case

Experience matters. Because lawyers take work injury cases on a contingency fee basis and because legal fees are usually capped, it makes good sense to hire an attorney such as Joe Miller who has a strong track record. If you were injured on the job, contact attorney Joe Miller for help at 888-667-8295. You can also complete the online form to schedule an appointment.