Understand California Workers Compensation Case Attorney Fees
Attorney fees in California workers compensation cases apply differently than the standard contingency fee one would expect in a personal injury case agreement. Attorney fees in California workers compensation cases are on a contingency and are capped at 15% of the money awarded to the plaintiff or better known as the applicant in workers compensation lingo.
Much More Affordable Than Personal Injury Claim Representation
Compare this to the standard 30% to 45% contingency fee expected by personal injury attorneys for representation in an auto accident case. Lawyers representing victims of personal injury charge larger fees because those cases are more complex. A 15% fee would be too low for auto accident injury representation in civil court. But in workers' compensation administrative hearings, 15% is reasonable.
15% of Any Money Benefits Awarded by the Judge
Any benefits awarded by the workers' compensation judge could include an award of a 15% attorney fee. Without going into too much detail here, lawyers are generally not entitled to 15% attorney fee for temporary disability money voluntarily paid to the injured worker. Your lawyer isn't going to collect 15% of your temporary disability payments unless your lawyer helped obtain an order of those benefits by the workers' compensation judge.
Don't Be Surprised By 5710 Fees
Although maxing out at a low 15%, lawyers who practice Workers Compensation in California have other means of earning fees within the workers' compensation system. Another way a workers compensation lawyer gets paid is through payment of ‘5710 fees.' 5710 fees (Section 5710 of the California Labor Code). This type of fee is to be paid by the insurance company directly to the injured worker's attorney of record (it does not reduce nor does it come out of the injured workers pocket) where the insurance company's attorney takes the applicant's deposition.
5710 Fee Hourly Rate Explained
The standard hourly rate awarded by the courts in Southern California is around $425.00 per hour, and in some areas of Southern California it is as high as $500.00 per hour. Allowable billing includes the time expended to ravels to and from, prepares applicant for, and attends the deposition of the applicant. As you can see, an all day deposition (most depositions are about 2 hours long), including travel time and preparation time, can bring a workers compensation lawyer thousands upon thousands of dollars in fees to be paid directly by the insurance carrier for what is generally just one day of labor.
For those out in the world of personal injury and civil litigation, the concept of the other side paying such fees appears absurd. Nevertheless, 5710 fees are real and they are definitely a significant source of income for plaintiff's-side workers compensation lawyers.
Department of Workers' Compensation Fee Disclosure Statement
There is an official Fee Disclosure Statement printed by the Department of Industrial Relations under the authority of the Governor of California. You sign this statement and it is filed with the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) – the courthouse where disputes over workers' compensation benefits are resolved. The official form states that fees range from 9% to 12%, however 15% fees are the standard award in Southern California courts.
This fee disclosure statement is mandatory, and if the attorney you hire does not have you sign this document, then that lawyer is violating the law.
When you are hiring a workers compensation attorney, be sure to ask about what their contingency fee will be. If they do not give you a straight answer or try to avoid the question, then you should be wary.
Attorney Fees Explained For Workers Compensation Claims
Very often, people become confused by all of the nuances of workers compensation law. How their attorney is to be paid is often one of them, especially the concept of 5710 fees. Therefore, it is always important that the workers compensation lawyer explain up front exactly how they will be paid for the work they are doing for the client. Our firm always thoroughly explains how we will be compensated by the client for the representation that we commit to the case.
Every single claim is accompanied by a completely different set of circumstances, and the fees paid by the client will vary depending on the issues involved. The main factor that affects how much will be paid to the lawyer is the size of the settlement at the end. The bigger the closing value, the more the representative law firm will make on it.
Fee Arrangements For Job Accident Cases
The most common fee arrangement for job accident representation is fifteen percent (15%) of the total recovery at the end of the case. As outlined above, amounts of temporary disability payments that are awarded retroactively prior to trial could be subject to a fifteen percent lawyer fee in addition to the award at the end of the final order. In addition, 5710 fees for depositions are earned directly from the insurance carrier who pays on behalf of the applicant, but only for depositions of the applicant.
Other Costs Associated With Bringing A Workers' Compensation Case
There are costs other than attorney fees associated with bringing a workers' compensation case, but they are generally minimal. If there is a need for an expert to be hired to provide testimony at deposition or trial, then the client will be responsible for those costs. The vast majority of cases do not require experts, however. Many costs that we normally associate with bringing a personal lawsuit are not issues for injured workers. For example, injured workers' do not have to bear the cost of the following in workers' compensation litigation. Instead, the insurance company must pay for the following:
- Subpoenas of any and all medical records
- Deposition transcript of the Applicant
- There is no filing fee for the Application for Adjudication of Claim
- Transportation to and from the Applicant's Deposition
- Transportation to and from the Applicant's Qualified Medical Evaluation(s)
- The Applicant's Qualified Medical Evaluation(s) and any diagnostic testing (Med-Legal Examinations)
Not having to bear the above-listed costs really lowers the barrier for injured workers' to obtain affordable representation for disputes over benefits.
Contacting A Workers' Compensation Lawyer Is Always Free
For more information on attorney fees in California workers compensation cases, visit our website at NapolinLaw.com. If you or a loved one is hurt on the job in California, do not hesitate to call us at 866-NAPOLIN for a free consultation to discuss your circumstances. We will discuss how we are paid in addition to a full review of your situations to see if we can represent you in the courts!