In Alabama, as in many other states, workers’ comp lawyers are paid only if you win your case. This means that your lawyer is successful either in getting the insurance company to pay you benefits or in preventing the insurance company from stopping your benefits. (To learn how much you might receive if you win, see our article on workers’ comp benefits in Alabama.)
Rather than charge by the hour, lawyers in workers’ compensation cases generally take a percentage of your award or settlement (called a “contingency fee”). This means that you don’t pay your lawyer out of your own pocket, and you don’t owe any attorneys’ fees unless you win your case.
The Alabama workers’ compensation law prohibits lawyers from taking a contingency fee that is higher than 15%. However, this provision was recently ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge. The ruling has been temporarily suspended until the Alabama legislature can review the law and adjust the fee provision. So, for now, 15% is still the maximum threshold.
Attorneys’ fees must also be approved by an Alabama workers’ compensation judge in each case. If your case was resolved with little effort by your lawyer, the judge might approve a lower fee.
Your lawyer’s fee does not include any legal costs incurred to pursue your case, such as filing fees, deposition fees, expert witness fees, and copy fees. Many lawyers will pay for these costs throughout your case and then deduct them from your settlement or award. However, you should confirm how legal costs are handled—and whether you’ll need to pay them if you lose your case—before signing a fee agreement with a lawyer. (To learn more, see our article on what items are deducted from your workers’ comp settlement or award.)