In Arizona, workers’ compensation lawyers typically charge a contingency fee. When a fee is contingent, you don’t pay attorneys’ fees unless the lawyer helps you achieve a certain outcome—namely recovering workers’ comp benefits through a settlement or award by a workers’ comp judge. If you are successful in your case, the lawyer will take a percentage of your benefits as payment. (To learn more about how much you could receive, see our article on Arizona workers’ comp benefits.)
The Industrial Commission of Arizona must approve attorneys’ fees in all workers’ comp cases. The Commission will approve a fee if it is reasonable and does not exceed the state’s cap on attorneys’ fees. The maximum contingency fee in Arizona workers’ comp cases is 25%. If a settlement or award is paid in installments, the lawyer cannot take more than 25% of each installment payment.
Arizona workers’ comp laws also set time limits on how long lawyers can collect fees. For most workers’ comp claims, the lawyer can collect a fee on your benefit payments for up to 10 years. For loss of earning capacity claims only, the lawyer can collect a fee on your benefit payments for up to five years.
If your claim is relatively simple, the Commission might approve attorneys’ fees that are lower than 25%. You can also try to negotiate a lower fee with your lawyer, although most workers’ comp lawyers do charge the state’s maximum fees.
In addition to attorneys’ fees, you will be financially responsible for legal costs. Legal costs are expenses related to your claim or appeal, such as the cost of copying medical records, hiring expert witnesses to provide testimony, filing documents with the state agency or court, and transcribing deposition testimony. While most lawyers try to keep legal costs low, they are typically unavoidable.
However, many workers’ comp lawyers don’t expect upfront payment of legal costs. Instead, they will advance your costs and deduct them from your award or settlement. If you lose your claim, some attorneys will even waive your legal costs. However, every law firm has different policies. Before you sign a fee agreement, ask your lawyer how legal costs will be handled.
Almost every Arizona workers’ comp lawyer offers free initial consultations for injured workers. At an initial consultation, you and the lawyer will discuss your workers’ comp claim and decide whether the attorney will handle your case. Once you sign a fee agreement, the lawyer will start work on your case.
If you are injured on the job and your benefits are denied (or reduced), you should seriously consider hiring an Arizona workers’ comp lawyer. The appeal process can be complicated and requires legal, medical, and other technical knowledge. (See our article on Arizona workers’ comp claims for more information about claim and appeal processes.) Hiring a lawyer typically involves little to no upfront costs—and can often increase your chances of receiving benefits.