In Connecticut, 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 Connecticut.)
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. Attorneys’ fees must be approved by the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commissioner in each case.
Like most other states, Connecticut places a cap on contingency fees in workers’ compensation cases. In most cases, the maximum contingency fee is 20%. However, the Workers’ Compensation Commissioner might approve a lower fee if your lawyer spent less time than normal on your case.
For contested cases that have gone to a hearing, the Commissioner may approve a contingency fee of more than 20% but less than 25%. However, there must be a written fee agreement allowing for the higher percentage, and the attorney must submit records showing how much time was spent on the case. In deciding what fee is appropriate, the Commission will consider several factors, including the complexity of the case, how much time and effort the lawyer put into the case, the qualifications of the lawyer, and the fees customarily charged by lawyers in the area, among others.
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. If you win your case after a hearing, the Commissioner may order the insurance company to pay your legal costs. Otherwise, the costs will likely come out of your settlement. (To learn more, see our article on what items are deducted from your workers’ comp settlement or award.)