Workers’ comp lawyers in Florida, like in most other states, are paid on a contingency fee basis. This means that your lawyer will be paid out of the proceeds of your workers’ comp settlement or award. If you don’t recover any benefits at all, you won’t owe any attorneys’ fees. (To learn how much you might receive, see our article on workers’ compensation benefits in Florida.)
The Florida legislature is currently working on revising the laws concerning attorneys’ fees for workers’ compensation lawyers. In 2016, the Florida Supreme Court decided that the current rules, which are described below, are unconstitutional and must be changed. However, until lawmakers come up with a new system, the current one is still in place.
In Florida, workers’ comp lawyers generally receive:
Although you can try to negotiate a lower fee with your lawyer, most lawyers charge the maximum rate. This is because lawyers have to spend a significant amount of time on workers’ comp cases, and the cap is relatively low compared to other types of cases (for example, in personal injury cases, lawyers can receive up to 40% of their client’s award).
If you go to a hearing and win, the judge can make the insurance company pay for your attorneys’ fees, which means they won’t come out of your award. However, these types of awards are rare and only allowed in certain situations—for example, if the insurance company denied that your accident happened and you proved otherwise.
Attorneys’ fees must be approved by a workers’ compensation judge in each case. The judge will award the fees described above in a final decision after your workers’ comp hearing or when the judge approves a settlement agreement reached in your case.
Costs incurred by your lawyer in pursuing your case—which might include deposition fees, copying costs, or expert witness fees (to have a doctor testify on your behalf, for example)—are not included in your lawyer’s fees. Many workers’ comp lawyers will agree to pay for these costs as they come up and then deduct them from your settlement or award. However, some might require you to pay for costs up front.
If you settle your case, you will be responsible for paying legal costs. However, if you win at a workers’ comp hearing or in court, the judge can order your employer or its insurance company to pay for legal costs associated with the proceeding. In that case, costs won’t come out of your award.
Although not required by law, most Florida workers’ comp lawyers offer free consultations to injured workers. This initial meeting can help you determine whether you need a lawyer’s help and how much you might expect to receive in your case. (For information about how to choose a lawyer, see our article on what to look for in a workers’ comp lawyer.)