Workers’ comp lawyers in Georgia, 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 Georgia.)
By law, Georgia workers’ comp lawyers cannot charge more than 25% of your settlement or award. If you’re receiving installments over time, your lawyer cannot take a fee for more than 400 weeks of benefits. The lawyer’s fee will come out of your settlement or award before you receive it, so you will not have to pay your lawyer out-of-pocket.
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 25% 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).
In cases where an employer unreasonably denies an employee’s claim for benefits, the judge may order your employer or its insurance company to pay all or part of your attorneys’ fees. If these court-awarded fees are less than what you already agreed to pay your attorney, the difference might still come out of your settlement or award. However, it typically depends on the judge’s order and the details of your fee agreement with your lawyer.
Attorneys’ fees must be approved by the Georgia Board of Workers’ Compensation in each case. Your lawyer must file a copy of your fee agreement with the board at the start of his or representation. At the conclusion of your case, your attorney must submit Form 108a to get the fee approved. In most cases, the board will approve a fee of 25%.
Costs incurred by your lawyer in pursuing your case—which may 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 may require you to pay for costs up front. The Board must approve all legal costs as well.
Although not required by law, most Georgia 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).