Unlike in many other states, Hawaii workers’ comp lawyers charge an hourly rate instead of a contingency fee (a percentage of your benefits). However, they can only collect their fees at the end of your case and only if you receive benefits through a settlement or award. You do not have to pay your workers’ comp lawyer if you lose your case. (To learn more about how much you could receive, see our article on Hawaii workers’ comp benefits.)
Hawaii does not set a specific attorneys’ fee schedule or cap fees in workers’ compensation cases. Instead, attorneys’ fees are determined on a case-by-case basis. Fees must be reasonable and must be approved by Hawaii’s Disability Compensation Division. Typically, workers’ comp lawyers charge an hourly fee that is based on their skill, experience, customary rates, and other factors.
Under the state’s workers’ comp laws, the Disability Compensation Division must review and approve all attorneys’ fees. Your lawyer must file a Request for Approval of Attorney’s Fees (Form DC/AB 1) within ten days of your award of benefits or settlement approval. If you disagree with the requested fee, you must file a written objection within ten days of receiving a copy of your lawyer’s fee request.
The division will award a reasonable fee based on:
Legal costs are expenses related to your claim, such as the cost of ordering medical records, hiring expert witnesses, and transcribing deposition testimony. In Hawaii, you typically do not pay your legal costs upfront. Many lawyers will pay these costs as they arise and then deduct them from your award or settlement at the end of your case. However, not all lawyers are willing to advance legal costs. Make sure you clearly understand a lawyer’s legal cost policy before you sign a fee agreement.
Because most Hawaiian workers’ comp lawyers offer free initial consultations, hiring a lawyer typically involves little to no upfront costs. If you’re involved in a dispute with the insurance company over your benefits, you should consider hiring a lawyer. Due to the complexity of workers’ comp appeals, most injured workers won’t be able to successfully prepare and present their appeals on their own (See our article on the challenges of handling your own workers’ comp claim for more information.)