In Idaho, workers’ compensation lawyers must charge a contingency fee: a percentage of your award or settlement. In other words, you won’t need to pay for attorneys’ fees out-of-pocket. And, if you lose, you don’t have to pay attorneys’ fees at all. (To learn more about how much you could receive, see our article on Idaho workers’ comp benefits.)
Idaho limits attorneys’ fees in workers’ comp cases in several ways. First, the fee must be reasonable, which usually means no more than:
Additional rules apply to permanent and total disability benefits, a less common award that is paid in installments over the course of the worker’s life.
Second, attorneys’ fees can be charged only on benefits that your lawyer helped you obtain. If the insurance company voluntarily paid some benefits without dispute, the lawyer cannot take a percentage of those benefits.
Third, when you hire a lawyer, you must sign an Attorney Disclosure Statement which explains the lawyer’s fee policies. Your lawyer must file a copy of this disclosure with the state agency at the beginning of his or her representation. And, finally, all attorneys’ fees must be approved by the Idaho workers’ compensation agency.
You do not have to pay attorneys’ fees until the Idaho Industrial Commission approves your lawyer’s fees. Your lawyer must file a detailed statement within 30 days of the commission’s award of benefits or approval of a settlement agreement. This statement must set out:
The commission will review your lawyer’s statement and award a reasonable fee. If your lawyer disagrees with the fee award, he or she must appeal the decision within 14 days.
Legal costs are expenses related to your claim, such as the cost to order medical records, hire expert witnesses, and transcribe deposition testimony. You are financially responsible for legal costs in your case. However, many lawyers will pay for legal costs as they arise and then deduct them from your award or settlement at the end of your case. On the other hand, some lawyers will expect advance or periodic payments of legal costs. Make sure you understand your lawyer’s legal cost policy before you sign a fee agreement.
Most workers’ comp lawyers offer free initial consultations. At this consultation, you and the lawyer will discuss your injury, the claim process, the lawyer’s fee agreement, and other issues. This meeting gives you a chance to understand the lawyer's personality, experience, and initial assessment of your claim.
If the insurance company denies or reduces your workers’ comp benefits, you should consider hiring a lawyer. It takes a considerable amount of skill and knowledge to prepare and present a workers’ comp claim to the commission. Without the help of a lawyer, you may make costly mistakes. And, because of the rules mentioned above, hiring a lawyer typically involves little to no upfront costs. (See our article on the challenges of handling your own workers’ comp claim for more information.)