Workers’ comp lawyers in Illinois, 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, rather than charging you by the hour. Your lawyer does not get paid if he or she isn’t able to recover any benefits on your behalf. (See our article on how much you might receive in workers’ compensation benefits in Illinois.)
Illinois law limits how much workers’ comp lawyers can charge for their services. Typically, your lawyer cannot take more than 20% of your settlement or award. In addition to this cap, lawyers cannot charge more than 20% of 364 weeks (seven years) of your permanent total disability benefits.
Although you can try to negotiate a lower fee with your lawyer, most lawyers charge the maximum rate. Your lawyer can only take a fee from benefits that he or she helped you recover, not benefits that the insurance company voluntarily paid to you.
Legal fees must be approved by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. In order to get paid, your lawyer must file an Attorney Representation Agreement with the commission as soon as he or she begins representing you The agreement will state the fee you have agreed to pay your lawyer. If the agreement is on file, your lawyer can ask the commission to approve the fee either at trial or during the finalization of your settlement agreement with the insurance company. If the fee is within the legal limit, the commission will most likely approve it.
Costs incurred by your lawyer in pursuing your case—which may include costs of transcribing depositions, copy fees, or translator fees—are usually paid by your lawyer up front. Your lawyer can then seek reimbursement for the costs at the end of your case. If the commission approves the costs, they will also be taken out of your settlement or award.
Although it isn’t required, most Illinois workers’ comp lawyers offer free consultations to injured workers. At this meeting, you can ask questions about your case and determine whether you need the lawyer’s help. (For information about how to choose a lawyer, see this article on what to look for in a workers’ comp lawyer).