In Indiana, workers’ comp attorneys are paid on a contingency fee basis, by taking a percentage of your settlement or award if you win your case. This means that you don’t have to pay for legal fees out of pocket, and your lawyer only gets paid if he or she helps you collect workers’ comp benefits. (See our article on Indiana workers’ comp benefits to learn more about what types of benefits you might receive.)
Like many states, Indiana’s workers’ comp law places restrictions on what lawyers can charge for their services. Indiana has a schedule for attorneys’ fees in workers’ comp cases; your lawyer cannot charge your more than the following amounts:
The Indiana Workers’ Compensation Board must approve all attorneys’ fees before they are paid. If you settle your case for a lump sum payment, the attorney will deduct fees from this lump sum. On the other hand, if you are awarded ongoing benefits, your lawyer will receive a percentage of each benefit payment.
While most lawyers insist on the maximum fee set out in the fee schedule, you might be able to negotiate a reduced fee. For example, some lawyers are willing to accept a lower fee for very simple claims that they can resolve quickly.
In addition to attorneys’ fees, your workers’ compensation lawyer typically will seek reimbursement of legal costs. Legal costs are expenses related to filing and appealing your claim, such as the cost of copying medical records and hiring expert witnesses to testify at your hearing. In complicated cases, your lawyer may spend thousands of dollars developing your claim. (Simpler claims typically involve much lower costs.)
Most workers’ comp lawyers won’t charge you for legal costs until you settle your claim or receive an award by a workers’ comp judge. At that point, legal costs are usually deducted from your award (typically before attorneys’ fees are calculated). However, some lawyers do request advance payment of legal costs, which means that you’ll have to pay for them out of pocket as your case progresses. Make sure you understand your lawyer’s cost policies before you sign a contract.
Almost all Indiana workers’ comp lawyers offer free consultations. And, because lawyers must charge contingency fees in Indiana workers’ comp claims, there is very little up-front financial risk to you. If you were injured at work, consider contacting an Indiana workers’ comp lawyer for help. (See our article on finding a high quality workers’ comp lawyer for more information.)