Attorneys’ fees for Iowa workers’ comp lawyers are determined on a case-by-case basis. Typically, lawyers charge a percentage of your settlement or award (called a “contingency fee”). However, depending on the nature of your claim, you might need to pay an hourly fee. (To learn about how much you could receive for your case, see our article on Iowa workers’ comp benefits.).
Unlike some states, Iowa does not have a set schedule or cap for attorneys’ fees in workers’ comp cases. Instead, the Iowa Division of Workers’ Compensation approves attorneys’ fees on a case-by-case basis. Depending on the nature of your claim, a workers’ comp lawyer may charge either:
In contingency fee cases, most workers’ comp lawyers charge between 25% and 30%. Hourly fees vary greatly from lawyer to lawyer. A lawyer is more likely to charge an hourly fee if your claim is very complicated (and therefore risky to take on) or if your claim doesn’t involve monetary benefits (for example, in a medical-only claim). In these cases, the lawyer might also ask for a retainer to pay for some of his or her work in advance.
Make sure you understand your workers’ comp lawyer’s fee structure before you sign a fee agreement. If you are uncomfortable with the lawyer’s fees, get a second opinion.
In 2017, Iowa passed major changes to its workers’ compensation laws—including new rules on how attorneys can charge fees. As of July 1, 2017, a workers’ comp lawyer cannot charge fees for voluntarily paid benefits. Instead, the lawyer must base his or her fees on the amount of benefits that you would not have received without the lawyer’s help.
For example, suppose the insurance company voluntarily pays your temporary disability benefits but denies your permanent disability claim. On appeal, the division finds that you are permanently disabled and awards these benefits. Your lawyer can only charge a fee for the award of permanent disability benefits—not the voluntarily paid temporary disability benefits.
Legal costs are expenses related to your claim, such as the cost of ordering medical records, hiring expert witnesses to testify on your behalf, and transcribing deposition testimony. These costs are a necessary part of most workers’ comp appeals: It is virtually impossible to win a workers’ comp appeal without medical evidence and expert testimony.) Typically, you are financially responsible for these costs.
If your lawyer charges a contingency fee, you may not need to pay your legal costs upfront. Many workers’ comp lawyers advance legal costs and deduct them from your settlement or award. Some lawyers even waive legal costs if you lose your claim. However, some lawyers demand an upfront payment for legal costs. This is particularly true if your lawyer charges an hourly fee. Make sure you understand the lawyer’s legal cost policy before you sign a fee agreement.
Most Iowa workers’ comp lawyers offer a free initial consultation. At this consultation, you will discuss your claim and the lawyer’s fees and other policies. While there typically isn’t a charge for your first consultation, lawyers won’t work on a case until you sign a fee agreement.
If the insurance company denies your benefits, you should seriously consider hiring an Iowa workers' comp lawyer. Typically, you will have little to no upfront costs. And, a workers’ comp lawyer can significantly increase your chances of receiving benefits. (See our article on the challenges of handling your own workers’ comp claim for more information.)