Many injured workers delay in hiring a workers’ comp lawyer because they’re afraid they can't afford the attorney’s fees. However, in Kentucky, all workers’ comp lawyers charge a contingency fee: a percentage of your workers’ comp benefits. This means you don’t have to pay attorneys’ fees unless you are awarded benefits or receive a settlement. (To learn how much you might receive, see our article on Kentucky workers’ compensation benefits.)
Kentucky workers’ compensation law sets maximum attorneys’ fees. A workers’ comp lawyer may charge up to the following amounts:
However, your attorney’s total fees cannot exceed $12,000.
An administrative law judge also must approve your attorney’s fee. Your lawyer must file a motion for approval of the fees with the Kentucky Department of Workers’ Claims within 30 days of an award of benefits or settlement.
When evaluating a fee, a Kentucky judge will consider the complexity of your claim, the amount of legal work involved, the quality of the lawyer’s work, and other factors. Sometimes, a judge will award less than the maximum attorneys’ fees outlined above, especially if your claim was very simple or was resolved quickly.
Once a fee is approved, it is typically deducted from your settlement or award—either from your lump sum or your weekly installment payments, depending on how your settlement or award is structured. Alternatively, you can pay the fee out of your own personal funds if you wish.
In addition to attorneys’ fees, your lawyer typically will charge you for legal costs related to your claim. Your legal costs may include payments for copying medical records, hiring expert witnesses, and transcribing deposition testimony. While most lawyers try to keep their legal costs relatively low, they can be hundreds—or even thousands—of dollars in complicated or lengthy claims.
Thankfully, most workers’ comp lawyers don’t expect you to pay for legal costs until your case has been resolved. If you are awarded benefits or agree to a settlement, your lawyer will typically deduct legal costs from your award. If you lose your claim, your lawyer might not charge you for your legal costs. (To learn more, see our article discussing what items are deducted from a workers’ comp settlement or award.)
However, some lawyers expect advance payment of legal costs or demand reimbursement of these costs whether you win or lose. Before you hire a workers’ comp lawyer, make sure you understand his or her policy on legal costs.
Most workers’ comp lawyers provide a free initial consultation. At this consultation, both you and the lawyer will have an opportunity to evaluate each other. The lawyer will need information about the strength of your claim, and you will want to know about the lawyer’s experience and policies (such as the handling of fees and costs). If you are uncomfortable with a lawyer for any reason, do not sign his or her fee agreement.
Not every injured worker will need to hire a lawyer. However, if your workers’ comp claim is denied or your benefits are reduced, you should seriously consider hiring a lawyer. An experienced Kentucky workers’ compensation lawyer can significantly increase your chance of receiving benefits or settling your claim—with little to no upfront costs.