In Louisiana, as in many other states, workers’ comp lawyers are paid only if you win your case. This means that your lawyer is successful either in getting the insurance company to pay you benefits or in preventing the insurance company from stopping your benefits. (To learn how much you might receive if you win, see our article on workers’ comp benefits in Louisiana.)
Rather than charge by the hour, lawyers in workers’ compensation cases generally take a percentage of your award or settlement (called a “contingency fee”). This means that you don’t pay your lawyer out of your own pocket, and you don’t owe any attorneys’ fees unless you win your case. Attorneys’ fees must be approved by a workers’ compensation judge in each case.
Like most other states, Louisiana places a cap on contingency fees in workers’ compensation cases. Lawyers cannot charge a contingency fee that is higher than 20%. However, a workers’ comp judge might approve a lower fee if your lawyer spent less time than normal on your case.
If a judge finds that the insurance company’s refusal to pay benefits was arbitrary and without good reason, it can order the insurance company to pay reasonable attorneys’ fees. Your fee agreement with your lawyer should address how this money will affect your recovery. For example, some lawyers will take either the contingency fee or the court-awarded fees, whichever is higher. Others will simply add the court-awarded fees to your total award for purposes of calculating the contingency fee.
Your lawyer’s fee does not include any legal costs incurred to pursue your case, such as filing fees, deposition fees, expert witness fees, and copy fees. Many lawyers will pay for these costs throughout your case and then deduct them from your settlement or award. However, you should confirm how legal costs are handled—and whether you’ll need to pay them if you lose your case—before signing a fee agreement with a lawyer. (To learn more, see our article on what items are deducted from your workers’ comp settlement or award.)