If you need a lawyer for your workers’ comp case in Maine, you’ll want to know the cost of legal representation. Workers’ comp lawyers generally charge a contingency fee: a percentage of your settlement or award. (To learn how much you might receive, see our article on workers’ comp benefits in Maine.)
Maine law caps contingency fees in workers’ comp cases, and all fees must be approved by the workers’ compensation board. The fee your attorney will get depends on whether your case settles or proceeds to a hearing.
If your case resolves through a lump-sum settlement, like most cases do, your attorney will get a percentage of the settlement. Maine law sets maximum percentages for attorney’s fees:
In Maine, legal costs are deducted before attorneys’ fees are taken out. Legal costs might include ordering copies of your medical records, paying for a medical examination, hiring expert witnesses, or paying for a court reporter to transcribe depositions.
In some cases, you will need to attend one or more workers’ comp hearings in order to resolve your case. The rules for attorneys’ fees for hearings are different than for settlements. If your case goes to a formal hearing, the Board will set an appropriate fee. However, it cannot be more than 30% of the benefits that have accrued at the time of your hearing. Like with lump-sum settlements, legal costs are deducted before attorneys’ fees are taken out.
For example, suppose the insurance company refused to pay temporary total disability benefits while you were off work and recovering from your injury. By the time you proceed to the hearing (which typically takes months), the insurance company owes you 20 weeks of accrued worker’s compensation benefits. You prevail at your hearing, and the judge awards your attorney 30% of these benefits, which will come out of your award.
If a judge awards you weekly benefits to be paid on an ongoing basis, the attorney’s fee is capped at two-thirds of the state average weekly wage at the time of injury. As of July 1, 2017, the state average weekly wage is $804.40; two-thirds of this amount is approximately $536. So, your lawyer would receive 30% of your weekly benefits, but no more than $536.
Whether your case settles or proceeds to trial, your attorney’s fee will need to be approved by the Worker’s Compensation Board of Maine. If your attorney breaks any of the above-mentioned rules regarding fees, they could not only lose their fees, but also be required to pay you damages of up to double the fee charged.
Be sure to ask your attorney about fees and costs at the outset of your case. One of the key ingredients to a good attorney-client relationship is communication and setting clear expectations. Although fees are an important consideration, you should also look for attorney with a good reputation and an excellent understanding of the law. If you’re unsure how to choose a good attorney, read our article on how to find an excellent lawyer.