Many injured workers delay in hiring a workers’ comp lawyer because they fear they can’t afford attorneys’ fees. Fortunately, Missouri workers’ comp lawyers typically charge a percentage of your award or settlement, called a “contingency fee.” You will not pay your lawyer unless you receive benefits or a settlement. (To learn more about how much you could receive, see our article on Missouri workers’ comp benefits.)
Unlike many states, Missouri does not set a maximum workers’ compensation attorneys’ fee schedule. However, all workers’ comp fees must be:
In practice, most workers’ comp lawyers in Missouri charge a 25% contingency fee—because that is the amount the Division routinely approves. You can pay your lawyer’s fees either in one lump sum or in installments.
In rare cases, you can ask for your employer or its insurance company to pay for your attorneys’ fees and legal costs. (Learn more about legal costs below.) However, there must be absolutely no reasonable grounds for the insurance company’s denial of benefits—which is a difficult standard to meet. Also, this does not necessarily mean that you will get to keep 100% of your award. For example, the fees and cost awards might be split between you and your lawyer, in proportion to the lawyer's contingency fee. However, it will increase your recovery overall.
In addition to attorneys’ fees, you will likely be financially responsible for legal costs. Legal costs are the expenses that your lawyer pays to gather evidence and prove your case. For example, your lawyer may need to collect your medical records, hire expert witnesses to testify at your hearing, and pay court reporters to transcribe deposition testimony.
Many workers’ comp lawyers do not demand that clients pay legal costs up front. Instead, they will pay them throughout your case and then deduct them from your settlement or award. Some lawyers will even agree to waive legal costs if you lose your claim. However, lawyers differ in their legal cost policies. Make sure you understand your lawyer’s stance on legal costs before you sign a fee agreement.
If your workers’ compensation benefits are denied or reduced, you should seriously consider hiring a lawyer. Workers’ comp appeals often require a complicated analysis of legal issues and careful presentation of medical and vocational evidence. Unless your claim is very simple, it may be difficult to handle the appeal on your own.
Most Missouri workers’ comp lawyers offer a free initial consultation to injured workers. 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.)