New Mexico workers’ comp lawyers charge hourly fees. However, you do not pay attorneys’ fees unless you win an award or receive a settlement in your claim. (To learn more about how much you could receive, see our article on New Mexico workers’ comp benefits.) New Mexico imposes additional restrictions on attorneys’ fees—including a cap on fees and mandatory approval by the state workers’ compensation agency.
New Mexico workers’ comp lawyers charge an hourly rate for time spent on a workers’ comp case. If you receive a settlement or award, your lawyer will calculate his or her fees and submit them to the state workers’ compensation agency for approval at the end of your case.
New Mexico does not impose a cap on hourly fees in workers’ comp cases. However, all fees must be reasonable. And, the total fees received by a lawyer during the life of the claim (including all appeals) cannot be more than $22,500.
Typically, the insurance company will be ordered to pay 50% of your attorneys’ fees. You are financially responsible for the remaining attorneys’ fees, which are taken out of your award or settlement. There are exceptions though. For example, you must pay all of your attorneys’ fees if you reject a settlement offer from the insurance company and then receive a lower award at your hearing.
The New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Administration must approve all attorneys’ fees related to a claim. At the end of your case, your lawyer must file a petition for approval, setting out:
The administration will then review this information and award a reasonable fee. If your lawyer’s hourly rate is unreasonably high or your lawyer spent an unreasonable amount of time on your case, the administration will reduce the fee.
Discovery costs are expenses related to gathering evidence for your claim, such as copying medical records, hiring expert witnesses, and transcribing deposition testimony. In New Mexico, the insurance company must advance up to $3,000 for your discovery costs. If the judge awards workers’ comp benefits after a hearing or you settle your claim, the insurance company cannot demand repayment of these advanced costs. However, if you lose your claim after a hearing, you must reimburse these costs (typically over time using a payment plan). Additionally, your lawyer can request a small upfront payment to cover other legal costs.
If the insurance company denies or reduces your benefits, you should consider hiring a New Mexico workers’ comp lawyer. A workers’ compensation appeal typically requires complicated settlement negotiations and medical and legal analysis. Most injured workers are not equipped to handle these tasks on their own.
Most New Mexico workers’ comp lawyers offer a free initial consultation, which means you will have little to no upfront costs. (See our article on the challenges of handling your own workers’ comp claim for more information.)