Workers’ comp lawyers in North Carolina, like in most other states, are paid on a contingency fee basis. This means that your lawyer will be paid out of the proceeds of your workers’ comp settlement or award. If you don’t recover any benefits at all, you won’t owe any attorneys’ fees. (See our article on how much you might receive as North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits.)
Unlike some other states, North Carolina law does not impose a set limit on how much workers’ comp attorneys can charge. However, attorneys’ fees must be reasonable and must be approved by the North Carolina Industrial Commission in each case.
Before taking a fee, your attorney must file a signed fee agreement with the Commission. If the Commission determines that the agreement is reasonable, it will approve the lawyer’s fee. If the agreement is unreasonable, the Commission will set an appropriate fee.
In deciding whether the agreement is reasonable, the Commission will consider:
Although there is no set fee, the Commission will usually approve an agreement in which the attorney takes around 25% of the worker’s award or settlement. However, you are always free to try and negotiate a lower rate directly with your lawyer.
Costs incurred by your lawyer in pursuing your case—which may include deposition fees, copying costs, or expert witness fees (to have a doctor testify on your behalf, for example)—are not included in your lawyer’s fee. Workers’ comp lawyers will often agree to pay for these costs up front and then deduct them from your settlement or award—unless you have agreed to another arrangement ahead of time.
Although not required by law, most North Carolina workers’ comp lawyers offer free consultations to injured workers. This initial meeting can help you determine whether you need a lawyer’s help and how much you might expect to receive in your case. (For information about how to choose a lawyer, see our article on what to look for in a workers’ comp lawyer).