Tennessee workers’ comp lawyers charge a contingency fee: a percentage of your workers’ comp settlement or award. In other words, you will not have to pay for attorneys’ fees up front. And, if you lose your claim, you don’t pay attorneys’ fees at all. (To learn more about how much you could receive, see our article on Tennessee workers’ comp benefits.)
Under Tennessee workers’ compensation laws, an attorney cannot charge you more than 20% of your award or settlement. Attorneys’ fees also cannot be charged on medical bills that the insurance company paid voluntarily. And, if you are awarded permanent disability benefits, attorneys’ fees are only deducted from the first 450 weeks of payment.
Before taking a fee, your lawyer must obtain approval from the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims. A workers’ comp judge will review your lawyer’s proposed fee and determine whether it is reasonable. If attorneys’ fees are more than $10,000, the court must set out factors that justify the fee (such as a case’s unusual level of complexity or the length of the appeal).
Sometimes, if you win at a workers’ comp hearing, the court will require the insurance company to pay some of your attorneys’ fees and costs. (Learn more about legal costs below.) The court can award attorneys’ fees and costs if the insurance company:
These court-awarded fees may or may not replace your lawyer’s contingency fee—it typically depends on what your fee agreement with your lawyer says. For example, if the 20% contingency fee would have been higher than the court-awarded fees, the lawyer might simply charge you the difference. Or, as another example, the lawyer might add the court-awarded fees to your total recovery and then take the 20% contingency fee. Make sure you understand your lawyer’s policies before you sign a fee agreement.
Attorneys’ fees compensate lawyers for their time and effort. However, it is nearly impossible to win a workers’ comp claim without medical evidence, expert witnesses, and the transcription of deposition testimony. These expenses are your legal costs. Typically, you are financially responsible for your legal costs.
Many workers’ comp lawyers do not expect upfront payment of your legal costs. Instead, they pay for them as the case moves along and then deduct them from your award or settlement. Some lawyers will even agree to waive legal costs if you lose your claim. However, other lawyers expect payment for costs whether you win or lose. Make sure you understand your lawyer’s policies on legal costs before you sign a fee agreement.
Almost all workers’ comp lawyers offer a free initial consultation. If you are injured on the job and the insurance company disputes your benefits, you should seriously consider hiring a Tennessee workers’ comp lawyer. Typically, you will have little to no upfront legal expenses. 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.)