Contingent fees have been called the “poor man’s key to the courthouse door.” In the workers’ compensation area, it is the poor man’s key to the Industrial Commission.
The largest Arizona workers’ comp carrier, CopperPoint (formerly known as SCF Arizona and the State Compensation Fund), has numerous experienced, capable staff attorneys who are paid generous salaries. A few other carriers, such as Hartford, also have in-house counsel. Most private carriers and self-insured employers retain counsel in private practice on an hourly basis and pay them for their time, not for the result they achieve, so they are paid win or lose.
A contingent fee agreement provides that the lawyer for the injured worker is paid only if he obtains benefits for his client as a result of his work. If his client does not prevail, he does not get paid. A contingency fee arrangement provides a way for an injured worker to litigate his claim with representation by an attorney as experienced and capable as the attorney who represents the carrier.
Contingent fees vary but are almost always less than the 33%-40% fee range that is common in personal injury cases. Further, in personal injury cases the fee applies to the entire recovery, including medical expenses, while in workers’ compensation cases it applies only to compensation obtained.
Costs Associated with Your Case
Lawyers often need to advance costs in order to thoroughly prepare a case for hearing. We always obtain copies of pertinent medical records, which usually can be obtained from carriers for a nominal copy charge. When records must be obtained from doctors’ offices, we sometimes ask our clients to obtain them, since we have learned doing it this way is often faster and less costly than when our office does so. Federal HIPAA regulations require doctors to provide copies of medical records to patients for a nominal copying charge.
When a treating doctor testifies at an Industrial Commission hearing, we always talk to him ahead of time to review his testimony. The doctor will of course charge for the time he spends doing this.
A major expense must often be incurred in cases involving loss of earning capacity. In such cases, the carrier will hire a labor market consultant to identify jobs that are theoretically suitable for the injured worker and reasonably available to him. We always retain our own labor market expert to obtain an independent and reliable opinion regarding our client’s post-injury employability.
Our office normally advances these expenses as cases progress; we know that most clients cannot afford to do that. We are very careful about what we spend, but we always advance whatever expenses are necessary to present the best-prepared case possible.