How Are Attorneys Paid Under The South Carolina Workers Compensation Act?
Workers face many challenges after a workplace accident or injury. Some of the most prominent challenges include accessing quality medical care as well as rehabbing serious injuries. When workers are hurt, few of them can
return to work immediately. Instead, they must rest at home and attend rehabilitation. That means a dramatic loss of income, as well.
With finances tight, how will you pay for a workers’ compensation lawyer to help you get benefits? Many people worry that they simply can’t afford a lawyer, so they try to handle their own claims using information cobbled together from the internet. Unsurprisingly, they often are overwhelmed and end up watching their claim get denied.
The good news is that South Carolina law allows you to get a workers’ compensation lawyer on a contingency fee basis. Call Surasky Law Firm if you’d like more information about how we charge for services, and read on for an overview of the basics of these agreements.
What is a Contingency Fee Agreement?
This is an agreement between a lawyer and a client. The lawyer agrees to provide legal services to the client without any upfront legal fees. Instead, the client agrees that the lawyer can receive a portion of any settlement or court award.
In essence, the client doesn’t have to pay for legal representation unless the lawyer wins the case. A contingency fee agreement relieves a client from having to scrape together money to pay a lawyer’s retainer.
With this type of agreement, your lawyer assumes all the risk of losing. Even better, your lawyer has an incentive to increase the amount of compensation you receive because his percentage will increase as well.
Best of all, a lawyer will turn down a case if he doesn’t think it has merit. There is no reason for a lawyer on contingency to accept a case that is a sure loser. Consequently, you can rest assured a lawyer believes your case has merit if he agrees to represent you.
How Much Can a Lawyer Receive?
South Carolina limits contingency fees in workers’ compensation cases. At most, a lawyer can receive 1/3 of any settlement in your case. Your lawyer might agree to a lower percentage. You should raise the issue of contingency fees when meeting for a free consultation.
The state also regulates these fee agreements. In fact, a lawyer won’t get paid until he or she submits a form to the state’s Workers’ Compensation Commission and the Commission signs off on it. The Commission protects workers by ensuring their lawyer does not deduct too much.
What Are Costs & Who Pays for Them?
The legal work your lawyer performs represents only some of the expenses. Workers’ compensation cases often require that a lawyer spend money on:
Copies of medical records. We need to fully understand your injuries, and most providers charge for copies.
Copy of the Workers’ Compensation Commission file for your case. This file has critical information, such as the date you reported the accident to your employer.
Doctor’s fees. A lawyer might have you meet with a doctor to better understand your physical limitations, so they may have to pay for a doctor's time.
Expert witness fees. Experts are sometimes necessary to explain unusual medical conditions.
Photocopying and phone calls. These are minor office expenses in most cases.
Deposition expenses. A deposition involves a lawyer asking a witness questions under oath. Our clients might need to sit for a deposition to go over the accident and their injuries. A lawyer may charge for traveling to the deposition and for a court reporter.
Mediation expenses. Mediation is rare in workers’ compensation cases, but it is required for some cases, such as those involving total disability and contested death cases, among others.
These expenses (called “costs”) are deducted from any settlement, along with the contingency fee agreement. Some of these costs are unavoidable, but your total costs will depend on whether your case is contested.
Most lawyers will deduct these costs from your settlement, along with their contingency fee. You should discuss this with an attorney in your consultation to avoid any surprise fees. A lawyer with Surasky Law will always be upfront with what this might cost you. Costs should also be addressed in any contingency fee agreement.
At Surasky Law Firm, we always strive to minimize the expenses we incur. You should ask what types of costs you are facing.
Review Your Fee Agreement
A lawyer should use a written fee agreement which spells out:
The contingency fee percentage
The scope of representation
What costs the lawyer charges
How you will pay for costs
Run, don’t walk, away from any lawyer who refuses to put a fee agreement in writing. Having a written agreement provides protection to clients and is the ethical thing for lawyers to do. You can also refer to it if you have a dispute with a lawyer over an expense.
Who Pays for the Cost of an Appeal?
Many clients need to bring an appeal to secure workers’ compensation benefits. Representation for an appeal should be included as part of the contingency fee. An appeal typically requires reviewing the most recent court decisions involving workers’ compensation law and writing a legal brief. Our lawyer might also need to make an oral argument to a judge.
Review your fee agreement to see what costs for an appeal you will be required to pay. Surasky Law Firm can explain more about the appeals process for workers’ compensation clients in South Carolina if you call us.
Schedule a Consultation with an Aiken, SC Workers’ Compensation Attorney
South Carolina law has allowed thousands of injured workers to secure the services of an experienced attorney when seeking benefits. If you have questions, please call Surasky Law Firm to meet with our attorney. Our firm has helped countless workers get the benefits they need after an accident or occupational illness.