When you are in a position to file a workers’ compensation claim in New York, one of the first questions you may ask is, “Can I afford to hire an attorney to help with my claim?”
This is a reasonable concern. You’re already facing the possibility of lost wages due to a work-related injury or illness, so the idea of committing some of your limited funds to an attorney for an uncertain process is surely scary.
Let’s put your mind at ease on that topic. By law, New York workers compensation attorneys are not allowed to charge you a fee for your claim unless you receive a monetary award for lost wages — either through your claim being accepted by the state workers comp board or in a settlement with your employer’s insurance agency.
This is the “no fee unless you win” arrangement you may hear about in media or advertisements. You might also hear about a “contingency fee” — it’s the same thing.
That may sound too good to be true, and you might be afraid of then paying exorbitant fees once a claim is settled. But the New York Workers Compensation Board has the final say on any fees you pay your attorney, which helps prevent “sticker shock” when the fees are due.
How Are Attorney Fees Decided?
Once your workers’ comp claim is settled, your attorney files a fee request with the state board. It should outline all the services provided to you for your case, including the time and dates of those services. You receive a copy of that request and can file any objections or concerns with the board. The board has the right to accept the request as filed, reject it completely, or set a lower amount.
The board does not have a specific formula or percentage on which to determine the attorney fees. Instead, the board considers a wide range of factors, including but not limited to:
- The services provided
- The complexity of the case
- The severity of your injury
- Your financial status
- Whether the attorney acted promptly
- Typical fees charged in your geographic area for similar services
While the results your attorney obtains for you is another factor that the board can consider, it is not allowed to grant a request for fees based only on the benefits or award you receive.
Should I Hire an Attorney?
Only you can decide whether to file your workers’ compensation claim on your own or use professional representation. A free consultation will help you better understand your situation, and it helps to be prepared by learning some basics about workers’ compensation and being prepared with the details of your case. The final choice is ultimately yours.
However, a 2015 national survey from Martindale-Nolo Research found that individuals who hired a workers compensation attorney received awards 27 percent higher than those who did not. They also resolved their claim in just over 12 months, compared to almost 18 months for those not using an attorney.
Experienced workers’ compensation attorneys understand details of the system that may not be obvious to the average person. They also know how to negotiate with an insurance company, and how to argue persuasively on your behalf in a hearing.
Whichever route you choose to take, starting with a free consultation can only give you more confidence in your choice. Contact Albany workers compensation attorney Paul Giannetti or call (518) 243-8011 to schedule your consultation today.