How Do You Pay for a Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Attorney to Represent You?

April 13, 2023
Chloe C. Murray
Paying for an attorney in PA - Woman with hand on law book - Stern & Cohen

When you are injured at work and need legal representation, one of the first questions you may ask yourself is, “How will I afford an attorney?” 

How does a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer get paid? 

In a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation case, your attorney will likely charge a contingent fee. This means that the only time the attorney receives money for your case is if they win the case for you. If they lose the case on your behalf, they will not get any money and will not charge you any money out of your pocket. In Pennsylvania, your workers’ compensation lawyer is not legally allowed to take a fee of more than 20%. Generally speaking, a personal injury attorney will take 33% or more of any money recovered on your behalf. In a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation claim, only wage loss benefits and medical benefits can be awarded. In most circumstances, Stern & Cohen will only take a fee on wage loss benefits, meaning that payment of your medical bills will not be affected when you retain a lawyer. Once both you and an attorney at Stern & Cohen determine that we should represent you, you will sign a Contingent Fee Agreement, agreeing that Stern & Cohen will receive 20% of benefits recovered on your behalf.  

If you and your attorney win your case, you will split your winnings, 80% to you and 20% to your attorney. The same is true if you settle your case—you will get 80% of the lump sum settlement and your attorney will get 20%. If you lose the case, no one gets anything. In the circumstance of a Claim Petition, where the insurance company is not paying you your workers’ compensation benefits and we need to litigate the case for you to get paid, the fee will not start until we win the case or the case settles. In the circumstance where you are being paid and the insurance company tries to stop your benefits, the fee may start once Stern & Cohen becomes involved, as we would need to immediately present evidence to ensure the insurance company does not stop your benefits unless and until the Judge orders so. In either circumstance, a Judge must approve the Fee Agreement. Unless and until that document is approved, the fee will not start. In most cases, though, a lawyer will not work on your case until the Fee Agreement is signed.  

Do I have to pay for the litigation costs? 

Another worry that some clients have is whether they will be responsible for the out-of-pocket legal expenses that may be incurred during litigation. These costs include obtaining medical records, payment of transcripts of depositions and hearings, and costs for a doctor’s deposition. There is no need to worry about these fees. If you and your attorney win your case, the Judge will order that the insurance company must pay for reasonable litigation costs. If you settle your case, roughly nine times out of 10, the insurance company will pay for the litigation costs. If you lose your case, generally speaking, Stern & Cohen will pay for the costs incurred of litigating the case. 

There is no risk in speaking with a lawyer at Stern & Cohen. The consultation is free. From there, we will determine whether we can take your case, and thus, whether a Fee Agreement needs to be signed. Once again, whatever the outcome of your case, you will not have to pay anything out of pocket to Stern & Cohen. 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently issued an Opinion that slightly changed the landscape of attorney’s fees. The Court held that attorney fees can be awarded when the injured worker prevails. This means that the Judge can order money to be paid to the attorney over and above the “award” for wrongdoing on the part of the insurance company. Judges have discretion as to when they award these fees and usually, they are only awarded in very limited circumstances, so it is important to have a lawyer that knows when it is appropriate to request such a fee. While this case is new and there has not been much litigation surrounding it, attorneys have predicted that these fees will most frequently be awarded when only medical benefits are in dispute.  

If you or a loved one has been injured at work, call Stern & Cohen, We can assist you with any type of Workers’ Compensation claim.  The consultation is always free.