Most lawyers will represent workers' compensation claimants on a contingency fee basis. Under this arrangement, if there is no recovery to the claimant, the lawyer will not charge a fee. However, if there is a recovery, the lawyer agrees to accept a certain percentage as their fee.
Most lawyers charge a contingency fee of 25 percent of the total recovery at the initial hearing. Some lawyers increase the percentage if there are appeals to the full Industrial Commission or to the North Carolina Court of Appeals.
Brent Adams & Associates charges a level 25 percent no matter how far the case goes. Our low 25 percent fee stays the same no matter how many appeals are necessary, even if there is an appeal to the Supreme Court of North Carolina.
All fees, including attorney’s fees must be approved by the North Carolina Industrial Commission. It is against the law for a lawyer to collect a fee in a Workers Compensation case before that fee has been approved by the North Carolina Industrial Commission.
In certain situations it may be possible to have the Industrial Commission require the defendant to pay all or a portion of the claimant’s attorney fee.
If the employer and its insurance company appeal an initial determination of a case by a deputy insurance commissioner, the Industrial Commission may--but it is not required to--order the employer and its insurance carrier to pay reasonable attorney fees necessitated by the appeal. If the case is appealed from the full Industrial Commission to the Appellate courts, that court may also require the employer and its insurance carrier to pay reasonable attorney fees to the employee.
If the Industrial Commission finds that any hearing has been defended without reasonable grounds, it may require the defendant and its insurance carrier to pay the employee's attorney fees. Under the statute, which allows such fees, attorney fees may be awarded even at the initial hearing. However, it is unusual for the Industrial Commission to require an employer to pay an attorney fee under this provision of the law. The Industrial Commission usually finds that there is some reasonable grounds for defending a claim even in those cases in which there is practically no merit or reasonable justification to deny the claim.
The employee should not count on recovering attorney's fees from the employer. However, it does happen and the employee should always try to recover attorney’s fees from the employer and its insurance carrier.
Keep in mind, if the case moves to mediation, there are fees associated with compensating the mediator.