Does the Employee Need an Attorney for a Louisiana Workers Compensation Claim?

When to Hire an Attorney in Louisiana Workers Compensation

Most injured workers will benefit greatly from representation by a qualified Louisiana workers compensation attorney.

Really, the only time when an injured employee doesn't need to hire a Louisiana workers compensation attorney is when the worker's injuries are very minor, require little or no time off from work, and fully and without doubt resolve themselves very quickly.

Given the 20% limit on workers compensation attorney's fees in Louisiana, the benefits of legal representation far outlay the costs for almost every injured employee.

Sadly, most injured employees wait too long before hiring an attorney.

It is never a good idea for an injured employee to wait until he or she "needs" an attorney, as by that time, the employee's rights have likely already been reduced, and the employee's claim value already diminished.

During the time before an employee hires an attorney, the insurance company is likely devaluing the employee's claim, and on the road to denial by stripping away the rights of the injured employee.  

For example, besides simply delaying an employee's claim, the insurance company will:

    1. Send the employee to the doctor of its choice, not of the employee's choice, which can produce medical records that can drastically limit or eliminate the claim;
    2. Unfairly limit or deny appropriate medical care, often causing permanent negative health and legal effects;
    3. Improperly calculate the number and amount of indemnity payments due to the employee;
    4. Wrongly force or pressure the employee to return to work, which will eliminate indemnity payments and limit medical care going forward;
    5. Insist upon inappropriate vocational rehabilitation, which can irreversibly eliminate indemnity payments to the employee;
    6. Pressure an injured employee into a low-ball settlement, by leveraging against the employee the present financial and medical stress of the employee; and
    7. Falsely claim that its settlement offer is a take-it-or-leave-it offer, even though it is never a take-it-or-leave-it offer.

In short, if an injured employee is not represented by a skilled Louisiana workers compensation attorney, then the employee is not effectively protected by the Louisiana workers compensation laws.

Important Considerations in Hiring a Workers Compensation Attorney

Any injured worker should strongly consider the following:

  • The primary goal of the workers compensation insurance companies is to maximize profit.  Thus the insurance companies are much more interested in their profits than in paying injured workers the benefits they deserve.
  • Both the employer and the workers compensation insurance company will have lawyers working for them. The primary goal of the lawyers of the employer and the insurance company is to have the workers compensation insurance company pay as little as possible for the injured employee's claim.  That is their job, if they do not do their job they will be fired.
  • The workers compensation insurance company will have insurance adjusters working for them. The primary goal of these adjusters is to pay as little as possible for the injured employee's claim.  That is their job, if they do not do their job they will be fired.
  • Once the employee notifies the employer of the accident and injury, the employee will have to directly work with and directly deal with the insurance company's claims adjuster, if the injured employee does not hire an attorney. 
  • The insurance adjuster will run the claim of the injured employee. The adjuster decides which benefits the injured employee will receive, and which benefits the injured employee will not receive.  The adjuster will not advise the injured employee of his or her rights, and the adjuster will not advise the injured employee of however to maximize his or her claim.  That is not the adjuster's job; the adjuster's job is to minimize the employee's claim.  This is a zero-sum game: the more the insurance companies pay, the less they keep; the less the insurance companies pay, the more they keep.  So it is extremely important to understand that the adjuster - no matter how nice he or she appears - is NOT on the side of the injured party; the insurance adjuster is on the OPPOSITE side of the injured employee and is working AGAINST the injured employee.
  • Besides minimizing benefits, the insurance adjusters will dedicate as little time and effort as possible to the employee's claim, while trying close the employee's claim as soon as possible for as little as possible.  Again, this is the job that the adjusters were hired to do.  It does not matter if the adjuster is a nice person or appears to be a nice person.  They were hired to do a job, and they will do it or lose their job.  The bottom line is that the insurance adjusters are NOT looking out for the injured employee.
  • Very often, the first and primary concern if the employer is not the health of welfare or its employees, but rather how to keep its workers compensation insurance premiums as low as possible.  And that means not reporting claims, or trying to convince an employee that there was not really an accident, or that there was not really an injury, or that it is not in the employee's best interest to report the accident or injury to the insurance company. 

The Value of Hiring a Workers Compensation Attorney

An experienced qualified Louisiana workers compensation attorney knows exactly how to deal with and handle the workers compensation insurance companies, including their adjusters and their lawyers.  An attorney will make sure the employee receives their workers compensation in a timely and complete manner and will maximize the recovery to the employee.

Finally, when it is time to settle a workers compensation claim, an attorney will almost always recover many times more than an employee will recover, even after considering the attorney's 20% fee.  

For these reasons, despite what the workers compensation insurance companies want the employee to believe, it is almost always in the best interest of an injured employee to hire an attorney.  In particular, the worse the injury and the greater the lost wages, the more it is in the interest of the employee to hire a lawyer as soon as possible.  

It is a huge mistake for any employee who has suffered a serious work-related injury to not hire an experienced workers compensation attorney as soon as possible.  The attorney will handle all the work, and the employee will end up with a much greater financial result, and possibly a much better medical result. 

What Exactly Can An Attorney Do for an Injured Worker in Louisiana Workers Compensation?

A qualified, experienced Louisiana workers compensation attorney can drastically improve an injured employee's situation and claim.

Specifically, a Louisiana workers compensation attorney can:

    1. Help find the best doctor for an injured employee;
    2. Manage the workers compensation claims process;
    3. Ensure the full lost wage benefits are received;
    4. Ensure that all medical treatment is approved and received;
    5. Manage the vocational rehabilitation process;
    6. Represent the employee in workers compensation disputes;
    7. Represent the employee in third-party claims; and
    8. Maximize the employee's settlement.

Given the 20% limit on workers compensation attorney's fees in Louisiana, almost every injured employee should strongly consider hiring a qualified attorney to represent him or her in the claim.  

In short, the benefits of legal representation in Louisiana workers compensation far outlay the costs.

However, one of the biggest mistakes that employees make is waiting too long to hire a workers compensation attorney.  

By the time many injured workers hire an attorney, the insurance company has likely already diminished, limited, or extinguished many of the employee's legal rights, and thus devalued the employee's claim.

And contrary to what the insurance company wants the employee to believe, the insurance company will not treat the employee better if the employee doesn't hire a lawyer, the insurance company will treat the employee worse (and often much much worse).

An Employee Should Always Hire an Experienced Workers Compensation Attorney Before a Settlement in Louisiana Workers Compensation

An injured employee should always hire an experienced Louisiana workers compensation attorney to handle his or her settlement.

Not only will the attorney be able to obtain much more money for the employee even after a 20% attorney's fee, but the attorney will handle everything and provide the employee with peace of mind that everything was handled properly in order to maximize the employee's settlement amount.

If an injured employee attempts to settle his or her claim without an attorney, the adjuster for the workers compensation insurance company insurance will almost always undervalue the claim and take advantage of the employee by selling him or her short with an inadequate settlement amount.

An experienced Louisiana workers compensation attorney can maximize the amount that the injured worker will receive in settlement through a number of ways, including:

    1. Timing the settlement properly;
    2. Determining the true value of a claim;
    3. Using skillful negotiation tactics;
    4. Properly handling a mediation;
    5. Avoiding common settlement pitfalls;
    6. Maximizing recovery from Social Security;
    7. Maximizing recovery from Medicare; and
    8. Maximizing recovery in third-party claims

Attorney's Fees and Costs in Louisiana Workers Compensation

Attorney's fees in Louisiana workers compensation are limited to twenty percent (20%) of the total amount of recovery.

Attorney's fees in Louisiana workers compensation must be approved by the workers compensation Judge and are to be paid from the amount awarded to the injured employee in the manner allowed by the workers compensation Judge.

This twenty percent (20%) limitation on the fees of a Louisiana workers compensation attorney is just that—a maximum amount payable.

This twenty percent (20%) limit on attorney's fees is not a minimum which must necessarily be awarded, and the attorney does not have an absolute right to that amount.

However, it is extremely rare that a workers compensation Judge will not approve a twenty percent (20%) attorney fee because under Louisiana law, a workers compensation attorney has a potential privilege on the compensation payable or awarded.

Instead, the workers compensation Judge will recognize the right of an attorney to a reasonable fee for work done; after all, the twenty percent (20%) attorney's fee in Louisiana workers compensation is much lower than the 30% to 45% contingency fees charged regularly by attorneys in personal injury cases.

Therefore, even though the twenty percent (20%) fees of a Louisiana workers compensation attorney is just a limit, an injured employee should expect that the attorney's will, in fact, be twenty percent (20%).

How Are Attorney's Fees Paid?

As noted above, attorney's fees in Louisiana workers compensation are limited to twenty percent (20%) of the total amount of recovery.

So basically, if there is no recovery, then the employee does not have to pay anything.

So in Louisiana workers compensation, attorney's fees come from an employee's benefits, not out-of-pocket.

Often, the entire fee will be based upon, and come out of, only the final settlement of the workers compensation claim.

If an attorney's services result in the employee receiving a weekly wage-loss check, then typically, the attorney will take a fee on those checks. 

At any rate, an injured employee won't pay anything in attorney's fees until the employee's weekly lost wage benefit checks start arriving.

Court Costs and Other Expenses

In addition to attorney's fees, Louisiana workers compensation claims involve other out-of-pocket costs.

Some of these common expenses include:

    • Court filing fees and costs;
    • Subpoena costs;
    • Fees for copies of medical records;
    • Court reporter costs for depositions;
    • Copying costs;
    • Postage and delivery costs.
    • Attorney travel expenses;
    • Mediation fees; and
    • Expert witness fees.

Generally, these costs and expenses are not included in standard fee agreements of most workers compensation attorneys.

However, most workers compensation attorneys (like most personal injury attorneys) will front these costs (pay them upfront) and then deduct them out of any settlement funds.

How and when these costs and expenses are handled should be laid out very clearly in the fee agreement/contract that the employee must sign with a workers compensation attorney.

So it is very important for the employee to understand, before hiring a workers compensation attorney, how and when these costs and expenses will be paid. 

What Legal Services Will An Attorney Perform in Exchange for Attorney's Fees?

A qualified, experienced Louisiana workers compensation attorney can drastically improve an injured employee's situation and claim.

Specifically, a Louisiana workers compensation attorney can:

    1. Help find the best doctor for an injured employee;
    2. Manage the workers compensation claims process;
    3. Ensure the full lost wage benefits are received;
    4. Ensure that all medical treatment is approved and received;
    5. Manage the vocational rehabilitation process;
    6. Represent the employee in workers compensation disputes;
    7. Represent the employee in third-party claims; and
    8. Maximize the employee's settlement.

Given the 20% limit on workers compensation attorney's fees in Louisiana, almost every injured employee should strongly consider hiring a qualified attorney to represent him or her in the claim.  

In short, the benefits of legal representation in Louisiana workers compensation far outlay the costs.

However, one of the biggest mistakes that employees make is waiting too long to hire a workers compensation attorney.  

By the time many injured workers hire an attorney, the insurance company has likely already diminished, limited, or extinguished many of the employee's legal rights, and thus devalued the employee's claim.

And contrary to what the insurance company wants the employee to believe, the insurance company will not treat the employee better if the employee doesn't hire a lawyer, the insurance company will treat the employee worse (and often much much worse).

The Louisiana Statutes for Attorney's Fees and Costs in Louisiana Workers Compensation

The primary Louisiana statutes regarding attorney's fees and costs in Louisiana Workers Compensation are La. R.S. 23:1141 and La. R.S. 23:1143, which read as follows:

§1141.  Attorney fees; privilege on compensation awards

A.  Claims of attorneys for legal services arising under this Chapter shall not be enforceable unless reviewed and approved by a workers' compensation judge.  If so approved, such claims shall have a privilege upon the compensation payable or awarded, but shall be paid therefrom only in the manner fixed by the workers' compensation judge.  No privilege shall exist or be approved by a workers' compensation judge on injury benefits as provided in R.S. 23:1221(4)(s).

B.  The fees of an attorney who renders service for an employee coming under this Chapter shall not exceed twenty percent of the amount recovered.

Amended by Acts 1958, No. 496, §1; Acts 1980, No. 599, §1; Acts 1983, 1st Ex. Sess., No. 1, §1, eff. July 1, 1983; Acts 1988, No. 938, §1, eff. July 1, 1989; Acts 1989, No. 23, §1, eff. June 15, 1989; Acts 1989, No. 260, §1, eff. Jan. 1, 1990; Acts 1995, No. 609, §1; Acts 1996, 1st Ex. Sess., No. 31, §1, eff. May 1, 1996; Acts 1997, No. 88, §1, eff. June 11, 1997; Acts 2004, No. 647, §1, eff. July 5, 2004.

§1143.  Excessive fees or solicitation of employment; penalty; withholding attorney fees; approval by workers' compensation judge

A.  Whoever exacts or receives a fee or gratuity for any services rendered on behalf of a claimant for compensation, except in the amount determined by the workers' compensation judge, or solicits the business of appearing before the office on behalf of a claimant, or makes it a business to solicit employment for an attorney in connection with any claim for compensation under this Chapter, shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars or imprisoned for not more than twelve months, or both.

B.(1)  An attorney may withhold, as proposed attorney fees, a sum not to exceed twenty percent of all amounts recovered in his trust account which funds shall remain the property of the claimant, pending approval of such fees by the workers' compensation judge.

(2)  An application for approval of fees shall be filed by the attorney within thirty days after the payment of the final weekly benefit, settlement of the claim, or payment of the judgment, whichever occurs later.  Otherwise the funds shall be returned to the claimant.

Acts 1990, No. 202, §1; Acts 1997, No. 88, §1, eff. June 11, 1997; Acts 2001, No. 672, §1; Acts 2004, No. 647, §1, eff. July 5, 2004.

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