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Lawyers in work injury claims almost always charge a percentage of the amount recovered in a case, which means that, if there is no recovery, there is no attorney fee. In rare cases, the attorney may agree to represent an injured worker on an hourly basis, and in that case, the amount would be payable whether the worker wins or loses. That accounts for a very tiny portion of work injury cases.
Attorney fees are typically 25% to 1/3 of the amount recovered, plus any expenses. They may charge more if the case is complex, or the case has a lower chance of success. Some lawyers charge 1/3 of all amounts recovered in every case. In addition to that, the attorney often spends hundreds of dollars to obtain records and opinions. Those are payable in addition to attorney fees; if there is no recovery, the attorney is still entitled to be paid back for those expenses.
Injured workers often ask if the employer can be made to pay for the attorney fees for pursuing the claim. With one minor exception, they cannot be made to do so. The exception is contained in Section 86.13 of the Iowa Code. That directs the Iowa Division of Workers’ Compensation to award damages of 50% of any benefits which were not paid, if the employer does not have a reasonable excuse for not paying them. While that sounds like a substantial penalty, that only applies to the benefits which are already due, and not 50% of future benefits. That means that the employer often ends up being ordered to pay a pretty small amount, compared to the total amount awarded, certainly not enough to pay the entire attorney fee.
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