Under Illinois workers’ compensation law, lawyer fees are set by state law and through the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. In general, if you ask any lawyer what they charge, the answer will be 20%.
A recent case of ours that is on the verge of being complete is going to settle for $300,000.00. If we charged 20%, the fee would be $60,000.00 but in this case the fee will be a little over $34,000.00 which comes out to around 11.5%. That’s still a good fee for an attorney, but we aren’t reducing our fee. It’s the most allowed under law. How is that so?
Per Illinois law on attorney fees in job accidents, there is a maximum amount lawyers can receive. Our fees are limited to 20% of 364 weeks of permanent disability benefits. So in a case like this, the client made around $660 a week which put their permanent disability rate at $473.03. If you crunch the numbers that puts our total fee at a little over 11% and puts more money in the client’s pocket.
In fact, in negotiations to get the offer from $200,000 to $300,000, all of that extra money goes straight in to the pocket of the client.
This doesn’t happen in every six figure work comp case, but it happens in a lot of them. Some injured workers make more money per week which raises their permanent disability rate and in turn raises the amount the lawyer can receive in the end. In general though, for most cases above $400,000 it does seem like the cap comes in to play.
This is all good news for you, the injured worker and also a huge reason why getting an attorney makes sense and puts more money in your pocket. The insurance company would never tell you about this law, but would make you think that getting an attorney would take more from your bottom line that it will.
Bonus tip. Law firms are allowed to petition the Arbitrator and say that the maximum shouldn’t apply to them because they put in extraordinary work and efforts. That can be true in some cases that take years and require many depositions, a trial and some appeals. There are some lawyers who will do this even when all they did was negotiate. You have a right to contest this request and shouldn’t be afraid of offending your lawyer by fighting them on it. It’s your money and they are still getting a ton anyway if it comes to that point.