MEMORANDUM NO. 2001-03
Claimant's Attorney's Fee Guidelines
|TO:||All Commissioners, District Administrators, Self-Insureds, Insurance Carriers, Attorneys, Unions, Legal Advisory Panel, and Advisory Board Members|
|FROM:||John A. Mastropietro, Chairman|
|DATE:||July 20, 2001|
|RE:||Claimant's Attorney's Fee Guidelines|
Every attorney seeking a fee from an injured worker in a workers' compensation claim is required to enter into a written fee agreement at the time the injured worker engages the attorney's representation. The attorney representing an injured worker shall notify such worker in the written agreement that all fees charged are subject to the approval of a Workers' Compensation Commissioner.
A Workers' Compensation Commissioner has great discretion pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Sections 31-280(b)(11)(C) and 31-327 to determine the appropriate legal fee when an injured worker or the injured worker's dependent(s) are represented by an attorney. The Commissioner should articulate the basis for the approval of an attorney's fee by a Finding or Order. Such awarded fee shall not be set aside by the Compensation Review Board unless the Board finds a clear abuse of discretion on the part of the Commissioner. This provision does not limit the Commissioner from making any Finding or Order regarding attorney's fees referenced in any other part of Chapter 568, including, but not limited to, securing the payment of contested medical bills, contested indemnity payments, contested Section 31-290a claims and the prosecution or defense of an appeal taken on behalf of an injured worker.
The "basis" for the fee shall be determined by the compensation, indemnity or medical, obtained for the injured worker as a result of the representation by the attorney requesting the fee. Uncontested voluntary payment by the insurance carrier or self-insured employer of (1) temporary total or temporary partial compensation pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Sections 31-307, 31-308(a) and 31-308a, or (2) permanent partial impairment compensation pursuant to a Section 31-308(b) voluntary agreement which are commenced prior to the appearance filed by an attorney is not compensation derived by the attorney's effort on behalf of the injured worker.
Reductions or waiver of medical bills may be included in the definition of "benefit derived" if the attorney requesting the fee has engaged in substantive negotiations with the medical provider that directly resulted in a reduction or waiver of payment, to the benefit of the injured worker or the injured worker's dependent(s). The total medical cost if a waiver is obtained or that portion of the reduced payment negotiated will be deemed a "benefit derived."
Notwithstanding the above, in contested cases where the attorney for an injured worker or the injured worker's dependent(s) has appeared in response to a Notice of Formal Hearing, the Commissioner may allow an attorney to charge more than a 20% contingency fee, but not in excess of 25%, plus costs subject to:
- The written contingency fee agreement, retainer agreement, or engagement letter indicates the injured worker or the injured worker's dependent(s) have made an informed consent to the higher percentage.
- The attorney requesting a fee in excess of 20% shall submit time records indicating the time, labor and costs incurred.
- The factors for the Commissioner to consider include, but are not limited to:
- the time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved and the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly;
- the likelihood, if made known to the injured worker, that the acceptance of a particular employment will preclude other employment by the attorney;
- the fee customarily charged in the locality for similar legal services;
- the amount of time involved and the results obtained;
- the time limitations imposed by the injured worker or the injured worker's dependent(s) or by the circumstances;
- the nature and length of the professional relationship with the injured worker or the injured worker's dependent(s);
- the experience, reputation, and ability of the attorney or attorneys performing the service; and
- the determination by the Commissioner that the fee is fair.