How Much May an Attorney Charge to Handle a Work Comp Case in Tennessee?

by | Sep 10, 2015

Clients are oftentimes hesitant to contact and hire an attorney because they are worried about the cost. Lawyer fees in Tennessee work comp cases are limited by law. Generally, an attorney may not request or receive a legal fee of more than 20% of the injured worker’s recovery (plus reimbursement of costs incurred). The language of the law currently in effect in Tennessee beginning July 1, 2014 is below (emphasis added). Tennessee work comp attorneys do not charge a client for an initial consultation to determine if the case is one the lawyer may want to take on.

50-6-226.  Fees of attorneys and physicians, and hospital charges.  [Applicable to injuries occurring on and after July 1, 2014.]

(a)  (1) The fees of attorneys for services to employees under this chapter, shall be subject to the approval of the workers’ compensation judge before which the matter is pending, as appropriate; provided, that no attorney’s fees to be charged employees shall be in excess of twenty percent (20%) of the amount of the recovery or award to be paid by the party employing the attorney. The department shall deem the attorney’s fee to be reasonable if the fee does not exceed twenty percent (20%) of the award to the injured worker, or, in cases governed by § 50-6-207(4), twenty percent (20%) of the first four hundred fifty (450) weeks of the award. All attorney’s fees for attorneys representing employers shall be subject to review for reasonableness of the fee and shall be subject to approval by a workers’ compensation judge when the fee exceeds ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

(2)  (A) Medical costs that have been voluntarily paid by the employer or its insurer shall not be included in determining the award for purposes of calculating the attorney’s fee.

(B) [Deleted by 2013 amendment, effective July 1, 2014.]

(C) In cases that proceed to trial, an employee’s attorney shall file an application for approval of a proposed attorney’s fee. Where the award of an attorney’s fee exceeds ten thousand dollars ($10,000), the court shall make specific findings as to the factors that justify the fee as provided in Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 8, RPC 1.5.

(D) The final order or settlement in all workers’ compensation cases shall set out the attorney portion of the award in both dollar and percentage terms and the required findings.

(3) In accident cases that result in death of an employee, the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees shall not exceed reasonable payment for actual time and expenses incurred when the employer makes a voluntary settlement offer in writing to dependents or survivors eligible under § 50-6-210 within thirty (30) days of the employee’s death if the employer offers to provide the dependents or survivors with all the benefits provided under this chapter. The approving authority shall review and approve the settlements on an expedited basis.

(4) The fees of physicians and charges of hospitals for services to employees under this chapter, shall be subject to the approval of the administrator or the court before which the matter is pending, as appropriate, as provided in this subdivision (a)(4). Unless a medical fee or charge is contested, the department shall deem it to be reasonable. If a fee or charge is contested, the department shall permit a party to seek review only of the contested fee or charge in any court with jurisdiction to hear a matter pursuant to § 50-6-225. A court may review the case solely for the purpose of approving the fees and charges that are reasonable.

(b) The charging or receiving of any fee by an attorney in violation of subsection (a) shall be deemed unlawful practice and render the attorney liable to disbarment; and, further, the attorney shall forfeit double the entire amount retained by the attorney, to be recovered as in case of debt by the injured person or the injured person’s creditor.

(c)  (1) The fees charged to the claimant by the treating physician or a specialist to whom the employee was referred for giving testimony by oral deposition relative to the claim shall, unless the interests of justice require otherwise, be considered a part of the costs of the case, to be charged against the employer when the employee is the prevailing party.

(2) The workers’ compensation judge shall have the discretion to determine the reasonableness of the fee charged by any physician pursuant to this subsection (c).

(3) This subsection (c) applies only to workers’ compensation actions arising on or after July 1, 1988.

(d) In addition to any attorneys’ fees provided for in this section, the court of workers’ compensation claims may award attorneys’ fees and reasonable costs, including reasonable and necessary court reporter expenses and expert witness fees for depositions and trials incurred when the employer fails to furnish appropriate medical, surgical and dental treatment or care, medicine, medical and surgical supplies, crutches, artificial members and other apparatus to an employee provided for in a settlement or judgment under this chapter.

(e) A health care provider shall not employ a collection agency or make a report to a credit bureau concerning a private claim against an employer for all or part of the costs of medical care provided to an employee that are not paid by the employer’s workers’ compensation insurer without having first given notice of the dispute to the medical payment committee. The medical director may include the insurer in the administrative process.

HISTORY: Acts 1919, ch. 123, § 33; Shan. Supp., § 3608a183; Code 1932, §§ 6886, 6887; Acts 1957, ch. 121, § 1; 1963, ch. 333, § 2; impl. am. Acts 1980, ch. 534, § 1; T.C.A. (orig. ed.), §§ 50-1019, 50-1020; Acts 1988, ch. 865, §§ 1-3; 1996, ch. 944, § 17; 1999, ch. 520, § 41; 2003, ch. 112, § 4; 2007, ch. 300, §§ 2, 3; 2013, ch. 282, § 1; 2013, ch. 289, § 61-64.

If you have been injured and you believe you are not receiving proper workers compensation by your employer, we encourage you to seek experienced legal counsel to discuss your legal options.