The Oregon Workers' Compensation statute and rules dictate how attorneys who represent injured workers get paid for their work. The good news is that lawyers who work for clients injured on the job in Oregon are paid only if they are "instrumental" and getting a benefit, or an increased benefit for the injured worker. If the lawyer is not successful, then there is no attorney fee. So here is how it works.
A lawyer is "instrumental" in getting a denial set aside, or getting an increase in benefits if the attorney did some work that affected the outcome. If a claim is denied, an attorney will investigate the claim by reviewing the claims file, meeting with the client, talking to witnesses, and getting medical records or opinions. The lawyer may go to hearing with the client, or file appeals with the Oregon Workers' Compensation Board, or the Oregon Workers' Compensation Divsion. Only if there is a positive outcome is the lawyer paid a fee.
If the work results in a denied benefit being granted, or a denied claim being overturned, then someone from the State of Oregon, whether it is an agency official or a Judge, will order the insurance company to pay the attorney fee. This is called an "assessed fee." If the attorney overcomes a claim denial, then in many cases the Judge or Workers' Compensation Board will order the insurance company to pay the costs of fighting the claim as well.
Some benefits, like temporary total disability (wage replacement) or permanent partial disability (compensation for lost earning capacity) result in a money benefit, or an increase in the value of the money benefit. In those cases, the fee is a percentage of the increased benefit amount. This is called an "out of compensation fee."
If a case resolves, either through a claims disposition agreement, or a disputed claims settlement, the fee is a percentage of the settlement, and is set by the statute and the rules. Somebody from the Oregon Workers' Compensation Board will review to settlement agreement to make sure that it complies with the rules and statutes, and part of that rule involves approving the attorney fee.
Regardless of whether the fee is out of compensation, or if it is an assessed fee, all fees must be approved by the State of Oregon. In fact, with any appeal, the attorney actually sends a copy of the fee agreement to the State of Oregon, and to get a copy of your claims file, sends a copy of the fee agreement to the insurance company.
So the good news is that you can hire an attorney without having to pay money up front, and only if there is success, is there a fee. If you have a denied workers' compensation claim, or even an accepted claim but are having problems getting the benefits you need, call us at 503 325 8600. We can tell you if you need an attorney in the first place, and review your file to make sure. If there are no issues to pursue, there is no fee.