Workers’ compensation matters are often complicated, and many claims are denied. Thus, some people who were hurt at work will retain an attorney to assist them with claims processing and the pursuit of the full amount of benefits recoverable. Workers’ compensation lawyers, like most attorneys, typically expect to be compensated, and in many instances, their fees are recoverable from the employer that denied employee benefits. Attorneys’ fees in workers’ compensation cases are subject to statutory limits and must be approved by the courts, as explained in a recent New Jersey opinion in which the court discussed grounds for awarding attorneys’ fees. If you were injured at work, it is wise to confer with a trusted New Jersey workers’ compensation attorney to determine whether you may be able to recover benefits.
The Plaintiff’s Claim
It is alleged that the plaintiff worked at the defendant hospital. She suffered an injury while working, after which she filed a workers’ compensation claim. She was represented by one attorney at a law firm at the beginning of the proceedings, but then he left the firm, and her case was transferred to another attorney within the firm who handled the matter throughout the remainder of her workers’ compensation proceedings. The parties ultimately entered into a settlement agreement that resulted in an award of attorneys’ fees that were divided 60% and 40% between the attorney and the firm, respectively. The firm then appealed.
Awarding Attorneys’ Fees in Workers’ Compensation Matters
On appeal, the court reversed the trial court’s award of fees. The court noted that the workers’ compensation division has the exclusive original jurisdiction over all matters arising out of claims for workers’ compensation benefits. Further, the law provides that it is within the discretion of a judge of compensation to award the prevailing party reasonable attorneys’ fees, as long as they don’t exceed 20% of the judgment.
Whether the fees sought are reasonable depends on the facts and circumstances of the individual case. The court explained that when fees are requested, the petitioner must provide support that such fees are warranted by way of an affidavit of the services provided. The affidavit must show the extent of the attorney’s efforts, including the time each task took, the expertise and skill needed for each task, and any other relevant factor.
In the subject case, the court noted that the lower court made its decision regarding fees without any documentation regarding the hours worked or services performed. A such, the court found that the lower court could not properly determine the amount of time the attorney and law firm spent on the case. Therefore, the court reversed the ruling and remanded for further proceedings.
Speak to an Experienced New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you were injured at work, you could be owed workers’ compensation benefits from your employer, and you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible about your rights. The experienced New Jersey workers’ compensation attorneys of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall are skilled at aiding people to attain compensation for an injury at work, and if we represent you, we will fight to help you seek any benefits you could be owed. We can be reached through our form online or at 800-999-0897 to set up a conference.