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Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Attorney Fees Become Governed By Statute

This means that unlike in, for example, a personal injury case, where the attorney has some discretion over what to charge for a fee, the Minnesota legislature heavily regulates what a Minnesota work comp attorney can charge.  

There are several different types of workers’ compensation lawyer fees:

1. Contingency Fee 

This is one of the main methods for payment of Minnesota workers’ compensation attorney fees.  

These fees are permitted under Minnesota Statute § 176.081, subd. 1(a).  

For injuries from 1995 to October 2013, this section permitted a Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyer a fee of 25% of the first $4,000 and 20% of the next $60,000 of compensation awarded to the injured employee so long as the fees are calculated on genuinely disputed claims or portions of claims.  

All fees for legal services related to the same injury are cumulative and may not exceed $13,000, and fees for obtaining disputed medical or rehabilitation benefits are included in the $13,000 limit.

In October 2013, the statute was amended to state that a fee for legal services of 20% of the first $130,000 of compensation awarded to the employee is the maximum permissible fee.

2. Irwin/Roraff Fees  

The statute was modified in 1995 to provide that the $13,000 limit on work comp attorney fees was the maximum possible fee for all legal services related to the same injury, including attorney fees paid for by the employer/insurer.  

In Irwin v. Surdyk’s Liquor, the Minnesota Supreme Court held that the limitations on attorney fees in the 1995 amendments to the Minnesota Statute were unconstitutional in that they impinged upon the court’s inherent power to oversee attorneys and attorney fees.

3. Fees in Excess of Maximum 

Under Irwin, to get a fee more than the statutory limit, the court set forth a list of factors to consider the compensation judge in the determination of Minnesota workers’ compensation attorney fees:

  1. The amount involved
  2. Time and expense necessary to prepare for trial
  3. The responsibility assumed by counsel
  4. The expertise of counsel
  5. The difficulty of the issues
  6. The nature of the proof involved
  7. The results obtained

4. Fees on Intervenor Recoveries 

These are usually companies that have provided medical treatment or wage replacement benefits such as a short term disability plan.

Minnesota Statute § 176.361, permits any “person” who has an interest in any matter before the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals, Commissioner or compensation judge, such that the person may either gain or lose by an order or decision, to file an application or motion to intervene.  

Issues arise whether and to what extent an intervenor must contribute to the attorney fees or costs incurred in establishing the injured employee’s entitlement to Minnesota workers’ compensation benefits that result in a recovery for the intervenor.  

The main case involved in this issue is Edquist v. Browning-Ferris.

The Statutory Scheme That Outlines Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Attorney Fees Is to the Benefit of Injured Workers.

A Minnesota work comp lawyer only entitles to make a claim for workers’ compensation attorney fees on genuine disputes.  

This means that if you hire a work comp lawyer at the beginning of your claim, and the employer/insurer does not dispute anything (wage loss, medical, etc.), the work comp attorney cannot make a claim for fees.  

Also, many attorney fees become paid for by an employer/insurer.  

For example, if an injured worker’s doctor requests to perform an MRI, the insurer denies payment, and the Minnesota work comp lawyer succeeds in getting the MRI paid for, those fees become paid for by the insurer/employer.

Because of this, it is important for an injured employee to obtain a Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyer at the beginning of the case for a few reasons.  

One, many different time deadlines exist that you must adhere to and failure to adhere to them can adversely affect the case.  

Second, if a dispute does arise the work comp attorney has all the information and can make a quick decision and take quick action on the case.

Our lawyers will review your work comp case to make sure you are getting all the benefits you deserve.  

Our Minneapolis/St. Paul’s work comp lawyers will take the time to explain how workers’ compensation attorney fees factor into your case so you can make appropriate decisions regarding your work comp case.

Author Photo

Joshua R. Stokka

Josh has been representing injured workers for over 10 years. After his first job during law school working for a workers’ compensation attorney, he decided that workers’ compensation is what he eventually wanted to do after law school. Prior to practicing in the area of workers’ compensation, Josh clerked for a judge in the 7th Judicial District in Minnesota. This valuable experience gave him insight into how judges think, do their jobs behind the scene, and how to frame a case in order to obtain a favorable result.  Now, he focuses 100% of his practice to defending injured workers’ in Minnesota.

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