Workers compensation attorney fees in Wisconsin are set by law at 20% of the benefits obtained by the attorney for the client.

In any case, the DWD or the DHA may set the fee and provide for the fee to be protected, that is, paid to the attorney directly out of the award. Wis. Stat. Sec. 102.26(3)(b) and Wis. Admin. Code § DWD 80.43. At the end of a worker’s compensation hearing, the ALJ will ask the claimant’s attorney whether he or she would like the fee to be approved and protected. Attorney’s rules require most fee agreements to be in writing. SCR 20:1.5(b). The application for hearing, WKC-7, provides for consent for the attorney fees at line 14 but it does not address the issue of costs. To cover the costs and fees, a signed separate fee agreement should be used.

Whether a contingent fee is due often arises when benefits that were initially denied are conceded after counsel is retained but without a hearing being held. The answer is whether the efforts of the attorney played a material role in concession of benefits. Attorney fees are normally approved if the attorney obtained and presented medical support for a claim but a fee would not be paid if benefits would have been paid regardless of the attorney’s representation. Attorneys requesting fees in such cases must submit to the DWD necessary documentation supporting the request along with the fee agreement. See Wis. Admin. Code § DWD 80.43(4).

Generally, no attorney fees are awarded for amounts reimbursed to a short or long-term disability insurer or a health insurance carrier. Wis. Stat. § 102.30(7).

On the other hand, if the attorney successfully obtains workers compensation to pay medical bills, then an attorney fee is generally awarded.

Reasonable costs of prosecuting the case are recoverable. Costs typically include charges for medical records and bills, vocational examinations and reports, medical expert reports and form completion.

If a workers compensation insurer or self-insured employer is aware that an attorney is involved in the claim and the insurer or employer does not withhold 20% of the benefits paid as a potential attorney fee, additional liability may exist on the theory that there is an attorney’s lien. Similarly, if the claimant changes representation during the course of the proceedings, the department will determine the fees of the attorneys in the absence of an agreement between counsel. Wis. Admin. Code § DWD 80.43(6).

McCormick Law Office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin represents injured workers in workers compensation claims for the standard 20% attorney fee that virtually all attorneys charge in Wisconsin.