What does it mean when my workers’ compensation lawyer files a lien on my case?

Did you receive a lien on your workers’ comp claim? Read on to find out what it is and what to do.

What is a workers’ comp lien?

In simple terms, a lien is a legal right a person or entity has against the property of another. There are a few reasons why you might receive a lien on your workers’ comp settlement.

  • An insurer other than your workers’ comp insurer (such as your health care plan) paid your medical bills or disability benefits
  • You received a personal injury lawsuit settlement for the same incident
  • You fired your lawyer

Can I have both a workers compensation claim and a personal injury claim for the same accident or injury?

In Georgia, workers’ compensation is a “no-fault” system and you cannot sue your employer for your injuries. In some cases, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against a third party, such as a manufacturer of a tool that you were injured on because it was faulty or improperly designed. These cases are not common. However, if you would receive a settlement from a personal injury claim from the same incident in which you were receiving workers’ comp benefits, the workers’ comp insurance company may have a right to repayment of certain medical bills. This is called subrogation and the workers’ comp adjuster may send you a notice called a subrogation lien.

What happens if I fire my workers’ comp attorney?

Your workers’ comp lawyer’s fee contract should have a provision in it about what happens if you fire your attorney. Usually, the attorney will file a WC-108b lien with attached documentation outlining the number of hours spent on your claim and the administrative expenses incurred. The fee contract should lay out an hourly fee in case of termination, and this fee will be reflected in the total requested on the WC-108b lien (after multiplied by hours spent).

The most frequent questions when this happens are, “Do I owe this money?” and, if so, “When?” The answer is, “It depends.”

You cannot give an attorney more than 25% of your workers’ comp disability benefits or stipulated settlement amount; that’s the most the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act allows an attorney to receive for representing an injured worker.  Thus, if you get a new attorney, you’re not going to owe 25% to one and the lien amount to the other.

Regarding timing: you don’t owe the total lien amount immediately after termination. Instead, it’s to be paid when/if the case is settled by stipulated settlement.  The amount may be negotiable. If you’re already receiving your full Temporary Total Disability weekly benefits (i.e., 25% isn’t going to an attorney), and the case never settles, you may not have to pay the lien at all.

What should I do if I receive a lien on my workers’ comp settlement?

If you have more questions about attorney’s fees and liens in Georgia, or what to do about them,  feel free to contact us today: 404-354-5432.

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