One of the most common questions that injured workers ask is how much their legal fees are going to be. Naturally, this is a matter of concern to workers who, due to their injuries are often unable to work for a wage and are uncertain about what their future might hold. Workers often express a concern that if they seek legal advice, they are likely to end up with yet another bill that they have to find the money to pay.
If you have suffered a work injury and do not agree with a decision made about your claim, you may have the right to seek a review of the decision by the South Australian Employment Tribunal. Whether you have this right depends upon whether the Tribunal has been given the power to deal with your particular matter. If so, then you will likely be entitled to recover a large part of your legal fees from the Return To Work Corporation of South Australia (or your employer if it is self-insured).
If you lodge an Application for Review, you can recover up to $412.00* for the cost of a lawyer preparing and lodging the Application.
The Tribunal has a conciliation phase at the start of its workers compensation proceedings, which usually includes an initial directions hearing and a compulsory conciliation conference. For legal work undertaken during this phase, an additional amount of up to $763.00* is usually recoverable. However, in some circumstances, it is possible to apply for a greater contribution to your legal fees of up to $2,523.00.*
If the matter cannot be resolved at the conciliation stage, then the matter is referred to the judicial level of the Tribunal. From that point on, you may be able to recover up to 85% of your legal fees.
You are entitled to recover a contribution to your costs if you win or lose at trial, or settle by agreement, provided you behave in a reasonable manner in bringing and engaging in the proceedings.
Whilst it may be difficult to know the precise figure you will be charged for legal costs, in matter before the Tribunal, you will usually be able to recover the majority of your fees.
This cost recovery is not available for the work that your lawyer does for you outside of Tribunal proceedings.
If you want to know if you have a reasonable case for commencing Tribunal proceedings, make an appointment to see one of our work injury law specialists for a no-obligation first interview. We will provide you with preliminary advice about your chances of success and the likely costs involved.
* Please note: The amounts for costs contained in this article are based on Tribunal proceedings issued in 2017. These amounts may vary as they are indexed and change yearly.