AUGUSTA – A sliding scale system that limits how much lawyers can
charge injured workers for representing them in workers’ compensation cases would
be eliminated under a bill sponsored by Maine Senate President Troy Jackson.
The sliding scale represents a limitation on what lawyers can collect from a lump sum settlement won by an injured worker. The sliding scale currently limits what a lawyer can collect at 10% on the first $50,000 of a settlement and tapers down to a maximum of 5% of any amount over $90,000.
Senate President Jackson’s bill strips that language out of state law.
The bill also would require the employer to pay some legal fees if
the injured worker prevails in a dispute. The non-profit group Maine People
Before Politics says even that piece of the bill is unnecessary because Maine
is one of the few states that provides lawyers for free to workers through Maine’s
Worker Advocate Program.
For many injured workers, the lump sum settlement they receive after a career ending injury represents a life line to the future. Often, they pay off immediate costs and bills related to their case and then put the remaining funds away to provide long term stability.
As an example of how the sliding scale system that is currently in state law works, on a settlement of $150,000, a lawyer is limited to collecting $11,000 from that settlement, aside from other fees related to medical examins, medical witnesses, appeal fees and court reporter costs. That amount is just short of 7.5% of the total settlement amount.
Maine People Before Politics says the bill, L.D. 1623 should be
voted down by the Maine Legislature’s Labor and Housing Committee because it
would “line the pockets of attorneys at the expense of injured workers.”
Most states place a limit on the amount of fees a lawyer can
collect from an injured worker’s settlement, so this proposal would put Maine among
a minority of states that did not provide that protection for workers.
Senate President Troy Jackson is the only sponsor of this bill. The bill will have a public hearing on Monday, May 6th at 9 AM before the Maine Legislature’s Labor and Housing Committee in Room 202 of the Cross Building.