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Comp case settles, lawyer gets lower fee

A lawyer who worked to settle an employee’s comp case thought he should get a 20 percent fee, but he had to settle for 5 percent when the case settled for $100,000 after the claimant fired the lawyer.

Senad Sabic won medical benefits and temporary disability benefits after his 2008 work-related injury, but he hired Eric S. Wiener in 2011 when the employer tried to halt benefits.

Koons of Tyson Corner, the employer, won a suspension of benefits and the commission scheduled a hearing on another claim for benefits by Sabic. But Wiener moved to withdraw as counsel, at Sabic’s request. Wiener asserted an attorney’s fee lien for services rendered. He also submitted his contract with Sabic that called for a fee of 20 percent of an award.

Sabic challenged the fee request, saying Wiener failed to obtain and submit necessary medical records. Acting pro se, Sabic settled his case with Koons for $100,000.

Wiener detailed his work on the case for the commission and filed copies of correspondence on his efforts to settle with the employer.

Contingency fees are allowed in workers’ comp cases, the full commission said, but it did not approve a 20-percent fee in this Sabic’s case.

Wiener had worked to settle the case, but the dispute didn’t settle until after Wiener withdrew at his client’s request. Based on its review of Wiener’s efforts, $5,000 would cover his services, the commission said in its July 2 opinion Sabic v. Koons of Tysons Corner.

By Deborah Elkins

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