Are Oregon Attorney Fee Awards Higher in Workers’ Compensation? Yes!
It is not your imagination. The Workers’ Compensation Board published their Annual Attorney Fee Report on January 19, 2023, which includes a breakdown of the attorney fees the Board awarded in the 2021 calendar year. You can find the complete reporthere.
The total attorney fees awarded to claimant are incrementally, but steadily increasing. This is due to a combination of factors. The Oregon Legislature mandated modifications to certain statutes which require the Board to review all attorney fee schedules biennially for adjustment. You can read Hannah Tieg’s blog post about the July 1, 2022 attorney fee adjustment here. Arguably, the issues presented to the Board are also increasing in complexity, necessitating extensive pre-hearing and post-hearing activities. These activities are the building blocks of higher fee awards.
In most categories of cases that were brought to hearing, then to Board Review, the claimant attorney fee awards were higher in 2021. These issues included overturned denials, issues other than compensability, and combinations of issues. The annual review also confirmed the claimant attorney fee awards tend to track closely with overall changes with economic growth in Oregon.
Broadly speaking, when considering all assessed and out of compensation fee awards (which includes Disputed Claim Settlements, Claim Disposition Agreements and Stipulations), the total assessed fees and total claimant attorney fees awarded by the Board increased in 2021.
The report also included an analysis of the disparity between claimant fees and defense legal costs. This disparity continues to shrink over time, as defense costs reduce and claimant’s attorney fee awards increase.
Finally, the Board acknowledged it did not track wins and losses. But the report did include an analysis of whether an Opinion an Order resulted in an attorney fee. In 2021, there was an increase in the number of Opinion and Orders that resulted in an attorney fee. The report revealed the chance of getting some type of attorney fee when a claimant brings an issue to hearing is 40%, and this fee would be on average, $3,735.
When we collectively consider the impact of case law updates, the Oregon Rule changes, and the biennial statutory adjustments to the attorney fee schedules, we will likely see both an increase in Requests for Hearing and a continued rise in the amount of awarded attorney fees. This may have a ripple effect into settlement negotiations as well. When these litigious situations arise, we will work closely with you to strategize the best outcome.
If you have any questions about the increasing attorney fee awards in Oregon, feel free to contact me at or 971-977-5970.