EXPENSIVE FUNERALS, CHEAP LAWYERS

Injury claim

Before he left the Commissioner’s office, Rod Bordelon contributed to one last Biennial report. It’s sort of a State of the Union of workers comp in Texas. One of his expressed goals was reducing the cost of a claim. But there is one increased cost recommendation that stands out to me.

As you may know I previously complained here about the tardiness of the Division in adopting the rules that provide for a meager increase for w.c. lawyers. As of today, we are still working for 1991 rates. But apparently, a funeral is worth more than a lawyer.

The Division now recommends to the Legislature increasing the death benefit to defray the increased cost of funerals, because

Over the past decade, the median cost of an adult funeral in the United States has
increased approximately 35.2 percent…

However, conspicuously absent is any recommendation about increasing attorney’s fees, which has been pending after comment since last summer. I hope that’s because it wouldn’t actually increase the cost of a claim, since in almost all cases, fees come from an injured workers benefits.

In an era when fees have risen almost 300% since 1991, Texas Workers Compensation lawyers have been artificially suspended at $150 an hour for 25 years. Many commenters alerted the Division that they could not perform all of the services required by their clients under present guidelines. And forget keeping pace. At the present level that the Division took comment on the proposed “raise” to $175 an hour for attorneys and $65 an hour for legal assistants represents a 25 year increase of 17% for attorneys and 30% for legal assistants.

Why should anyone care about the level of fees?  Because skilled lawyers are being priced out–and workers compensation law is becoming more complex–given new standards of causation analysis that apply.

Bordelon stressed during comment that he wanted to achieve “Balance” with the reality that fees come out of a Claimant’s benefits. But his recommendation on a funeral increase above shows that lawyers are below the dead in the pecking order. Dare I say it remains to this date an incongruous recommendation given the inaction on attorney’s fees.

A recent article detailed his achievements bordelontenure-3

“I would never rest on our laurels and say the system is perfect; it is certainly not…”

he said.

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