Introduced by Representatives Valsangiacomo of Barre City, Lindgren of Springfield and Murphy of Ludlow
Referred to Committee on
Subject: Labor; workers' compensation; attorney fees; department increase
Statement of purpose: This bill proposes to require that the commissioner of labor and industry review the amount paid to attorneys in workers' compensation claims.
AN ACT RELATING TO REVIEW OF ATTORNEY FEES IN WORKERS' COMPENSATION CLAIMS
It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:
Sec. 1. 21 V.S.A. § 678 is amended to read:
§ 678. COSTS
(a) Necessary costs of proceedings under this chapter shall be assessed by the commissioner against the employer or its *[
workmen's]* workers' compensation carrier when the claimant prevails. The commissioner may allow the claimant to recover reasonable attorney fees when *[ he]* the claimant prevails. Costs shall not be taxed or allowed either party except as provided in this section.
(b) In appeals to the superior or supreme courts, the claimant, if he or she prevails,shall be entitled to reasonable attorney's fees as approved by the court, and interest at the rate of 12 percent per annum on that portion of any award the payment of which is contested. Interest shall be computed from the date of the award of the commissioner.
(c) By January 1, 1999, and at least every five years thereafter, the commissioner shall amend existing rules regarding reasonable attorney fees awarded under subsection (b) of this section. In amending these rules, the commissioner shall consider accessibility to legal services, appropriate inflation factors and any other related factors consistent with the purposes of this chapter. In the event the commissioner proposes no change in the rules in any five-year period, the commissioner shall provide a written report to the committee on administrative rules of the general assembly explaining the reasons for not changing the rules.