2005 Regular Session
By: Representative Brown
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 71-3-63, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO REQUIRE THAT THE STATUTORILY ALLOWED ATTORNEY'S FEES IN WORKERS' COMPENSATION CASES SHALL BE IN ADDITION TO, AND NOT DEDUCTED FROM, THE CLAIMANT'S FULL AWARD OF BENEFITS; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 71-3-63, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
71-3-63. (1) No claim for legal services or for any other services rendered in respect of a claim or award for compensation, to or on account of any person, shall be valid unless approved by the commission or, if proceedings for review of the order of the commission in respect of such claim or award are had before any court, unless approved by such court. Any claim so approved shall, in the manner and to the extent fixed by the commission or such court, be a lien upon such compensation.
(2) Any person (a) who receives any fee, other consideration, or any gratuity on account of services so rendered, unless such consideration or gratuity is approved by the commission or such court, or (b) who makes it a business to solicit employment for a lawyer or for himself in respect of any claim or award for compensation, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall for each offense be punished by a fine of not more than One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00) or by imprisonment not to exceed one (1) year, or by both such fine and imprisonment.
(3) Representation of one other than himself or herself before the commission shall be considered the practice of law, and all statutes applying to and regulating the practice in all other courts of law in this state shall likewise apply to practice before the commission, insofar as the qualifications of those practicing before the commission are concerned. This paragraph shall not be construed as tightening the rules of evidence which are otherwise relaxed in other sections of this chapter.
In no instance shall the amount recovered by an attorney for an appearance before the commission exceed twenty-five percent (25%) of the total award of compensation, which amount shall be in addition to, and not deducted from, the claimant's full award of benefits. Such limitations, however, shall not be construed as applying to a fee awarded for additional services by any superior court. Legal services rendered where no motion to controvert has been filed by either employer or employee shall be considered as consultation, and that factor shall be taken into consideration in awarding a fee. In all instances, fees shall be awarded on the basis of fairness to both attorney and client. Although exceptions may be made in the interest of justice, it shall be deemed conducive to the best interest of all concerned for the commission to approve contracts for attorneys' fees voluntarily entered into between attorney and client, within the limitations hereinabove set out.
When an award of compensation becomes final and an attorney's fee is outstanding, a partial lump sum settlement sufficient to cover the attorney's fee approved therein by the commission shall be made immediately, from payments last to become due, and the deductions allowed by the law shall be borne equally by the attorney and the client.
SECTION 2. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2005.