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Recovering Attorneys’ Fees as an ERISA Claimant

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Recovering Attorneys’ Fees as an ERISA Claimant

03 Jul, 2018
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No one ever said that justice was free. Instead, injured parties often need to spend money to have their day in court, and the situation is not different for ERISA claimants. However, a nice feature of the federal law is that successful claimants can sometimes force the other side to pay all or a portion of their attorneys’ fees. Read on to understand when a court might award you attorneys’ fees.

Attorneys’ Fees Might be Available if You Go to Court

It is entirely possible that you might settle your ERISA dispute before getting to court. Indeed, a settlement might be the best resolution to your dispute, depending on your goals. If your case does not go to court, then you won’t qualify for attorneys’ fees and the plan will not include them in the settlement. Instead, you will simply pay your lawyer the agreed-upon fee for their handling of the case.

However, if you do reach court, then you might be able to file a motion for attorneys’ fees. Talk about this possibility with your ERISA lawyer during your consultation.

You Can Get Attorneys’ Fees if You Have “Some Degree of Success”

Ten years ago, litigants could only request attorneys’ fees if they won their case in court. In 2010, however, the Supreme Court changed that rule in a case called Hardt v. Reliance Standard Life Ins. Instead, the court stated that attorneys’ fees might be available if you have “some degree of success” on the merits.

The court was not very clear about how much success was required but noted it could not be “trivial” or merely “procedural.” Other courts have fleshed out this standard to include, for example, winning a remand back to the Plan Administrator for further consideration of your claim.

The Court Has Discretion to Award Attorneys’ Fees

You have no absolute right to attorneys’ fees, but a court can award them in its discretion. To analyze whether it is appropriate to do so, the court might look at a variety of factors, including:

  • The degree of the other side’s bad faith in denying the claim
  • The other side’s ability to pay attorneys’ fees
  • Whether awarding attorneys’ fees would deter other people from acting in the same manner
  • Whether you tried to resolve a significant legal question regarding ERISA or sought to benefit all members of the plan
  • The merits of each party’s position in the dispute

If these factors weigh heavily in your favor, then the judge might award you attorneys’ fees. However, the court is not required to use these factors and might consider other factors instead or in addition to the ones listed.

Contact a Cook County ERISA Attorney

Bringing ERISA claims involves many sensitive considerations, the cost of resolving the dispute only being one of them. At the Law Offices of Michael Bartolic, we have obtained attorneys’ fees for several of our clients and are well-versed on how to make a compelling argument to the judge. To schedule a free consultation to discuss the services we offer, please call 312-635-1600.

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