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New Mexico bill would increase employer-paid comp legal fees

Posted On: Feb. 17, 2023 11:31 AM CST

legal fees

The amount of money that employers would need to front for employee discovery costs in workers compensation cases that go to settlement would increase under a measure introduced Thursday by New Mexico lawmakers.

New Mexico House Bill 455 would require employers to advance up to $10,000 in comp settlement cases in which the employee requests any discovery to take place, up from the current maximum of $3,000.

Under the bill, if the injured worker prevails on the claim, any discovery costs that were advanced by the employer shall be considered paid by the employer, but if the employee does not prevail he or she would be required to reimburse the employer for those advanced costs.

The measure would also raise the cap for overall attorneys fees in comp cases by $10,000, stating that any legal fees on behalf of a claimant or an employer for a single accidental injury claim shall not exceed $32,500, up from the current maximum of $22,500.

The bill would permit a workers compensation judge to exceed the maximum amount of legal fees ordered to be paid if the judge finds there is “good cause” to do so, which could include the worker’s claim being for permanent total disability benefits, if the worker’s injuries are serious, if additional litigation ensues, or if the judge finds a violation of the settlement has occurred.

The bill would also amend current law to remove language that makes it a misdemeanor subject to fines and jail time to violate any provision of this section of the workers comp law.