Under Illinois workers’ compensation law, there is no set answer to this question, but I can tell you that it doesn’t or rather shouldn’t take a year and a half.
That’s how long it had been for a recent caller to my office and there was no indication that she’d be going to trial any time soon. I could see online via the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission website that a 19(b) trial motion had been filed, but that was way back in 2013.
A 19(b) is what’s known as a petition for immediate hearing. Basically, it allows your lawyer to get your case ready for trial and have an Arbitrator decide a dispute. It’s not the end to your case, but rather a way of determining if you in fact did sustain a work related injury or whether or not you are entitled to benefits. The most common scenario is when your doctor says you can’t work and an independent medical examination (IME) says you are fine.
To get ready for a trial in this scenario usually requires your attorney to gather all of your medical records and take a deposition of your doctor and the IME doctor. That’s mostly it. On average that should take three months or so and usually it shouldn’t drag past six months. That’s hard to take if you have no money coming in, but not as hard to take as 18 months would be.
So why was my caller waiting so long? In her case, the firm she hired is rather lazy by reputation and tends to take every case that comes through the door, no matter the quality. When you have a couple thousand cases, you can’t help everyone and what ends up happening at firms like this one is that the tough cases get the shaft.
I’ve heard of other firms that take cases in all parts in Illinois, but refuse to actually travel to the hearing locations for a trial. In other words, the best work comp firm in Chicago is of no use to you if your case is being heard in Springfield and they won’t go there for you.
Still other firms don’t want to spend the money to go to trial. Taking a deposition of a doctor or two can cost a couple of thousand dollars. That is money that is supposed to be paid by the attorney and then reimbursed to them at the end of the case. Some younger firms can’t afford to do this. Other times your case isn’t that strong or doesn’t have a ton of value so they don’t want to spend the money to make a trial happen. My take on that is then they shouldn’t have taken your case to being with.
Whatever the reason, you have every right to ask your attorney for a firm and realistic time table as to when you will be able to testify. If they tell you it could take years, they are simply lying to you.