I’ve written before that legal strategies from insurance companies seem to come in waves. The one I’ve heard lately for Illinois workers’ compensation cases is that insurance adjusters are saying that your case is closed even though it’s not really closed.
Under Illinois law, a work injury case can be closed in a number of ways. The most common is that you sign a settlement contract that gets approved by an Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (“IWCC”) Arbitrator. At that point you get whatever dollars were agreed on and your rights for that injury are closed forever. You can’t go back and say that you are still hurting and want medical treatment (unless you have a new accident or show that your job has re-aggravated the old problem) and they can’t say that they now have proof you weren’t hurt at work.
The other way cases get “closed” is if you wait to long to formally file a case at the IWCC. You have to do that within three years of the accident date or two years from the last payment of benefits (such as TTD or paying a medical bill), whichever is later. We do see this happen from time to time and have had to tell people that they had cases which would have been worth in the six figures had they filed in time.
What we are seeing a lot of though is the insurance adjuster telling injured workers that they are closing their case. Sometimes it’s in the middle of treatment, more often it’s when the medical treatment is done. They must see workers falling for it because they wouldn’t do it otherwise. When you ask for a settlement they tell you sorry, but the case is closed.
That’s not the final word as formally filing a case with a lawyer can “re-open” the case that they said was closed, but really isn’t. It’s just an insurance trick where they hope you’ll buy it and go away. This will save them money. But unless one of the two things we mentioned earlier happens, your case isn’t really closed no matter what they say.
This tactic does seem to be happening more to workers in rural areas it seems based on the calls I’ve gotten. I don’t know if they are stereotyping those people as less sophisticated or not as aggressive, but whatever the reason it’s ridiculous and hopefully isn’t working.
Please note that they don’t have to offer you a settlement and more and more we are seeing that they won’t if you don’t have a lawyer and if they do make an offer before a lawyer is on board it won’t be fair. Again this is no big deal because once we file the case we can almost always get a fair offer and if we can’t we’d take your case to trial and get you paid that way.
In a way this all sounds like a game which it probably is to them. It’s not to us though because we know that this is your life, not a game. The only way we treat it like a game is that we love to compete and will do what we can with our state wide network to get you the best result possible on your case.
Final thought. While we don’t recommend that you sign a severance if you have an active work comp case without talking to a work injury lawyer, you can’t in Illinois sign away your work accident rights through a severance no matter what that document says.
If you have questions about an Illinois work injury or would like our help with a case, please fill out our contact form or call us at (312) 346-5578. All contacts are free, confidential and you’ll talk to a lawyer who speaks like a human being.