How long does an Illinois work comp case take?

A caller reached out to me because his lawyer told him that his case would take about one year and here he was on year three of the case.  The caller was understandably frustrated because he wanted to move on  with his life.  I think what was really going on is that the lawyer set up a false expectation and now this worker is mad because he’s still under a doctor’s care and he needs to vent.  It’s easy to vent against the lawyer because that guy fed a line of b.s. to him in order to make him feel good at the get go.

The worst thing (ok, maybe not the worst, but it’s bad) a lawyer can do is to tell the client what they want to hear even if it’s not true.  Too many Illinois work comp lawyers practice this way, mostly because they have no business or customer service sense even if their legal skills are ok.  To them, it’s easier to temporarily tell the client something to make them feel good and then worry later about the fact that it’s a lie.

The reality is that there is no way for a lawyer to tell you for certain how long a case will take.  We can make a prediction, but there are too many variables to know for sure.

So what are these variables?  Well, there’s the following:

  1. We can’t tell you at the get go what sort of medical recovery you are going to have.  Most people with carpal tunnel surgery for example are as good as new within 4-6 weeks after surgery.  But sometimes they get worse and need another surgery.  We aren’t going to settle your case if you aren’t 100% physically as nothing is more important than your health.
  2. Other times you have one work injury and then get back to work.  Before your first case is settled, you injure a different body part.  No insurance company that we know of will settle one case while another claim is still open.  So even if the first injury is minor, you’ll have to likely wait until the second one is over too.
  3. Sometimes insurance companies don’t make a fair offer or won’t make a settlement offer at all.  In that case we need to go to trial.  Some cases can be tried as soon as we have all of your medical records.  Other times we need to take depositions of doctors.  We can’t tell you at the beginning of the case that this will happen so there is no way to tell you what sort of delay there could be.  We always try to get a case done when it’s appropriate to do so, but also don’t rush a case at the risk of a good result.
  4. If the case goes to trial there could be an appeal.  That alone can delay the case by one year or more.  Again, no way to predict that at the outset.
  5. At times our clients don’t want to settle because they are waiting to retire.  In those cases we will do what we can to delay the outcome until the client is ready.

I could probably list 5-10 more reasons for a possible delay, but you get the idea.  Big picture is that if a lawyer tells you how long a case will take, just know that it’s an estimate that could be way wrong.  If they tell you it’s for certain or guaranteed, they are simply full of it.

We are workers' compensation attorneys who help people with Illinois work injuries anywhere in IL via our statewide network of attorneys. Contact us and we will answer your questions or find the right lawyer for your situation.

By Michael Helfand

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Comments (4) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
tony - May 2, 2013 7:09 AM

I have a workers comp case, my dr. said that I was at 100% around a year ago. my lawyer has been trying to get workers comp to answer to his offer since. we have already done the 3 court hearings and workers comp never showed. Now he set up another hearing for July. he did told me that in less than 3 months this case would be done but obviously is not. Now my questions are. can there really be no answer from workers comp?, and how long can it go with out getting one?, is my lawyer doing something wrong?

Michael Helfand - May 2, 2013 8:19 AM

What you are saying doesn't make much sense. If your lawyer was ready for trial and the other side didn't show, the Arbitrator would let him present your case without them being present. It shouldn't take this long if he's serious about going to trial, although it's certainly possible that I don't have all of the info.

Sandra - July 8, 2013 11:20 AM

My son in law lost his leg approx 7 yrs ago due to an accident at work. There are 3 companies involved with the suit. Arbitration has been done without settlement. That was in May of 2012. He has a prosthesis now is always has trouble with it. He goes where WC tells him to go, he does what they tell him to do.. he calls his attorney for updates and never gets anywhere. WC knows he has 7 kids and I believe they are trying to starve him. He gets really mad at his attorney because it hasn't been settled. My opinion is the attorney is doing it on purpose because he is complaining all the time. Is there anything that can be checked out to find out why this is taking so long? A trial date is supposed to be set, but he never hears anything... advice would be greatly appreciated.

WE REPLY: We'd have to learn more to help. He's welcome to call me at (312) 346-5578 if he wants a free, confidential consultation.

Melissa - October 31, 2014 7:05 AM

I had carpal tunnel surgery June 5th 2013 on my right hand June 19 2013 I was released to go back to work on August 8th 2013 I took the release paper to my lawyer that same day the secretary called me in November of 2013 and asked if I got release I told her I brought the paper into her she like oh k I thought I seen it. Then like a month later she calls me and tells me what they are going to ask for it was in February I called and she oh yeah they want you to see the company doctor which is routine so they can measure the scars to see if im having anymore trouble which I wasn't. So when I didn't hear anything for a month I called and she like well let me talk to the lawyer and see what he says we might have to have a hearing, I will call you back after a week I called them back because again she said she would call me back and didn't she puts the lawyer on and basically telling me it takes time not to call anymore now im really upset because I would not of had the surgery if I had know that there might be a chance on not getting any settlement. I couldn't afford to be off that long im still playing catch up with my bills we are on the verge of losing my house and my credit score is horrible. I know lawyers are busy but she as in the Secretary cant even send any letters to inform me whats going on. I don't dare call I really don't feel like getting yelled at again.

WE REPLY: You deserve better. It's probably not too late to switch attorneys. If you'd like us to look in to your case, please call us or e-mail your number.

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