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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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