While we emphasize with our clients that nothing is more important than your health (and all of the lawyers in our statewide network feel that way), it’s not unusual that 98% of the people that we talk to also want to know what their case is worth or other things about the value of their claim.
We’ve received lots of good questions about settlements of Illinois workers’ compensation cases lately.  Here are some of the most common.
Ok, I signed the settlement contracts, when will I get paid?
After the contracts are signed by you and both lawyers, they have to be submitted to an Arbitrator for his/her approval.  Once they are approved and returned to your lawyer, they get sent to the defense attorney who passes them along to the insurance company.  The insurance company will then send a check to your lawyer that has to be deposited in their client trust account.  When that check clears, they will write you a new one that represents your amount less their fees and expenses.  On average, it’s between 5-8 weeks from when you sign until you get paid.  Sometimes it’s quicker, other times it’s a tad longer.
What is my case worth?
If you search this blog, you’ll see that we did a whole post on this topic. The #1 point to emphasize is that nobody can realistically tell you the value of your case until you are done with all of your medical treatment and we know what sort of job you are returning to.  Even then we need to see your medical records, know how much money you were earning when you got hurt, learn about your future medical needs and a lot more.  What I can tell you is that if you have a serious injury, you are probably looking at somewhere in the five figures for compensation.  If you have a wage loss because you can no longer do your old job, the case will likely be in the six figures.
Do I need a lawyer to get a settlement?
No, but you also don’t need a doctor to take out your appendix.  The reality is that you’ll never end up with less money in your pocket at the end of the day when you have a good lawyer in your corner.  The insurance company is likely to try and trick you in to a low settlement and thanks to new laws that were passed relating to something called AMA ratings, they are getting away with it when you don’t have representation.  A lawyer’s fee is set at 20% by State law. In cases worth $100,000, you’d end up with $80,000 in your pocket.  We’ve seen similar claims where workers have tried to go at it alone and end up with $35,000.  And of course, aside from the settlement, a lawyer that cares about you can add a lot of value along the way, even when it appears that the insurance company is doing everything the right way.
My neighbor had the same injury as mine, why did he get $25,000 more?
Ok, that exact question wasn’t asked to me, but you hear stuff like this all the time. Just as no two snowflakes are the same, neither are two work comp cases.  Your wages are different which affects what the case is worth.  You had different medical treatment even if it was similar. You have different jobs.  Your recovery was different.  They may have been hurt before September 1, 2011 when IL laws changed and hurt the value of some cases.  I can’t speak for other firms, but I can tell you that we try to get every last penny for you.  The more we get for you, the more we get for ourselves, but most of all we want happy clients.
If you have any questions about settlements or anything else related to Illinois workers’ compensation law, please call us at (312) 346-5578.  Every call is free and confidential.

By Michael Helfand