For injuries after September 1, 2011, Arbitrators are supposed to consider the AMA impairment guidelines in determining what a case is worth. They are just one factor to be considered and most lawyers believe that they should not reduce the value of a settlement at all as that does not appear to be the intent of the law and all old factors are still to be considered. This is really important as the AMA guidelines are a joke and would greatly reduce what a case is actually worth. A case that was worth 20% of a man under the old law could be worth ten times less under the new law if we only used the guidelines.
But as you probably know, insurance companies make money by limiting what they will pay out on a case. We saw this in Wheaton when an injured worker went before Arbitrator O’Malley to settle a torn labrum injury in his shoulder. The insurance company received an AMA rating that said he suffered a loss of 2% of the arm. Now I did not see his medical records, but I can tell you that if he had surgery, the minimum he should have gotten would be 20% loss of the arm and usually it would be more than that. But this worker did not know the AMA was just one factor and it was not the Arbitrator’s job to protect him.
So as a result this worker saved money on lawyer fees and cost himself tens of thousands of dollars. He likely thought he knew what he was doing, but got burned. And now that the settlement contract has been approved there is nothing he can do.
I tell people all of the time that they don’t need a lawyer, but if you have a serious injury, under the new Illinois work comp laws you are making a huge mistake if you try to go at it alone. The insurance companies are going for every last dollar that they can save and in some cases, like this one, they are taking tens of thousands of dollars that the injured worker should have.
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