A Settlement Doesn't Matter Until The Ink Is Dry

We had a sad call the other day. The adult son of an injured worker called us. His father was a widower who had gone back to work after his wife died and injured his knee. He tore his meniscus, had surgery and made a recovery. He had hired a lawyer who agreed to a settlement and the paperwork to process that settlement was taking place.

Unfortunately, this worker died of a heart attack while waiting and that heart attack had nothing to do with his job injury. The adult son was his only heir and the son was not financially dependent on his Dad in any way.

The caller wanted to get the settlement, but had been told by his Dad’s lawyer that the case was over since he wasn’t financially dependent on him in any way.

Regrettably the lawyer is right. Even if the Dad had signed the contracts, if they weren’t approved by an Arbitrator, the case would still be over. This guy had a knowledgeable attorney who gave the right answer, even if it’s not what the client wanted to hear.

For you as a client, just know that until an Arbitrator approves a settlement, it’s not official. Even if you verbally agree to something, it doesn’t matter until the ink is dry on the Judge’s pen that signs off on a contract. 

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.

3/29/12

Sneaky Insurance Company Tricks

We recently consulted with a worker who had a major back injury that resulted in surgery. He has not made a good recovery and may end up needing a lumbar fusion. Needless to say, he is not back to work and won’t be any time soon.

He’s also going through a divorce and the insurance company heard from his employer that money is tight for him. As a result, they did something very sneaky and unethical; they offered him $50,000.00 to settle his case right now.

I say that it’s sneaky and unethical because they knew he was in no position to settle his case and that if he needs a fusion in the future, that surgery alone would cost more than what they want to offer him. Sure the 50 grand would come in handy for him right now, but after that he’d be jobless with no way to pay for the medical treatment that he so desperately needs.

The caller was a very bright guy and smart enough to not even consider taking the offer. In fact, he felt it was shady so he went searching for a lawyer. But not everyone is so bright and we’ve seen many instances when workers are taken advantage of.

“What is my case worth?” is the most common question we get. It is human nature to think about that, but you should not ever consider a settlement until you are done treating for your injury with no doubt that you will be treatment free for that injury in the future. And if you have any permanent restrictions from your injury, you should not settle your case until you have a job to return to.

Many workers (and some attorneys) want the quick buck. We strongly believe that you should always think about what is best for you in the long term sense. And we promise you that if an insurance company wants to offer you money to make your case go away when you need more medical treatment, they are not thinking about what is best for you long term; they are thinking about what is best for them long term

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.

2/12/12

Illinois workers' compensation settlements - what you can't do

Maybe there is something in the air lately, but in the last few days I've received two phone calls from workers who had settled their cases and wanted to re-open them because their injuries have gotten worse.

Unfortunately you can't do that.  Insurance companies have no motivation to settle a claim other than to know that it puts the case to bed.  Forever.  If your injury bothers you in the future that is your problem and your problem alone. 

It doesn't matter if you didn't know your rights or if things have gotten way worse and you have nowhere to turn to.  Unless a new injury has taken place you are out of luck.

So the moral of the story is that if you don't want to close your medical rights as relate to your claim, don't settle.  If you go to Arbitration and win, you will keep your medical rights (typically) for life as relates to that old injury.

We are workers' compensation attorneys that 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.

Illinois wage differential lawyer perspective on what you should settle for

A nice guy came to us looking for a second opinion.  He used to earn $35 an hour as a laborer, but sustained a major knee injury that prevents him from doing anything but a desk job.  He's in his twenties and didn't graduate from high school.  Right now he could probably earn minimum wage at best.

When we consider telling our clients to settle these cases we look at their needs for future medical care, the amount of their loss and what better job might be available for them.   For the sake of easy numbers, let's say that his earnings loss is $30,000.00 a year and he is expected to live for 50 years.  When valuing what a case is worth, we take 2/3 of the earnings loss (which is $20,000.00) and multiply it by the life expectancy.  In this case that would be $1,000,000.00.

We then figure out what the present value of that loss is.  In other words, there is no motivation for the insurance company to pay out that full amount because they could invest it and just pay you weekly hoping that you'll die young.  So for a million dollar loss let's say that the present value of that is $400,000 (we have a tool we use to figure that out.  FYI, we are just making that number up and didn't do it for this example).

So if the insurance company settled for $400,000, the caller who in theory be getting the equivalent of what they would get if they lived their full life.  Insurance companies, reasonably so, never pay more than 80% of present value and depending on the case, the client might get as little as 2/3.   If there are defenses to the case it could be worth less.

In this case, right now the caller is getting around $900 a week, tax free since he can't work.  Our take is that settling the case no matter how big the offer would be a mistake.  Under Illinois workers comp law he can get the insurance company to pay for him to get his GED.  If it's a reasonable plan that would succeed, he might even be able to get them to pay for college or an associates degree so his ultimate earning potential could increase.  The cost of those programs could reach the six figures by themselves.  If he went that route then they would have to continue to pay him at his $900 weekly rate.

In other words, the best thing for this guy to do is nothing right now.  If he can only make $8 an hour now, but with training will be able to land a job making $50,000 a year, doesn't that serve him best?  Of course it does.  I would make more money if this guy settled his case for $300,000.00 now than if he got a college degree and settled for $100,000.00 in five years, but is that best for him?  Of course not.  Any attorney who tells you otherwise is probably selling you out.

We are workers' compensation attorneys that 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.

Settling your workers' compensation case

Someone who called us was upset because her attorney is asking her to be patient in waiting for a response to the settlement demand that was made on her behalf.  A demand was made in September and no response has been made.  She wanted my opinion on her request to her lawyer to call every day until he gets a response.

We know the attorney and he is very competent.  He is correct in not agreeing to his client's request because it would hurt the client.  If an insurance company or their attorney see that every day you are asking to settle they will assume you are desperate and will "low ball" you.

Now this doesn't mean you have to wait around forever.  If you are no longer receiving medical treatment and are working your normal job then once 60-90 days have passed we think it's appropriate to send a settlement demand.  If you don't get a response within 30 days then it makes sense as your lawyer to motion your case for trial.

Asking the Arbitrator for a trial date doesn't make you look desperate to an insurance company, it makes you look serious.  It also puts their feet to the fire in terms of deciding whether to resolve the case or not.

If they won't settle or offer a fair amount just go to trial.  But don't hurt your case by trying to ask every day for money.  If you do you can bet that you will end up with less than you deserve.

We are workers' compensation attorneys that 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.

Yikes!!! I bet you are glad you didn't hire this Chicago workers comp lawyer

 

A reader writes:

My husband and I hired a Chicago attorney after my husband was injured in a trucking accident.  When ready to settle our case, the attorney asked my husband to sign papers. Before we signed we asked if our Chiropractor had been paid.  Mr. attorney assured us that HE had the bills and the Dr. would be paid as soon as my husband signed the papers.  Well, the Chiropractor never
did get paid.  The attorney lied to me several times, told me that insurance company MUST pay regardless as to what is on the form, because it states that ALL medical bills have been paid.  Back in February of 2009 the attorney said he was filing with the workers compensation board and our case should be heard by March 15th.  We never heard from this attorney again.  When I call, his secretary tells me that he is not in the office, and he will call me back.  I have waited for a return call and called several times since March.  What can we do?  This attorney had my Dr. submit his bills directly to him instead of to the insurance company.  Do we have any recourse?  I also wonder if my husbands settlement should have been so small.  Please advise.  WE need to know what to do next.

Another example of lazy lawyering that gives good attorneys a bad name.  A few thoughts:

1. On all Illinois workers' compensation settlement contracts there is a place to check whether or not all bills have been paid.  If yes is checked then the insurance company is supposed to have paid all reasonable and related medical bills.

2. Sometimes chiropractic bills are not seen as reasonable.  There are a lot of good chiros out there, but some over treat their patients.  This issue should have been taken care of before the attorney hurried off to have the contracts approved.  This is why we always tell our clients that a case is better handled right than fast.

3. Even if the box was checked that the bills were paid and the bills were reasonable and related to the injury, you still have to look at the back of the contract where the settlement terms are written.  If we were going to settle a case like this, we would have clearly written that the insurance company will pay $x to the chiropractor or that the insurance company is responsible for bills to the chiropractor.  Quick tip:  If you are injured on the job, don't ever sign a settlement contract without personally calling every medical provider you have seen and getting a bill from them.  Most lawyers do this for their clients, but this is your life so you need to take control.

4. There is no excuse for the attorney not calling back for months.  When lawyers in Illinois are unethical your only real recourse is to file a complaint with the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.

We don't know who the lawyer is that caused this problem, but we are guessing that their in-action is because either they screwed up or they have to go back in to court to solve the problem.  Since they won't get any additional money they are essentially screwing their client even though they have really already been paid, they just didn't complete the job.

We are workers' compensation attorneys that 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.

If you still need medical treatment or might in the future, don't settle your case.

Understandably, a lot of people that come to us for help are anxious about their case and thinking about what it might be worth if it's settled.  We can't tell you what it's worth until your treatment is done with and you are at what a doctor calls maximum medical improvement.  In other words you are as good as you are going to get.  Even then we might not tell you to settle.

If you are still under a doctor's care there is no reason to settle your case.  Once you do settle you are responsible for all medical bills.  So what do you do if you want to get paid for what your case is worth, but don't want to give up your medical rights?

The answer is go to trial.  If you go to trial and the Arbitrator rules that your condition is work related then you keep medical rights open for life as it relates to that injury.  In other words, if you have knee surgery, wake up five years from now with a stiff knee and your doctor at that time says it's arthritis from the old work injury, the workers' compensation insurance company would have to pay for 100% of your medical treatment at that time.

The only drawback is that by going to trial you don't get a lump sum settlement, but rather you get paid paid over a period of weeks depending on how much the Arbitrator thinks your case is worth. 

If you have hardware in your body from a surgery like a lumbar fusion or ankle replacement or any reasonable belief that you might need medical treatment in the future, it's a real good idea to think about keeping your medical rights open.  If you don't, you may find yourself in a situation where you have no one to pay for your bills and treatment that you can't get.  Some workers' compensation trials take less than 60 minutes to complete.  We think an hour of your time is worth a lifetime of medical security.

We are workers' compensation attorneys that 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.

Illinois work injuries: Am I entitled to a settlement?

We get asked this question a lot by people who have an Illinois workers' compensation claim.  The quick answer is that almost every case entitles you to some sort of settlement.  Even in the most minor of injuries an insurance company will usually offer some dollar amount to make a case go away.

We don't take "minor case" such as back strains with very little treatment or finger contusions.  But even in those cases an insurance company will offer you something.

For the cases we do take, as long as the accident is related to the job activities we always are able to get money for our clients and more importantly we protect them.  By that we mean that we never resolve a case until it's the right time, we make sure that all bills have been paid and we consider how this injury will affect them in the future.

Some people call us and say that the insurance company told them that their file was closed or that there won't be an offer. As long as you get to us before the statute of limitations expires, we can "re-open" your case and obtain appropriate compensation or other benefits for you.

We are workers' compensation attorneys that 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.

What is my case worth? Illinois PPD

The following was submitted recently:

I recently was injured at work and ruptured my left distal bicep tendon. It was surgically repaired 4 days later. I don't know if I can return to my old job and do not know how much function or strength  I will regain. Am I entitled to a settlement and if so, any idea of possibly how much?

We give more free advice than any attorney we have come across, but other than saying yes that this person is entitled to a settlement although depending on the ultimate recovery it might make more sense to not settle and keep his medical rights open.  Either way, we can't tell what the case is worth until he is as good as he is going to get medically speaking and we see what type of work he can do.

Bottom line is that it's worth something, probably a lot, but as an injured worker we suggest that you first focus on your health.  We have never seen a situation where someone received more without a lawyer than they would have with one.  If you want our help with evaluating your case let us know.

We are workers' compensation attorneys that 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.

All of your jobs count when determining what your case is worth

 A lot of the people that contact us have two or more jobs, especially in today's tough economy.  When looking to settle your workers' compensation case or figuring out what you are owed for TTD benefits, all of these jobs matter in most cases.

The basic law is that if you have two jobs then both count in determining your average weekly wage.  In other words if your full time job pays $600 a week and your part time job pays $200 a week then your average weekly wage is $800.

The catch is that the employer that you work for must be aware of the 2nd job.  If they are not then only the one job will be taken into consideration.

In the end, not including the 2nd job could be the difference of thousands of dollars when figuring out what your case is worth.  As we preach throughout this blog, being honest and telling the truth is key in getting the best result possible.

We are workers' compensation attorneys that 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.

Did you know that you can get two settlements?

Most people that are hurt on the job have one case and one case only.  But some have two.

The most common example is a person who usually works in another state, but is hurt on business in Illinois.   The insurance company tells them that the claim has to be handled through a different state (that is favorable to the insurance company) and offers a settlement in that state.

So let's say hypothetically you get a settlement of $10,000 under Florida workers' compensation law for an injury that took place in Illinois.  If that same case would be worth $40,000 in Illinois, we can get you an extra $30,000.  The insurance company would have a credit for the $10,000 that they paid in Florida.

Even if the Florida settlement contract says that you give up your rights to pursue cases in any other state, Illinois would not recognize that part of the contract and would still allow you to bring your case here.  And if that happens, you'd have two settlements, although the total amount would be as if you just received one.

We are workers' compensation attorneys that 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.

Reason # 38,792 not to try and represent yourself

We represented a very nice woman who had carpal tunnel surgery on both hands.  Based on her medical records, recovery and current complaints, her case in our opinion is worth 25% loss of each hand.

Problem is that before she hired us she tried to settle the case herself.  The adjuster offered her $20,000 which was 12% of the hand.  Our client then said she wants $24,000 and made clear that was her bottom line.  The adjuster didn't budge so the client came to us.

We immediately realized that this case was worth double the offer and made the case to the adjuster.  She admitted it was worth what we were asking, but said, "I'm only offering $24,000 because I know that's what she wants." 

Long story short, we took the case to trial, got exactly what the case was worth, but our client didn't get her money until 14 months after they would have had they come to us in the first place.

We are workers' compensation attorneys that 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.

 

Your case can't be closed by the insurance company

We are representing a nice laborer who hurt his knee on the job, had surgery for a torn meniscus and for the most part has made a good recovery.  He's a the type of worker every company should want; doesn't make waves, works hard, shows up every day, etc.

His daughter called the insurance company and asked for a settlement offer.  Her dad would have taken whatever they presented no matter how low the offer was.  Instead the adjuster said something like, "Sorry, your case was closed and can't be re-opened.  There will be no offer."

WRONG!!!

An insurance company can't just close a case.   Now your case might be barred because of a statute of limitations problem, but some adjuster can't just one day decide to tell you that the case is over.  As they said in Animal House, "It's not over until we say it is!"

End of the story is that the case has been filed and you can bet our client who would have taken whatever was offered will be getting full value for his claim.

We are workers' compensation attorneys that 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.

What does my child support or divorce case have to do with my work injury?

If you are getting a divorce or paying child support in Illinois then your Illinois work injury claim can in a way become a part of that case. 

For divorce, a settlement for an injury during the marriage is considered a marital asset and your spouse might have an interest in half of what you get.  In other words, if you get hurt on January 15th and file for divorce that April, your spouse could be owed part of your settlement.

For child support, if you are delinquent in paying or if your ex gets a withholding order, it's possible that part of your TTD check will go directly to them.  It's also possible for them to get an order requiring that they get paid before you do if a settlement is reached.

In neither case can your ex say that a settlement isn't fair or actually take part of the case.  But once they put you and/or your attorney or the insurance company on notice of their interests, those interests have to be protected.

We are workers' compensation attorneys that 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.

You decide when your case is closed

Just got off the phone with a nice woman whose husband had a piece of wood go through his leg.  This happened six months ago.  He had a surgery to remove the wood fragments and his employer's insurance company paid all of his medical bills.  He asked for a settlement and they said no because "you don't have a permanent injury."  His leg is now bothering him so he asked for more medical care.  They said no because "we closed your case."

Not withstanding that there are time limits to formally pursue a case, the insurance company can't on their own decide a case is closed.  The only way to do that officially is for the case to be settled.  This client can get more treatment at their expense.

On top of that, despite them saying he has no permanent injury, almost any injury has some settlement value.  We don't pursue superficial injuries, but this guy had a leg surgery.  I don't know what it's worth until I see his medical records, but based on his wages it's likely somewhere in the five figures.

So no matter what you are told remember that you can take control of your case.  You just need to know the law.

We are workers' compensation attorneys that 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.

False advertising and Illinois work injury lawyers

There is an Illinois workers' compensation attorney that we don't like.  The reason that we don't like him is because about once a week we get a call from someone he is representing.  It's always a different person calling, but the conversation usually stems from the fact that they don't get returned phone calls from that office or that attorney isn't fighting for them.  Quite often we investigate this and find that this lawyer is flat out lying about the case or telling the client to take much less money than could be obtained with a little hard work.

This same lawyer has said that he has won compensation on 98% of his cases.  That sounds impressive unless you know anything about Illinois work injury law.  The reality is that in pretty much any case you could settle for some sort of compensation from an insurance company.  Most insurance companies will pay you $1,000 just to go away.  The reality is that most good attorneys only take on serious injury cases and while we may not win every issue for our clients, just about every client we have represented has come away with a significant result.

The reason this is true is that we don't take minor cases.  It's just as much work to get a great result for someone with a broken finger as it is to do the same for someone with a broken arm.  The broken arm case is worth more money so we focus on helping people with serious injuries only.

So beware attorneys that promote something that sounds too good to be true.  Before hiring an attorney find out how they will communicate with you and if they have clients that will recommend them.

We are workers' compensation attorneys that 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.

Sometimes you don't want to settle a case

We get e-mails and calls all the time from people wanting to know "What is my case worth?"  Today was from a guy who just broke his leg and had surgery less than a month ago.  Needless to say it's too soon to tell him what it is worth.

That said, there are often times when the answer to what a case is worth is, "there is no amount that makes sense for you."  That doesn't mean you are going to become a millionaire; rather it means that we think  you would be best served by keeping your medical rights open as relates to your injury for the rest of your life.

To achieve this, all we have to do is take your case to arbitration and win.  Assuming your injury is work related, this will happen.  The negative is that you don't get a lump sum settlement.  The positive is that you still get paid what your case is worth (it just gets spread out in weekly payments over a year or so depending on how seriously you were hurt) and your medical rights as relate to this injury stay open forever.

In other words, if you have a back fusion and may need surgery in the future, this is a way to have peace of mind that any future medical care will be paid for.

We always tell our clients to think long-term and suggest that you take that approach too.

We are workers' compensation attorneys that 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.