If you go to an arbitration (trial) in a workers’ compensation case, it is up to the Arbitrator to write a written decision as to how the case is decided. What really happens though is that the attorney for the worker and insurance company submit a proposed decision as to how they think the Arbitrator should decide. Basically we as lawyers write as if we were the Arbitrator. Sometimes an Arbitrator will just pick one and stamp it as if it was theirs, other times they write a whole new decision in their own words.
The last thing an Arbitrator tells you after the trial ends is that proposed findings are due in two weeks. While sometimes an Arbitrator may know what they are going to say anyway, we’ve seen many cases turn on brilliant or not so brilliant proposed findings. This is your lawyer’s chance to be a real lawyer and persuade the Arbitrator to find for you. That’s why you hire the lawyer, right?
Well there is an e-mail making the rounds of work comp attorneys in Chicago that shows a conversation between an Arbitrator, highly respected defense attorney and a longtime lawyer for injured workers. They had a trial and the defense attorney turned his proposed findings in by the deadline. The worker’s attorney did not and was scolded in an e-mail by the Arbitrator for being late. Bad mistake, but not the worst thing in the world. He could have profusely apologized, made up some excuse and his client would not have suffered. Instead the next day he turned in a one page cover sheet that says how the Arbitrator should decide, but did not actually write the proposed findings that explain the reason why the Arbitrator should find in his favor. When the Arbitrator asked where the proposed findings were and was told that was it, the Arbitrator said: “I’m sorry, you don’t have more to write? You honestly believe what you have submitted is sufficient? This is a joke and I would be thoroughly embarrassed to submit this to an arbitrator for consideration. “
The lawyer, who has been in practice for more than 35 years and works at a big firm that gets lots of union members as clients responded that he trusted that the Arbitrator would read the depositions of the doctors and make the decision that way. That set off the Arbitrator further, understandably so.
Now I don’t know the extent of the workers’ injury, but if it went to trial and depositions were taken, I’ll bet a nickel that it was a big one. If true, the worker’s life is on the line so to speak and he puts that life in the hands of the attorney. When the attorney won’t even half ass their effort, it’s stunning. The poor worker of course has no idea what’s going on and probably never will. And while the Arbitrator could find in favor of the worker, you can bet your bottom dollar that he’s going to hammer the lawyer and find in favor of the insurance company.
I don’t know how someone who “represents” clients this way can sleep at night. It would eat me up. I certainly hope that I never become so jaded or disinterested that I could let my actions literally screw up the lives of those who come to me for help. This lawyer should retire, take a sabbatical, find a new career or do something other than not help his clients. But he’s probably making great money half assing his way through work and probably can’t do anything else. If he’s reading this, I plead with you to start showing some pride or walk away. Or tell your clients that you aren’t going to fight for them. It’s simply pathetic.
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