When Your Lawyer Just Gives Up

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.

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.

 12/26/11

Illinois wage differential laws- what a difference a day makes

Under Illinois workers' compensation law, if you can no longer return to your old job due to permanent restrictions and suffer a loss of what you can now earn, you might be entitled to wage differential benefits.   That allows you to receive 2/3 the difference of what you would currently have been making under the old job compared to what you can make now.

So let's say that you were an electrician who made $35 an hour when you blew out your knee and now would have been making $40 an hour.  Instead you can only earn $10.00 an hour as a security guard.  Based on a 40 hour work week, it's a difference of $1,200 a week, 2/3 of which is $800.

For accidents that happened prior to February 1, 2006, there was a maximum cap based on the permanent partial disability rate at the time of your injury.  In plain English that means that no matter how big your wage loss, the most you could get compensated if you could do any work is $591.77.  The Workers' Compensation Act was amended to change this rule.  For accidents after February 1, 2006 your maximum pay rate for a wage differential loss became 100% of the state average weekly wage.

So if you were hurt on January 31, 2006, the most you could receive for your loss is $591.77 a week.  If you were hurt on February 2, 2006 you would get up to $822.20 a week.

In the example above it would result in a difference of more than $10,000.00 a year.  Yes, it's crazy what difference a day can make.

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.

Permanent restrictions??? Do not settle your case without a job in hand.

Everyone knows the economy sucks.  It's not uncommon to get hurt on the job and a year later lose your job because of downsizing.  It's also not uncommon to have permanent restrictions that can't be accommodated by your employer.

If that happens to you, you need to demand vocational rehabilitation.  If you have permanent restrictions and no job the insurance company needs to find you a job within your restrictions or give you training for a new field.  Sometimes they'll send you back to college to get a degree.  Other times they'll teach you a new skill.

If you cooperate with vocational rehabilitation then you will continue to receive TTD benefits.  If the new job doesn't pay as much as the old job would currently (IMPORTANT, we go by what the old job would be paying, not what you used to make so if your old job pays $25 an hour now and it used to pay $20 then we use the $25 figure) then you are entitled to 2/3 of the difference.  This is called a wage differential.

If you have any questions about this please contact us at (312) 346-5578.

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 and Brian Urlacher have one thing in common

Presumably it's not that you are a really good football player.  What you have in common is that even NFL players and other professional athletes are covered by Illinois workers' compensation laws.  If they get hurt while playing they are entitled to the same benefits as you or me.  The only major difference is that most pro athletes will exceed the maximum weekly TTD benefits.

One other possible difference is that if a pro athlete has a career ending injury and they are smart, for the rest of their life they should receive the maximum permanent partial disability rate tax free.  That's because in almost any situation they would have a "wage differential" case.  Even if they can work a new job it's unlikely that they could make as much money as they used to.

Most workers on the other hand, even if they have to get a new job, don't lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary.

So the next time you see a pro athlete get hurt on the field it may be an Illinois work injury 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.