The best thing about being an attorney is being able to help people. That might sound cheesy, but it’s really true. I’ve always liked helping people and being able to do it every day is truly a gift.
We want to help everyone, but can’t help everyone. Usually when we can’t help it’s because someone presents to us a scenario that unfortunately isn’t a valid work comp case in Illinois. For example, if you are on your lunch break and driving to meet a friend for a meal, if you get in an accident that wouldn’t likely be a work comp case. If you take the CTA to work every day and slip on the platform because it’s icy, that also likely wouldn’t be a case. We do feel that we are somewhat helping those people by giving free, honest advice.
A recent caller to our office did have what sounded like a real work injury. He said he had strained his back while lifting on the job a month prior. That is the type of situation where we’d usually help them get an attorney to advocate for them and make sure that they get the benefits they are entitled to under Illinois law.
But as we talked, we asked him a couple of questions that we ask everyone. 1. Had he hurt his back before? 2. Has he ever filed a work comp claim before?
We ask about prior injuries to the same body part to see if that will impact the case or create a defense. We ask about prior work comp claims so we can gauge how much they know about the Illinois work comp system.
This caller was vague in his answers other than to say “yes to both.” So we got online and looked at the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission website. That showed he had at least 14 prior cases! And they all were within the last 10 years or so.
So in other words, he’s what attorneys call a “career claimant.” It’s not to say that he’s never had legitimate injuries or that the most recent one isn’t legit. It’s just that when you file case after case, especially against the same body part and not for something that can’t be disputed (like getting your foot run over by a forklift) it raises suspicion and calls into question your credibility.
If a law firm takes on these clients, it can hurt their reputation. And what’s interesting about this worker is that he’s had at least five different law firms on the various cases and just settled one with a different firm for a good amount. So if they thought his injury was legit, they’d probably sign him up again. The fact that they didn’t is a huge red flag.
So we passed on this case and while I’m sure he’ll find someone eventually to take his case, I’d bet that the insurance company will fight it hard.
If he does have a serious and legitimate new injury, he will become the victim of the Boy Who Cried Wolf in that after suggesting so much BS, nobody believes you when you tell the truth. Hopefully that doesn’t happen for him.