I’m happy to talk to anyone about any legal situation and of course don’t charge anything to do it.  I do laugh and sigh a bit when someone calls me and tells me that I’m so much more approachable than their attorney which is why they are asking me a question about their case instead of the person that is going to be paid for allegedly representing them.
I had such a call the other day from a gentleman who wanted to know what the “red line” was.  His lawyer had written him a letter letting him know that the case was above the red line, but didn’t explain what that meant.  When he called the office he never got a call back, so he did some searching online and ended up talking to me.
The red line refers to cases that are three years or older at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.  Not your accident date, but the actual filing date.
Every 90 days your case will appear before an Arbitrator on their status call.  If the case isn’t three years old or more, the only way to get a trial date is to file a request for hearing.  If you don’t then the Arbitrator will automatically continue your case until the next status hearing.
If the case is more than three years old it is above the red line.  In plain English this means that the Arbitrator will set it for a trial date unless your lawyer can show that you are undergoing active medical care, receiving TTD benefits, going through vocational rehabilitation or something else that shows your lawyer isn’t just being lazy.
And that’s really what this rule does, is force lazy attorneys to show why they haven’t done anything to move the case to settlement.  Most cases are wrapped up in 12-18 months.  Some injuries are longer term and require more treatment.  But every now and then you’ll see a case where it could have ended two years ago, but nobody made that happen.  The insurance companies don’t mind if the case drags on if they aren’t paying you anything.  Or other times they want it settled, but don’t do anything to make that happen like hire a defense firm.
The biggest concern with a case being above the line is that if you are not represented at a status hearing, when your case is called it will be dismissed.  That of course could cause you to lose your rights forever.
Bottom line is that if you hit the red line and haven’t seen a doctor for a year or more, you probably didn’t get very good representation. If you are still receiving work comp benefits then as long as you have an attorney at the status hearing you have nothing to worry about and can still focus on your medical care.

By Michael Helfand