You don’t have to personally know your arbitrator, but your attorney ideally should.
In an Illinois workers’ compensation case, a judge doesn’t oversee hearings and trials. Instead, an arbitrator is in charge. They act just like a judge – deciding disputes, holding status hearings to check on the progress of a case and presiding over trials. It’s just a different system with different players.
The rule of thumb about knowing the arbitrator is similar to that of knowing the judge. If your attorney knows the tendencies of the person making the major decisions in your case, then they can tailor their argument to give you the best shot. Knowing the arbitrator helps an attorney make decisions about strategy, such as whether to go to trial. An attorney can’t know the arbitrators without dealing with them often. Look for an attorney who handles cases day in and day out, and focuses their entire law practice on workers’ compensation.
Along these same lines, when your attorney appears before an arbitrator often, that arbitrator develops an opinion of your attorney. Hopefully it’s a positive one. If they have a good working relationship, and each respects the other, then it can have a positive effect on your case. We’re not saying that anything unethical is going on. It’s quite the opposite. An attorney who knows what they’re doing, works hard for their clients and respects the arbitrator has an advantage simply because arbitrator has a positive opinion of them. You want this type of lawyer presenting your case.
Work injury cases don’t start with a lawsuit, nor do they play out in a typical courtroom. Instead, Illinois law has created a system in which injured workers file claims for benefits, which are then paid (hopefully) by their employer’s insurance company.
The system protects employers from lawsuits. An injured worker does not even have the option of filing a lawsuit; a claim for benefits is their only recourse. For the injured worker, the intended benefit is compensation, regardless of fault, without having to file a lawsuit. It doesn’t always work like it should, especially for the injured workers, but it’s what we have. You can give yourself a leg up by hiring a well-respected attorney who focuses in this area of law.