If you have been seriously injured and can’t work, the benefits you get under Illinois workers’ compensation law can be vital to your health, financial stability and the well being of your family. Hiring a lawyer to handle your work injury case can be a leap of faith, but it’s one of the best things you can do to ensure a good outcome. Of course, you need to make sure the attorney you hire is excellent at what they do and how they do it.
If you suspect that your lawyer is acting unethically, don’t ignore your suspicions. Even if they aren’t violating the specific rules of ethics that attorneys are required to follow, they may have other faults that are detrimental to your case. Here are some red flags:
Directing your medical care. Your attorney definitely should be aware of, and interested in, your medical care. It’s a major part of your case. However, they should not be telling you which doctors or therapists to see. Some lawyers have arrangements with doctors to refer cases back and forth. The problem with this is that it puts their interests ahead of yours. It should be the other way around. Also, it makes your case less credible.
Ignoring your calls, emails, etc. There is a range of bad behavior in this category, from attorneys who simply aren’t good communicators, to those who are too busy to handle your case or too lazy to care. You should expect your attorney to keep in contact about all major updates in your case. You should expect them to get back to you in a reasonable amount of time if you reach out to them, which in our opinion means they should get back to you within a couple of days at the most.
Promising you a certain amount on your case. It’s misleading to tell a client that their case is worth “x dollars.” There is no way to know at the outset. Some attorneys make promises in order to get clients. If your attorney does give you a number, they should also be explaining that it is a ballpark amount based on other cases they have handled in the past.
Passing your case off to another attorney at the firm. You might meet with one of the firm’s partners when you first go in to hire them but then later find out they have passed your file on to a younger associate. This is common, but you don’t have to agree to it. If you aren’t confident in the ability of the younger attorney to handle your case, speak up and ask about their experience. You certainly don’t want your case to be used to train a newly licensed attorney.
Offering to also handle your child support problem and write up your will. The point here is that an attorney who focuses on one area of law (or a small number of related areas) is going to get more experience in that type of case. If your attorney handles workers’ compensation cases day in and day out, they will probably be better equipped to handle your work injury case than someone who handles a few of these cases a year.
Like we said, not all of these things are technically unethical, but we wouldn’t put up with any of them if we were a client.
Holding a law license allows you to practice law but it doesn’t say anything about your character or how hard you work for your clients. Some lawyers are caught and disciplined for bad behavior. You can check whether your attorney has ever been disciplined or had their license suspended by looking them up on the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission website. Most of the time, unfortunately, it’s up to the client to use their judgment. It’s not too much to expect your attorney to work hard to make sure you are getting all the benefits you’re entitled to and stand up to the insurance company if they aren’t paying you. It’s not too much to ask that your attorney communicate with you. If you have questions about any of this, give us a call.