Fair or not, sometimes Illinois workers’ compensation law is a game. You are looking at your case based on how it affects your life because, after all, it’s your life and health that is being messed with when you get hurt while working.
But from the insurance company standpoint, specifically the adjuster who usually is in charge of settling your case, they are looking out for their own financial well being. For many of them, that means getting a bonus based on the number of cases that they close by the end of the year.
A lot of insurance company workers don’t get paid based on how good of a job they do, but instead based on how many files they are able to move. So while they won’t just give you whatever you want, they are thinking of themselves this time of year, so if there is a case they can settle, they will.
In the insurance industry (and I know this from my former days as a defense attorney) there is a saying that there is no good file other than a closed file. When your case is open that means they are paying lawyer or nurse case managers or investigators and possibly more medical bills. Insurance companies like fixed numbers, not the possibility of having to pay more.
So what happens is that the insurance adjuster will set what is called a reserve on your case. That in plain English is the most that they expect to spend on your claim. If they stay below the reserve number, they can usually close a case without having to get the approval of a supervisor. And if they close your file and a bunch of others, that’s more money in their pocket for Christmas presents or a trip or whatever.
Beyond that, they are really getting pressure at this time of year from their supervisors to move files because they supervisors also get compensated this way. So we’ll see a lot of “settlement days” this time of year where they’ll meet with attorneys en masse and try to work out a lot of cases.
Now you don’t want to even think about settling if you are still under medical care or not working due to an injury. But if your back to work and don’t need to see the doctor again, your attorney should really be pushing for a settlement and be aggressive about it.
Come spring time, the insurance company will not be as anxious to get rid of you. They’ll settle if it makes sense, but at this time of the year, they’ll practically beg you to do it.
I remember once long ago an adjuster telling me that she’d settle for what I asked for – which was more than the case was worth – but only if I promised to have the contracts approved before the end of the year. That was really the first time I realized how the business really works and I’ve seen it many times since.
So if you do want a settlement, remember, there is no better time of year than now to make it happen.