A Chicago ironworker contacted me recently. He had worked with the law firm that his union told him to hire and realizes now that it’s a crappy firm and they essentially sold him out for an easy settlement. His theory, which actually makes sense to me, is that the union lawyer agreed to resolve a bunch of cases at once and settled some for lower than they were worth to push through a bunch of other cases. Long story short is that he got pushed in to a settlement because he was about to lose his house. He got around $100,000, but it sounded to me like the case could have been worth triple that amount or more, at least if everything he was saying is true.
So he called me, having already received his payment, with regrets that the settlement went through. He wanted to know how long he had to file an appeal to re-open his case.
Like everyone else that calls me, I didn’t tell him what he wanted to hear and he was not pleased with the truth. The law is that once your settlement contracts are approved, your case is done. Forever.
There is no appeal. There is no re-opening the case. His main gripe was that his back was still in need of treatment and he felt that the workers’ compensation insurance company should pay for it. He would have been right, but they got off the hook when he signed the settlement contracts.
He went on to tell me that the law isn’t fair. Whether I agree with him or not is irrelevant because lawyers can’t tell you what the law should be, they can only tell you what it is and do what they can to help you within that law. I had a similar situation with another caller who was upset that her mental breakdown from a verbally abusive boss would not be covered under Illinois work comp laws. She wanted to know who she could complain to about this and the only real answer is her state senator or rep.
But back to the main point of this post. If you think your settlement isn’t enough money, then don’t sign the contracts. If you think you are going to need more medical care, then don’t sign. If you can’t be happy forever with the result, don’t sign.
Once the contracts are approved, the only way to get workers’ compensation benefits is if you have a new injury. Anything related to the old injury will be done forever and there’s nothing that even the best lawyer in the world would be able to do about it.
I realize that many injured workers in Illinois are put in to some tough situations by some insurance companies that try to screw them out of benefits. That’s why having the right attorney on your case is so important. If you don’t have someone that will fight for you, then you have no chance.