An initial consultation with an Illinois work injury lawyer should be free. If you decide to hire the lawyer, then they should file your claim without charging you. It’s not a complicated matter at this point. If your claim is accepted and you start receiving benefits right away, your lawyer should not take any portion of those benefits, in our opinion.

In Illinois, regular workers’ compensation benefits include payment of your medical bills and payment of 2/3 of your wages if you are out of work because of your injury. The fact is, if you are receiving your regular benefits without doing anything more than filing a claim (or sometimes you get benefits without even doing this), then your lawyer hasn’t really had to do much work. If your lawyer is charging you fees at this point, it might be a red flag.

If your claim is denied, or if the insurance company cuts off your benefits at some point, then that is when your lawyer’s work begins. You’ll likely be requesting a hearing with the arbitrator, who is the judge in a work injury case. At the hearing, your attorney will be presenting your case for why you are entitled to benefits and asking the court to not only award benefits going forward but to order the insurance company to pay you for the benefits they should have been paying all along. If this is successful, your attorney will charge you a portion of that lump sum of past benefits that they are able to get for you.

Another point at which an attorney does significant work on your case is at the end when it’s time to settle with the insurance company and close your claim. Most cases end in some sort of settlement. The value of your case at this point depends on many factors, including whether your injury is permanent. Your attorney will charge a percentage of the settlement that they are able to negotiate for you. Because an experienced attorney knows how to negotiate with insurance companies, they’ll be able to get you more than you could get on your own in most cases. Insurance companies typically settle for less with workers who don’t have attorneys.

Taking a portion of a client’s regular benefits is unnecessary (because of the small amount of work required if a claim is accepted) and most importantly, it hurts the client who likely needs the money to live on while they are dealing with their injury. Your attorney should have the resources to handle your claim without charging you any money up front and only collecting a fee when they are able to negotiate or win a sum of money for past benefits or settlement on your behalf. And when that happens, the law limits the fee to 20%.