I have a theory that I can’t prove scientifically, but if you see the same thing over and over, you have pretty good evidence that it’s true.
Insurance companies perform all sort of studies to figure out ways to not pay out money on claims. One thing they will do is deny claims for no reason by sending a letter that says something like “We’ve completed our investigation and determined that your injuries aren’t work related.” If they send that letter to 10 people who have compensable injuries and one of them goes away, they save money. If three give up then they are saving a bundle. Insurance companies are ruthless, but also smart and they know that many people don’t want to deal with a denial.
My theory though is that if you live in a rural area or are a lower wage worker, they’ll also deny you for no reason or at least try to frustrate you in to going away. It’s playing off of a stereotype that is usually wrong, but their belief is that smaller town people are less likely to hire a lawyer because there are so few good ones in small towns and even less who focus their practice on Illinois workers’ compensation law. Finding a good lawyer in Chicago isn’t hard. Getting a good one in Mount Vernon or a smaller town by there is more difficult. Of course, this is why I created the state wide network of good lawyers.
With lower wage earners, some insurance companies seem to believe that they won’t seek out their rights or will think that they can’t afford a lawyer. Cost of course is not an issue as there is no fee unless you win, but they know that not every worker knows that. Many times I get calls from people who are stressed because they can’t afford a lawyer. I can see their relief through the phone when I explain that there is no up front cost.
The other thing with smaller town workers is that they are more likely to work at a place where very few other people work. This means they are less likely to know someone who has had a work injury which can mean they never learn their rights.
It’s all a gamble by the insurance company, but one that pays off unfortunately.
I thought of this when I was called by a worker at a small business in a rural town in LaSalle County. He barely made minimum wage and is in his own words, “the sticks.” He got one call from an insurance adjuster and never a call back again. Every time he called he got voice-mail.
I’ve heard similar stories and while occasionally it’s from someone in a bigger city or at a bigger employer, it typically happens to small town workers.
The good news is that whether you work in Chicago or in Valley City (population 13), you have the same rights if you get hurt while working. And an insurance company that is blowing you off or telling you the case is denied or closed is the easiest problem for a lawyer to deal with.