A reader of our blog called, not looking for a new lawyer, but just to vent.  She has a five year old Illinois workers’ compensation case from working at a factory.  She hired a workers’ compensation lawyer in Waukegan who she liked at first, but now she isn’t so thrilled with him.  She had surgery and returned to work over a year ago at which time her doctor discharged her from his care.

So she wondered, why is it taking so long for her case to settle?  Apparently her attorney hasn’t been returning phone calls.

I’m not familiar enough with her case to say exactly why this is a problem, but it could be a bunch of things.  Lets count the ways:

1. Her lawyer is just lazy.  I don’t get that because he only gets paid if the case settles.  But you’d be surprised how many attorneys aren’t aggressive when it comes to resolving a case when the time is right to do so.

2. Her lawyer is still gathering all of the medical records. It’s possible that with five years of treatment he doesn’t have all of the medical records he needs to make a full evaluation of the case.  It’s likely that there are thousands of pages of medical records and maybe he’s waiting on all of them so he can verify that all of the bills have been paid before he tries to settle.  Not likely, but certainly possible.

3. The insurance company isn’t responding to him.  That’s certainly possible as they have no motivation to settle this case, certainly not for what the case is worth.  But if they won’t respond then the lawyer should be filing a trial motion or in this case, since it’s five years old, have the case set for trial automatically at the next status call.  It’s possible that the insurance company or their lawyer has asked for a delay and the attorney is accommodating them, but if so, he should communicate it to his client.

4. The lawyer has been paid off.  That’s not happening and doesn’t ever happen in Illinois work comp cases.  It’s just paranoia.

5. The attorney doesn’t focus their practice on job injuries and is too busy handling other, possibly bigger cases.  No idea if this is true, but I’ve seen it happen a bunch and it’s why you should only hire a firm that does work comp all day every day.

6. Her counsel is at the end of his career and essentially blowing off all his work.  It happens every now and then which is why we highly recommend that you don’t hire a super old person, especially if they don’t have partners that cover their cases.

7. The insurance company is in bankruptcy which means nothing can be done. This happens to some of the small companies every year and puts us at the mercy of the Illinois Insurance Guarantee Fund.  In plain English, it’s a mandatory pause to the case where we can do nothing for a while.  It sucks for everyone involved.

8. There is a worry that she’ll need more medical treatment in the future so he’s being really safe and not settling just in case her return to work doesn’t go well.  I’d buy that theory if it was actually communicated to her.

9. These cases takes years to settle once you are done treating. This is a blatant lie that some law firms tell their clients to cover for their laziness.

Of all of these options (and there are even more reasons why a case doesn’t settle), the biggest issue is the fact that her attorney won’t call her back.  It leads me to believe it’s all his fault.  This late in the game it’s probably too late to switch firms.  If I’m her, I’d go to his office and wait until he sees her so she can get her answer.  It’s an aggressive move, but his lack of a response is ridiculous.