If you read my blog, you’ll know that I have no patience for lazy lawyers. Going to trial in an Illinois workers’ compensation case isn’t that hard, although it does take some work. Most trials only take a few hours start to finish as usually the only live witness is you, the injured worker. Occasionally there is surveillance or someone from the insurance company or employer to testify about wages or job duties, but that doesn’t happen in most cases.
One thing I said in that first paragraph is “live witness.” By that I mean someone who is testifying in person before the Arbitrator. In almost every case where you have a doctor testify, they do so by deposition. This typically takes place before the trial itself starts and is called an evidence deposition. In fact, I can only recall one case where I saw a doctor testify live and I’ve been handling claims for almost 20 years.
This is way different than most other civil cases, but it’s just how it’s always been done at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. Once when I first started my career, we had a difficult doctor on a case. I asked my boss at the time why we couldn’t just subpoena the doctor to testify like any other witness and I never got a real good explanation other than we don’t want to piss the doctor off.
So doctors testify by deposition and more so, they do it at a time and place of their choosing and they get paid a lot of money to do so. In a recent case, a doctor was called and didn’t have any time slots open until the spring of 2016. We could go on a waiting list, but unless someone cancelled, we’d be stuck.
Many of these doctors are arrogant and won’t meet with the lawyer ahead of time unless they get more money and try to limit their time. One doctor wanted to charge $1,000.00 if we went one minute over an hour. I get that they don’t enjoy depositions, but it’s part of their job and they make a killing doing so. In fact, many of the docs who complain about this are IME doctors for insurance companies. So they are complaining not about their patients, but about the insurance company. If you don’t want to do IME’s and don’t want to give your testimony, then don’t do them. Of course that will never happen as many of these doctors make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from these exams.
Back to lazy lawyers. If your case needs to go to trial and your lawyer doesn’t do so, it is actually a valid excuse if they tell you that they are waiting on a deposition to do so. If your treating doctor isn’t available for six months, it would be bad for your case to force them to testify by subpoena because they would not be on your side anymore and would probably fire you as a patient. In those situations, all you/we can do is beg and plead with their scheduler that this is an emergency. It’s sad, but some clients do end up having to wait a long time for trial just because their doctor isn’t accommodating.
On the flip side, if you can’t get to trial for six months because the IME doctor isn’t available, I’d consider one of two things. 1. Pressure the Arbitrator to order advanced payments so you aren’t financially strapped; or 2. Agree to let the IME report in on its own without requiring a deposition. If you are willing to do that and often there’s no harm in doing so, the Arbitrator will usually let a trial go forward.
So I’m still going to crusade against lazy lawyers and there are too many of them. But there are good ones who don’t get quick results in every case and it’s not always their fault.