Raise your hand if you love politicians. I’m counting zero hands right now.
One of the worst things that politicians do is make new laws that they think will solve some imaginary problem without realizing the harm that the new law will cause. It’s a complete game of whack-a-mole.
Under Section 14 of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, Arbitrators who are not in Chicago get their case docket switched every January. In plain English that means that if your case is assigned to Arbitrator X right now, in two months it will be assigned to Arbitrator Y.
This rule was created by genius politicians because someone complained that too many lawyers are too buddy-buddy with some of the Arbitrators. This was an imaginary problem as of course attorneys (both for the insurance companies and injured workers) who do nothing but represent injured workers are going to get to know the Arbitrators. So what happens now is if an Arbitrator is assigned to hear cases in Rockford, they might be hearing cases in a place like Elgin instead.
What does this change? Nothing good. They will still see the same lawyers because the “regulars” who handle these cases day in and day out go to more than one court location. What will happen is that the State of Illinois will have to spend a lot of money to send out tens of thousands of notices of the new Arbitrator assignments.
What this means for you is that if your case could go to trial in the next two months and your lawyer thinks that you have a worker friendly Arbitrator, they should push really hard to make sure that trial happens. On the flip side, if the assigned Arbitrator is known to favor insurance companies, you’d likely want to wait until 2016 to have your hearing. We are beginning to find out who the new Arbitrators will be because even though notices haven’t been sent yet, it’s being changed in the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission computer system.
The reality is that who your Arbitrator is will greatly affect not just your chances of winning and losing, but also the amount the case is worth. Politicians created this dumb rule, but you and your lawyer need to make sure that it’s working for you. I assure you that if the defense attorney and insurance company are trying to delay a trial, this change is a big part of their thinking.
It’s almost shameful to think that your life, your injury and your case is some sort of game, but the truth is that is how politicians and insurance companies are treating it. If you want the best result possible you need an attorney who will play along and understands what the other side is doing and can respond in a way that protects you.