The great majority of Illinois workers’ compensation cases are heard in Chicago. Currently there are 14 different Arbitrators and there are trials almost every single week day of the month.
For an unannounced reason, if you want a trial in Chicago in 2016, the lawyer you hire better have their act together because if they don’t, time will pass and you’ll miss your day for trial.
Are you confused by what I’m trying to say? Bear with me.
Currently, if you file a motion for trial that motion is heard on a status hearing date. In other words, both attorneys talk in advance and agree on a trial date or if they don’t, the lawyer for the injured worker typically asks for a trial date at the status hearing and then the defense lawyer either agrees or asks for a different date. In a typical month, an Arbitrator in Chicago will try cases over 10 consecutive business days. Most trials only last a couple of hours so if needed you can hear 2-3 cases a day.
Under the current schedule (see http://www.iwcc.il.gov/pdfs/chgo2015.pdf), the hearing dates are on average at least 10 days past the status call date. That gives even the laziest of lawyers time to notify a client, organize medical records, prepare any witnesses, etc.
For some reason, starting in 2016, the first trial date will now usually take place two days after the status call date, (see: http://www.iwcc.il.gov/pdfs/chgo2016.pdf). This means less time to prepare and I guarantee there will be a lot of cases that don’t go to trial because lawyers don’t have their act together.
If you look at the schedule you will notice that you can still ask for a trial date that is around two weeks after the status call date. The problem is that everyone who actually wants to go to trial will be asking for that date. As mentioned previously, an Arbitrator can only hear 2-3 cases in a day at most, so if ten people want to go to trial on one day it’s not going to happen.
The Arbitrators will “close out” a hearing date once too many cases have been set. So this also means that like it or not, many lawyers will have trial dates which give them little time to prepare. There are some old time attorneys who still don’t use e-mail so I can envision a scenario where a client is notified by mail of a trial date and doesn’t find out about it until a letter arrives after the hearing date.
In the big picture, if you want to go to trial or need to go to trial, your attorney has to be a planner or it’s never going to happen or at least it won’t happen well. This shouldn’t be a big deal for attorneys who only handle work comp cases as we have to deal with a similar schedule in suburban and downstate hearing venues. But for the lazier ones or those who just dabble in work comp it’s going to create some problems. And unfortunately that means there will be some unhappy injured workers.
To find an experienced Illinois attorney who specializes in workers’ comp, contact us at (312) 346-5578 or fill out our contact form online. We will answer any questions you have for free and point you in the right direction.