I had two recent calls to my office within an hour that lead me to the idea for this post as they both tie together in the end.
The first caller had a lawyer who had obtained a mid five figures settlement offer for her. The problem was that it did not include payment for all of her medical bills. She had been sent to an IME doctor who said that the surgery she had wasn’t necessary so the insurance company was refusing to pay for it. She didn’t have insurance of her own so if she took this settlement she was going to have to pay more than $10,000.00 out of it to her doctor.
In other words, while she normally would get 80% of a settlement once the attorney fees are taken out, she’s ending up with around 40%. She didn’t think that was right and I don’t blame her. Her lawyer was telling her to take the settlement.
She told her lawyer that she wasn’t happy and he told her that going to trial was a waste of time because it would take three years or more until she got paid. That of course is a total lie. If he did his job and got his act together she go get a trial hearing within six months or less. The truth is that in the end he’d personally end up with no more money so he didn’t want to have to perform any extra work. That is pathetic. If you take on a client you should be willing at some point go to trial if need be.
I told her that I couldn’t take over her case because it was too far down the road, but I also gave her the advice I would give to anyone who isn’t happy with their settlement offer. If you have a credible doctor in your corner and can accept the risk that you could lose if you went to trial, then tell your lawyer you don’t care how long it takes, you want your day in court. Unless you are being incredibly unreasonable (e.g. We’ve had clients tell us they will take no less than $2 million when a fair offer was around $50.000.00) then your lawyer should do their job.
The second caller was a nice man who had a serious back injury. That said, he was clearly calling me fishing for info while pretending that he was thinking of hiring me. That’s OK, my whole blog is full of free info and I’ll talk to anyone at any time for free.
The problem with this gentleman was that he let me know, “I’m not like your normal callers. I have no formal training in the law, but it really comes naturally to me so I’m as qualified as any lawyer.” He’s clearly too smart for his own good, but I wasn’t about to tell him that. There is an old saying that an attorney who represents himself has a fool for a client. The point to that is that you can’t be objective when it’s your case and keep emotion out of your decisions.
For example, I learned in the call that he let the adjuster know how hard the case had been on his life and that he was having trouble making his mortgage payments. This puts them at a clear negotiating advantage against him because they know he’s desperate.
What I did tell him is that he’s welcome to try and do this himself, but once there is a settlement offer made it would be difficult if not impossible for me or anyone in my state wide network to be willing to take his case over and try to get a better offer. There are many reasons for this, but the main ones are that we don’t think it’s fair to us or our other clients and we have found that too often, as in this case, the client has said things that will hurt the case and our ability to act on their behalf.
There are some firms out there who might take over a case with an offer already made, but you are certainly limiting your options, especially among the ones who will really fight for you. The insurance companies know this too so if they do offer you something it’s often a really low ball amount, but enough to make it so getting legal help to get a fair offer will not happen.
If you do get a firm to take over the case once an offer has been made, they can’t take a penny out of what was already offered, but can take 50% of what is offered on top of that amount. In other words, if you get offered $100,000.00 on your own, that’s all yours. But if you hire a lawyer and they get the offer increased to $200,000.00, they will receive $50,000.00. So in the end you have less money in your pocket. It would have to be a big increase like this to make the lawyer want to get involved.
Point being that you need to think about these things early on because if you don’t you’ll end up unhappy with the settlement and won’t have any options.
UPDATE: I’ve written before how this is the best time of year to settle a case because insurance companies want to get their cases closed and off the books before the year is over as it affects their bonuses. Well a little birdie just told me that one big insurance company held a settlement day meeting and in one day settled over 3 million worth of cases. So if you want to get fair value, have your attorney make a good demand with the promise that the contracts will be approved before the end of the year.
To speak with a knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney in our Illinois network for free, call us at (312) 346-5578. We are based in Chicago but help throughout the entire state of Illinois. You can also fill out our contact form online.