I’m honest. To a fault. I say that because I always tell people the truth even when I know that is not what they want to hear.
Take for example a recent caller to my office. Nice woman. Injured her elbow at work. It’s a compensable case. The bills have been paid. She had three months of physical therapy and one cortisone injection. She’s back to work at her normal job and her elbow feels fine. She has a good lawyer who secured an offer of $15,000.00 for her.
She’s upset because the offer doesn’t include pain and suffering benefits, punitive damages or compensate her for not being able to lift up her newborn grandson when he was born. She told me that she “wants to tell her story” and “knows that if a Judge heard it” that she’d get a lot more money.
I’m sympathetic to her. If I was a grandparent I’d want to hold my grandchild. Problem is that the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act doesn’t allow for pain and suffering or punitive damages. The other problem is that the Arbitrator (no Judges in work comp in IL) has her case and about 1,000 others on his/her docket. They don’t want to hear her story or anyone else’s. They want to move cases. They’ll hear what happened if there is a reasonable dispute between the two parties and make a decision from there. But in a case like this where there is a good recovery and a very reasonable settlement offer, they feel they’d be wasting there time with a trial. And they are right.
What I let her know is that if it goes to trial, she’ll probably end up with less from spite out of the Arbitrator who ended up in a trial that didn’t need to happen. He’ll punish her for using up resources and costing the insurance company money. That’s not fair, but my job is to tell her how the law really works. We fight like hell for our clients, but there is no fight to be had here.
Another caller to my office wanted to tell her story too and she has a good reason to go to trial, but a bad reason for wanting to tell her story. She had a major back fusion and is permanently disabled from working. The insurance company isn’t making a fair offer and if I had to guess it’s because they think she’ll die at some point due to other health issues.
I estimated that a fair value for the case is $300,000.00 and said she should go to trial because the offer isn’t fair and this way she’ll get to keep her medical rights open for the rest of her life as relates to the back injury. She felt that if she could just tell her story that she’d end up with a million dollars.
I had to let her know that there was literally a 0% chance of that happening which isn’t what she wanted to hear, but again, I don’t concern myself with that. It’s the truth. If she lives to 100 she might see a million dollars in life time benefits or more, but there is no way to get that in a lump sum now. Her thought was that the stress of the case has made her blood pressure go up and lead to a heart condition. The truth is that has contributed to her being permanently disabled and is already taken in to consideration.
I do get that it can be therapeutic to have your day in court and the second caller should go to court. But if you are doing it because you think you are in a unique situation that will lead to the law not being applied and you ending up with a windfall, you are fooling yourself. As a lawyer, it’s our job to take the emotion out of a situation and make objective recommendations. Even when you wish that we wouldn’t.