There is an old saying that a good settlement is one that makes both sides happy or neither side happy. I don’t agree with that at all. I could care less if the insurance company is happy. I just want you to be happy.
Not all lawyers feel this way. Early on in my former life as a defense attorney, I remember settling a case with a Chicago work comp attorney who has a lot of clients. I told him that we couldn’t pay his demand of $25,000.00, but that I had settlement authority of $22,000.00. He told me that “Why don’t we just settle the case for $20,000.00. That’s my client’s bottom line. I’ll look good to them and you can look good to your client because you saved them a couple of bucks.”
So essentially he took $1,600.00 in tax free money out of his client’s pocket. He did it because his firm had many cases with my firm and he was trying to build a good, long term relationship as if he thought that him selling out his client on this case would lead me to do the same down the road. It of course didn’t work.
I hear a lot of injured workers talking about their bottom line in a case and I get that line of thinking. Sometimes your bottom line is unreasonable (you aren’t getting a million dollars for a carpal tunnel case no matter how poorly the insurance company has treated you) and other times your bottom line is too low.
There have been plenty of times where we and the lawyers in our network have talked clients out of settling for way less than their case is worth. I recall one case from years ago where the client wanted to walk with $50,000.00 because that is more than he had ever made in his lifetime. Problem was that we valued the case at around $200,000.00 so if he settled he’d be selling himself way too short.
If you are going to have a bottom line then I suggest it be based on a combination of two things. First you need to get a realistic idea from your lawyer as to what your worst and best case scenario is if your case goes to trial. If your worst case scenario appears to be around $30,000.00 and your best case is around $75,000.00, then settling for $35,000.00 really is settling even if you just want your case to be over.
The second thing to consider is your personal life. Years ago we represented a very nice man who wanted to retire. His bottom line was $125,000.00 in his pocket because that would allow him to move to a warmer climate and be closer to his daughter and grandchild. I told him that he was leaving at least $50,000.00 on the table, but also that it would probably take us 12-18 months to get him the settlement he deserved or a final award through trial. To him, waiting that long, especially with a job waiting for him in his new state, was not worth the extra money and time away from family.
What I don’t encourage is for you to start thinking about your bottom line when your case isn’t ready to settle. If you tore your rotator cuff last week, you should focus on getting the best medical care possible. The value of what your case is going to be worth can’t be determined because we don’t know what your ultimate recovery will be. How well you recover is the biggest factor in determining case value. The time to think about bottom line is when your treatment is ending or ended.
This can be confusing and you shouldn’t be expected to figure it all out on your own. Doing so could cost you a bunch of money even when lawyer fees are added in. If you’d like to consult with us about your Illinois work injury, call us at (312) 346-5578 any time or fill out the form to the right. It’s free, confidential and we cover all of Illinois.