I get the question, “How do I know what my case is worth?” from callers about once a week and it’s a fair and reasonable question. Some are injured Illinois workers who have a settlement offer, but don’t trust their lawyer and want to know if the settlement their attorney is recommending is a good one. There is one Chicago workers’ compensation law firm that does a terrible job explaining how these cases work to their clients and we end up with a lot of them calling us.
Others who contact us are recently injured and just trying to figure everything out. It sucks to tear your rotator cuff or get carpal tunnel or any other injury, but knowing that there is a settlement for all the pain and nonsense you have to go through can ease the burden of it all a bit.
When people call or e-mail us, we are very direct, blunt and honest with our legal advice. Most people appreciate that, some just want to be told what they want to hear. The honest answer is that you can’t just tell a lawyer what your injury is and know what your case is worth.
The reason I say that is that there is so much more information that goes in to determining case value. First off your average weekly wage matters. We take 60% of that to determine what is called your permanency rate. If you earn $1,200.00 a week and your friend earns $600.00 a week, if you have the exact same injury, your case will be worth more.
Second, the type of medical care you have matters. A thorough attorney won’t tell you what your case is worth without seeing your medical records. If your injury required 30 physical therapy sessions and two epidural steroid injections, it’s more significant than someone who had 10 PT appointments and one epidural. If you have surgery that usually makes the case worth even more as it’s a sign of how serious your problem is. But ultimately what we are looking for is what your doctor says about how you are doing when he/she discharges you from their care. Your statements about what you notice about yourself as compared to before the injury matter too.
Third we look at what type of work you are doing now versus what you could do before. Permanent restrictions make a case worth more. A career change due to those restrictions makes a case worth more. A substantial wage loss makes a case worth more and may lead to us pursuing a wage differential claim for you instead of a standard settlement.
Fourth, settlements are typically based off the body part that was injured. If you injure your finger for example, but the impact of that problem affects your hand, the settlement might go to the hand and if it does it’s worth more. If you hurt your leg and compensating for it leads to a back injury, we want to make sure you are paid for both a leg and back injury.
Finally, the insurance company will try to convince you that an AMA rating by a doctor is what determines the value of your case. This is simply not true. It’s a factor that can be considered, but it’s not the be all end all. Sadly insurance companies have used this lie to allow themselves to pay injured and uninformed injured workers way less than their case is worth.
Bonus tip, anyone who tells you what the case is worth soon after you’ve been injured is really full of it. No way to tell until you are all better.
So if you want a guesstimate of what your case might be worth, we can usually give that to you. But if you want to know for sure and get the highest settlement possible, we need to see your medical records and learn more about you.