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A very nice woman called me and wanted to hire me to take over her case. At first it sounded like something we’d want to be involved in. She said, “I hired the wrong lawyer. I didn’t do my homework and now I’m paying for it. I’ve been without pay for almost two years even though my doctor says my injuries are work related.”
She’s self aware and looking out for herself. Those are two qualities we like.
The problem is that she went on to mention that this case went to trial five plus months ago. Her real frustration it turns out is that the Arbitrator hasn’t finished his decision and her attorney isn’t communicating with her.
There was an Arbitrator at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission who was fired earlier this year, allegedly because he was taking a long time to write his decisions after trial. She appears to be one of his victims.
Once a case goes to trial and all of the evidence is submitted, typically your attorney and the insurance company lawyer are given between 7-14 days to write a proposed decision. Essentially we are asked to put in writing how we think the Arbitrator should rule. He or she can take the proposed decision and rubber stamp it, they can tweak it or they can write one of their own.
Once your lawyer turns in a proposed decision all we can do is wait unless there are new cases issues that have come up that weren’t part of the trial. It typically takes 30-60 days for a decision to be released, but some Arbitrators get them done in a few days and others take many months.
Just like with chores you have to do around the house, the simple cases seem to get done quickly and the disputed cases, where there is a lot of evidence presented which means a lot of work, take longer to get a decision.
While you could bug the Arbitrator about what’s taking so long, I don’t think it’s a good idea. The natural response is, “You want your decision? Here you go. You lose.” So while we try to be as aggressive as we can on cases, this is a time when we typically tell clients that there’s nothing we can or should do.
This of course can be frustrating. My caller was right to feel that way. But her attorney did everything he could except properly explain the post trial process.
Once the decision is reached, each side has up to 30 days to file an appeal. If that doesn’t happen the result of the trial is final. If it does get appealed that process takes approximately a year and involves each attorney writing a legal brief as to what the case is about and then arguing before three Commissioners who then write their own decision. You as a client don’t participate in that part of the case which can be frustrating as well.
In sum, not a ton happens after the trial. The biggest is the proposed decision which you should get a copy of as well as a copy of the one done by the defense lawyer. After that it’s hurry up and wait.