90%+ of Illinois work injury cases settle. Most happen because your lawyer and the insurance adjuster or defense attorney come to an agreement and you go along with it. Many other times though each side is willing to settle, but you and they can’t agree on what the case is worth.
When that happens the best thing your attorney can do is get your case ready for trial. That doesn’t mean you are going to trial, but if you aren’t ready to do so, you can’t use that as leverage.
Arbitrators can only take 1-2 cases a day to trial and guess what, they don’t want to do that if they don’t have to. Cases that can be resolved, they want resolved.
Because of all of this, before you go to trial your lawyer and the other lawyer will also do something called a pre-trial. In a nutshell, your attorney tells the Arbitrator what they think the case is about and what the evidence will show. The insurance company attorney does the same. It usually takes around ten minutes and the Arbitrator will ask some questions and at the end of it all will give a recommendation as to what the settlement will be. They’ll often indicate how they’d rule if the facts at trial were what we say they are.
This is a non-binding recommendation, but it’s very helpful because it pushes each side closer to a resolution. If we are asking for $100,000.00 and the other side is only offering $40,000.00, if the Arbitrator says he’d award $80,000.00, I can then change my settlement demand to that amount and don’t feel the need to back off of it. On the flip side, if I’m asking for 100k and the Arbitrator says he’d award 40k most likely, we’d have to talk to our client and see if going to trial is a better option.
I love pre-trials when both sides are willing participants, but it’s not the be all, end all. The Arbitrator could say he’d find in your favor and you can go to trial and lose. How can that happen? Perhaps he/she doesn’t like you, doesn’t find you to be credible, new facts get presented, they read the medical records and don’t like what they see or maybe they are just having a bad day.
Bottom line is that when settling is the right thing for you, a pre-trial is a great tool. Just don’t think that it’s the be all, end all.
Bonus info. In almost every pre-trial situation it’s only the lawyers and the Arbitrator there. They do that because they want everyone to be able to speak freely. It’s also for your protection. If you spoke up and said something that hurt your case, it could be used against you at trial even if it’s taken out of context.
As always, call us at (312) 346-5578 to discuss anything related to Illinois work comp law. It’s free and we have a state wide network of attorneys to help you.