Everyone wants to settle their Illinois workers’ compensation case if they can. It’s how you get paid, it’s how we get paid and it brings closure. Of course, you don’t want to settle your case too soon. If you do you won’t have anyone to pay your medical bills and you almost certainly would be settling the case for less than it’s worth.
We advise clients not to think about settlement until they are at maximum medical improvement which in plain English means you are as good as you are going to get. Even then we typically wait a month or two depending on the severity of your injury before we think about making a settlement demand. If you go back to work and the problems come back, there is no point to settling just yet. Thinking about your long term health is the best thing we can do for you and the best thing you can do for you.
Some attorneys take a different approach. They’ll seek out a settlement offer whenever they can. Why are they different?
There are certainly a handful that just suck at their job and will sell out a client to make a quick buck. But that’s not the biggest reason this happens.
When you don’t like your lawyer and they aren’t doing a good job for you (e.g. don’t return calls, don’t follow through on what they say they will do, yell at you, etc.) it’s not usually a one time thing for them. These are work comp attorneys who are often getting fired by clients.
You can switch lawyers in an Illinois work comp case and it costs you nothing. The first lawyer and the second lawyer have to fight over who gets what from the 20% fee. It doesn’t affect you in any way.
But if there is already a settlement offer on the table, the first lawyer typically gets 20% of that offer and the second lawyer only gets paid if they can get a higher offer. So while your bottom line still doesn’t change, it makes getting a new lawyer much harder and your current crappy attorney knows this.
For example, if your first lawyer gets an offer of $50,000 and a new lawyer takes over and gets an offer of $125,000, you will get 100k and the first lawyer would get 10k and the second would get 15k. A new lawyer will take over a situation like this when the case is clearly worth more money.
The problem comes in when there is a potential defense to your case or it’s possible that if you go to trial the case would only be worth a little more than what was offered. That will make it so most good attorneys won’t want to take over because they’d be doing a bunch of work and the first lawyer would get paid. You lose in the end because you have a bad lawyer and nobody to fight to try and get you close to full value.
So as odd as it sounds, if you don’t like your lawyer, the best thing you can do for yourself is tell them not to make any settlement demands until you tell them to. Most attorneys don’t do this already, but the ones who are losing clients all of the time seem to do it more and more.
You may be wondering how we know that this is happening? It’s because there are about five law firms who are always getting fired by their clients and those clients tell us the same stories over and over. Of late we’ve been hearing from many of them that an offer has been made to settle even though they still need medical care.
Long post. If you have questions about anything, call us for free any time or fill out our contact form and we will call you.