A City of Chicago worker called me after suspecting his lawyer was telling him a lie.  Every year hundreds of City workers become permanently disabled from working through job injuries.  City of Chicago workers do some of the toughest, most dangerous work around.

Under a weird rule of City of Chicago politics, you can’t settle a workers’ compensation claim for a number in the six figures because to do so requires a full vote of the City Council and they have made clear that they don’t want to deal with workers’ compensation claims all day.

So in an odd move that has surely screwed a bunch of workers, many Chicago work comp lawyers will get their clients to settle for $99,000.00 because nobody has to approve it at the Council that way.  That might make sense on a case that’s worth $110,000.00 due to the extra time this process takes, but not on a case that could be worth $400,000.00 or any other high number.

In this case, the lawyer told the client that under a new law (which is from 2011), you only get benefits until your 67th birthday and that if he didn’t take the settlement he’d end up with less. Both of these statements are of course lies.  No insurance company or employer is going to ever pay more than the case is worth.  It’s also a lie to say that benefits end on your 67th birthday.

Under a 2011 amendment to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, wage differential benefits are capped at age 67 or five years, whichever is longer.  But if you are permanently and totally disabled there is no cap for how long you get benefits.  And for most people they will continue to get permanent disability benefits until they pass away.  I’ve had clients who got weekly checks for many, many years.

My advice to anyone who is permanently disabled and doesn’t have a risk going to trial (e.g. they might have a defense that would make your case worth nothing) is that if you don’t get a fair settlement offer, go to trial, get a verdict in your favor, and collect weekly checks.  Eventually, in most cases, some auditor is going to look at your file and convince someone to pay you what it takes to make the case go away.  So you could get weekly checks for three years and then decide to settle the case.  You can approach them, they can approach you or you can just continue to get the checks.

What’s crazy about this one is the lawyer, due to sheer laziness, is costing himself a much higher fee by not doing the work that has to be done.  Sadly, many lawyers would rather get a smaller fee and do nothing, than get a higher fee and have to do some work that isn’t hugely labor intensive. It’s a total joke.

Bottom line is that if you are permanently disabled and there is no argument that you aren’t, think long term rather than short term.  If you get an offer it’s going to likely be for way less than what the case is worth, at least at the get go.  Going to trial or being prepared to do so gives you the leverage to get the most money in the long run.

If you have questions about anything, we cover all of Illinois and would be happy to talk to you.  Call or e-mail us any time for a free consultation.