A reader of my blog asked the following:

My husband was hurt at work in Chicago and missed four months with a knee injury.  He’s been back at work for six months.  Three months ago the adjuster said she was going to make a settlement offer, but she never did and she hasn’t returned our calls?  Do you think they will make an offer an if not how long do we have to bring a case?

One of the myths about Illinois workers’ compensation law is that an insurance company has to make a settlement offer.  They have to pay your medical bills.  They have to let you choose your own doctor.  They have to pay you for all of your time off of work.  If they don’t do those things they can be punished as they are mandatory.  Settlements are not.

The reason insurance companies make a settlement offer is to close out your case so you can’t get any more medical treatment and your file can be put away.  They don’t like variables, they like things to be known.  At the same time, if your case is worth a lot of money, they’d often rather not offer anything at all or if they do, low ball you, as they are a bottom line business.

If they don’t make an offer the only way to get one is to formally file a case against them. It’s not a lawsuit, it’s an official claim for benefits that will result in an arbitration if you can’t reach an agreement.  Usually once you file though they want to settle because if you go to arbitration your medical rights for the injury will remain open for life.

Time wise, you have three years from the date of the accident or two years from the last payment of benefits, whichever is longer, to bring a case.  But waiting to file is foolish because once you are done with your medical care, you are entitled to pursue a settlement so the longer you delay the more time they are earning interest on your money.

Surprisingly to some, it’s common for insurance companies to say that they are going to make an offer and then just disappear.  They do what’s in their best interests and if that means ignoring you or lying to you then that’s just the cost of business to them.