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We talk to people in plain English and are very approachable. Hopefully this makes people comfortable and they can ask me whatever questions they want to. I realize that people don’t love lawyers and for some I’m the first one they’ve ever spoken to. Nobody wants to need an attorney, but if you do we want to make the process easy on you.
One very nervous caller to my office and the first thing she said was that she doesn’t even know what to ask. I (hopefully) calmed her down and let her know that it was my job to ask her questions, but as the call ended I realized that there are questions that she should be asking me or any other lawyer that go beyond how she got hurt or what’s going on with her case. So in no particular order, these are questions I think you should ask a work comp lawyer before hiring them.
- How long have you been an attorney? While any licensed lawyer could handle your case, no matter who you hire they get the same 20% fee as set by the State. So I think it’s nuts to hire a lawyer that is too young because they won’t have enough experience to get you the best result or too old because we see many lawyers in their late 60’s or older who are really just semi practicing. One recent caller to my office needs a spinal fusion surgery from a work accident and realized the attorney he hired has been an attorney for only two years.
- Who will handle my case? There are a lot of firms whose goal when it comes to Illinois work comp cases is to get as many cases filed as possible. You interview with the head partner, but then discover that a younger associate is going to really be handling the case. It kind of goes with the first point; you want to have an experienced lawyer fighting for you and don’t want to be the person some young lawyer gains experience on.
- What percentage of your practice is focuses on work injury cases? You wouldn’t want a doctor who mostly delivers babies to treat your cancer and you don’t want a lawyer who does criminal defense or divorce to handle your work injury. For me, most attorneys I recommend are 100% work comp and if they are not it’s because they also take on personal injury cases that are a part of the work injury case. Beware the attorneys that take any case that comes through the door.
- What experience do you have with my injury and medical care? Lawyers aren’t doctors, but the best attorney for you will understand the medicine involved with your care. This can be really important if the injury is very serious (like a neck fusion, torn labrum, etc.) or unique (like RSD, a brain injury).
- How many cases do you take to trial a year? There’s no right answer, but the fewer, the scarier as you want a lawyer who will fight for you and go to trial if needed. Everyone says they are a fighter, but you should look for proof.
- Are there any clients of yours that I can call to see what they say about you? Hopefully this is self explanatory.
- What will happen on my case in the next 90 days? If they just say they will file the paperwork and it will go from there, it might reflect that they are poor at communicating. They should likely mention gathering your medical records, calling the adjuster, filing a trial motion if needed, an initial status hearing and other things.
- What can you tell me about the insurance company? It’s another good question to see what their experience is. Unless you employer has a very small insurance company, your attorney should have had many cases with the one handling your claim.
- Is there something I can do to help my case? To me the answer to this is keep a journal of what has happened, listen to your doctor, don’t embellish your injury, tell the truth, call or e-mail with any questions, keep me in the loop if something happens, don’t discuss the case on social media or with friends and don’t talk to the insurance company. Those are really basic pieces of advice and they should probably offer even more based on the facts of your case.
There’s one question that gets asked more than any other which is “what is my case worth?” I’m not saying that you shouldn’t ask it, but the truth is, especially if you were recently hurt, there’s no way to accurately say what the ultimate settlement could be. Beware the attorneys who promise you a huge amount of money when they have very little information because we don’t know what your ultimate medical recovery will be. To me the ones who will say what you want to hear are the ones that will turn on you and not fight for you.