When you are hurt on the job in Illinois and hire an attorney, every lawyer uses the same attorney representation agreement. Here is what it looks like.
Under Illinois law, attorney fees can not exceed 20% of what is recovered and for almost every case that means 20% of the eventual settlement they get you when you are all better. But that contract does state that the lawyer can take 20% of “any compensation for temporary total disability (TTD) that the employer refused to pay in a timely manner or in the proper amount.”
So the question is, when can your work comp lawyer take a fee off of your weekly checks, and should they do this?
I bring this up because there is a scummy work comp law firm in Chicago that, from what I’ve been told, has been taking 20% of their client’s money any time benefits get cut off or are late and then get reinstated. Technically under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act they can do this, but no lawyers I know or work with would ever take money from your check for getting benefits reinstated by filing a motion, writing a letter or making a phone call.
What this unethical law firm knows is that insurance companies cut off benefits without good cause all the time, or purposely will be late with them just to mess with you. It’s the hope of the insurance companies that they will get away with it or make you settle, either before you should or for less than you should. What ends up happening in most cases, is that a lawyer can solve the problem just by threatening a trial motion or making a phone call.
Those lawyer efforts usually take 1-3 hours of time. We view that as part of the job and would never take part of your money for doing that. We’ll get compensated in the end when we get a settlement. This one Chicago firm reportedly views things differently and not only takes money from the back pay, but also from future pay. That’s just wrong.
This is an issue that you should ask a lawyer about before hiring them and if they do this to you, you should fire them. To me, the only time that a lawyer should take a percentage of your back benefits is if they have to go to trial – not just file a trial motion – as that requires a lot of work. But even then, their fee should be on past, not future benefits.
I would not expect anyone to be thinking about this issue before they hire a lawyer and that’s why I’m writing about it. Attorneys that do this stuff give the rest a bad name.
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