The number one Illinois workers’ compensation law question we get is “What is my case worth?” The second, especially of late, is how long will my case take?
The two questions are similar, in that the answers really depend on your case facts, as well as your lawyer.
By far, the most important part of an Illinois workers’ compensation claim is making sure that you get the medical care that you need and that it’s paid for. So before you can know how long your case will take, you have to know when you will be better and need no more treatment. If you have a torn meniscus and get it surgically repaired, in most cases you’ll be as good as new in three or four months. On the other hand, if you have a herniated disc in your back and end up with a fusion, you are looking at a minimum recovery time of a year.
Usually injured workers in Illinois recover with treatment, but some need additional surgeries, therapy or pain management. Others need vocational rehabilitation or work hardening to get them back in to the work force.
So an average case will take around 12 months, but it’s not unusual for a case to take three or more years.
In some cases, you want to settle, but the insurance company won’t. In that situation you need to go to Arbitration and how long that will take depends on how quickly you can take a deposition of your doctor as well as how long it’s been since you formally filed your case with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. Older cases get priority which is one reason to get a case filed soon after you are hurt with an attorney. If you ever need to go to trial down the road you will have a better place in line.
A big factor in how long as case can take is how lazy or aggressive your lawyer is. I’m shocked at how many attorneys, usually due to being disorganized or incompetent as well as not hard working, delay cases that can be resolved. You don’t want to settle too soon if you need treatment, but you also don’t want to wait another 18 months to get a settlement check if you could get the same amount today. Why lawyers do this is beyond me as they don’t get paid until the case is over.
A recent caller from Chicago was frustrated that her case was still going on after six years, but a closer look showed that she’s still receiving treatment for her injuries and being paid for her time off work. So from our viewpoint, her lawyer was doing everything out and if he tried to settle he’d be selling her out. On the flip side, we got a call from a woman who was mad that her case hadn’t been settled yet after more than two years from her accident. It turns out she was justified as she hadn’t received treatment in over a year and her lawyer hasn’t made a settlement demand.
Bottom line is that every case is different and you have to look at the facts. You don’t want to wait forever to settle or go to trial if there is no reason to delay, but you also don’t want to sell yourself short if you need medical care.
If you have any questions about any of this, contact us at any time for a free consultation. We cover all of Illinois.