One of the problems injured workers have when they are hurt on the job in Illinois is that they usually have no idea what their case is worth and have no experience with the formula used to calculate what cases are worth.
That’s OK as you shouldn’t be expected to know that. The problem comes in when you have an attorney who is dishonest with you about what the case could be worth and just tells you that the settlement offer they’ve gotten is the best you can ever do.
Most cases have a range of what they could be worth. The bigger the injury, the bigger the possible range of settlement or value if the case goes to trial. So if you are a high wage earner and badly hurt your back, resulting in a spinal fusion, hypothetically your case could be worth between $50,000 and $125,000 if you make a full recovery.
While 50k is a lot of money, I’d be pissed off if I settled for that and later found out the case could be worth double.
It’s not always expected that you will get a settlement offer at the very top of the range of what a case could be worth, but if the offer you are told to take is at the very bottom then it’s likely that your attorney isn’t doing a good job for you if they tell you to take it.
Some shady attorneys will try to sway you by saying, “You could get zero if we go to trial.” That can happen, but it’s a cop out and unless there are some really good defenses it shouldn’t be much of a consideration.
The worst Illinois work comp attorneys don’t even discuss a range with their clients. They arrogantly tell you that your case is worth $X and you need to take that offer. That, in my opinion, is selling you out. At best it’s very bad customer service. At worst it’s them just not wanting to do their job and get the best possible result for you.
Why would an attorney tell you to take much less than what your case is worth? The biggest reason is that they are lazy. Work comp trials don’t take that much effort, but you do usually have to take depositions of a couple of doctors, prepare your client and go to court. For some attorneys who are burned out or just don’t care, they will avoid a trial at all costs, even if it costs them money in the long run. Stupid but true.
So how can you protect yourself?
You probably can never know for sure, but if your attorney won’t even talk about a trial, doesn’t give you a range of settlement value or insists you have to take an offer and can’t explain why it’s a good one then you’ve got some red flags. In my experience those types of lawyers are also not great at returning phone calls or answering questions even before you get to settlement talks. So if you sense that your attorney isn’t a fighter, my best advice is to get a new one before it’s too late.