This is the third in a three part series of advice for injured workers.  The first post discussed what you need to know immediately after you are hurt on the job in Illinois.  The second post offered a bunch of warnings and tips for how to handle the middle of a case. This last post is advice on what to think about just before settling a case or going to trial. If you have any questions about Illinois workers’ compensation law and want to talk to an attorney for free, contact us at any time. We cover all of Illinois with our state wide network.

As you get toward the end of an Illinois workers’ compensation case, hopefully you are doing better physically and can start thinking about settlement.  If that’s the case, we highly recommend that you return to work without issue for at least two months.  You don’t want to settle and then find yourself needing more medical care.  You should also, once discharged from care, call EVERY medical provider you’ve had on the case to make sure that there are no unpaid bills.  It’s all about preparing for the best settlement possible.

If you aren’t 100% better, meaning that you have permanent restrictions or a need for future medical treatment there is other advice you need.

First, if at all possible, don’t quit your job.  If you do it could greatly reduce the value of your case. If you are thinking about quitting or have a job offer somewhere else, do not do anything without sitting down with a lawyer and making sure it won’t cost you tens or hundreds of thousands.

In some cases you will have permanent restrictions that your employer can not accommodate. Once your doctor says you are as good as you are going to get, it’s up to you to begin a job search to show what types of jobs you can get.  That doesn’t mean you have to take those jobs, but you must do a job search.  As part of that, you should keep a detailed job log of the jobs you applied for, how you contacted them, the pay and the response you got. On average you should be looking to apply to 15-20 jobs a week.

If you need or want help in your job search, you can get the insurance company to pay for a vocational rehabilitation counselor.  They can help you prepare a resume, conduct a job search, give you testing to determine what jobs you are capable of and in some cases make recommendations as to what re-training you can get to help your job prospects.  Just like with your doctor, you can and should choose this person.  Your lawyer should tell you who to go with.  You want someone who is working for your best interests, not that of the insurance company.  It’s possible that they will determine based on your age, injury and job experience that there is no stable job market for you. But if you don’t go through the process you will never get to that point.

It’s also very important to talk to your doctor about any future medical care that you may need.  For example, if you had a surgery where hardware was put in your body, it’s likely it will need to be replaced at some point.  You can get compensated for those anticipated costs at the time of a settlement through a Medicare Set Aside.  It’s very important that you do this.  This is money that should go in to your bank account and that the lawyer shouldn’t touch.

In some cases you need to think about not settling.  If you’re going to have a lot of future medical care or the offer isn’t fair or if they owe you a bunch of money, going to trial is possibly the better route.  If you win it keeps your medical rights open for life, you might keep weekly benefits and/or you will still get money that is equivalent or more to what you could have settled for.

If your injury is serious enough that you had a surgery or more than six months of treatment, you’d be foolish to not have a lawyer. While this may sound like a lawyer angling for clients, I promise it’s not. The honest truth is that even with a 20% lawyer fee, you’ll end up with more in your pocket with an attorney than without one.  And in really serious cases, the end result can be a difference of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars.

As always, if there’s anything you are unsure about, get in touch. We will always talk to you for free and give straight forward, honest advice.