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A very frustrated Illinois worker called my office recently.  He had been injured on the job a couple of years ago, and the case was close to being done. His frustration was because his lawyer won’t give him any indication as to what amount he will likely get for a settlement.  He was hoping I could give some insight.

First things first, while no attorney should tell you what the case is worth right after you get hurt (they’d be lying if they did), when you are done with your treatment, they absolutely should give you a range of what the case is worth.  It’s literally their job.  Why this attorney wouldn’t do it I have no idea, but it’s a red flag in my opinion.

In this case, the worker had a major leg injury with four surgeries. He also developed back problems because, he says, he was favoring his leg so much. The medical bills for the leg have been paid, but they haven’t for the back.  He’s not going to be able to return to his old job, but wasn’t expecting to work much more anyway.

Based on knowing his wages, I can guess what the case would be worth, but can’t say for certain without seeing his medical records including those of the IME doctor the insurance company hired. Without them I don’t have a clear picture.

That said, based on the talk it does appear that the range of the case could be between $70,000 and $300,000.  That is a very wide range and it’s true because it’s arguable that this worker is permanently disabled which would make the claim worth much more money.

One not obvious factor in what the case is worth is who the lawyer is. The truth is that, especially in big injury cases, some claims are worth more based on having an experienced attorney who cares and fights.  A case like this isn’t going to get anywhere near $300,000 without a lot of work.  Sadly, there are man law firms that would tell the client to take $100,000 so they don’t have to do anything special to make it happen.

So how do you know if you have a fighter?  Approximately 5% of cases go to trial every year.  That’s partly because the laws favor workers and also partly because many Illinois work comp attorneys are lazy.  So before you hire a lawyer, ask them how many work comp trials they’ve done in the last 12 months.  There is no right answer, but if it’s close to zero it’s a bad sign.  Most attorneys I know will do between 12-20 a year.

If a case needs to go to trial, it should go to trial.  If the going to trial is better for you, it should go to trial. These are simple concepts that aren’t always followed.

Bottom line is I encourage you to always be thinking about if you have a fighter in your corner. If you don’t you should consider switching firms.