One of the unique things about being an Illinois workers’ compensation attorney is that most of the documents you have clients sign, you don’t create. By that, I mean every lawyer uses the same attorney representation agreement on every case. It’s a state provided form. By law, we have to use that agreement. This is different than every other area of law where an attorney would make up their own form.
We also don’t create unique forms for filing the case. There is no lawsuit to prepare as you’d have to in a medical malpractice or car accident case. We complete a document called an Application For Adjustment Of Claim. We do have to fill in the unique info related to you such as your name, employer, where the accident took place, etc., but unlike a lawsuit, it’s a one page document.
The most important form that all cases use is the settlement contract. It’s a two sided pink sheet. Part of it is similar to the info entered when a case is filed, but a much bigger part is where having a smart attorney who is looking out for you comes in to play.
On the back of the contract is a big blank space where we enter the terms of the settlement. In many cases that space isn’t enough so a rider to the contract will be created. While this area states how much you are settling for, what’s more important are the specific terms.
Let’s say you settle a case for $100,000.00. You think all of your medical bills but one for $5,000 have been paid. If the terms don’t make clear that the insurance company has to pay that bill, you will eventually get stuck with it.
Another issue relates to future medical care. If you negotiate that they will pay for future treatment, a specific provision has to be put in the contract. If not, you are out of luck.
An additional big one happens when you settle as a worker getting a wage differential or permanent disability. If you are on social security or think you will be soon, the contract MUST have something called spread language in it. While you will still get your money in a lump sum, the law allows you to limit the amount that gets reported to social security. If you don’t do this, you will either lose your social security benefits or have them drastically cut.
There are many other issues that go in to that contract like a Medicare set aside, attorney fees, who is responsible for past medical care and the body part that the injury is assigned to. All of these can affect how much you receive now or could cost you money in the future if it’s not done right.
In cases where an insurance company doesn’t hire defense counsel, your lawyer will usually prepare the contract. If they do, they should write it in your favor. If the insurance company does hire a lawyer, typically that attorney will write the contract. That doesn’t mean you should just sign away. You need to make sure your lawyer has gone over it and is sure that nothing in there could cause you harm.
This is real legal work that requires experience. If you have any questions about this process, contact us for free at any time.