Some of the ways insurance companies try to defraud you are in plain sight.  They tell you your case is under investigation when it’s really not.  They send a nurse to talk to your doctor when it’s against the law.  These are things that shouldn’t happen under Illinois work comp law, but they do.

Whatever they do, it’s done to save them money. Period.  They want to save money on your medical bills, time off of work and most of all, on what they pay you for a settlement, if anything.

One way we determine what your case is worth is if you have any physical restrictions and if so, does your employer have a job for you within those restrictions.  If you were making $40 an hour when you got hurt and can now only work a job making $15 an hour, your case would likely be worth a few hundred thousand dollars.  On the other hand, if you had a serious injury but can get back to work at the same rate, your case would be worth much less.

So insurance companies are motivated to have you get back to work.  What can happen is that they tell the employer to find a job for you.  The employer might not want to take you back because they have nothing for you to do, but get worried about their insurance rates going up.  So they create a sham job where you are paid the same amount as before, but aren’t really doing much of anything.  I’ve seen workers have to stuff envelopes, sit at the door or answer phones even though it had nothing to do with their skill set or experience.

What happens is that the insurance company will settle for a smaller amount because you no longer have a wage differential from the old job and the current one.  It’s not like you get nothing, but it’s not uncommon for the case to be worth 5-10 times less than it normally would be.  Once you settle the employer waits a month or two and then gets rid of you.

The big question is, how do you fight this?

First, if you think it’s a sham job, you can get in a game of chicken.  See if they let you work it for six months or so before engaging in settlement discussions.  They might get rid of you and make clear your case is a wage differential worth in the six figures

Second, when negotiating, your lawyer should argue the fact that it’s not a real job because it doesn’t exist anywhere else.  As a result you have diminished earning potential and your case is worth more.

Third, request vocational rehabilitation to secure evidence from a job counselor as to what the real job market it for you.

Finally, don’t be afraid to take the good evidence you have and go to trial.  If you are doing a job nobody has done before or one that nobody with your qualifications has done or if they are paying you way more than someone normally gets paid in that job, it can be proof that you are entitled to a wage differential award.

The bottom line is that while you usually can’t flat out turn down a job offer, if you know it’s not a real one, make sure that you talk to a lawyer and get a game plan together.  It could literally be the difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars.