A reader of my blog called me up and asked me some questions about his case. He then went on to ask me where he could get a copy of the “Illinois Workers Compensation Settlement Guide.”
Now one thing I really try to do, and if you read this blog a lot you know this, is give the general public access and education about Illinois work comp laws that isn’t readily available. The honest answer is there really isn’t a settlement guide for work comp cases.
There is a book called the Q-Dex that does list what some cases have settled for or what the trial results were. It is not even close to a complete list of cases that were settled and beyond all of that, it’s not free. So it can be a useful tool for attorneys when someone has a real unique injury or a lack of experience, but it’s not really practical for an injured worker.
In the bigger picture, to properly evaluate a case you need to know a lot of things. This list includes:
1. A copy of all relevant medical records.
2. An understanding of the medical history of the injured worker and need for future treatment.
3. Their work history.
4. What restrictions, if any, they have.
5. Their age.
6. Their salary or wages.
7. How long they’ve been on the job.
8. What work are they able to perform?
9. What are the case issues? Meaning does the insurance company have any good defenses?
10. Where is the worker in the process of searching for a job if they can’t work? Have they done vocational rehabilitation.
11. Who is the Arbitrator on the case? The reality is that some cases are worth more or less based on who the Judge will be.
That’s not an exhaustive list, just the first ten that come to mind. So while it would be great if there was some guide to help workers, it doesn’t really exist and even if it did, it would in many cases cause workers to make bad decisions because they wouldn’t consider everything that needs to be considered. This happened to me as a young lawyer who went to the Q-dex to find out what a back injury was worth. I saw one that would have made the case worth $50,000 and the adjuster pointed out another that would have made the case worth $30,000. Both descriptions of those other settlements were similar, but the point is that neither of us had enough information on either case.
The reality is that attorneys determine what cases are worth based on years of experience of seeing how other cases are resolved in person, seeing what Arbitrators continuously say at pre-trials and via Arbitration decisions and talking to other attorneys about their cases. It’s very common for lawyers to email 20 or so colleagues, describe a situation and get opinions. All of these factors help us evaluate what the minimum and maximum value of a case is.
Bottom line is that I’m happy to answer any questions you have, but the truth is “Is this a good offer?” is quite often one we can’t because we don’t have all of the information over the phone. And if there was a good guide to send you we’d do it if it existed.