There are a lot of Illinois attorneys who say that they handle workers’ compensation cases. There are not as many who are actually trying cases all the time and going to the mat for their clients.
If you take cases to trial, you won’t win them all. Quite often, attorneys will take cases with big injuries to trial when they haven’t gotten a good settlement offer. If the difference between winning at trial or taking the offer is significant, it’s often worth it to take your chances.
In Illinois work comp trials, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but most often it’s in between. If I think my client is owed 30 weeks of TTD benefits and should get an award of $75,000.00, and if the Arbitrator says my client should get 25 weeks of TTD and an award of $60,000.00, I didn’t get everything I want, but I didn’t lose either.
In other cases, the sole issue may be whether or not your injury is work related. Those trials often have a clear cut winner and loser.
You can’t always blame the lawyer if you don’t win the case. Sometimes the Arbitrator is really friendly to employers. Other times the facts aren’t as strong as you’d like them to be. But there are certainly times when the attorney for the injured worker is so unprepared that it changes the end result.
I thought of this when I read about a sales manager who lost her trial. She was claiming that repetitive activities on the job caused her to get a stress fracture in her foot. In reading the case summary of what happened, it appears she didn’t submit any testimony that supported her doctor’s claim that she had to be on her feet 12-18 hours per day.
When I say that, what it means is that her lawyer didn’t ask her under oath how often she was on her feet, how far she walked, what pain she noticed while doing that or apparently anything else that would back up her doctor’s notes.
This sounds like, to me, very bad preparation by the handling attorney. Before you go to trial, you must have a written list of questions you are going to ask your client and do a practice run through with them. I can’t imagine any case where you are trying to allege that repetitive activities caused your injury and not going over in great detail what those activities are. Yet, here we are.
I looked up the firm that handled this case and had never heard of them. Under their list of practice areas while it mentioned work comp, it also mentioned criminal defense, municipal law, labor law and product liability. To me that’s a red flag and not the type of profile you’d want from a firm that has to go to trial on a contested work injury case.
Sadly for the worker who ended up with nothing, there was no way she could know that her attorney wasn’t going to ask the right questions. Why they were seemingly so unprepared is anyone’s guess. That said, I’ve seen trials where attorneys had no idea of the facts of the case and were clearly making up questions as they went along.
If your case is going to trial, you should insist that your lawyer does a practice run through with you. And quite honestly, if they aren’t suggesting it, then you probably have the wrong lawyer.