The most important thing to know about settling just about any Illinois workers’ compensation case is that once it’s over, it’s over. By that I mean when you get a settlement, it almost always means that your work comp benefits are over. If you need more medical care from your accident, that’s on you. If you have to miss work because of your injury, you don’t get compensated for that time off of work. If you think your case is worth more money than you got, there is nothing you can do about it.
Insurance companies make these settlements because they like certainty. When it comes to work comp, certainty means that your case is closed and they don’t have to spend any more money on it. A good lawyer uses this knowledge to get you the most money possible, but whatever the end result, there is no such thing as re-opening a work injury case when a settlement contract has been approved by an Arbitrator.
With Covid, a lot of law firms are not doing as well as they used to. Whether it’s a coincidence or not, I don’t know, but I’ve noticed a lot of calls lately from injured Illinois workers who felt “pressured” by their lawyer to take a settlement. Maybe in some cases the lawyer really got them as good of a result as possible. But I do worry in some cases that some attorneys who need the income convinced a client to take a low ball offer so the lawyer could put some money in their pocket.
While I get that it’s easier said than done, you can’t be forced in to a settlement. I say that because nobody can make you sign the pink settlement contracts that end Illinois work comp cases. They can pressure you for certain. Your lawyer can (wrongly) make you feel abandoned or that you have no choice. But they can’t make you sign. At the end of the day, if you don’t want to settle, you don’t have to settle. If you want to go to trial, that is your right. It’s your lawyer’s job to let you know your options, make a recommendation and then let you make an educated decision.
Bonus tip. Another thing I’ve seen way more of in the last year is settlement offers being made while an injured worker is still getting treatment for their injury. That benefits the insurance company and maybe your lawyer, but it’s a terrible idea for you. If anyone is telling you to take a settlement while you are still getting medical care, even if you get some money for future medical care, don’t do it. It’s a terrible idea and a huge risk. In one case a worker with a knee injury was facing a knee replacement surgery. They were offered a decent settlement for the injury itself, but only $20,000 for future medical care. A knee replacement surgery would probably be triple the cost not to mention all the time off work that would be needed. If the worker settled they would have likely short changed themselves around $75,000.00 minimum.