Man, just when you think you’ve heard it all, you hear about some terrible lawyering that just makes your jaw drop.

Before we get to that, let’s discuss why you would hire a work comp attorney.  The biggest reason is to protect yourself. An experienced law firm has been involved in thousands of cases and has seen every insurance company trick and knows how to make sure you don’t get taken advantage of, get the medical care you need and eventually get the biggest settlement possible.  You look to a lawyer to give you advice and explain how things work.

There are so many chances for a competent attorney to do this throughout a case. When it comes time to settling your case, they should gather your medical records, discuss with you how you are feeling, discuss how work is going and make a recommendation of what the case might be worth and what the settlement strategy should be. Remarkably, a lot of bad Illinois work comp attorneys don’t do this. They will review your medical records, but don’t have a conversation with their clients.  That’s not the actions of a good lawyer.

What I heard that shocked me though was an attorney who did have a conversation with his client about settling. It was short and involved one question.  The lawyer asked, “What are you looking for?”

That’s insane.  It’s the lawyer’s job to determine what the possible settlement range is and what might happen if a case goes to trial.  They should be able to explain how they got to those figures and make a recommendation of how to proceed.  Asking a client what they are looking for is not doing legal work. It’s not providing customer service at all.  It’s quite honestly bizarre and a huge red flag.

It’s almost like if you go to a doctor for back pain and they ask you what type of surgery you want without explaining the benefits and drawbacks of each choice.  It’s not your job to figure out what a case is worth.  It’s the job of your lawyer to lay out your options and help you make a decision.

I’ve tried to think why this attorney did this and I can’t think of a great answer. Maybe he’s hoping the client will ask for less than the case is worth and he’ll look like a hero if he gets that or more. Maybe he doesn’t know what he’s doing.  Maybe he just doesn’t care. What’s nuts is when the worker responded by telling him, “Shouldn’t you tell me what it’s worth?” the lawyer responded by saying he always wants to first know what the client wants.  Again, that’s just insanity.

As I talked to this worker more, I learned there were other red flags during the case such as phone calls not getting returned or the lawyer once saying that they can’t go to trial if the defense attorney doesn’t want to. The lesson of all of this is that once a red flag appears, it’s usually happening for a reason and it’s best to get a second opinion before it’s too late.