Recently an injured Illinois worker contacted me and said that after being on the case for two years, he got a letter from his lawyer saying he will not handle the case anymore. It’s a case that needs to be taken to trial and this lawyer doesn’t want to do it.
My initial instinct was that it must be a terrible case. Illinois work comp attorneys don’t withdraw from cases where they can make money, especially not after two years. The way the worker described the injury made it seem like he was severely hurt and while he did test positive for marijuana, there were no other defenses to the case. Since it’s a repetitive trauma claim, the marijuana test really isn’t a worry. So I tried to figure out what was wrong with the case.
He gave me the name of his lawyer. I had never heard of this person which was a red flag. I don’t know everyone, but if you regularly handle work comp cases and have done so for a while, odds are that I’ve heard of you or seen you around. That doesn’t say anything about me other than work comp is my area of focus. There are probably 500 other lawyers who could say the same thing.
That was a red flag and so was the fact that I learned that not only has this attorney been licensed to practice for less than five years, but he also appears to be practicing on his own after taking over his Dad’s practice. But the biggest red flag was that when I went to his website, he listed his two main practice areas as family law and criminal law. He also lists employment discrimination, business litigation and personal injury.
So why would this guy take a workers compensation case, especially one that is not straight forward if you don’t have experience?
I have three theories. Let’s discuss them in order of how likely they are:
- He’s a young lawyer who can’t afford to turn away business. I see this a lot. When I graduated law school, a very successful lawyer told me that he started his own practice right out of law school and the first day someone asked if he specialized in car accidents. He said yes even though he had never handles any case before. That is the kind of scummy thing attorneys do all the time.
- He assumed it would be easier than it is. We see this more often with car accident cases than work injuries, but there are some lawyers who think they are so smart that they’ll just figure things out. I get called all of the time by attorneys asking my advice on how to handle a case. My best advice is don’t take advantage of a worker by trying to handle a case you know nothing about just to try and make an extra couple bucks.
- His dad had probably handled some of these cases in the past. Maybe he thought his Dad could guide him or that if his Dad had done it so could he. Again that is looking out for his best interests, not the client.
Whatever the reason, this is the type of unethical lawyer behavior I come across all of the time. These lawyers can justify their actions in their head, but at the end of the day they are not doing what is best for their clients.
I might not be the right place for you to find a lawyer. You need to find the best fit for you. And while I do know plenty of really bad attorneys who only handle workers comp cases, most of the ones out there will do a decent enough job. Whatever you do, you are taking a huge risk by hiring a young lawyer who doesn’t have a track record of handling Illinois work comp cases. Every attorney these days should have a website. If that doesn’t talk about all of their work comp success and experience then it should be an indisputable sign that you shouldn’t hire them.