I was talking to other workers compensation lawyers in Chicago and one of them said, “I can’t believe my client tried to call the insurance adjuster the day after our trial.” That type of thing doesn’t happen very often, but it got me thinking that there are a lot of things that we as lawyers wished you knew. I asked around and in general, heard a consensus of things lawyers wish their clients knew. In no particular order, here are 20 things we think you should know:
1. Don’t give a recorded statement. The insurance adjuster will likely ask for this and might even say approval of benefits depends on this. That is not true and this statement will only be used against you.
2. You don’t have to give them access to all of your medical records. A broad medical release that lets them see medical care not related to your injury isn’t required.
3. Give notice to your employer of an accident as soon as possible, preferably in writing. One lawyer said they lost a case because the boss denied ever being told about an accident. An email or written report is usually irrefutable proof.
4. Avoid chiropractors. It’s not that they have no value. It’s that they tend to over-treat injured workers which leads to unpaid bills. If you are seriously injured, an orthopedic doctor is much more credible and helpful.
5. Don’t listen to a boss who asks you to lie to the doctor. So many workers get told to tell the ER they were hurt at home, not work with a promise that the job will pay the bills and for the time off. That almost never happens, but your lie can cost you.
6. Beware of Illinois attorneys who don’t specialize in workers compensation cases. If your lawyer is handling divorces, they aren’t the right work comp lawyer for you. If they do month-long medical malpractice trials, you probably don’t want them as they won’t be available to you.
7. Switch lawyers once you realize you hired the wrong one. It costs nothing to switch, but if you wait too long you’ll never get a new lawyer. If your attorney doesn’t return phone calls, lies about what they say they will do, doesn’t answer questions, etc, those are red flags that can’t be ignored.
8. Don’t worry about pre-existing conditions. If you were hurt years ago, but haven’t been treating with a doctor, a work accident that brings up an old injury should be covered.
9. Be on the lookout for surveillance. The longer you are off work and the more medical care you need, the more likely it is that the insurance company will have someone follow you around to try and catch you in a lie.
10. Never post on social media about your case. And quite honestly, don’t talk to anyone about it. Insurance companies and defense attorneys are looking at your profiles. Anything you say can and will be used against you.
11. Don’t embellish your symptoms to your doctor. Just be honest. Never exaggerate how you are feeling because you think it will help your case or get the doctor to do something you want. They and the insurance company are on the lookout for lies. If you get sent for an IME, don’t be surprised if they are watching you from the moment you get out of your car.
12. You can’t sue your employer for negligence. It is barred by law in Illinois.
13. What amount your co-worker, neighbor, relative, etc got for a settlement, that doesn’t apply to your case. Every case is different. Other cases could provide insight and you can ask your lawyer why those were different, but your facts influence what you get.
14. Lawyer fees can never exceed 20%. This is true even if you switch lawyers. The total fee, by law, can not go over 20%.
15. There are expenses on cases, but they are usually less than $1,000.00. And in most cases, they are less than $100. The most common fee in any Illinois workers’ compensation claim is for subpoenas for medical records. In many cases, you pay a doctor for their time to give a deposition. All of these costs are advanced by your lawyer.
16. A workers’ compensation claim in Illinois is not a lawsuit. It’s a claim for insurance benefits. When you use your health insurance, you aren’t suing your company. You aren’t suing them when hurt at work either.
17. You don’t need health insurance if your injury is work-related. 100% of your care is covered by the workers’ compensation insurance for your company as long as the treatment is reasonable and related to your injury.
18. You are eligible for work comp benefits from the first minute you start working. There is no minimum time limit for being on a job. Being on probation doesn’t limit your rights, neither does part-time status.
19. Even when the insurance company seems nice, they are looking to deny your case. You must look out for yourself. The insurance company could be playing games and you won’t even know it.
20. A nurse case manager is not allowed in your appointments or to talk to your doctor. They will ask for permission or imply you have to let them, but that’s not the case. Even if you’ve given permission, we often revoke it when we get on the case because it’s not in your best interests.
I hope these tips help. If you have any questions, you can contact us for free at any time.