One thing I pride myself on is being open to calls and emails 24/7/365. That doesn’t mean I don’t take vacation or do fun things for myself. I do. What it does mean is that no matter where I am or what I’m doing, I or someone I work with is available to talk to you. If not instantaneously, it’s usually within an hour or less. In fact, I have a terrible habit of checking my phone at 4 a.m. with the thought that some injured worker has a question.
To me, a reasonable standard for any attorney no matter what they are doing is to be able to respond to a call, text or email within 24 hours and usually by the end of the day. Sometimes a client wants to talk for an hour and that might require scheduling a call. But if a client wants an answer to a simple question, a text or email response should be expected pretty quickly.
That advice deals with when you reach out to an attorney. But a reader of mine had a great question. They wanted to know how often their Chicago work comp attorney should be reaching out to them. In their case, in 17 months since the case started, they’ve only heard from their lawyer once.
The way I see it, this all comes down to how much your lawyer cares about customer service or not. Nothing in the law requires your attorney to ever contact you, but if you want happy clients and to do a good job for them, you need to reach out. To me it’s not unreasonable to expect your lawyer to contact you in the following circumstances:
- Once the case has been filed. They should tell you the case number assigned by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, the Arbitrator you’ve been assigned to and the first status call date. This will typically happen within a week or two of you signing up. Most lawyers will provide some insight in to the Arbitrator.
- After a status call happens. This is every 90 days and usually nothing happens except the case gets continued another 90 days. To me, it’s a good opportunity to just check in with the client and ask them to provide an update on their medical care.
- When a lawyer appears on the case for the insurance company. This might not happen, but when it does it’s good to know and also a chance for them to give you insight on the defense firm.
- When they file a motion on your case. If your benefits aren’t being paid, you may need to go to Arbitration which would require a 19(b) petition. They should copy you on this and let you know what will happen.
- If you just had a surgery. To me this is just about being a good person. I genuinely like most of the people I talk to and work with. If your lawyer has gotten to know you, they might not be your friend, but they are friendly and should reach out to see how you are feeling. It’s also important to know for the case where your medical treatment is going.
- If a settlement offer is made. By law we have to tell you if an offer is made, even if it’s ridiculously low. In that regard, your attorney should strategize with you when it’s time to discuss seeking a settlement or going to trial.
- When anything relevant happens on your case. This is a catch all, but it’s reality. If that take a doctor’s deposition, you should hear how it went. If you are being sent to an IME, they should prepare you for it. If they talked to the insurance adjuster or other lawyer they should share what they learned. If there is a pre-trial on your case, you need to know what the Arbitrator said.
To me, most of these are minimums. If your attorney doesn’t communicate with you, it’s a red flag that you hired the wrong law firm. None of these expectations are unreasonable. It shocks me how often I get a call from someone who is represented and they don’t even know their lawyer’s name. That wouldn’t happen if the attorney regularly kept in touch. My two cents is that if you aren’t getting contacted by your lawyer at least every 90 days, you should get rid of them. It’s a sign that your case isn’t a priority and that they aren’t the one to get you the best result possible.