We were contacted by a tradesman who badly injured his back about a year ago. He had a microdiscectomy, which is a back surgery, and while it is serious, it’s the most common back surgery that orthopedic doctors perform. The surgery involves removing part of a herniated disc that is pressing down on the nerves in your spine. It’s usually successful, but of course not 100% of the time.
Unfortunately for this injured worker, who works a very heavy-duty job, the surgery didn’t solve his problem. So now his surgeon is recommending lumbar fusion surgery which is a much more serious surgery that not only has a longer recovery period (usually six months or more), but it’s expensive and often requires an additional surgery down the line. We’ve seen it help a lot of clients, but it’s definitely a long process.
When you are in this situation you should be focused on nothing but your health. If your injury is work-related, 100% of the bills for this surgery and the extensive follow-up care you’ll need (often patients have to go to a rehab facility for a couple of weeks) will be covered by work comp. Also, you should be paid for all of your time off work.
He will be entitled to a settlement at some point as well. In this case, the insurance company is being sneaky. The adjuster called and said something to the effect of, “I know this injury is frustrating for you. Do you want to put it all behind you and just settle your case?”
In other words, they are asking to be let off the hook for the expensive surgery he needs and the other things he will be owed. They want to give him the money he will get someday anyway, but add the burden of his pain and care all on him.
I can’t emphasize enough how scummy this is by the insurance company and how bad of an idea it is to consider settling your case while you are still under a doctor’s care. If he were to do that and get the surgery later on, he’d likely have nobody to pay for it as it wouldn’t be covered by personal insurance or Medicare once they realize the need for the surgery is due to a work injury.
And while I get that everyone wants a settlement in their work comp case, you don’t do it before it’s the right time. Once you settle, your case is closed forever and can’t be re-opened.
Sadly, I’ve seen some inexperienced or unethical work comp attorneys in Illinois push their clients to settle before it was the right time. Some attorneys just want that quick buck and others just are too lazy to do the work needed on the case.
It’s not a complicated formula to know if it’s too soon to settle or not. If you are still treating with a doctor or need more treatment soon, don’t settle. If you just got released back to work by your doctor, don’t settle until you know you can handle the rigors of the job. If you are off work and getting weekly checks, don’t settle unless it’s a huge number they are offering. That’s really it.
We make money by getting you a settlement, but would never tell you to do that before it’s appropriate. If you have concerns about this or anything else related to Illinois work comp law, please call us for free at any time.