When you hire an Illinois workers’ compensation attorney, you will be given a contract called an attorney representation agreement. Every law firm has to use the same form as it’s provided by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.
Although firms have to use the same firm, some also add a rider to it that is often not in the best interests of the injured worker.
The most common tactic added by these firms is popular with a few different Chicago workers compensation firms. It actually led to us getting a call from an injured worker because he was so turned off by what the contract said that it caused him to look for a new firm before he signed with the one he originally talked to.
What they do is try to imply through the contract that you can’t fire them because if you do it will cost you. That is quite simply a lie. Under Illinois work comp law, attorney fees can not exceed 20%. That doesn’t change if you fire one lawyer and hire another. The total fee can not exceed 20%. When you switch firms, the new firm and old firm will have to work out how to divide that 20%, but your bottom line will not change.
Despite that reality, these firms imply in a really sketchy way that if you fire them you will owe them money. They do this by putting in a clause that says their fees are owed right away. I promise you, you do not have to pay them 20% then as there has been no fee earned. And I promise you that you WILL NOT have to give them and your new firm 20% each. As said, the total fee can’t exceed 20%.
Some firms also include a fancy legal term called “quantum meruit” in their contract riders. It’s just another way for them to try to make you think that you will owe them money if you terminate them or that if you change firms it will cost you money. Again, this simply is a lie. Total fees can not exceed 20%.
Illinois work comp law is set up to protect workers. You can’t be stuck with a bad lawyer if you can find a good one to take over a case. You don’t have to stress over attorney fees. It is up to the old firm and the new firm to sort that out and if the old firm wants to get paid, they can ask for a hearing before the Arbitrator to argue with the new lawyer over what that fee should be. But again, it won’t cost you anything to switch and you don’t have to pay anything when you switch firms.
The only reason I can think of that firms would do this is that they get fired all the time so they want to make their clients feel trapped. Why anyone would want to work with an attorney who traps them is beyond me.