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When you are injured at work and hire an attorney, you are technically hiring the law firm that that attorney works for. In other words, all of their lawyers and staff (clerks, secretaries, etc.) should be part of a team on your case.
In reality, though, you are typically hiring one lawyer who will be primarily responsible for the handling of your claim. Some firms use their support staff more than others, but it’s very rare for more than one lawyer to be working as a team on an Illinois workers comp claim.
In an ideal world, your attorney would do a great job on your case and never leave their firm. The reality is that sometimes lawyers do leave. Some leave because they have a new opportunity. Some get sick. Others decide they don’t want to be a lawyer. Some become Judges.
When your work comp lawyer leaves their firm, typically you will find that a new lawyer has been assigned to your case. But it’s not just your case that needs to be re-assigned, it’s likely a couple of hundred cases that need a new lawyer. That can lead to a mad scramble because some firms ask their lawyers to take on more cases than they can handle.
In other words, if you are a lawyer who has 250 files of your own, if you are being asked to pick up another 50-100, it will take a lot of work to get up to speed on those cases.
As a result, we see quite often that even workers with great cases feel that their case is not a priority or that they are no longer getting great service from their attorney. In some of the worst cases, firms will hire very young, inexperienced attorneys to take over these cases and basically give them no guidance. Your case becomes a guinea pig for them to train someone how to handle Illinois work comp cases.
If this happens to you, you need to be your biggest advocate. You have to speak up about any problems with your case whether that means letting them know that you aren’t getting good service from them or that there are problems with your case such as unpaid bills or late TTD payments.
And if you realize that your lawyer isn’t attentive to your case or it’s heading in the wrong direction, you do have a right to switch law firms at no cost. If you do, you’ll get a lawyer who is truly interested in your case and usually gives you a better chance of getting the claim going in the right direction or getting the best result possible.
The bottom line is that you must be your biggest advocate and take action if things aren’t going well. You can’t predict that the attorney you hire won’t be at the firm for the life of the case, but you can take positive steps for yourself if they do leave.