Despite 26+ years of being an Illinois workers’ compensation attorney, I still get surprised when someone calls me and doesn’t realize that they could have a work comp case. The most common way this happens is when someone contacts me to see if I know any labor attorneys for a wrongful termination suit.
Now, we will help people find labor lawyers when we can, but it’s shocking how many of those people have a work comp case and don’t realize it. Recently I was contacted by a very nice woman who was fired from her job when she was out with a severe Covid case for three months. She was looking for an attorney to sue her old job.
As we discussed what happened and how she got Covid, it turns out that she worked in a hospital and took care of Covid patients. It seems way more likely than not that she got Covid at work which means she’d have a work comp case. And as her illness was more than just a couple of days of not feeling bad it’s worth pursuing.
In fact in this case she was left with permanent restrictions and has been unable to find new work. Not only is it likely that her job will have to pay for 100% of her medical bills, but they also likely will have to retroactively pay her work comp benefits since the time she went off work, including the period after she got fired. And someday she is likely going to be able to get a settlement for the work comp case.
The point is that Illinois workers comp benefits will likely compensate her for everything she could have gotten from a wrongful termination lawsuit and more. And unlike that lawsuit, she won’t have to pay an attorney anything out of pocket and it will likely go much faster.
In the big picture, what I try to tell people is that they should be goal- and results-focused. If your goal is to get compensation for being unjustly let go, don’t place your focus on the unjust issue, focus instead on being compensated. Whether they call it work comp or employment law, if it puts the money you are owed in your pocket then you are a winner.
The big challenge, beyond educating people on their work comp rights, is getting them to not make emotional decisions, but instead rational ones. I get the emotion you feel when you are treated poorly. It makes sense. It’s hard to let it go. That is actually one of the best reasons to have a lawyer. A good one will take the emotion out of the case and make recommendations in your best interests.
Letting go of emotion in the moment can be hard. But for most people, when they look back on a case years later, what they really remember is the result of the case and that is what I encourage everyone to try and do.