A recent injured worker in Chicago called and asked something that I get asked in one way or another a couple of times a year. He was looking for help on a case that resulted in a torn bicep and rotator cuff. Here’s what he said to me:

I was hurt at work and hired a lawyer. He handles some work comp, but does other stuff too. Can I hire you to work on the case with him? I really like him and think that having a team of lawyers would help my case since my employer is such a big company.

Even though his question took place in just four sentences, there’s a lot to unpack there.

  1. Lawyers don’t work in “teams” on work comp cases because it’s not required. I regularly round table issues with other work comp attorneys to get their opinions or to offer mine if a case has a unique issue. For example, if a worker had an amputated arm from serving in the military and now had an injury to the other arm, that could affect settlement value in a unique way. But once we discuss the issue, there’s no need to have a team for depositions, talking to the client, court appearances, etc. It’s the value of having a law firm that has multiple lawyers and staff members that you can get help on a case, but we wouldn’t think to bring in an outside firm for help.
  2. The lawyer fee is only 20% of the settlement. If a firm is going to come in and do the work, they are going to want to get paid.
  3. Even though this worker has a fortune 500 employer, they aren’t going to have a team of lawyers working on the case. They will likely hire a defense law firm that has many lawyers at the firm, but will assign one lawyer and one only to work on the case. Otherwise they’d spend tens of thousands of dollars defending the case more than they have to. Over time if they did that on every case it would cost millions. Work comp cases aren’t so complex that this is ever required.
  4. The fact that this other attorney only handles “some work comp” is a huge red flag. This worker has a very serious injury. It’s one that could prevent them from returning to the same job in the future. Having the right attorney, one who does this every day, could be the difference of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in your pocket in the end.

Proper handling of a work comp case in Illinois comes down to choosing the right attorney. That means someone with experience, who communicates and cares about you and doesn’t try to handle all sorts of different cases. Knowing other lawyers to bounce stuff off of is part of the job. But in 26 years of being a lawyer, I’ve never once seen a case that required a team of attorneys to work on it. In fact, I’ve never seen a case with any law firm at trial where more than one attorney was present and handling the case. The only time you’ll see more than one attorney is if a younger lawyer is being mentored and watching a case or if an older lawyer is watching how a younger lawyer handles a case.

And if any of this is confusing or you want to discuss a case, call us any time for free at 312-346-5578.