A very nice woman who works a very repetitive, intense job contacted us recently. She had bilateral (both hands) carpal tunnel surgery as well as some other issues from her job in Illinois. Her case actually had gone seemingly well. They paid for 100% of her medical bills and all of her time off of work. Usually with carpal tunnel they don’t approve surgery without an IME first, but that didn’t happen here.
It’s been about six weeks since her doctor discharged her from his care and she wanted to know if she would get any settlement. The answer is that while payment of medical bills and time off work is required, there is no requirement that she be given a settlement of any kind. And in fact, given the amount of time that has passed, it’s not likely they will voluntarily give one.
That doesn’t mean that she can’t get a settlement of course. By filing an application for adjustment of claim (the formal process of filing a case with the State of Illinois), she can essentially force their hand into giving one. If they don’t then we can get her a settlement at arbitration which would likely cost the insurance company even more.
It’s actually good for this worker that a settlement hasn’t been offered. If it was, it would have been a low ball offer that’s probably around 50-60% of what a lawyer could get her. But once an offer is made, attorneys won’t usually step in because we only get paid based on how much we get the offer increased.
In other words, if the case would have been worth $50,000 with a lawyer, that means the worker would have pocketed $40,000 after the 20% attorney fee under Illinois law. If an offer was made before an attorney was involved, it would likely be for somewhere between $25,000-$30,000. All of that money would go in the pocket of the worker and there would no attorney fee. But at the end of the day they’d be walking away with $10,000-$15,000 less than they could have.
This is the type of scenario that happens all of the time which is why I told this worker she was lucky that no offer happened yet. It gives us time to see if anything wrong has happened on her case such as some bills she thought were paid actually not having been paid. And it allows a proper settlement negotiation to take place, including considering whether or not she is due money for future medical care. If she is, that could be an addition of tens of thousands more to her bottom line.
The key point to remember is that almost every case has settlement value. An attorney who knows what they are doing will maximize that value and put more money in your pocket.