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Not All Offers Are Created Equal

At times, when an offer is communicated to a client, the client responds with a quick, “that’s not a good offer.”  The client’s response may or may not be accurate. What strikes me though, is how did the client determine what his case is worth? Ultimately, every case is worth what the arbitrator would award the client at trial. Most cases settle because through negotiations and legal research, all sides get a sense what would be awarded at trial. Illinois case law guides the attorneys and arbitrator what may be awarded at trial by reporting what cases with similar evidence were awarded at trial. So when the client says, “that’s not a good offer,” it is unlikely the client did the legal research to form an accurate picture of what his case is worth.

So how does the client arrive at what his case is worth? The client may have friends who had ‘similar’ injuries. The client’s friend will tell the client what he got for his injury. There are several problems with this means of determining what a case is worth. First off, it has been my experience that many people embellish the amount they received. Usually they will round up, and at times, round very high up, the amount they actually received. Secondly, injuries are not all the same. One has to closely examine the person’s medical records to truly understand the person’s injury.

For example, two people, both with a diagnosis of operated carpal tunnel syndrome, may have vastly different medical observations recorded in their medical records. One person may have a notation of atrophy of the muscles around the thumb. This person may be so used to this condition they barely notice the significant loss of muscle strength. The other person may have a release from medical care with the doctor noting that the person has no permanent problems from the operated carpal tunnel syndrome. Even though both people have diagnoses of operated carpal tunnel syndrome, the value of their cases are quite different because of the evidence in the medical records.

Another way clients determine the value of their case is by doing their own research on the internet. For example, the client may have suffered a compression fracture of the spine or a heart attack which resulted in surgery. The client may then do a Google search for cases where the injured worker suffered a fractured spine or a heart attack. The results of the search can produce very large awards.

The problem is the medical difference between a compression fracture and a burst fracture. Both are fractures of the spine—the compression fracture compromising the individual very little and the burst fracture resulting in a loss of function. A search for heart attack may return cases where the workers suffered a myocardial infarction or simply angina pectoris that results in bypass surgery. A myocardial infraction results in the death of heart muscle. Angina pectoris results in no permanent injury. Yet both can be called a heart attack. In both instances, the worker had heart surgery.

In both the above examples, the value of the case is quite different. If the person had a compression fracture or angina pectoris with resulting surgery, the person’s case is worth significantly less than if the person had a burst facture or a myocardial infarction. The client doing the Google research may not understand the distinction.

So ask your attorney why the offer is what it is. Listen carefully to what the attorney says. Make certain you understand the ‘why’ of the offer and the risks of trial if you reject the offer. It is your case. You have the right to risk trial. Just be certain you understand the risks.