Law firm offers take on study putting Illinois atop workers' comp list
Injured workers in Illinois are more likely to get a lawyer than their counterparts in 18 other states that were the focus of a recent study by the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI).
The Chicago law firm Keefe, Campbell, Biery & Associates posted a breakdown of some of the findings and offered its own evaluations on its website.
The study is based on WCRI’s CompScope benchmark reports and looks to identify factors that push injured workers toward attorney representation. It also offers theories that could potentially help stakeholders reduce attorney involvement in claims.
Of the 18 states, Illinois led the way among injured workers who use attorneys for workers’ compensation claims that involve more than seven days of lost work time. Just over half of such cases in Illinois involved attorneys, followed by New Jersey at 49 percent, Georgia at 41 percent, California at 40 percent and North Carolina at 38 percent.
The states with the fewest cases involving attorneys were Wisconsin at 13 percent, Texas at 14 percent, Michigan at 17 percent and Indiana at 18 percent.
The study found that the leading cause of injured workers seeking legal representation was the perception of threats, particularly triggered by the employment relationship or the claims process.
In the first instance, employees sought representation when they believed their injuries might lead them to be fired or that their supervisors might not believe their injuries were legitimate.
In the second, the workers felt that claims that were eventually paid were initially denied, whether due to formal denials, communications that the workers interpreted as denials or delays in payment.
In its analysis of the WCRI study, Keefe, Campbell, Biery & Associates takes issue with the notion that high levels of attorney involvement in workers’ compensation cases means there is necessarily something wrong with the attorneys involved -- a conclusion it contends some might be tempted to draw from the study.
Further, the firm's post identifies the benefits of attorney involvement, such as helping workers receive benefits and navigate the sometimes-complex system. It also acknowledged the contrary position: Attorneys can complicate matters and, due to their fees, lead to injured workers receiving less.
The law firm said the biggest downside of attorney involvement is delay, which causes strain on workers in need of money, employers and insurers who pay larger legal fees when cases go on, and the state’s workers’ compensation claims system, which can become overburdened.