A very frustrated, injured worker in Chicago called us wanting to know if he should stay with his current attorney or not. But before he expressed that, his first statement was:
How often should I hear from my workers comp attorney?
He has a pretty serious shoulder injury that was denied because five years ago he also had a work comp case for an injury to the same shoulder. It’s a bogus denial, but certainly one that requires lawyer action. He’s been without pay for two months now and can’t get his much needed surgery approved.
He last heard from his attorney when his benefits got cut off and his attorney said then that he’ll work on it. Follow up calls and emails haven’t been responded to. I did some investigating and discovered that his current lawyer started his own practice in the last six months. His website is only partially complete and he doesn’t appear to work with any other attorneys.
A lot of lawyers who are good at the court stuff are terrible at the business side of things. In other words, they don’t know how to run a business in terms of staffing, delivering customer service and being efficient. It’s sadly not a required class in law school even though it should be. So while this attorney has been in practice for over 20 years and no doubt knows what motions need to be filed to win the case, he doesn’t appear to even have a staff member to do the paperwork for him and clearly is so overwhelmed that he can’t even respond to a call or email. Unfortunately his client who has a great case is suffering as a result.
In general, you should hear from your attorney as much as required. If you contact them, they should contact you back. I don’t recommend that you call/email five times a day, but if you tell them you received a bill or your check is late or you are having surgery, they should respond. They should also be in touch with you when something relevant happens on your case. Here is an incomplete list of times they should communicate with you in some manner:
1. When they file the case. They should send you a copy of the paperwork that was filed.
2. When a status call happens. Once every 90 days or so, your case is before an Arbitrator. Usually nothing happens unless a trial motion is filed other than getting a new status date. You should be told the new status date.
3. When they file a trial motion for you.
4. When they talk to the adjuster or defense attorney and it’s beyond a superficial conversation.
5. When they go to court for you for a pre-trial.
6. Before you go to trial to prepare you.
7. When a settlement offer is made.
8. When they have any update for you.
9. After your settlement check is received.
10. If they learn something important about your case.
11. If they haven’t heard from you in a while.
12. Before an IME.
Those are 12 times just off the top of my head. Not every communication has to be long and it can be by email or text. The bottom line is that this worker was getting terrible service from his lawyer and a new one can come in and fix the problem really quickly. The bottom line for you is that if you have a lawyer and aren’t hearing from them and they don’t get back to you, you probably hired the wrong firm and should switch before it’s too late.