Why Attorneys Should Care About Comp
So why should you, a lawyer who wouldn't touch workers' compensation with a ten foot pole, care about the fact that Governor Quinn will sign into law the workers' comp reform bill tomorrow?
1. It will make your potential clients even less able than before to maneuver the system. Doctor choice is now limited, new standards apply, and even experienced practitioners are at odds on exactly what the new law contains and requires. Specifically, employers now can establish PPO plans for workers' comp separate from their regular PPO plans. If one exists, the employer can compel the employee to choose from among their stable of doctors. If the employee wishes to go elsewhere, this "uses up" one of his or her two doctor choices. IN other words, if you or a lawyer who handles comp is not able to advise the client IMMEDIATELY of this, a choice that is fatal or at least damaging to the case (and potentially the client's health) could be made rather early on!
2. AMA Standards are now introduced and required to be relied upon to determine disability. Because the AMA Guidelines apply to "impairment" and the Workers' Compensation Act applies to "disability" and the AMA agrees that these two terms are NOT INTERCHANGEABLE, what this means for the value of cases is anyone's guess.
3. Carpal tunnel cases (which usually involve females, due to the fact that the female carpal tunnel near the wrist is roughly half the size that of men), are now limited. If you have a client with a repetitive motion job, you need to get them to someone who understands these changes early on.
I have always made the analogy that personal injury is much like baseball, with odd rules and jargon while workers' comp is like cricket. It may look vaguely familiar, but unless you know it, do it all the time, and really "get it," you are absolutely speaking a foreign language. Simply put, you do not want to try to understand comp anymore than you should go try to figure out tax law or intellectual property on a whim. It's a highly specialized and odd area. You don't play in this area--it does you and your clients a disservice, especially now.
Keep in mind that most of the provisions of this law are in place upon signature to all accidents occurring from that day forward!