A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Settlement

young woman has an accident on a icy way with black ice

The title of this blog says it all. Sometimes, you have those days that are awful in so many ways that seem to compound upon themselves, and there is simply no way to get out of your own way. That was the sentiment expressed in the humorous children’s book “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” by Judith Viorst. I certainly enjoyed reading it to my son, who is now frighteningly close to the age I was when I was doing the reading.

What does this have to do with a settlement?

A Fall, and the Aftermath

My client, C, had fallen and broken his leg. He’d been working in a very low-wage job at a nursing home through a temporary agency. He had parked on a public street and was walking to his workplace when he fell. He recalled very little detail about what caused his fall, but mentioned it might have been icy and appeared to be a public sidewalk where he fell.

His injuries were bad, but not horrific. Then they were.

Unfortunately, C had underlying health conditions that impeded his healing. Even worse, his foot and ankle stopped receiving blood flow and a portion of his leg had to be amputated. A truly horrific and life-changing result from a relatively innocent fall.

Someone had to “pay” for this, right?

Not necessarily so. Sometimes even a terrible injury is the result of unfortunate circumstances, and no one is really responsible.

The Analysis

My attorney friend referred the case to me as a potential workers’ compensation case. Whenever I receive a referral from another lawyer, I want to leave no stone unturned in seeking justice for the potential client. I want that lawyer to see how committed I am, and I want that client to understand that I am zealously on their side.

I explored every aspect of his fall and who could potentially be liable for the fall.

After speaking with C, it was clear he had no idea exactly what caused his fall. Coupling this with the fact that he was not certain exactly where he fell, but that it was almost certainly a public sidewalk, my analysis was that it was not a viable third-party negligence case. We couldn’t prove who did what wrong. We might have a “natural accumulation” of snow/ice, which would eliminate any liability. There might also be a short statute of limitations of one year if it was a city sidewalk.

So I focused on the workers’ compensation angle. Workers’ compensation covers injuries that occur “arising out of” and “in the course of” employment. That’s gibberish without about 110 years of case law and context, but it basically means that if you are doing your defined job and are at work when you are injured, you can recover.

What if you are going to work after parking?

There are a million cases out there defining this issue. Is there a demarcated company parking lot? Is that lot only for employees? Does this employee get paid for commuting? Do they drive between jobs?

It’s very fact-specific. It’s infuriatingly mind-numbing too.

My analysis was that C might fall under the Workers’ Compensation Act because he had no other place to park, but that was about it. I expected the case to be denied. And it was.

What Could I Do?

One option was to make a demand and hope someone didn’t notice how the incident occurred. That did not work, as the adjuster appeared to be conscious.

Another option was to simply drop the case, and explain to the client (and the referring lawyer) that it was a lost cause and I couldn’t do anything. But I’m far too stubborn for that.

I could have committed to going to trial. I anticipated that would result in a decision holding that the injury was not work-related, and would incur costs, so I ruled that out.

Finally, I explored whether another lawyer might want to take it over. I ran the scenario by several trusted lawyers and all agreed with my analysis.

That left me with no realistic option but to try to settle the case.

Road to Resolution

One thing that works for me is that I get along well with almost anyone. While I disagreed with the adjuster’s assessment of the case in her denial, I did try to convince the opposing attorney differently. He had no real autonomy and had to get the blessing of the adjuster, but he agreed to take a fresh look at the case.

He was able to extract a very small offer to settle.

My client was very upset and insulted by the offer at first. I had to walk him through the entire process and analysis of why his fracture and ultimate amputation was basically worthless. I had to explain that the best I could do was pretty lousy. I had to get him to trust me.

With his permission, I tried to negotiate with the opposing lawyer again. We went back and forth, with him having to talk endlessly with the adjuster.

Eventually, he got a number that was satisfactory under the circumstances.

My client agreed.

And then I got him to double that number. While it was still far below what anyone’s definition of “justice” would be, it was certainly a step way up from zero.

Sometimes, the best we can do is lousy, because lousy beats zero. A sad and unfortunate situation often has no legal remedy.


  • Premises liability (slip and fall) cases are the most difficult to prove. Those involving snow and ice on city sidewalks are even more difficult and problematic.
  • Workers’ compensation covers many scenarios of people injured while performing their jobs, but are limited when those individuals are en route to or leaving work.
  • Bad injuries and bad recoveries can be worth an awful lot of money. Or they can be worthless. It depends upon the specific facts of how things occurred.

Contact Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Stephen Hoffman

As in all cases involving injury, medical malpractice, or other injury and potential liability, if you have been hit by a vehicle, immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact a lawyer with expertise in your type of case, such as bicycle accidents or pedestrians hit by cars.

If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has over 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.

Stephen handles personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything up front and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day, contact Stephen now.

Categories: Personal Injury