I’ve written before about the recent changes to workers’ compensation laws in Illinois. Most of these new laws are going to go in to place in a week. For the most part, they have been bad news for injured workers and doctors, and good news for insurance companies and businesses. Here’s something that might be bad news for some lawyers.
There is a new rule says that workers’ compensation attorneys cannot give compensation or gifts to any person in exchange for a client referral. The rule says no cash payments, which may seem obvious, but it also prohibits spending money on entertainment (sporting events, concerts) and food and drink over $75. Knowing how common it is to take clients out for dinners or to a game, this is an interesting line to draw.
The new rule doesn’t say who, exactly, it was aimed at. But I think I have an idea. I’ve heard of one firm in Chicago that is tight with unions and is rumored to have drawings at golf outings where they give away flat screen TV’s and just about everybody wins one. There are even stories about golf outings with strippers as caddies, although I have no idea how much that would cost.
And then there are honest firms that simply take clients out for nice dinners or to a Hawks or Bulls game. Some are doing these things with the specific intent to get a client. Many are just doing their jobs – getting to know people and using a golf outing as an opportunity to discuss business.
The rule applies to attorneys on both sides – those representing injured workers and those defending claims. The law says that a violation is a Class A misdemeanor, so there are definite consequences – up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Maybe it’s good news for criminal defense attorneys, but I doubt it. It will be interesting to see how this is enforced, if at all, and where the line is drawn. My prediction is that it’s merely a word of caution and we won’t see much come of it.
Overall it’s probably a law that didn’t need to be written because it’s illegal, of course, to bribe someone and this is essentially what they are trying to stop here. But much like many of the workers comp amendments, this is a nice change for making a headline, but not really going to solve any problem.
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