Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation - Injury Claims 101

Auto Accident? Truck accident? Motorcycle accident? Workers compensation claim (injured at work)? Nursing home injury or death? Dog bite? Any other injury from any source / reason? Claims 101 Information on the first few steps below - if negligence is involved, you deserve compensation.

No matter the type of injury, first and foremost, get to the Emergency or Doctor. Take care of yourself first - or your loved ones, friend or family.

Next, write down information - on the back of a piece of scrap paper / on ANYTHING! Within a day or two, for example, you might forget who was there (a witness) - even a physical description of the person if you do not know their last (or first) name. List out:

- names

- phone numbers

- addresses

- description of events by time / day / weather / surrounding / facts and other circumstances

CALL A LAWYER after you or your loved one or friend or family member is stabilized.

TALK TO NO INSURANCE COMPANY! Insurance companies might "pretend" to care or be your friend. In reality, you might be recorded and every single word spoken around the time of the accident will most likely be used against you if possible 6 months, 2 years or more down the road. TALK TO A LAWYER - that is confidential and privileged.

Focus on getting better physically. Update your lawyer regularly on your health progress and leave all of the legal burdens to the lawyer. Simple.

You can contact me here 24/7/365 (and I really mean that as I will answer my phone) if you have any questions and to learn how I may be able to help you or your loved one who has been a victim of a crash or negligence - in particular, you will find that I listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages--BUT NOT WHILE DRIVING!!). I would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small. 

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation - Digital Assets (Digital Evidence?)

A recent article found here explains how difficult access to e-mails or "digital assets" can be after death. Evidence can "lurk" in e-mails and such "assets". Where are your passwords stored? 

Philip J. Berenz, CPA, JD  - Exclusive invitation and selected! Proud and honored to be a member!

The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 an invitation-only organization composed of the premier trial lawyers from each state in the nation who meet stringent qualifications as civil plaintiff and/or criminal defense trial lawyers. Selection is based on a thorough multi-phase process which includes peer nominations combined with third-party research. Membership is extended solely to the select few of the most qualified attorneys from each state who demonstrate superior qualifications of leadership, reputation, influence, stature and public profile.

You can contact me here 24/7/365 (and I really mean that as I will answer my phone) if you have any questions and to learn how I may be able to help you or your loved one who has been a victim of a crash or negligence or "business pain" (plaintiff or defense) - in particular, you will find that I listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages--BUT NOT WHILE DRIVING!!). I would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small. 

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation

Exclusive invitation and selected! Proud and honored to be a member!

The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 an invitation-only organization composed of the premier trial lawyers from each state in the nation who meet stringent qualifications as civil plaintiff and/or criminal defense trial lawyers. Selection is based on a thorough multi-phase process which includes peer nominations combined with third-party research. Membership is extended solely to the select few of the most qualified attorneys from each state who demonstrate superior qualifications of leadership, reputation, influence, stature and public profile.

 

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: The Reality of Pain due to Personal Injury and "Pain" (aka "Damages") due from Bad Business Deals, Fraud and The Like

We have probably all experienced some sort of pain - physically, emotionally and what can easily be called "pain" from a business or personal perspective when money is lost in a business deal. We can call this "business pain" or "business damages". 

Obviously, real, physical and emotional (or mental) pain cannot literally be "equated" with the business pain. One truly hurts the body and/or mind. The other hurts mainly the pocketbook; however, business pain can also wreck a family, a home and/or a business and be coupled with true emotional pain that may actually give rise to mental anguish (and real mental injury perhaps). In any event, neither type of pain can ever be taken lightly.

A real lawyer must demonstrate empathy with either type of pain. A real trial lawyer must be infused with your projected feelings of either type of pain. It is the trial lawyer who must convey that pain to not only a jury at the "end" of a case -- but from day one -- to the opposing attorney, to the other "side" (the "bad guys" on the other side), to the insurance company, to the Judge. Sometimes, we trial attorneys go beyond and must convey the pain all the way to the appellate courts and Supreme Court if necessary. The pain must be conveyed not once, not twice, not at trial time only -- but from the moment of initial advocacy, from the moment of comprehension, daily and incessantly without hesitation. That is what separates the "men from the boys" so to say in terms of what a real trial lawyer is.

I have personally experienced multiple types of physical pain that I would not wish on my worst enemies. I can empathize with my clients who have experienced pain from personal injury. I understand that it can linger. Pain can destroy the ability to function in your job while it tears at your thoughts when pain medicine "wears off". Pain can destroy your relationships at home. Pain can destroy your inner sense of self. Sometimes, pain doesn't seem to ever go away. Hopefully, it does--and for good. But if not, what next? 

Business pain can "seem" just as bad. Business pain wrecks businesses first, but then migrates into wrecking homes, families and friendships. Sometimes, it wrecks the very person or people you called your brother, your sister, your mother, your father. I have seen it first hand. I have experienced it first hand. I know and understand. It is never "pretty" and actually quite a shame. Hopefully, business pain, too, can "go away" and "for good" just as physical pain often does. But if not, what next?

What's next for either type of pain if it doesn't go away? Fix it. See your doctors religiously for physical pain. Go and visit your business partner -- or your brother, your sister, your mother, or your father -- over coffee and remind him or her (or them) how short life is and try to resolve your differences. Fix your pain as best you can without a legal battle that may be unnecessary in either case.

For personal injury pain, sometimes, money can "repay" the "cost" of the pain (medical bills and related issues). Lawyers often seek the "right" amount of money to at least bring some type of peace and closure to a matter. Sometimes, no amount of money can "turn back the clock" on a permanent problem or, worse, a death. Sometimes, the money awarded or won "sends a message" for safer driving in the future, better products, better professionalism, better structures.

For business pain, again, sometimes money can "repay" the "cost" of the pain (lost profits, lost commissions, lost revenue, lost business). Again, lawyers often seek the "right" amount of money to at least make the original "loser" whole again (or darn close). Sometimes, too, no amount of money can replace a lost business, career, family devastation and personal assets lost. Sometimes, the money awarded or won "sends a message" to others not to defraud, not to breach deals, not to cause damages and to be fair.

In any event, when you next need a real lawyer -- a real trial lawyer -- I'll be here to be infused with a true empathetic understanding of your type of pain and to comprehend it so that I can advocate for you to help you try to "fix it" so you can move on in life and never look back. I am hear to listen to you. I am always honored to help.

It is my mission in life to help people with either type of pain through the legal system -- and to try to find the right amount of "repayment". If you need a real trial lawyer for defense matters, "repayment" may sometimes equate to $0 (or darn close with everything being relative to the overall situation). No matter what, there are most often solutions that can be "lived with". 

You can contact me here 24/7/365 (and I really mean that as I will answer my phone) if you have any questions and to learn how I may be able to help you or your loved one who has been a victim of a crash or negligence or "business pain" (plaintiff or defense) - in particular, you will find that I listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages--BUT NOT WHILE DRIVING!!). I would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Snow and Ice = NO EXCUSE for Drivers!

Some drivers that rear-end my clients think they can blame the snow and ice - or bad weather. Wrong. Drivers must slow down even more, be extra cautious and keep a proper lookout - all per Illinois law - or risk liability for an accident.

In fact, such accidents may even warrant "partial" summary judgment in Court (if not settled before Court action is taken). Summary judgment is a legal term for an entry of judgment on liability or damages or both when the Court finds there is "no genuine issue of material fact(s)".

In a rear-end car accident, insurance companies and defendants will often fight even these situations. A plaintiff (the person suing) should move for summary judgment at the appropriate time if evidence is appropriate. Pursuant to 735 ILCS 5/2-1005(c), summary judgment is appropriate and the “judgment sought shall be rendered without delay if the pleadings, depositions, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Further, “[a] summary judgment, interlocutory in character, may be rendered on the issue of liability alone although there is a genuine issue as to the amount of damages. Id.

Alternatively, Plaintiffs may seek a “directed verdict” at trial time. Notably, at least one Court has made it clear that, at trial time (as opposed to seeking partial or full judgment earlier in the case via summary judgment) the Court may “direct a verdict” on negligence as to a driver because: 

[a] driver . . . has a duty to maintain a sufficient distance from the vehicle in front in order to stop or slow down (Hickox v. Erwin, 101 Ill.App.3d 585), to maintain a safe lookout for traffic ahead (Hickox; Joseph v. Schwartz, 96 Ill.App.3d 749; Snedden v. Lavenka, 92 Ill.App.3d 979) in order to avoid colliding with it (Droese v. Fleming, 93 Ill.App.3d 781), and to take into account the prospect of having to suddenly stop (Droese, 93 Ill.App.3d 781; Snedden, 92 Ill.App.3d 979) or slow his vehicle (Gullberg v. Blue, 85 Ill.App.3d 389). Thus, while a trial court cannot hold a driver, such as defendant, negligent as a matter of law by virtue of a rear-end collision alone, nothing prohibits it from taking the issue of his negligence away from the jury where the evidence overwhelmingly reveals his breach of the foregoing duties. See e.g. Korpalski v. Lyman, 114 Ill.App.3d 563.

Zeifert v. Cox, 182 Ill.App.3d 926 (1st Dist. 1989).

Plaintiffs should fight hard – even on a rear end car accident. Snow and ice is generally not an “excuse” to avoid liability. It’s a reason to slow down and pay attention even more closely.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you or your loved one who has been a victim of a crash or accident - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages--BUT NOT WHILE DRIVING!!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Texting and Driving Can Lead to "Punitive Damages"

Under Illinois personal injury law, "punitive damages" (those meant to deter and "punish" the wrongdoer) must be brought pursuant to "permission" by the Court. See 735 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/2-604.1 (Lexis 2014).

Many clients want to seek the "maximum" in certain automobile accidents and seeking punitive damages would clearly be an attempt to do just that. However, the facts and circumstances must be proper and evidence (also known as "proof") must exist or be readily available.

A plaintiff (the person suing) has the "burden of proof" in a lawsuit for an automobile accident. Assumptions are generally not allowed (although "inferences" may meet the test).

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you or your loved one who has been a victim of a crash or accident - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages--BUT NOT WHILE DRIVING!!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury and Business Litigation: CTA Commuter Train ("L") Crash Injures Numerous People

You can  On Monday, September 30, 2013, numerous people were injured when Chicago Transit Authority (CTA and sometimes called the L by some and here the "Blue Line") commuter trains collided during rush hour at Harlem Station in Forest Park, Illinois.

Train drivers and train companies owe their passengers a duty of care to avoid causing injuries to their passengers and situations can turn into severe hazards and extraordinary damages when an accident occurs involving such immense 'vehicles.'

Apparently, upwards of 33 people were injured per various reports.

As stated previously by us in another posting, the law requires train drivers--like other motorists--to exercise due care and caution and to follow the "rules of the road (here tracks)" and Illinois law so that a lawsuit for negligence will not be brought against him/her/them for some or all of the following (but not necessarily limited to):

◦ Carelessly and negligently operating, managing, maintaining, and/or controlling a vehicle;

◦ Carelessly and negligently operating a motor vehicle at a rate of speed which was greater than reasonable and proper with regard to conditions and the use of the tracks, or which was greater than the applicable speed limit established in violation of the revised Statutes of the State of Illinois;

◦ Carelessly and negligently failing to equip a motor vehicle with proper brakes although such a device was necessary to insure the safe operation of the vehicle;

◦ Carelessly and negligently failing to keep a proper lookout and to stop or alter the course of a motor vehicle to avoid striking the vehicle (or, here, another train); and/or

◦ Being otherwise careless and negligent (simply not paying attention).

Contact an attorney immediately to preserve your rights. Do not talk to any insurance people without an attorney present. 

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you or your loved one who has been a victim - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Settlements and Timing of Payment-FINALLY HERE!

It's finally here -- the Governor has signed! 

After settling a case (some types of cases excepted below), a Plaintiff can now have some form of a "deadline" to expect payment of funds provided certain conditions are met.

The new law takes effect January 1, 2014 -- just 5 months from now. Note well that this is just the "deadline" by which the defendant must pay. That is, other issues can still delay "final" fund transfer to the Plaintiff such as, but not limited to (a) lien resolution (doctor / healthcare provider liens); 
(b) Medicare and/or Medicaid issues; (c) calculation of costs and other documentation; (d) simple "clearance" of the check(s); and (e) numerous other issues. The new law will, hopefully, avoid unnecessary work to see Judges when settlement payments seem to be held up and should start the "clock ticking" on payments.

Here is the new law -- it should be read in its entirety and carefully, word-for-word for a true understanding.

735 ILCS 5/2-2301 (Emphasis added where noted in bold/underline/italic)

Sec. 2-2301. Settlement of claims; payment.

 (a) In a personal injury, property damage, wrongful death, or tort action involving a claim for money damages, a release must be tendered to the plaintiff by the settling defendant within 14 days of written confirmation of the settlement. Written confirmation includes all communication by written means.  

 (b) In a personal injury, property damage, wrongful death, or tort action involving a claim for money damages in which the law requires court approval of a settlement, the plaintiff shall tender to the defendant a copy of the court order approving the settlement.  

 (c) In a personal injury, property damage, wrongful death, or tort action involving a claim for money damages in which there is a known third-party right of recovery or subrogation interest (including attorney's liens, healthcare provider liens, or rights of recovery claimed by Medicare, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, or private health insurance companies), the plaintiff may protect the third-party's right of recovery or subrogation interest, where applicable, by tendering to the defendant:

 (1) A signed release of the attorney's lien.

 (2) Either:

 (i) a signed release of a healthcare provider lien; or

 (ii) a letter from the plaintiff's attorney agreeing to hold the full amount of the claimed lien in the plaintiff's attorney's client fund account pending final resolution of the lien amount; or  

 (iii) an offer that the defendant hold the full amount of the claimed right to recovery pending final resolution of the amount of the right of recovery; or

 (iv) documentation of any other method of resolution of the liens as agreed by the parties.

(3) Either:

 (i) documentation of the agreement between the plaintiff and Medicare, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, or the private health insurance company as to the amount of the settlement that will be accepted in satisfaction of right of recovery; or

 (ii) a letter from the plaintiff's attorney agreeing to hold the full amount of the claimed right to recovery in the plaintiff's attorney's client fund account pending final resolution of the amount of the right to recovery; or

 (iii) an offer that the defendant hold the full amount of the claimed right to recovery pending final resolution of the amount of the right of recovery; or

 (iv) documentation of any other method of resolution of the liens as agreed by the parties.

 (d) A settling defendant shall pay all sums due to the plaintiff within 30 days of tender by the plaintiff of the executed release and all applicable documents in compliance with subsections (a), (b), and (c) of this Section.

 (e) If, after a hearing, the court having jurisdiction over the parties finds that timely payment has not been made by a defendant pursuant to subsection (d) of this Section, judgment shall be entered against that defendant for the amount set forth in the executed release, plus costs incurred in obtaining the judgment and interest at the rate specified under Section 2-1303 of this Code, calculated from the date of the tender by the plaintiff under subsection (d) of this Section.

 (f) As used in this Section, "tender" means personal delivery or delivery by a means providing a return receipt.

 (g) This Section applies to all personal injury, property damage, wrongful death, and tort actions involving a claim for money damages, except as otherwise agreed by the parties.

This Section does not apply to:

 (1) the State of Illinois;  

 (2) any State agency, board, or Commission, as defined in Section 1-7 of the Illinois State Auditing Act;

 (3) any State officer or employee sued in his or her official capacity;

 (4) any person or entity that is being represented by the Attorney General and provided indemnification by the State pursuant to the State Employee Indemnification Act;

 (5) any municipality or unit of local government as defined under Article VII of the Illinois Constitution; and

 (6) class action lawsuits.

Section 99. Effective date. This Act takes effect January 1, 2014.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you or your loved one - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages--BUT NOT WHILE DRIVING!!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Texting Even OUTSIDE a Vehicle Could Get You Sued!

In a recent decision, it was reported here that a New Jersey Appeals Court held that a person who is texting a driver could very well become a defendant in a lawsuit and be liable to someone who was injured due to such texting.

Texting another driver while you are NOT driving could get you sued! Don't text and drive and don't text someone you know is driving! Just don't do it!

Apparently, the Court issued a statement which said: "We conclude that a person sending text messages has a duty not to text someone who is driving if the texter knows, or has special reason to know, the recipient will view the text while driving."

While the "bar" may be high to get past to sue such a person, we are seeing Defendants routinely sending subpoenas for cell phone records and investigating. Phones are becoming "ultra" mini-computers that people seem to be "addicted" to. It can wait--don't send texts. Don't read e-mails. Keep your eyes on the road so others can arrive safely to where they are going.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you or your loved one who has been a victim of a crash or accident - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages--BUT NOT WHILE DRIVING!!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: SB 1912 - The Proposed Amendment to the Civil Practice Law of the Code of Civil Procedure in Illinois

Illinois Plaintiff’s attorneys are all too familiar with settled defendants “dragging their feet” on issuing payment on a settled case. In many cases, once the parties reach a settlement, the real fight begins. Through a series of motions, numerous phone calls, and demand letters, plaintiff’s attorneys eventually receive the settlement check from the defendant, sometimes months after the agreement is made. Earlier this year, Illinois Senator Kwame Raoul proposed an amendment to the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure called Senate Bill 1912 (“SB 1912”) that could dramatically change this process of enforcement by stopping unnecessary delay.

The amendment proposes that the defendant must pay the settlement within a statutory period or the Court may enter judgment against the defendants, plus interest and costs.

The way this works is, defendants issue plaintiffs a release within 14 days of the settlement. In cases which require a court order for settlements, plaintiff should obtain the court order and timely disclose it to defendants. Once defendants possess the executed release or court order, the defendants have 21 days to send the settlement check. Failure to send payment within 21 days results in interest accruing from the day the executed release was tendered to the defendants.

As of May 30, 2013, SB 1912 passed through both Houses in the Illinois Senate and has one more hurdle, as it must be signed by Governor Quinn. If SB 1912 is signed into law, it is poised to make a dramatic change in the way lawsuits are settled.

Something else to think about—will Defendants be less likely to settle if SB 1912 passes, given these strict deadlines? If you are interested in SB 1912 and its progress, you can check its progress at the Illinois General Assembly.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Injury Cases and Medical Bills

When injured due to a car accident, slip and fall, dog bite, nursing home abuse and neglect or from near any cause or issue, medical bills create significant issues from multiple respects. Some various and very "high-level" topics are as follows (and much more details and information is available upon request):

Health insurance. Your health insurance may outright deny coverage for your injuries and tell you "get your bills paid by the defendant." Now what? Doctors and hospitals generally will not provide non-emergency treatment without insurance or guarantee of payment. Defendant's and their auto insurance carrier (for example) will simply not pay the bills in any timely manner and settling a matter or winning a lawsuit can literally take years. You may have to pay out-of-pocket or fight your own health insurance carrier to pay until you can (hopefully) recover from a Defendant.

Healthcare "liens". In the event there are unpaid bills, healthcare providers may have the right to "lien" your case so that you have to pay some--or all--of the bills incurred and unpaid via any settlement or judgment. If a valid lien is not properly addressed and honored, another lawsuit can evolve. Generally, laws exist that allow for a reduction and satisfaction of any such liens by negotiation and various formulas (a spreadsheet must often be employed in cases of multiple liens from various providers and based on other factors).

Be vigilant with medical bills. Vigilance and constant updating of same with your lawyer will only help you avoid credit issues, collection matters and provide for a smoother injury case in cooperation with your lawyer!

Credit. Unpaid bills can result in collection actions--much before any settlement or judgment can be reached. Usually a simple phone call to any provider or collection company with a simply explanation that such bill is directly related to an injury case will forestall action and credit report problems. In fact, providers simply do not even understand that an injury case may be pending and are actually happy to learn that a case is proceeding and may patiently "wait" to be paid--sometimes for years. Make the calls!

Medicare and Medicaid Bills. Medicare has an absolute right to re-payment in whole or in part by Federal Law without notice to an injured person--or their lawyer. Medicaid is State-related payments which also command re-payment in whole or in part via any settlement or judgment. If not properly handled, such forms of payment could be "cut off" in the future. 

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have anyquestions and to learn how we may be able to help you or your loved one who has been a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: School Bus Accident in Wadsworth, Illinois - Flip Over with School Children

On Friday, April 5, 2013, a terrible school bus accident carrying numerous school children flipped over and per the latest news reports, many children were injured and perhaps one adult is dead.

Apparently, school buses are not required to have seat belts and this is yet another situation where innocent children are exposed to the negligence of the drivers on the road or the very people to whom these children are entrusted.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA"):

"Today’s school buses are built with safety in mind. They are tougher, cleaner and more diligently maintained than ever before. School bus drivers are required to receive special security and medical training, and undergo regular drug and alcohol testing to provide a safe ride for your child. And school bus traffic laws are strictly enforced."

Find out what you don’t know about school bus ridership. Learn the facts and play it safe. Visit schoolbusfacts.com for more information.

Apparently only a handful of States or so require seat belts on buses and Illinois is not one of them. How many children could have been saved from injury today?

We would like to help advocate for a change in law as a result of this matter today.  You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you or your loved one who has been a victim of a school bus crash - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Auto Accident Law -- More Efforts to Improve Transportation Safety

The State's trend towards making a concerted effort to improve transportation safety continued with a move by Governor Quinn that went largely under the radar. The announced $21 million grant has the outward goals of trying to improve pedestrian safety in school zones, but it looks as though some of the proposed uses may have positive residual effects as well.

As we've discussed many times, two of the more common causes of harmful accidents these days are distracted drivers and poorly-marked and maintained pedestrian crossings.

By pledging grant funds towards both increasing awareness, warning signs, and even perhaps crossing guard presence near school zones, it looks as though it has the potential to combat the effects of distracted driving.

Also, increasing both the size and safety of pedestrian walkways may also prove to have interesting and positive effects, as any positive safety effects may hopefully serve as a model for how to improve some of the dangers involved with other pedestrian crossings outside school zones going forward.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Auto Accident Law -- Is a Side Impact Airbag Recall on the Horizon?

As an article from the Chicago Tribune illustrated, many prominent auto makers have been in the process of issuing safety recalls in regards to side airbag components that don't deploy as they should following a crash.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is looking into the matter even further, after asking component maker Autoliv Inc. to provide a list of auto manufacturers that it sold specific parts to -- a list, as it turns out, that included many of the world's largest manufacturers, and has prompted some of those companies to issue recall notices.

Apart from the readily apparent safety benefits to properly deploying airbags, looking to whether airbags deployed during an accident often becomes a point of much contention during lawsuits arising from auto accidents.

Often times, defense attorneys use the fact that an airbag did not deploy as evidence relevant to the force of a collision -- stated otherwise, if the airbag didn't deploy, they will argue that the collision was too light to have caused serious injury (no matter how blatantly untrue this may be).

This being the case, many attorneys that advocate for injury victims almost always watch developments such as these very closely for the multiple ways in which these studies highlight the many issues affecting the safety of drivers on the roads.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Auto Accident Law -- Auto Safety Devices from the Testing Room to the Steering Wheel

There have been proposed ideas that have worked their way through the legislature to improve safety for drivers on the road.

Take the bitter dispute over the signed law permitting the City of Chicago to install speeding cameras, for instance.

As discussed in the past, many attempted to spin this as nothing more than a money making device on behalf of the City. If studies are to be believed, however, then perhaps pushing measures through the legislature truly is the proper way to go in improving motorist safety.

A report by the Highway Loss Data Institute indicates that it may take up to as long as three decades for auto manufacturers to make new and improved safety devices mandatory going forward.

For instance, the report notes that front air bags were first introduced in 1980, but weren't mandated by government standards until 1999 -- another 19 years. Even then, estimates suggest that dual front airbags will not be found in 95% of all new vehicles until 2016 -- an additional 3 years from now, and approximately 35 years after they were introduced.

Tellingly, the study notes that

"[u]ltimately, what drives the proliferation of safety features is a combination of government mandates, increasingly stringent crash-test standards, and consumer interest."

In other words, sometimes legislative pushing and prodding is the only way to make safety measures mandatory -- and it is factors such as these that can make a world of difference sooner rather than later in either alleviating (or at least dulling the impact) of a number of harmful and deadly accidents.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Auto Accident Law - Cook County Verdict a Victory for Injury Victims...and a Cautionary Tale

We were pleased to hear word of a Cook County verdict in which the family of an accident victim killed after she was struck by a semi-truck in the middle of an Indiana Highway.

A jury awarded $4.25 million dollars to the family of a young woman that was struck and killed by a truck as she stood behind her parked car in the right lane of an Indiana toll way.

Verdicts such as these are certainly welcome reminders that accident victims and/or their families can receive some measure of justice through the court system for their loss. However, the details of the case (as reported by the Cook County Jury Verdict Reporter) also highlighted a disturbing symptom of far too many civil lawsuits these days.

In this trial, the trucking company’s legal team highlighted that the victim did not make a distress call and noted that a copy of the Qur’an allegedly found near the scene of the accident. Therefore, they surmised that the victim was either praying at the time of the accident or was attempting to commit suicide.

Fortunately, the jury did not give very much credence to these arguments, but the lesson should be learned all the same – many defense attorneys will stop at no length to avoid paying for a victim’s injuries, or even in this case, death. This can range from blaming an accident victim even when their car is hit at a complete stop to, as here, trying to play off a tragic death as a suicide attempt.

This unfortunate climate is why choosing legal representation that will stop at nothing to advocate for your rights is so very important.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Auto Accident Law -- Illinois Legislature to Consider Tightening Teen Driving Restrictions

We've spent time examining several potential new auto safety laws that took shape throughout last year.

While most, if not all, of these are still in their initial phases, some of them (such as Chicago's speeding camera proposal) made headlines. One that was flying a bit under the radar was a proposal that would raise the age at which teenagers receive a learner's permit from 15 to 16 years, and would further tighten restrictions for teenagers driving at night.

The rationale for this appears to be simple -- teenagers make mistakes. While it may seem to be a bit harsh -- taking away a rite of passage -- the likely benefits would be twofold.

First, the apparent advantage is the safety of drivers on the road -- it takes away the temptation for young people to make mistakes, and it protects against inexperience. However, there is another likely benefit that doesn't necessarily meet the eye at first glance. A great number (if not a majority) of teenage drivers can't yet afford their own insurance and, as such, rely on their parents' insurance plans.

When said teenage driver injures someone in a night time accident, it is the parent whose insurance rate goes up because of the accident -- and may even find them subject to a lawsuit for negligent entrustment in the event that their insurance company refuses to pay for the damage from the injury (which, as any plaintiff's attorney will tell you, is far more common than it probably ought to be).

There was not yet a firm measure working its' way through the legislature, but measures such as this, while perhaps cutting against tradition, speak volumes in the necessary task of pushing overall driver safety forward.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Icy and Snow Roads and Car Crashes and Auto Accidents

Chicago "true" weather is back again and makes for very difficult driving conditions. Be careful! If someone has rear-ended you or slid into you and you believe they were not careful, contact us here immediately to assess the situation. We take calls and contact 24/7/365.

And a reminder to all that not only in "good weather" is texting and reading e-mails prohibited but even more caution should be taken when roads are icy and snow is mixed with rain as it was today in the Chicagoland area. Car crashes and automobile accidents can be avoided!

In fact, the Illinois Secretary of State reminds us of the new laws on texting and driving noting that:

Illinois law prohibits sending or reading electronic communications (text messages) while driving and also prohibits the use of wireless/cell phones in construction/road maintenance zones and school zones.

Illinois drivers are prohibited from text messaging while driving except if you are:

  • Reporting an emergency situation.
  • Using the device hands-free or in voice-activated mode.
  • Parked on the shoulder of a roadway.
  • Stopped due to normal traffic being obstructed and the vehicle is in neutral or park.

Further, the Illinois Secretary of State reminds all that local "municipalities may govern whether wireless/cell phone use is permitted, regardless of the location or the driver's age." 

Finally, avoid "quick" or "aggressive" driving especially in snow and ice conditions. 

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have anyquestions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Auto Accident Law -- Public Opinion puts Chicago Speed Camera Bill on the Ropes (and Why it Matters)

In the past we've discussed proposed auto safety measures, such as Chicago's proposed speeding camera bill, which would post cameras in designated "safety zones," track speeding cars and issue automated tickets similar to those by red light cameras.

An earlier report, however, indicates that this particular proposal may wind up dying on the vine for one primary reason -- a seemingly significant lack of public support.

If the report is to be believed, many citizens and advocate groups feel that this proposal is not intended to assist with public safety, but rather, the true intention is seen as a money making device.

Whether this is true or not, the article suggested that this sentiment has some in the Illinois state house thinking twice about passing it through (at least without a fight). While this might seem to be a run-of-the-mill political angling, this proposal and the surrounding outcry actually speaks something to the larger issues facing personal injury trial attorneys.

Civil lawsuits often serve as an interesting snapshot of public policy, in that jury trials sit squarely at the intersection of public safety and public opinion.

On one hand, there is certainly a strong case to be made in support of any law that can positively affect the safety of drivers and pedestrians alike. However, if the popularity of such a measure truly drops, and becomes the law nonetheless, then a plaintiff whose main evidence at trial will involve putting such an unfavorable technology in front of a jury of his peers faces an interesting conundrum, as the whole case may ultimately hinge on convincing a jury of the utility of a highly unpopular technology.

For further examples of the effect of public opinion on jury verdicts, look no further than the difficulty that many plaintiffs that choose "alternative medicine" as a means of healing after an accident have in convincing a jury at trial to consider these part of the damages.

Now, certainly there are a multitude of nuances that affect all trials one way or another, and the current fuss about the proposed speeding cameras may ultimately turn out to be much ado about nothing, but it is still a key consideration that all plaintiffs must keep in mind. Taking your case before a jury of your peers means taking into account public sentiment and the will of the majority -- with all the good and bad that comes with it.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Auto Accident Law -- Lawmakers Seek to Close Helmet Loophole

New traffic safety laws went into effect last year that had lawmakers turning their focus to those proposals. Many of those proposed regulations were discussed at a meeting of the Secretary of State's Advisory Committee on Traffic Safety, which outlined the general direction that the legislature sought to take.

While we previously reported on several of these, such as the proposed ban on all handheld devices while driving, one in particular stood out from the rest.

The Committee announced their intention to pass a law that would require anyone, either operating or riding on a motorcycle, to wear a helmet.

Remarkably, Illinois currently sits as one of only three states in the entire country that doesn't require helmets on motorcycle riders. One of the most common problems in dealing heavily with auto accident law is both the amount of preventable accidents and the amount of preventable injuries that could have been remedied with even a slight abundance of caution.

Helmet safety laws tend to have a positive effect on injury rates following accidents and as such, are paramount to increasing the safety of all on the road.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Auto Accident and Class Action Law -- Toyota Settlement Has Consumers Asking Questions

Yesterday, we discussed early reports of the landmark proposed settlement of a class action brought against Toyota stemming from the widely-reported 2010 alleged defect that caused vehicles to unexpectedly accelerate.

The problem with the early reports, however, is that some of them painted the story with too broad of strokes, and now, as subsequent articles suggest, many Toyota owners aren't quite sure what this settlement means for them.

As we've previously discussed, there were a number of lawsuits that arose from the 2010 controversy -- and, as we've mentioned in the past, representing the victims injured in crashes caused by those defects hits very close to home, as we were one of the first firms filing suit for such injuries here in Illinois.

However, the settlement announced yesterday concerns the class action litigation that came about to compensate for property damage and to take care of Toyota owners that saw the value of their cars decrease simply by virtue of the recall itself. Essentially, as the article states, this settlement will serve as something of a "pool" of money that will be offered to those who owned the defective vehicles -- but it is simply far too soon to estimate how much money everyone will receive, particularly since the settlement itself has not been finalized, and the total size of the affected "class" not yet determined either.

This second point is crucial, and anyone who thinks they might be covered under this lawsuit should not sit back and wait, as the article points out that they will have to "opt in" to the class (basically, you have to send notice of your intent to be a part of this action).

This isn't to take a negative view on this settlement -- to the contrary, as mentioned yesterday, a lot of good will come from this -- but in the immediate aftermath, as is often the case, the details of what this is and what it means can get lost very quickly.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Auto Accident and Class Action Law -- Toyota Agrees to "Landmark" Settlement Relating to Acceleration Cases

As multiple news outlets are reporting, Toyota has agreed, in principal, to settle a class action lawsuit in California stemming from the highly-publicized dispute that arose in early 2010 after a number of complaints were logged that the auto giant's vehicles were accelerating unintendedly.

It should be noted that there have been several different "groups" of litigation that have arisen from this dispute and, as the articles suggest, this particular settlement (estimated to be valued somewhere between $1.1 and $1.4 billion dollars) is intended to set aside funds for car owners whose property was damaged as a result of the alleged defect, as well as separate funds set aside for Toyota owners that were forced to sell their used vehicles at a reduced rate on account of negative publicity.

Perhaps the most important part of this settlement, in the long run, is a provision described in a press release as "the installation of a brake override system in about 3.25 million vehicles," which hopefully will go a long way toward preventing incidents and tragedies from happening in the future.

As you may know, we have been actively involved in various facets of the Toyota litigation from the beginning, and many of the fights will live on beyond this "property damage" settlement, but be this as it may, this is an important settlement for a number of reasons.

The reports as to the settlement figures are certainly significant and important -- the press release cited in the article even refers to it as "landmark" -- but the real win, if early reports are correct, comes in the proposed installation of the brake override system in the estimated 3.25 million vehicles, because it represents a balance between compensation for the harm done and forward progress into preventing the harm from reoccurring.

If these early reports are accurate, this "balance" can serve as a model of what our legal system looks like when it gets things right.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Personal Injury and Trucking Accident Law -- New Study Attempts to Link Obesity With Trucking Accidents

As a recent article in Science Now details a new study that is almost certain to stoke a good deal of controversy has put forth a new factor that researchers believe contributes to an increased likelihood of trucking accidents -- obesity. The study followed 744 newly-licensed truck drivers and categorized them by height and weight.

The results suggested that those with a body mass index of 35 or greater (fitting the medical categorization of severely obese) were 43% - 55% more likely to be involved in a crash than those drivers with a normal body mass index.

The article also summarized the research in noting that "the relationship held even when the researchers corrected for number of miles on the road, geographic location, age, and other crash risk factors." While the article and the study point to several different corresponding symptoms with obesity that might cause this uptick in accidents -- fatigue, decreased agility, even sleep apnea and resulting drowsiness -- that isn't to say that this study is going to be without its detractors.

Indeed, the research seems to indicate that there was no increased likelihood of accidents in those categorized as "overweight" or even "obese," but rather, only those fitting into the confines of "severely obese" seem to have a statistical relationship, perhaps indicating that this study won't lend itself to simple answers.

Ultimately, the article suggests that this study is intended to provide some sort of relevant data to be used in the ongoing debate as to whether regulations should be put in place to screen for sleep apnea, and if it is useful to that end, then all the better. But at the same time, there are always "easy targets" for lack of a better term when people examine the risk factors for trucking accidents -- long hours, little sleep, the poor diet that tends to follow with life on the road -- and a study linking the frequency of accidents to severe obesity is a convenient opportunity to "connect the dots." But when the same numbers don't quite fit for drivers either "overweight" or "obese," then the connection between certain lifestyle factors might not be as strong as it looks at first glance.

At the end of the day, though, any study that takes a critical attempt to reduce the number of these destructive accidents is most certainly important, and it is certainly a conversation that needs to be had.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Auto Accident Law -- Another New Direction for Drunk Driving Offenses?

As we recently discussed, studies on the rates of repeat offenders in drunk driving incidents are leading many states to consider mandating interlock devices that, in theory, prevent drunk drivers from being able to operate their vehicles.

Behind these reports, however, is the unfortunate admission that those inclined to make destructive decisions will do so one way or another.

Underscoring this point, studies tend to show that approximately 2/3 of those with interlock devices on their cars still attempt to drive drunk anyhow -- even if they fail to start their car. This is why anotherstudy by CBS Chicago is particularly interesting, as it shows some states considering the problem of drunk driving from a different vantage point. Per the report, some states are looking as far as considering 24/7 alcohol monitoring (such as ankle devices) as punishment for first time drunk driving offenses, finding that repeat offenders are finding ways to sidestep interlock devices.

While ultimately, there is no guarantee that such aggressive measures will be significantly more successful, this line of reasoning is commendable for its creative approach that, as the article notes, shifts the focus of DUI laws from the car itself to the behavior of the person using it.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Personal Injury Law -- Common Carrier Liability -- New Study Urges Transit Units to Invest Up To $2 Billion in Renovations

As CBS Chicago recently reported, a new study released by DePaul University warns that annual spending of perhaps up to $2 billion per year on infrastructure and repairs to Chicagoland's most widely-used public transit -- namely Metra and the Chicago Transit Authority.

The findings suggest that, while ridership has steadily increased in recent years, the spending necessary to keep up with maintenance, repair, and innovation has unfortunately been lagging behind.

This presents itself as something of a multi-angled problem for these transportation providers, because it shows two important trends heading in opposite directions. As riders increase, CTA busses, Metra trains, and the like will become more crowded and cramped (as many of you regular riders have probably noticed) -- this, in and of itself, has the potential to increase the likelihood of injuries.

When you view this trend in light of the other part of this study -- that funding and infrastructure spending isn't keeping up with the trend -- then there's something of a scary scenario where the possibility of injured patrons could increase even more. Beyond the obvious concern that these companies have (or should have) for the basic safety of their patrons, this presents a unique problem for companies such as Metra and the CTA, as they fall under the heading of what is known as "common carriers."

As we've previously discussed, common carriers owe what is often regarded as the highest duty under the law to their riders. This, in and of itself, is enough to open them up to potential liability in even the most basic situations where a rider is injured. When you factor in the notion that the number of riders is on the increase, while the amount of money being spent on upkeep is not keeping up with this trend, then the potential for costly accidents becomes all the more likely.

This ought to be one of the keys that ultimately factors into whether Metra, CTA, and the like take these findings to heart and invest the money necessary to keep its riders safe and its facilities and equipment ahead of the game and pushing forward.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Auto Accident Law -- Are Red Light Cameras Becoming a Thing of the Past?

With the rash of new laws and procedures that took place this year intended to improve safety for drivers on the road, it is interesting to keep in mind -- and take some perspective on -- some of the passing trends in automobile safety. Interestingly, the city of Naperville voted to let contracts expire on their existing red light cameras.

While there are certainly a number of reasons that this, and other, municipalities may have for doing away with these devices, it is easy to forget that just a few years ago, these devices were all the rage, and were being praised as an important tool in the future automobile safety.

While certainly, it may have achieved its' goals in many ways, and had its' fair share of unwanted side effects (such as the blinding flash bulb light that many drivers find distracting), it is still too young of a technology to truly gauge the overall success or failure. There is, however, a lesson to be taken from the ushering in of new measures to improve driving safety and the phasing out of old measures -- the best defense against the dangers of the road is a vigilant driver.

Keeping a keen eye for traffic conditions, anticipating potential hazards from other drivers, and avoiding your own potential distractions are the best ways to avoid a potentially painful and costly accident. And it is important to keep in mind that, for all the new laws and regulations that affect your legal rights in a potential lawsuit, at the end of the day, the questions that matter in such cases come down to the conduct of the drivers themselves.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Auto Accident Law -- New Laws in Effect Require All Passengers to Wear Seatbelts

This year has brought into effect a flurry of new laws passed the previous year, many of which are intended to affect the safety of drivers on the road. One such candidate is the requirement that all occupants of cars, trucks, and vans must wear seatbelts.

While it may come as a surprise to many that this is a "new" development, prior to January 1st of this year, passengers in the back seats of cars were not required to wear seatbelts -- this was only optional.

While the usefulness of this law from a general safety standpoint can hardly be debated, this new detail is also important to many attorneys practicing in personal injury law, because it provides an incentive to hopefully decrease preventable injuries. Also, many backseat passengers injured in auto accidents have previously assumed that because they weren't breaking the law by not wearing a seatbelt that this means that they will automatically be able to recover for their injuries.

This, however, was not (and is not) the case. Civil lawsuits for negligence look to whether conduct was "reasonable" -- a different standard than whether conduct was "legal," and it is often the case that not wearing a seatbelt stood a good chance of decreasing (if not outright eliminating) an injured victim's chances of compensation.

Fortunately, with the new seatbelt law, there is no longer any real confusion about the proper protocol for any passengers in a car. And with greater clarity, hopefully, comes more predictable results, which will allow injured victims more likelihood of success when the proper procedures are followed.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Auto Accident Law -- Study Shows Interesting Data on Repeat Drunk Driving

This year has brought many interesting developments in technology easing its way into lawmakers' attempts to increase safety on the roads -- and the news, unfortunately, forcing their hand.

With the rash of prominent stories regarding drunk driving accidents, wrong way driving accidents, and the like, no matter how much lawmakers try to curb the problem, it never seems to be enough.

That's why an article in the Chicago Tribune is particularly interesting, as it provides some promising rays of hope regarding repeat offenses and drunk driving. A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, using laws in Washington State and a pilot program in California as an example, looked at the rates of repeat drunk driving offenders where alcohol interlock devices (devices that prevent cars from either staring or operating where the operator has a certain blood alcohol level) are mandatory for those convicted of drunk driving related offenses.

In Washington, where such devices are mandatory, an eight year study shows a repeat offender rate drop of 12%. Unfortunately, people intent on making bad decisions often find a way to do so. However, programs such as this provide interesting models that Illinois may consider in curbing its own drunk driving problems.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Auto Accident and Personal Injury Law -- Various News Outlets Reporting that Off-Duty Chicago Cop Hit Pedestrian on Bicycle

As various local news outlets have reported, an off-duty Chicago Police Officer was recently charged with leaving the scene of an accident involving injuries and disorderly conduct for filing a false police report after a rather interesting turn of events stemming from allegations that the officer ran into a pedestrian on a bicycle and is alleged to have later filed a report claiming the accident was the pedestrian's fault.

Details are still trickling in, but the news reports paint a picture where, in the early morning hours of August 3, a young woman was struck while riding her bike by a pickup truck that left her with a number of injuries.

As the articles allege, the driver twice called 911 to report the accident (with rather vague details), but when the paramedics showed up, reportedly attempted to drive around the downed pedestrian and hit two parked cars. Two days later, the off duty officer reportedly filed a police report where he then claimed that the pedestrian ignored a stop sign and allegedly hit his truck.

In addition to charges for leaving the scene of an accident, this police report filing has reportedly led to charges for disorderly conduct for filing a false police report. As is often the case, high profile stories such as these can tend to take on a life of their own, and surely there will be more details to come in this strange turn of events, but stories such as these are always an occasion to take pause and reflect on just how stressful the immediate aftermath of an auto accident can be.

Oftentimes, disagreements or disputes -- the back and forth "finger pointing" -- can take an already bad situation for everyone involved and make it worse.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Auto Accident and Personal Injury Law -- A Brief Introduction to the Intersection between Personal Injury and Bankruptcy

One of the most discouraging things to encounter in personal injury law is where you endure a lengthy litigation process and even obtain a successful verdict at trial, only for the defendant to turn around and declare bankruptcy in an attempt to discharge your judgment and force you to walk away with nothing.

In situations where the defendant you have filed suit against has no insurance money backing them up, this is a realistic fear that everyone in every area of civil litigation -- personal injury, commercial litigation, employment law, or anything -- has to at least confront.

As you can see, this has the potential for some very unfair results, and fortunately, there are federal bankruptcy laws in place that prevent a great number of debts from being discharged in a bankruptcy proceeding.

Let's say, for instance, you have the great misfortune of being involved in an auto accident where you are struck, and injured, by a drunk driver. After the other driver goes through the rigorous process in criminal court that follows after being arrested for driving while intoxicated, you file suit to recover for your injuries and win a verdict at trial against the other driver, only to see him declare bankruptcy and try to discharge your debt in the process.

Fortunately for you, there are two federal laws right on point that stop this driver from getting away with discharging your debt. 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(9) specifically prevents debts arising from intoxicated driving from discharge in bankruptcy, in providing that:

(a)  A discharge under section 727, 1141, 1228(a), 1228(b), or 1328(b) of this title does not discharge an individual debtor from any debt--

(9) for death or personal injury caused by the debtor’s operation of motor vehicle if such operation was unlawful because the debtor was intoxicated from using alcohol, a drug, or another substance.

It is also worth noting that Section (a)(6) similarly provides that a debt is not dischargeable in bankruptcy:

(6) for willful and malicious injury by the debtor to another entity or to the property of another entity

So this, then, would also bring the damage to your car in our hypothetical drunk driving accident outside the realm of claims that can be discharged in bankruptcy.

This is the issue that the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois (the court that handles bankruptcy filings in Chicago and the surrounding areas) addressed in the case captioned In re Tyler, where a motorist that had been struck while attempting to put gas in his car on the side of the road attempted to ensure that the drunk driver that struck him could not discharge the debt. In siding with the injured plaintiff, the court looked at the statute and gave a detailed analysis of Congress’s intent in including this provision in the bankruptcy code, citing Congress’s:

“direction to make the analysis that Congress did intend, and the provisions of the code by clear and unambiguous language do provide, that bankruptcy courts may enter judgments that debts of a drunk driver for injuries to his victims are nondischargeable.”

In re Tyler, 98 B.R. 396, 399 (N. D. Ill. 1989).

Being injured in an auto accident is a terrible situation to be involved in – one that is only made worse when alcohol is involved. However, one should still take comfort that even if this situation does happen to them, the law does not permit the party at fault to turn around, declare bankruptcy, and act as though the damages they caused don’t exist.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Personal Injury and Negligence Law -- New Lawsuit Alleges Airline Worker "Dumped" Paralyzed War Veteran From Wheelchair

One of the oldest maxims in American civil litigation -- a concept usually introduced on literally the first day of an aspiring law student's first year tort class -- is that a defendant takes a plaintiff as he or she finds them.

This has otherwise come to be known as the "eggshell plaintiff rule," where it doesn't matter if an injured plaintiff was predisposed to a certain kind of harm, if you injure a fragile, or "eggshell" plaintiff, you are responsible for the harm done.

In a sense, this concept comes to mind when reading a story of a recently-filed lawsuit by a paralyzed veteran of the War in Afghanistan that filed suit against American Airlines and Air Serv Corporation for allegedly tipping over his wheelchair while boarding a flight at O'Hare Airport.

The article sets out some rather graphic details of what allegedly unfolded from there, but ends with a rather poignant sentiment that is shared by many injury victims, where the Plaintiff stated:

“Apparently some people out there, they just don’t get it. So, I want to make sure this never happens to someone else,” he said. “I just want people out there to know that … people with disabilities, we’re not invisible. We’re people, too.”

This more or less sums up what most, if not all, injury victims feel, and encapsulates quite nicely why such long-standing concepts as the "eggshell plaintiff rule" exist and continue to be viable -- simply because someone may be disabled or predisposed to a certain condition or type of injury, this does not mean that this can, or should, be held against them. They are entitled to the same rights and protections as everyone else -- and rightly so.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Workers Compensation Law -- An Introduction to Independent Medical Examination

When it comes to personal injury disputes that are filed in court, one of the most common things that the average person tends to hate about the process is the persistent "finger pointing" and attempts to "discredit" the other side. This tends to rear its head most often when it comes to medical opinions -- one side comes up with a doctor that says the plaintiff is hurt, the other side comes up with a doctor that claims he or she isn't hurt.

These disputes go back and forth and, oftentimes, can actually make or break a case -- so much so that they are known in the industry as "battles of the experts."

One of the more interesting contrasts between lawsuits and workers compensation claims is that workers comp disputes actually have a mechanism where a Commissioner (similar to the Industrial Commission's version of a Judge) can actually streamline the process and order a petitioner (the workers comp version of a plaintiff) to submit to what is known as an Independent Medical Examination (or an "IME"). It may seem quite curious that a commissioner can actually order you to see a doctor, but the voluminous statute that provides the "nuts and bolts" of how cases unfold (820 ILCS 305/19) actually does allow them to do so.

The section about these "examinations" (820 ILCS 305/19(c)) provides that:

"the Commission may on its own motion order an impartial physical or mental examination of a petitioner whose mental or physical condition is in issue, when in the Commission's discretion it appears that such an examination will materially aid in the just determination of the case. The examination shall be made by a member or members of a panel of physicians chosen for their special qualifications by the Illinois State Medical Society."

These situations tend to commonly pop up where, for instance, an employer dispute that an employee needs surgery, or that someone's workplace injury will leave them with permanent damage that affect their ability to work. Understandably, when many hear about this process -- independent doctors, extra procedures, and the like -- the first thing they think about is the potential issue of costs.

Fortunately, Section 19(c) has specific measures in place that, when a petitioner undergoes an IME, or when that doctor is called to testify -- which either party is allowed to do -- there is no cost to the parties and the Commissioner "determine(s) the compensation and the pay of the physician or physicians," which is not permitted to "exceed the usual and customary amount for such service."

While this is a far from flawless system -- after all, no matter how the IME doctor sides, one party is most likely bound to disagree -- it is an interesting way of resolving a dispute that comes up far more often than most would imagine.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Workers Compensation Law -- Personal Injury Lawsuit or Workers Comp Claim -- Where Do I Draw the Line?

Being injured on the job is one of the most stressful things that can happen to the average American. Navigating the unique legal and procedural area of Workers' Compensation law -- a figurative "island unto itself" -- is a rather daunting task that requires a great deal of expertise and compassion.

In order to understand this area of the law, it is perhaps most useful, as is the case with most things in life, to start at the beginning. Before we even get into the basics of matters such as who is "covered" under the Workers Compensation Act (a thick stack of laws that begins with 820 ILCS 305/1), a sound understanding begins with a question that many personal injury and workers comp attorneys field right from the outset -- do you file a lawsuit, a workers' comp claim, or both?

The short answer is, in most circumstances, you have to "pick a side," and, in many situations, that "side" is chosen for you. This is what is known as the "exclusive remedy" provision. The entire concept can be summarized in language from the 1981 Illinois First District Court of Appeals case of Brooks v. Carter (102 Ill. App. 3d 635), where the Court noted that:

"[a] common law action by an employee against a negligent co-employee is barred if the injuries were accidental and arose out of and in the course of the employment.”

The words "arising out of" refer to the origin or cause of the accident and presuppose a causal connection between the employment and the accidental injury. In order for an injury to come within the Act, it must have had an origin in some risk connected with, or incidental to, the employment, so that there is a causal connection between the employment and the injury."

Translating this dense language into plain English, if you are injured at work and the injury "arises out of" your employment (i.e. if there's a causal connection between the injury and your job), then you cannot sue your employer or a co-employee and the only remedy is to file a workers comp claim with the Illinois Industrial Commission.

So, for example, if a factory worker loses a finger in a piece of machinery, then he or she can't turn around and sue the company for failing to properly maintain the machine that took the worker's finger -- their "exclusive remedy" would be to file a worker's comp claim.

However, on the other hand, let's say you are a truck driver driving in heavy traffic during your shift that gets rear-ended by a distracted driver talking on their cellphone. Certainly, it is to be expected that a car accident is a pretty foreseeable risk of driving a truck, but what about the other driver? They're not an employee of your company, and they shouldn't be allowed to wiggle out of liability because they had the good fortune of hitting a truck driver on the job, should they?

These situations are actually quite common, and they are what are commonly known in the industry as a "third party action" -- a situation where there is potential liability to the employer in a workers comp claim, as well as a lawsuit sounding in negligence against the driver of the car. Now, unfortunately, there isn't really a clear line as pertains to which of the two is responsible for how much -- after a workers comp case and a third party action have concluded, attorneys can spend days, if not weeks, on end arguing over who is responsible for things such as "set offs" over the bottom line dollar figure, but the important thing to always keep in mind is a keen attention to the details. Keeping track of who is responsible for what should be the first thing that you and your attorney discuss if you are unfortunately injured on the job.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Auto Accident Law -- When an Insurance Company Can't Back Out

One of the most difficult parts of dealing with personal injury cases is having to tell a client that the other driver (whose actions may have very well changed their lives forever) might not have enough insurance to cover their injuries.

In a literal sense, this doesn't stop you from pursuing your claim in court, but at the same time, people are required to carry auto insurance for a reason -- there are very few of us who simply have the money sitting around to cover an expensive judgment against them.

Unfortunately, this doesn't always mean that the insurance companies play by the rules, as they are supposed to. Insurance contracts are complicated creatures that take on an entire area of the law unto themselves, but suffice it to say that any number of factors can result in an insurance company going to court and seeking a declaratory judgment against their own insured that basically says they do not have to cover the losses they caused.

For instance, if the other driver's actions fall under the heading of what is known as "willful and wanton conduct," then many insurance contracts include provisions that, in these circumstances, they don't have to provide coverage.

Does this mean that they can just back out at any time? Fortunately, in most circumstances, it does not. In some situations where it is a close call as to whether the other driver's conduct falls outside the scope of their insurance coverage, an insurance company defending their insured can "proceed with caution" under what is known as a "reservation of rights," but this is a complex area of the law itself.

One of the biggest question plaintiffs’ attorneys get on this point, though, stems from the concern that an insurance company may wait until the last minute, have a judgment entered against their insured, and then try to file a declaratory action to try and get out from underneath the damage.

This, fortunately, is not an option -- as the court noted in Employers Insurance v. Ehlco Liquidating Trust:

"Where an insurer waits to bring its declaratory judgment action until after the underlying action has been resolved by a judgment or a settlement, the insurer's declaratory judgment action is untimely as a matter of law."

As we've stated several times, one of the main reasons that litigation is so difficult is that insurance companies will often go to great lengths to avoid paying a dime -- even on the most straightforward of claims. This is why it is important (and quite often necessary) to fight them every step of the way to get the results you deserve.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Personal Injury Law -- Department of Human Services "Charge" and How it Affects Your Case

One of the most frustrating parts of a lawsuit is tying up all the loose ends after a case comes to conclusion. Even if you win at trial or your case settles, this, unfortunately, doesn't conclude things entirely, and often, it can take months to sift through the various entities such as hospitals, doctors, emergency personnel, etc. that have a lien for services rendered relating to your case.

Things get a bit more complicated, however, when we're talking about government aid. We've discussed Medicaid and Medicare liens in the past and the headache that it can be to get these issues taken care of, but another local issue that many often forget about is a lien by the Illinois Department of Human Services.

The Illinois Public Aid Code (305 ILCS 5/11-22) gives the department what is known as a "charge" over portions of what public aid recipients recover in a lawsuit.

This gives the department a lien over the amount of money they have paid in medical bills from the date of the injury to the conclusion of the case as well as a claim regarding the total amount of assistance paid to an injured party and their dependents if they were employable at the time of the injury and received public aid.

Also important to public aid recipients, the amount received from a lawsuit or settlement may affect their eligibility for aid (but not always -- it depends on the circumstances). The bottom line (and the part that tends to have a frustrating effect on many public aid recipients) is that a case cannot be "closed" and money disbursed without satisfying the department's "charge" -- this is why it is so crucial for you to communicate these issues ahead of time with your attorneys so that everyone can stay current with information and keep up with requests to the Department of Human Services, instead of having to backtrack at the end and having all the hard work that brought you your successful result tied up in dealing with a potentially slow-moving process.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Transportation Safety Law -- National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Releases Preliminary Details About Near-Collision Amtrak Derailment

As the Chicago Tribune recently reported, an Amtrak train that derailed this past Sunday in southwest Michigan, injuring nine passengers in the process, came within a mere 21 feet from colliding with a parked freight hopper car in the process.

In a chilling near-miss story, the train (which departed from Chicago en route to suburban Detroit) was traveling approximately 60 miles per hour as it passed through Niles, Michigan -- just north of the Indiana Border near Lake Michigan -- when a reversed track switch sent the train off the normal rail line and into a rail yard where it nearly missed the parked hopper car.

In what can only be described as a recipe for disaster, the article reports that the train was traveling along a high speed rail when the derailment occurred -- and the train engineer actually had a green light to proceed.

In light of these facts, it is rather miraculous that so few individuals were injured, but the ensuing NTSB investigation seems as though it is likely to be an eventful one. As the article reports: "[s]ources said part of the investigation will focus on whether safety mechanisms on board the train were activated and operating correctly at the time of the accident. The Amtrak locomotive was a so-called “smart train,’’ equipped with a safety system called Incremental Train Control System that is designed to detect problems involving track switches, signals and railroad crossing warning devices."

While there appear to be a number of ways that this event could have ended tragically, it is fortunate that, despite the myriad of things that appear to have gone wrong, only nine of the 174 passengers were injured.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury and Business Litigation: Cook County Jury Returns $850,000 Verdict Against City of Chicago for Man Struck by Garbage Truck

As local news outlets are reporting a Cook County jury recently awarded $850,000 in damages to a man that was run over by a garbage truck on the City's northwest side.

The article reports that the man suffered six broken bones and required a skin graft in conjunction with what the article describes as "a crushed foot" after he was hit by a City garbage truck turning right as he crossed the intersection at Lawrence and Pulaski in the northwest Albany Park neighborhood.

Cases such as this, while they may sound straightforward, are often very hotly contested affairs that are difficult to resolve.

Oftentimes, the City (or any defendant, for that matter) will argue -- often with much success -- that even though a pedestrian, struck by a vehicle, was clearly visible, the defendant should not be liable where the plaintiff was a mere matter of inches outside a crosswalk.

These cases often turn into "he said, she said" affairs where a defendant will fight and claw trying to use every technicality under the sun to get themselves out of a lawsuit. Far too often, unfortunately, victims of clear negligence are sent home empty handed on account of such technicalities, so it is very refreshing to see a Cook County jury give a significant award in the face of such troubling circumstances.

 

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury and Business Litigation: Auto Accident Law -- Who Bears the Risk on Changing Technology?

As you are probably aware, rising fuel costs, environmental concerns, and other issues have led to a significant uptick in the production and marketing of fuel-efficient vehicles such as hybrids and battery-powered engines. While the rising demand for these vehicles certainly comes from a positive place, recent studies suggest that the technology involved in actually making these vehicles may be a step or two ahead of the technology involved in maintaining them -- and this could be potentially bad news for the average driver.

A recent Chicago Tribune study suggests that problems are beginning to emerge with many new-model fuel-efficient vehicles.

Certainly, this is to be expected with such a young, burgeoning technology, but what is potentially troubling is the admission that many mechanics and car service professionals candidly admit that there are very few (if any -- depending on the type of vehicle) in the industry that are capable of dealing with repairs and other issues with these sorts of vehicles. 

This is leading many to wonder who, exactly, will bear the blame when something goes wrong with these sorts of vehicles. At first glance, there is a distinction to be drawn -- situations such as those mentioned early in the Tribune's study, where electric car batteries have malfunctioned tend to fall predominantly on the manufacturers and/or car dealers under a theory of warranty. However, if it is not a blatant defect in the product, then the fault from the lack of individuals with proper training and skill in upkeep may actually fall on the driver.

Many lawsuits following auto accidents come down to the fact that the owner/driver of the car at fault failed to properly maintain their vehicle (i.e. shoddy brakes, bald tires, a poorly working engine) -- these are things that are attributed to the driver or owner, since the neglect of their car put everyone in the situation to begin with.

Does this general principle change when poor car maintenance isn't really the fault of the driver, but stems from the fact that the technology involved may be lagging a few steps behind? Naturally, it is far too soon to have any real answers to this question, but it is certainly something to think about the next time you buy a car.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury and Business Litigation: Trucking Accident Law -- Motorcyclist Killed After Truck Collision on Eisenhower Expressway

The Chicago Tribune recently reported the tragic story of a young man killed when his motorcycle was run over by a truck with a trailer attached. As the two vehicles attempted to merge onto the Eisenhower Expressway, the truck apparently pushed the motorcycle up against the wall and eventually ran over the driver, allegedly causing his death.

Dealing with as many auto accident cases as we do, trucking cases often have the most dire consequences.

While this can be due to any number of factors related to the conduct of the driver, oftentimes, it is simply a matter of physics -- the larger the vehicle, the more time it will need in stopping or maneuvering out of the way to avoid an accident. Unfortunately, when hit by a large truck, the mass of the vehicle almost always causes a greater impact that leads to more severe damages. These sorts of accidents too often end in tragedy, and unfortunately are seen far too frequently.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury and Business Litigation: Trucking Accident Law -- Spoliation and the Importance of Preserving Evidence

Perhaps even more so than an ordinary car-on-car accident, the first few days following a truck collision can be crucial for preserving your rights. When an auto accident involves two ordinary cars, severely damaged vehicles are taken to repair shops where an estimate is done and work performed, which gives a good report about what, if anything, was wrong with the vehicle itself, and usually pictures are taken of the damaged parts -- these are standard insurance protocols, as it is important for everyone involved to piece everything together.

What about a truck collision? When a large truck hits a small car, the damage to the truck is often negligible, and companies and their insurers are often eager to get a working vehicle back on the road, as taking it out of service indefinitely can be costly in many ways.

This, however, can cause all kinds of problems to an accident victim and their case, as there are countless unique features to a truck that most standard automobiles do not have (a "black box" for example). This is why it is crucial, if you or a loved one has been in such an accident, to contact a lawyer right away and inquire about sending what is known as a "Notice of Spoliation" letter.

Once a driver/company/insurer is on notice of an accident and receives a copy of a notice of spoliation, there are severe consequences for fixing, removing, or altering, in any way, a vehicle and related equipment that your attorney will spell out in the notice. It is crucial to preserve these items "as is" immediately after an accident so that an expert can come in and inspect a vehicle and give a neutral report.

What if, for instance, a faulty brake caused a serious accident? Certainly, a driver has an obligation to inspect and maintain their own vehicle, but if there is some inherent defect to the brake itself that goes undiscovered, you might miss out on a cause of action against a party that was truly responsible in some way. These are the sorts of things that you won't know unless you hire an attorney willing to go the extra mile and really get to the bottom of what can be life and death situations.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury and Business Litigation: Auto Accident Law -- An Intro to the Court of Claims

We've discussed many different ways of receiving satisfaction after you have been injured in an auto accident, several of which actually step outside the traditional court system and into alternative dispute resolution such as arbitration and mediation.

Another interesting remedy applies when you have been injured in an accident with a State of Illinois employee -- the Illinois Court of Claims.

It is the law in Illinois that the State cannot be made a defendant in a civil lawsuit unless it consents. It should be well noted, however, that this doesn't apply to agents of the State (such as State Troopers), where the acts you are suing over are "ordinary" negligence, as opposed to something related to the course of their employment. When, however, you have been injured by a State employee and you wish to hold the agency or the State itself accountable, the proper place to do so is the Court of Claims.

The Court of Claims is a court that, procedurally and make-up wise, looks like something of a hybrid between the traditional court system and an administrative proceeding, such as a building code enforcement or traffic court, for instance. This type of court is created, and governed, by Illinois statute (see 705 ILCS 505/8(d)). From a procedural standpoint, these special proceedings are set up to look a lot like a civil lawsuit -- the basic Illinois rules of discovery apply, parties take depositions as they would in a normal civil case, and parties are even permitted to seek subpoenas as they would in a normal civil lawsuit. What makes these proceedings different is that (in addition to a few minor procedural technicalities), these cases are heard by commissioners, not actual sitting judges, who do nothing but hear these cases against the State.

The purpose in this is to streamline cases against the State and, instead of putting them in to the regular court system, where decisions relating to one particular individual won't have the far-reaching affect that they generally would in a court of law, where a judge's decision can have far reaching precedent over future matters.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury and Business Litigation: Auto Accident Law - Law Allowing Motorcycles to Run Red Lights

This year came with a flurry of new laws passed during the previous year that finally came into effect. One law in particular has many in the area of auto accident law taking close notice, as it has the potential to be particularly troublesome.

A new law, as explained in detail by CBS Chicago, allows motorcyclists and bicyclists in municipalities of less than 2 million people (so, basically, anywhere except Chicago) to drive through a red light if they first wait for "a reasonable amount of time."

While some legislators have stated that a "reasonable amount of time" will amount to at least two minutes, this is not defined or spelled out in the bill itself -- which was the reason that this law was initially vetoed by Governor Quinn, although that veto was ultimately overturned. This fact -- that a "reasonable amount of time" before a motorcyclist or bicyclist does something that would be otherwise against the law is not defined -- has the potential to cause many problems going forward.

The rationale behind the law itself is that these vehicles are not big enough to trigger the magnetic sensor that would bring a green light and, as such, would have to otherwise wait for another car to come along. This law worries many attorneys, in that if there is no other car present to trigger a green light, then who is to verify whether a motorcycle or bicycle actually waited for two minutes before running a red light in the event of an accident?

Furthermore, if the law doesn't specifically spell out what a "reasonable" amount of time is, then trial courts are going to have a great deal of difficulty in determining whether there should be any across the board rule on how long of a wait is "reasonable." And, from a practical standpoint, it is probably fair to ask whether any amount of time is really "reasonable" before running a red light, as this might cause automobile drivers to react when seeing a motorcycle stopped at a red light, and has the potential to cause a number of otherwise avoidable accidents. In any event, this gives all the more reason to pay extra attention when driving through an intersection -- even if you have a clear green light.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury and Business Litigation: Auto Accident Law -- What's the Best Way to Get Your Medical Records?

One of the most frequent problems many injury victims have with the legal process is the length of time it takes to resolve a dispute -- and rightly so. Time and time again, insurance companies refuse to pay on perfectly good claims, the congested court system may stall a case for months on end, even when a case is resolved, liens from various sources can tie things up for extended periods of time -- needless to say, there are any number of things that can stand in the way of a quick and efficient resolution of your case.

This is why it is important to take every step possible to anticipate potential roadblocks (no matter how remotely possible they may seem), and take appropriate action.

One issue that comes up quite frequently is the "reliability" of medical records turned over to an insurance company or opposing attorney. While it might seem crazy to think that the other side would refuse to accept medical records as true and accurate simply because they come from your attorney's files, it happens. And when it does, it can create the difference between settling a case either pre-lawsuit or early in the proceedings and a long, drawn out litigation process.

This is why many attorneys have resorted to taking the step of hiring an outside record retrieval company to subpoena their own client's records. This may seem strange -- after all, why would you pay someone to issue a subpoena for your own records? The simplest answer to this question is that the mere presence of an outside source can often be enough to give the other side the appearance of neutrality -- even though there is nothing to suggest that your records would somehow be different depending on who orders them. Often times, this can be enough to, if not outright, settle a case by having the cards on the table and convincing everyone involved to start wrapping things up which can pave a clear path to a quick and amicable resolution of your case. As such, the unusual posture of such a move is important in the long run, as it can get you the results you want faster.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Trial Time Issues -- Questioning You About Your Tax Returns

One of the most unfortunate parts about a serious personal injury -- apart from the physical injuries and lingering effects -- is the financial hit that many victims take.

When an injury forces you to miss considerable time from work, then a considerable loss in income, and the problems that can bring, is another burden to consider in filing a lawsuit.

When it comes time to testify about these damages at trial, testimony alone will not be enough to establish the amount of lost wages -- you will need to provide the defendant with your tax returns during the discovery process to verify the amounts.

This can be an uncomfortable subject for many plaintiffs, and rightly so. Tax returns reveal many sensitive financial details, and aren't to be taken lightly. Fortunately, Illinois case law provides boundaries on just how far a defendant's line of questioning can go. While it is standard for courts to allow defendants to ask basic questions about whether tax returns were filed and what the gross income was (Cerveny v. American Family Insurance Co.), detailed questions into claimed deductions and income disclosures asked to discredit a plaintiff are squarely not permitted (Pozzie v. Mike Smith, Inc.).

The bottom line is that yes, it's not a comfortable subject for many to discuss in front of a courtroom of complete strangers, but fortunately, courts generally run a very "tight ship" that keeps sensitive issues out of the picture and just focuses on the hard numbers that you need to show in order to make an adequate claim for lost wages.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Drunk Driving and Auto Accidents

Each holiday, I like to remind all of the dangers of drinking and driving and the tragic consequences that are simply unnecessary. With the Fourth of July in the middle of the week this year, many people are turning the week into a vacation and we have already been contacted in this past week to handle two drunk driving matters involving head-on collisions. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) most recent analysis of figures, in 2010, more than 10,000 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes or one every 51 minutes statistically. We believe that number should be 0.

We have personally witnessed far too many people injured by drunk drivers and lives altered horribly - and permanently. Let someone else drive. Be safe. 

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of a drunk driving accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

 

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury and Business Litigation: Transportation Law - New Report Sheds Light on Train Derailment

Many are familiar with the tragic freight train derailment in June 2009, where water runoff on train tracks in Cherry Valley, Illinois (just outside Rockford) caused a train to derail. Leaking ethanol then caused thirteen of the train's cars to catch fire, injuring many and killing two.

The National Transportation Safety Board ("NTSB") recently released its report on the matter according to a Chicago Tribune article found here, bringing several disturbing facts to light.
First, and foremost, the report indicates that Canadian National Railway ("CNR") knew for approximately an hour before the accident that there was a complete washout on the tracks, but did not contact the train in time to stop it.
Compounding this failure to communicate is the fact that, on two prior incidents in 2006 and 2007, similar washouts had occurred near the tracks in question that CNR was aware of. Further complicating things, the NTSB suggests that CNR could have (and probably should have) done more to communicate with Winnebago County to develop a comprehensive storm water management system in light of the two prior washouts.
 
Unfortunate situations such as these bring to light the necessity for transportation companies and local governments to work together to come up with solutions to recurring problems such as these to protect the public at large and avoid costly tragedies.
 
You can contact us here 24/7/365 if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you analyze your particular situation should you or your loved ones, friends or family be unfortunately involved in any accident whether tragic or minor. We would be sincerely honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury and Business Litigation: Texting and Driving

The continuing trend by national institutes tasked with examining the data surrounding auto accidents recently culminated with the National Transportation Safety Board ("NTSB") making an across the board recommendation that all cellphone use be banned while driving.

The Chicago Tribune's examination of the conversation surrounding this proposal in Illinois seemed to indicate that it was unlikely that such a proposal would gain serious traction, due to its harsh tone and difficulty to enforce. Yet more research data recently released indicates that the problem may have more practical effect than initially meets the eye.

Time Magazine recently reported here that a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed a 50% increase in text messaging while driving.

What makes these figures particularly troubling to personal injury attorneys is that they are potentially part of a much larger problem. Traditionally,factors such as driving in a hurry, not watching the road, and focusing attention on something other than the road are each factors where one of which, standing alone, can be the cause of an accident and a subsequent lawsuit. Texting or emailing while driving can encompas each of these factors all in one simple act. And with studies such as those mentioned in Time suggesting that this practice is on such a rapid rise, one can only assume that it has the potential to get worse. In any case, these studies present all the more reason to keep a constant lookout for the other drivers on the road.

Have a safe and accident-free holiday. In the unfortunate event you are involved in an accident, obtain all the information possible immediately at the scene and take notes (if you can--get to the doctor or hospital first and foremost though if you are injured). Then contact an attorney immediately to preserve your rights. Do not talk to any insurance people without an attorney present. You can contact us here 24/7/365-even over the holiday weekend any time (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury and Business Litigation: Thanksgiving Weekend Auto Crashes

Millions more cars will be on the road from Wednesday through Sunday / Monday this Thanksgiving - as expected as these are some of the busiest days of the year. That means everyone should be much more vigilant and cautious when driving.

Drunk driving is especially worrisome during the holiday times. Fatalities often rise over the holidays. Don't drink and drive!

Thanksgiving Travel Safety Tips:

1) Be mindful of the weather -- while not as frigid and icey as the holiday season ahead of us, Thanksgiving is still known, nonetheless, as a beacon of nasty weather. Fortunately for those remaining in the Chicagoland area, the forecast for the next few days calls for clear (but cold) conditions. For those traveling outside the area, be sure to check the applicable weather reports, as the congested traffic conditions mixed with unexpected bad weather can make holiday travel a miserable experience.

2) Check your brakes and tires before you leave -- not only is this step useful at any time (faulty brakes are cited in almost every auto accident victim's complaint as a cause of negligence), this is particularly necessary during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, since it is one of the first instances of real, genuine cold weather. Whenever the temperature drops drastically, tire pressure has a tendency to drop as well, leading to increased instances of flats and tire blowouts.

3) Leave plenty early -- as any personal injury attorney will tell you, drivers in a hurry to reach their destination are far more likely to get into an accident. Throw in unnaturally heavy traffic conditions and poor weather conditions, and the potential problem only becomes worse. 

4) Avoid distractions at all costs -- heavy traffic, long hours on the road with no sleep, unruly passengers, the temptation to multitask to make up for lost time and eat or groom yourself while driving -- the possible distractions on this weekend in particular are endless, and each of them increase the likelihood of an accident significantly. 

Have a safe and accident-free holiday. In the unfortunate event you are involved in an accident, obtain all the information possible immediately at the scene and take notes (if you can--get to the doctor or hospital first and foremost though if you are injured). Then contact an attorney immediately to preserve your rights. Do not talk to any insurance people without an attorney present. You can contact us here 24/7/365-even over the holiday weekend any time (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury and Business Litigation: CTA Crash Injures Numerous People

On Friday, November 11, 2011, numerous people were injured when a CTA bus struck a light pole at approximately 4:00 p.m. at 95th and Cottage Grove in Chicago, Illinois.

Bus drivers and bus companies owe their passengers a duty of care to avoid causing injuries to their passengers and situations can turn into severe hazards and extraordinary damages when an accident occurs involving such a large vehicle.

As stated previously by us in another posting, the law requires bus drivers--like other motorists--to exercise due care and caution and to follow the "rules of the road" and Illinois law so that a lawsuit for negligence will not be brought against him/her/them for some or all of the following (but not necessarily limited to):

    • Carelessly and negligently operating, managing, maintaining, and/or controlling a vehicle;

    • Carelessly and negligently operating a motor vehicle at a rate of speed which was greater than reasonable and proper with regard to traffic conditions and the use of the highway, or which was greater than the applicable speed limit established in violation of the revised Statutes of the State of Illinois;

    • Carelessly and negligently failing to equip a motor vehicle with proper brakes although such a device was necessary to insure the safe operation of the vehicle;

    • Carelessly and negligently failing to keep a proper lookout and to stop or alter the course of a motor vehicle to avoid striking the vehicle (or a light pole or anything that can cause injuries); and/or

    • Being otherwise careless and negligent (simply not paying attention).

If you are in a crash such as this with a CTA bus or any other type of crash, the Illinois Secretary of State has a checklist it suggests here:

Crash Checklist

If you are involved in or come upon a traffic crash:

  • Stop your vehicle in a safe, well-lighted public place.

  • Help an injured person if necessary or requested. First, protect the person from traffic, then cover the injured person for comfort and to avoid shock. Do not move an injured person unless absolutely necessary. Do not attempt to give first aid unless you have been trained in it. Call 911 immediately.

  • Someone should warn other drivers, using flares if available.

  • Ask all those involved for their names, addresses, phone numbers, driver’s license numbers and license plate numbers.

  • Notify the nearest police station as quickly as possible.

Further, make sure your children are safe and secure and if you are in an automobile accident or an accident such as this with a CTA bus as a passenger, get all the information possible immediately and take notes. Then contact an attorney immediately to preserve your rights. Do not talk to any insurance people without an attorney present. You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury and Business Litigation: The Power of Subpoenas

The fact finding process in civil cases is known as "discovery" -- that is, where you can ask the other side to turn over any document or other piece of evidence/information in their possession that might have some bearing on your case (provided that you ask for it in fairly descriptive terms).

Many litigants make the mistake of stopping their focus after obtaining discovery -- once they've gathered everything they have from the other side, that's the end of their inquiry. Success or failure in any given case, however, largely depends on the winning side's ability to think outside the box, so to speak.

When it comes to discovery, then, technically speaking, you are not limited to asking the other side to turn over evidence -- you just have to know how to ask. For a very basic example, let's say you are involved in an auto accident in a supermarket parking lot. Both sides claim that the other driver was at fault, but after discovery, there is really no hard evidence other than each driver's word, essentially making the case a "he said, she said" situation that, quite frankly, can often go either way at trial. Now, let's add to the example that this parking lot, as large stores often do, has a surveillance camera in its parking lot that captured the whole accident on tape. In most cases similar to this example, the supermarket would not be a party to the lawsuit and as such, you would not be able to simply send a discovery request to turn over the surveillance tape, as you would, say, a copy of any pictures of the scene of the accident that the defendant may have taken. But this does not mean that you cannot get the surveillance tape that may make or break your case -- again, you just have to know how to ask for it.

A plaintiff (through their attorney) can issue subpoenas for documents and other information (even testimony) that require non-parties to turn over evidence, documents and information, provided that the subpoena meets certain technical requirements. For starters, the requested information has to be reasonably clear -- if you're looking for the surveillance tape, then you must say so. You also have to pay a fee to the person/business you're seeking information from, usually starting at around $25.

Further, the power of such subpoenas -- if all of the steps are followed properly -- are real consequences for failing to comply: the person/business may even be brought into court to explain to the Judge why they shouldn't have to turn over the evidence, or else they may face some hefty fines and even perhaps be held in contempt of court! That's very powerful!

The point to be had is that the difference between winning and losing is often the party's willingness to go above and beyond and take full advantage of all the litigation tools at your disposal. 

You can contact us here 24/7/365 if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you analyze your particular situation--maybe subpoenas will be the only way to get the evidence you need to prove your case. Most importantly, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury and Business Litigation: Attorney-Client Privilege

Conversations and communications between you and your attorney are covered by what is known as the attorney-client privilege. Privilege attaches to such conversations and communications so that you and your lawyer can freely discuss your matters without being judged and without hesitation, amongst other reasons. 

To be entitled to the protection of the attorney-client privilege, a claimant must show that:

(1) a statement originated in confidence that it would not be disclosed

(2) it was made to an attorney acting in his legal capacity for the purpose of securing legal advice or services; and

(3) it remained confidential.

See Pietro v. Marriott Senior Living Servs., 348 Ill. App. 3d 541, 551 (1st Dist. 2004).

The policy underlying the attorney-client privilege is to encourage full and frank consultation between a client and his attorney by removing the fear of compelled disclosure of information. See People v. Jacobson, 119 Ill. App. 3d 103, 104 (1st Dist. 1983). Strict confidentiality, promoted by permanent protection from disclosure, is the very essence of the existence of the attorney-client privilege; it is also the basis for allowing such communications complete exemption from discovery. Jacobson, 119 Ill. App. 3d at 104. Privileged communications are at the instance of the client permanently protected from discovery. Id. at 105.

On the other hand, if a conversation, for example, took place in a crowded elevator, or if you went and told a co-worker afterward what was said, then the communication may not be privileged because it wasn't confidential.

Another key point is that the privileged conversation has to generally be for the purpose of giving legal advice, and the advice can't be used to further or cover up a crime. While this might all sound pretty straightforward, application of this privilege can come up in very unexpected ways - and sometimes in matters years down the road that you couldn't possibly envision at the time you made the statements.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you analyze your particular situation. Most importantly, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury and Business Litigation: Discovery Truths and Process

Parties to a lawsuit (usually with the assistance of their attorneys) are under a duty to answer everything truthfully, but that doesn't mean that it's always easy to get a "straight" answer out of someone.

This is one of those areas that distinguishes attorneys -- recognizing the difference between a party giving an affirmative yes or no answer, and half-measures such as "I think" or "I believe that is correct." A good attorney will not accept half-measures for answers and make further (hopefully many) inquiries to get to the truth.

While this might seem like something trivial, half-measures and "couched" answers can actually chip away at even the best of cases. One way to avoid these problems and "keep everyone honest," so to speak, is Supreme Court Rule 201(k). This rule allows an attorney that notices an incomplete or evasive answer to confront the other attorney and seek clarification to any lingering questions. If this fails, then a party may bring a motion before the Judge and let the Court decide if the question was adequately answered. The reasoning behind this rule is that everything in even the simplest cases can be won or lost in the smallest of details.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you analyze your particular situation--and help to ensure you are getting truthful answers. Most importantly, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury and Business Litigation: Privacy and Your Medical Records

One of the most sensitive parts of filing a lawsuit after you've been the victim of an injury is the extent to which your private medical issues must come to light.

It is unfortunate that you have to give complete strangers access to your most private records, and it is an unfortunate side effect of pursuing your rights. Steep barriers prevent most people from having access to your medical information -- even your own attorney cannot ask for one paper from any of your doctors until the doctor has received a signed medical release pursuant to law from you personally.

Another important protection is the line of cases in Illinois known as the "Petrillo Doctrine," which prevents a defense attorney from so much as contacting your doctor.

In the case that set out the rule (Petrillo v. Syntex Laboratories, Inc.), the court ruled that no third party could permissibly contact a plaintiff's medical providers -- and as the later cases that would fashion this "rule" into a "doctrine" established, this includes defense attorneys, insurance claims adjustors, anyone.

The only way a defense attorney can obtain your medical records, or even appear for a deposition to take the information from your doctor(s), is by issuing a subpoena.

Collectively, these laws and rules are important, because they recognize the sensitive nature of filing a lawsuit for damage to your health, and they put as many mechanisms as possible in place to protect you and your privacy -- especially in such sensitive times.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you analyze your particular situation. Most importantly, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury and Business Litigation: Technology & Changing Trends in Discovery Process

One of the most important components of the litigation process leading up to trial is the discovery deposition. Deposition is a fancy legal word for a process by which a person sits down in front of a court reporter and gives testimony under oath that is transcribed by that court reporter.

A deposition may end up being the only time that a person is allowed to tell their "story" in their own words while being asked questions by an attorney. This process is so important that the Illinois Supreme Court Rules allow parties to take depositions in person simply by issuing a notice to the other side -- stated otherwise, they don't have to obtain permission from the court and issue a subpoena like they would for someone like an eye witness to an accident or a treating doctor or any person with information in relation to a situation such as a breach of contract in the business context.

Interestingly enough, however, courts are beginning to look favorably on using technology to make what is traditionally a rigid process into a more convenient, accommodating system.

Under the new Illinois Supreme Court Rule 206(h), parties can make a special request to take a deposition by telephone, video conference, or other live technological method. Because it is often debatable as to why many similar laws are enacted, the rules committee went out of it's way in this case to specifically note that:

The Committee is of the opinion that the apparent acceptance and utilization of telephonic and other remote electronic means depositions demonstrate that there is no need to require a party to obtain an order on motion to proceed with such depositions absent a written stipulation. Therefore, the Committee recommended the elimination of such a requirement so that the depositions may proceed by notice.
There are pros and cons to taking depositions via telephonic and other remote electronic means. We have been taking depositions in this manner for years--even before the Rules changed for efficiency and to save our clients time and to advance cases more quickly. Ask your attorney about their use of technology--simple changes in the way a lawyer practices can save you significant costs if you are paying by the hour and perhaps significantly advance your case in terms of the life cycle of a case if scheduling does not allow a lawyer to take the deposition by traveling an hour or more to a location for a deposition. 
 
You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you analyze your particular situation and employ efficiency for you. Most importantly, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury and Business Litigation: Low Insurance Policy Limits Issues

The insurance laws in Illinois, starting with 625 Illinois Compiled Statutes (or "ILCS" in lawyer lanugage) 5/7-601 sets forth the basic ground rules, noting:

No person shall operate, register or maintain registration of, and no owner shall permit another person to operate, register or maintain registration of, a motor vehicle designed to be used on a public highway unless the motor vehicle is covered by a liability insurance policy.
In plain English, this means that you cannot use or register (basically own) an automobile -- or allow someone to use your automobile, for that matter -- without having a minimum level of insurance. This sets forth the basics, but it doesn't provide much clarity on what the minimum coverage actually means. Again, as in most topics, we can write volumes of information but we like to at least highlight some of the basics:  Minimum insurance limits in Illinois require $20,000 worth of coverage for injuries to one person, $40,000 for injuries to more than one person, and $15,000 worth of coverage for property damage. In industry terms, this is often referred to 20/40/15 coverage.
 
The limits for personal injury are perhaps best understood by way of analogy. Let's say that there was only one person injured -- the driver -- or you in an accident. This is the easy example: there would be $20,000 worth of available coverage for bodily injuries (this does not mean you will "automatically" get that amount of money if you are injured).
 
But let's say that instead of just you, there were 3 other passengers injured in your car. If there is only minimum coverage being carried by the at-fault driver/other car, there is not $80,000 worth of coverage available (or as some people believe $20,000 for each person in the car). There is only $40,000 available of insurance coverage for all 4 injured people.
 
If there is not enough coverage to pay for all the injuries, you could very well pay anything beyond that out of your own pocket unless you have "underinsured coverage" and/or an "umbrella" insurance policy (again, volumes on these two issues later or just call us to discuss and analyze your situation in a free consultation).
 
Now, as any Plaintiff's attorney will tell you, having coverage and actually getting the insurance company to take responsibility are two very different matters, but insurance law is a very complex creature and every situation is different.
 
You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you analyze your particular insurance situation. Most importantly, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury and Business Litigation: Settlements and Liens

Generally speaking, it is everyone's goal to settle a case without a drawn-out lawsuit that can take years to prosecute and consume massive amounts of time and resources for all.

One of the biggest myths about the settlement process, however, is that as soon as the two sides come to an agreement, the client can expect the check the next day -- usually not true.

Unfortunately, due to the many parties, medical providers, insurance companies (yours, the defendant's insurance company, health insurance companies and others) and others involved in a lawsuit, it can often take a good deal of time before the client actually receives their check--maybe even a year or more. Let's say that you were the victim of an auto accident that is fortunate enough to settle without going to trial. The first thing that needs to happen is that the defendant's insurance company will send over a sometimes lengthy contract called a "Release," where the insurance company / defendant agrees to pay you the agreed-upon sum only if you agree to drop the lawsuit (or never file one). These "Releases" are often complex-worded documents that cover everything from the parties' liabilities to who will pay for any medical bills that arise in the future (almost always, this will be the plaintiff).

After this process, the next step is for any public assistance programs such as Medicare and Medicaid to recover any money they have spent -- this is a long and frustrating process for attorneys, more on these to come and we can literally write an entire book on these two entities and their unique processes to obtain their money -- which can, unfortunately, take up to several months or a year or more to work out.

Then, anyone else classified as a "lien holder" will have the opportunity to make a claim from the proceeds -- this includes doctors and hospitals that have unpaid bills relating to the accident and other similar expenses and even your own insurance company who has paid any medical bills and other costs. These "rights" to collect money when money is paid already are often referred to as "subrogation rights" meaning your insurance company has the right, by law, to "step into your shoes" and sue the person responsible for causing the bills in the first place. While this is a high-level overview, we can also right a book on subrogation rights. 

Then, and only then, do the client and attorney get to cash in the check. This process can often be frustrating, considering the length of time that it can take, but it is important to keep this in mind from the beginning of the process. The financial ins and outs of lawsuits are complicated matters that sometimes take on a life of their own and is only part of the process that an attorney can help you with. 

Most importantly, if you try to handle this aspect of a case yourself, you can easily find yourself subject to paying back the bills yourself if not properly handled due to laws and regulations that apply differently in each situation.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you ensure that all of your liens and subrogation issues are handled correctly. Most importantly, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation: Safe Driving, Drunk Driving and Auto Accidents

While the upcoming Fourth of July weekend is one of our nation's most celebrated holidays, it is also, unfortunately, one of our most dangerous.
 
Anyone who finds themselves out on the road during this holiday might notice a police roadblock searching for intoxicated drivers. While this might seem like an inconvenience to those who aren't driving drunk - the vast majority of us - it is important to be mindful of just how destructive the minority of drivers can be who choose to drink and drive.
Studies conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA") show that 35% of all traffic fatalities in 2009 were caused by drivers that were legally drunk.
Alarmingly, this is actually a 3% increase from figures taken 10 years earlier.
 
The holiday weekend is a perfect time to relax, have fun, and enjoy the (hopefully) beautiful weather. But always make sure to be mindful of the safety of yourself and others. We have seen far too many people injured by drunk drivers and lives altered horribly. Let someone else drive. Be safe.
 
You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of a drunk driving accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury and Business Litigation: Collecting from Defendants

The issue of collecting payment after you've obtained a judgment or verdict has two main forks in the road - the first of which is an insurance issue. In auto accidents, for example, the defendant will have an insurance policy that will pay out some, if not all, of your judgment. Often, we have had to chase even the insurance companies to collect many months after settlment, verdict or judgment.

Even when a judgment is collected, however, doctors, hospitals and other medical providers such as X-Ray and MRI companies may have what are known as "liens" on the money collected. Liens essentially "freeze" the money from being disbursed to anyone until they can be negotiated and released. Sometimes Medicare, for example, will have a lien (actually called the "Super Lien" as no written notice is even required!) and Medicare may take 6 months to maybe 1.5 years or more to resolve!

On the other hand, when a defendant either has no insurance or has a staggeringly low insurance policy, or a claim that is "outside the scope of insurance," (for instance, where you would sue someone for assault and battery, an employment-related dispute, or something else in an area that traditionally falls outside most insurance coverage), a successful plaintiff will have to seek to recover judgment from the defendant individually, which becomes a tricky subject.

Most people don't simply have, say, $50,000 sitting around for a rainy day for the far-out possibility that they may one day lose a lawsuit. What happens, then, if the defendant simply refuses to pay? Debtor's prison was abolished, we believe, over one hundred years ago and a judge will not send someone to jail for failing to participate in a lawsuit, and similiarly, a judge will not throw someone in jail for failing to pay on a judgment.

In instances like these, your lawyer must dig a little deeper and bring the court back into the mix. Some of the main options to attempt collection of a judgment (although there are certainly other options) are to bring a motion forcing the defendant to disclose all of his personal assets -- as a means to bring to light that perhaps he can really pay the judgment. This is generally known as a "Citation to Discover Assets."  Next, a plaintiff could bring a motion for the court to garnish the defendant's wages -- this essentially sets up a payment plan where the defendant can keep enough money each month to live on, but must pay you in regular installments. Further, a plaintiff could freeze certain assets such as a bank account -- basically, this option prevents the defendant from making any money transfers.

Unfortunately, an attorney cannot guarantee that a defendant will pay the money they owe and even if collection efforts are made, a defendant could always declare bankruptcy and then the plaintiff will usually receive very little or nothing. Stated simply, a judgment debt is a big deal -- it can ruin someone's credit rating, it can collect interest at a rate of about 9% per year, and a good attorney can even get it registered with the Recorder of Deeds where it will come up (interest included) every time the defendant attempts to borrow money, purchase a house, or conduct business that involves taking out a personal loan. The point of the matter is that a good attorney will exhaust every possible option to obtain their client's rightful reward.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you ensure that your judgment and verdict will be pursued or how, as a defendant, we may be able to help you resolve these issues (yes -- we actually help both plaintiffs and defendants). Most importantly, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury and Business Litigation: Medical Records and Bills as Evidence

For reasons that may be fairly straightforward, the importance of a client's medical records and bills in a personal injury case cannot be overstated. In all but the rarest of situations, medical bills will make up the bulk of a plaintiff's total damages.

A plaintiff's medical records hold the key to the essence of the case, as understanding the medical records will illustrate what the plaintiff's injuries are and, perhaps more importantly, what the plaintiff's injuries may be in the future (known as the "permanency" factor in these matters).

Lawyers are not medical doctors, and reading and understanding medical records is an exceedingly difficult task and often requires an expert or the Plaintiff's treating physician (or multiple physicians) to testify for the jury to understand and hear such evidence.

As anyone who has ever suffered an injury or illness that required a hospital stay can attest, doctors' reports are often dense, highly technical documents that do not translate well to plain English. So the question arises, then, of just how an attorney, who likely does not fully comprehend the medical documents himself, translates these documents for a jury.

There are a number of ways to accomplish this task. Sometimes, the best way to present medical evidence to a jury is through the client himself. It should be mentioned at this point that the only way to introduce the actual medical records (doctor's notes, x-rays, etc.) is through the doctor himself (more on this topic later). This is not a hard-and-fast rule, however, as a plaintiff will likely wish to call a doctor to testify for a complex, serious injury. Generally speaking, however, a plaintiff can testify to how he felt, what he saw, and how things have affected him, and following this logic, he can testify to the basics of his own condition; however, plaintiff's are not allowed to give medical opinions since a plaintiff is not qualified to give medical opinions.

Stated otherwise, it doesn't take a doctor to testify that the plaintiff broke their leg in a car accident -- the inference to be drawn is clear, and the testimony can be based solely on personal knowledge. However, how a back injury turned into, or evolved into, a more serious back injury as a result of a car accident may be considered an opinion that only a qualified expert (a doctor) can present to the jury.

As to bills, a client can testify to the amount of any bill that has already been paid for. If unpaid, the rules of evidence will require a doctor or record keeper to come to Court and testify as to the making of the bill, its reasonableness and other technical aspects of the bill to essentially verify that the bill is proper under the facts and circumstances of each particular situation. Without such testimony for bills -- whether paid or unpaid -- the jury would not be allowed to consider a plaintiff's bills in awarding any amount of money.

A skilled trial attorney will ensure that all of your medical bills and records are complete and turned over to the opposing attorneys long before trial and will ensure that a doctor or other form of testimony will be presented for the jury to hear the evidence and for the Court to accept the evidence. Without this critical evidence and proper presentation, your case could become worth very little, or even worthless. 

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you ensure that all of your medical records and bills "make it into your case." Most importantly, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury and Business Litigation: Lost Wages in Relation to Injuries

One of the first questions many clients have when discussing their legal rights is what can be done about the time at work they were forced to miss after an injury. This is a particularly pressing concern during difficult economic times such as these -- many individuals cannot bear the financial strain of missing a long stretch of work due to injuries, particularly those that were someone else's fault, and the harsh reality is that many workers return from an absence due to injury and find that their jobs are no longer waiting for them.

A lost wages claim is an essential part of any lawsuit. A skilled -- and prepared -- trial attorney will be sure to include it in your claim.

These claims are often highly contested between attorneys. The injured party has the burden of proof to prove wages were actually lost. The best way to go about proving these claims for lost wages will be through the testimony of the plaintif herself. But testimony alone will not be enough to state a successful claim, however, and documentation of proof is generally alway required. In fact, Illinois law essentially requires a plaintiff to produce tax returns from the year before the accident, the year of the accident, and the year after the accident -- or, sometimes, the W-2s or other tax and / or income documentation.

What this documentation does is give the court and jury a snapshot of what the plaintiff lost by not being able to work. For example, the tax returns from year before the accident generally demonstrates what the plaintiff was making while healthy, the returns from the year of the accident generally illustrate the specific drop-off from the year of the accident itself, and the returns from the year after the accident may show what the plaintiff is capable of earning in her present state. Every situation is different of course and no two cases may perfectly reflect a scenario via tax returns. Sometimes an expert such as an economist, vocational expert, tax attorney, tax preparer or Certified Public Accountant (CPA) may be necessary to prove lost wages--especially significant losses and losses that may be permanent.

In any event, a skilled -- but more importantly, prepared -- trial attorney will be sure to press for your lost wage claim. Preparedness is critical because at trial time, if an expert is not disclosed or properly prepared to testify for a significant wage loss, your wage loss claim will be disallowed or "barred." Be sure to discuss this in detail with your attorney in an injury claim and ask the "hard questions" as to how that wage claim will be proved.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you ensure your case is handled in a "prepared" fashion - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury and Business Litigation: The Importance of Completeness

The Importance of Completeness

In every case, there is a "discovery process" where parties exchange information and begin to weed out the issues of a case. Many attorneys make the mistake, however, of assuming that just because materials (be they interrogatories (a fancy word for "questions" in writing), requests to produce documents, requests to admit facts, amongst others) have been sent to the opposing counsel, that the issue of discovery is complete. This, however, is most certainly not the case, and it can often lead to tensions between the attorney and the client.

Courts take the rules governing discovery very seriously, and one of the rules most commonly argued over is the rule of completeness. When you complete discovery materials, your attorney will almost always require you to sign a statement known as an "affidavit of completeness" that states that the answers you gave were true and complete. For example, the Illinois Supreme Court even requires such be signed by affidavit (See Il. Sup. Ct. R. 214).

The problem with this, however, is that in the law, as is often true in life, open-ended questions often lead to vague answers. Courts often conclude, when confronted with such vague and ambiguous answers, that the answer should be interpreted as "yes," even if that was not your true intent. This often comes up in the context of the often-mentioned Requests to Admit Facts. Many of these proposed facts set forth broad statements that you may not have enough personal knowledge or information to answer. Following in line with this rule, however, simply stating that you cannot answer the question is the same as admitting that the statement is true, strange as it may seem. This is an easy mistake to make, but it is an incredibly difficult mistake to fix. Even if an attorney catches such a mistake in time, he will most likely then be forced to scramble at the last minute to contact the client, clarify the response, and fill out the neccessary documents to correct such an error.

An open line of communication between attorney and client is critically important -- when clients don't understand the complex language many attorneys use in their discovery requests, the attorney needs to be available to explain the questions, and likewise, when an attorney needs to make corrections and deal with situations as they arise, the client needs to be available as well. The consequences of a breakdown in the communication process are dire, and unfortunately they are quite common. This is why it is important to seek attorneys who can communicate effectively with their clients. Likewise, it is important for the clients to make the effort to communicate and tell the whole story to their lawyers.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you ensure your case is handled in a "complete" fashion - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury and Business Litigation: Trial Aspects of a Case

A case often develops and "takes on a life of its own" due to the strategies attempted to be employed by defense attorneys. Essentially, a trial strategy can often draw a striking contrast between the way an incident seemed at the time of its occurrence, and how things are actually presented at trial.

A good trial attorney must keep the Judge and Jury focused on the truth at all times - and with the utmost passion.

For example, defense attorneys might approach the damages component of many plaintiffs' claims by arguing over "causation." As a matter of background, most personal injury cases are rooted in the law of negligence. In order to sustain a claim, a plaintiff must show four (4) main points:

(1) that the defendant owed him/her a duty not to harm / cause injury;

(2) that the defendant breached that duty;

(3) that there is a direct causal link between the defendant's conduct and the plaintiff's injury (the "causation" component); and

(4) that the plaintiff suffered damages.

When one thinks of a standard personal injury case, the common consensus is that the parties are arguing over a matter of perception -- essentially, who's fault the incident really was. However, defense attorneys might concede fault or "admit liability" but then spend the lead-up to trial and focus their entire efforts during the entire case and subsequently during the trial, itself, arguing that the plaintiff's injuries were not caused by the defendant's conduct (negligence). In plain English, the defense attorney will argue "Injured Sally's bad back is the result of age and arthritis and not due to the rear-end car accident while Sally was sitting at a red light when Joe Defendant collided with Sally at 30 miles per hour." In fact, defense attorneys will often hire a medical expert (a medical doctor) to analyze x-rays and other medical evidence to show arthritis or any other pre-existing conditions.

From a tactical standpoint, this is an interesting approach, because it changes the focus of what a case is really about. Instead of arguing over which driver had the right-of-way, a case becomes about whether that visit to the chiropractor was necessary, or why a plaintiff took an extra week to begin physical therapy.

Attorneys can bicker back and forth on these issues for days on end, and some of them actually do. Injuries are tricky sometimes -- they aren't always immediately apparent. Or sometimes, people do not like to admit to themselves that they are injured and take a "wait-and-see approach" to seeking medical treatment. In retrospect, it's easy to make an armchair diagnosis, so to speak, and come to the conclusion that someone should have taken a particular course of treatment, but this approach isn't necessarily consistent with the way things appear at the time of an incident.

This is an important consideration to keep in mind when seeking an attorney -- no case is perfect, and what separates a skilled plaintiff's attorney is the ability to clearly make the "causation" and "link" between the current injury and the accident and to carefully address any pre-existing problems and "carve out" such issues. Likewise, it is important that an injured party clearly communicate with his/her doctor the injury so it is well-documented in the medical records.

If you are in an automobile accident, get all the information possible immediately and take notes. Then contact an attorney immediately. You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury and Business Litigation: Trial Time Issues

When a case goes to trial, it is often the case that some of the most important events happen behind closed doors, away from the jury and even away from the client.

Before a trial begins, attorneys from each side get together with the Judge and set down some "ground rules" for the trial, including what are known as jury instructions and "motions in limine" (more on the complicated topic of "motions in limine" later).

Jury instructions are how the judge instructs the jury regarding how they are to come to their verdict amongst other items, and they are the last thing a jury hears before they deliberate after the closing arguments by the attorneys - as such, their importance cannot be understated. When people think of jury instructions, what often comes to mind is often rather basic reminders that they are to decide what they think happened in the case, what the elements of the case are, what forms to fill out, things of this nature. 

But few realize that carefully presented jury verdicts can take a "good" case and transform it into an unqualified success.

Let's say you were the victim in a car accident. Let's say you were stopped at a red light, and for no reason, a car behind you crashes into you, causing damage to your vehicle and, unfortunately, injuring you in the process. In cases like this, defense attorneys sometimes admit that their client was "negligent," basically admitting that the accident was their fault, and instead spend their time trying to argue that your damages (medical bills) should be lower than what you claim because you "over treated" with doctors or that you treated for issues not related or caused by the accident. This can happen for any number of reasons, but it is generally welcome news to a plaintiff's attorney. But what does this admission really mean? Maybe they don't present certain witnesses, maybe they even admit their negligence in court, but a good defense attorney is going to try to downplay this impact.

So how can a good plaintiff's attorney take advantage of this? One effective way is to use the jury instructions to their advantage. If given a proper jury instruction, a judge will instruct a jury that the Defendant has admitted fault. Here is an example of such an instruction:

The defendant has admitted that he was negligent.

The plaintiff claims that she was injured and sustained damage as a result of that negligence.

The plaintiff further claims that defendant’s negligence was a proximate cause of his/her injuries.

This will be one of the last things the jury hears before it goes to deliberate, and while they are deliberating, these words, along with all the other jury instructions, will be sitting right in front of them, serving as a constant reminder of who was at fault.

Sometimes, a subtle tactic like this can mean the difference between going home empty-handed, or simply breaking even, and truly compensating a Plaintiff for his/her injuries in an amount that is fair and reasonable.

If you are in an automobile accident, get all the information possible immediately and take notes. Then contact an attorney immediately. You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury and Business Litigation: Felony or Criminal Backgrounds and Auto Accidents

It is one of the hallmarks of our judicial system that everyone is entitled to the same level of fairness in their access to the courts as everyone else. But sometimes, people are afraid to pursue their rights because they are afraid that things they have done in their past--particularly crimes--may be used against them.

For the first time, however, Illinois has joined the majority of states in enacting procedures to clarify what aspects of your criminal record can and cannot be used against you in a civil case. These issues are covered by Illinois Rule of Evidence 609, which came into effect on January 1, 2011.

Generally speaking, evidence of prior criminal convictions can only be brought up in a civil case to challenge your credibility as a witness - and regardless of what type of crime this is, only a conviction (or release from custody, whichever is more recent) within the last ten years is fair game.

From there, the Rule separates the use of convictions into 2 categories - misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors can only be used against you if it is a crime involving dishonesty.

Generally speaking, any felony from within the last ten years can be used to challenge your credibility, but in order for this to be true, it has to pass a test for relevancy. What this means is that a Judge weighs how useful the conviction really is in challenging someone's credibility against how harmful it would be to let a jury hear about a felony that doesn't really have anything to do with truthfulness. Take a felony drug conviction, for instance - does the fact alone that it is a felony mean that it can be used to challenge someone's credibility? Not in Illinois, at least. Illinois courts in cases such as the 1995 matter of O'Brien v. Sandrock have found that a prior felony drug conviction has little or nothing to do with someone's ability to tell the truth, and even though it is a felony, the stigma it carries with it tips the scales in favor of refusing to let an attorney question you with it.

A skilled lawyer will know how to bring this to a judge's attention at the right time before trial and keep any mention of it from trial in what is called a "motion in limine" to protect their client's rights in the process and to prevent the jury from hopefully ever hearing about criminal past out of fairness for the issues at hand.

We can answer questions like these for you and help you through such matters - and would be honored to so do. You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you. 

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury and Business Litigation: Blizzard Car Crashes

Reports are coming in of car crashes in the area during one of the worst blizzards in the Chicago and surrounding suburbs' recorded history. Numerous motorists were also stranded on Lake Shore Drive.

Streets are closed and others are near unable to be traveled upon. Still, the duties of a motorist remain. In fact, no matter the weather, Illinois motorists are still required to follow the "rules of the road" and Illinois law so that a lawsuit for negligence will not be brought against him/her/them for some or all of the following (but not necessarily limited to):

    • Carelessly and negligently operating, managing, maintaining, and/or controlling a vehicle;

    • Carelessly and negligently operating a motor vehicle at a rate of speed which was greater than reasonable and proper with regard to traffic conditions and the use of the highway, or which was greater than the applicable speed limit established in violation of the revised Statutes of the State of Illinois;

    • Carelessly and negligently failing to equip a motor vehicle with proper brakes although such a device was necessary to insure the safe operation of the vehicle;

    • Carelessly and negligently failing to give proper warning of the approach of a vehicle although such warnings were necessary to ensure the safe operation of the vehicle;

    • Carelessly and negligently rear-ending another’s vehicle;

    • Carelessly and negligently failing to keep a proper lookout and to stop or alter the course of a motor vehicle to avoid striking the vehicle; and/or

    • Being otherwise careless and negligent.

If you are in a crash, the Illinois Secretary of State has a checklist it suggests here:

Crash Checklist
If you are involved in or come upon a traffic crash:

  • Stop your vehicle in a safe, well-lighted public place.
  • Help an injured person if necessary or requested. First, protect the person from traffic, then cover the injured person for comfort and to avoid shock. Do not move an injured person unless absolutely necessary. Do not attempt to give first aid unless you have been trained in it. Call 911 immediately.
  • Someone should warn other drivers, using flares if available.
  • Ask all those involved for their names, addresses, phone numbers, driver’s license numbers and license plate numbers.
  • Notify the nearest police station as quickly as possible.

Further, after a crash, Illinois law requires reports (and so do many municipalities) such that, according to the Illinois Secretary of State (emphasis added):

"Regardless of fault, a crash report must be filed by the driver of a vehicle if the crash involves death, bodily injury or property damage of more than $1,500. (If any vehicle involved in the crash is uninsured, a report must be filed for $500 or more.)"

And the Illinois Secretary of State also states:

  • Notify the police immediately. Many towns and cities require a report if a crash occurs within their limits. Therefore, if an officer is not at the scene of the crash, a report must be made at the nearest police station as soon as possible. If in a rural area, the county sheriff or Illinois State Police must be notified. If the driver is unable to make the report and there is a passenger, the passenger must make the report.

  • A report also must be made to the Illinois Department of Transportation. This confidential report must be sent no later than 10 days after the crash. The form may be obtained from a police officer or automobile insurance agency.

If you are in an automobile accident, get all the information possible immediately and take notes. Then contact an attorney immediately. You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury and Business Litigation: State of Illinois sued

On January 20, 2011, we brought a suit against the State of Ilinois, Illinois Department of Corrections and Illinois' Department of Central Management Services (among others) alleging a four-car accident.

It is alleged that one of the two drivers named

struck Defendant Washington’s vehicle pushing it into Plaintiff’s vehicle and pushing Plaintiff’s vehicle into Defendant Brown’s vehicle and fled the scene; however, witnesses identified the [Illinois] State vehicle by license plate and/or description tracking back said vehicle to the State of Illinois.

If you are in an automobile accident, get all the information possible immediately and take notes. Then contact an attorney immediately. You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you.

Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury and Business Litigation

Tomorrow is a day we should keep in perspective, take a deep breath and remember. It was Abraham Lincoln who, in 1863, proclaimed (and no matter what side of the political fence you are on, the words are from the heart) "The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God . . . I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens..."

I am thankful--and honored--for my clients' trust in me, my colleagues and assistants who support me on a daily basis, my family and wife for the back up, the small and large accomplishments and all things good. Take a moment to look away from the bad news, focus on the good that has happened and remember, for at least a day, to be thankful.

Exposing the Greatest Corporate Malfeasance?

I am often questioned how the Toyota cases will "end up" in the Court system. No way to tell yet. At least for the class action cases. A recent article by The Wall Street Journal here, said a decision is expected in weeks as to the class action "venue" or where the cases could be consolidated and heard by attorneys vying for the "rights" to lead the charge. 

Ben Barnow of Chicago, an attorney I co-counseled with on another class action years ago, was one of those attorneys who spoke before the "panel" in pleading for jurisdiction of the cases. Most notably was a speech given at lunch time in a "prehearing litigation strategy conference" of the 100 or so attorneys vying for the coveted few minutes to speak at the hearing, as the article represented, represented, by a former Michael Jackson defense attorney, Michael Geragos:

'Everyone in this room is on the precipice of the opportunity to expose the greatest corporate malfeasance,' said Mr. Geragos. 'I would hope everyone in this room could coalesce and come together.'

We are filing individual suits in certain circumstances that may never become part of these class actions and are working with numerous individuals who have experienced sudden, unintended acceleration--and are honored to be able to speak for these traumatized (and some injured) individuals. If you believe you have been injured or suffered any property damage as a result of a potential gas pedal sticking, call us at 312.375.6524 to discuss your particular situation 24/7/365 and we'll determine if we can help.

Toyota Hid Damaging Information per Ex-Toyota Attorney...

In a breaking news story here on CNN, former in-house Toyota defense attorney, Dimitrios Biller, declares that he has some 6,000 internal Toyota documents that are "very damaging." According to the CNN article, Biller claims such documents were routinely withheld from Plaintiff's lawyers in product liability and negligence cases. 

Disturbingly, Biller says:

'There is a regular pattern and practice of not producing memos, minutes, reports, and e-mails,' [and] 'These documents can be used to establish liability against Toyota in product liability and negligence cases.'

One of our clients, Willette Green, reported her sudden, unintended acceleration to Toyota (and NHTSA) in the Fall of 2008 and Toyota denied any defect--a case involving the death of a panhandler who was run over when Willette's Lexus sped out of control. According to the CNN article, Toyota appears to have "Books of Knowledge" or "highly confidential information" related to such issues as sudden, unintended acceleration.

We are working with numerous individuals who have experienced sudden, unintended acceleration--and are honored to be able to speak for these traumatized (and some injured) individuals. If you believe you have been injured or suffered any property damage as a result of a potential gas pedal sticking, call us at 312.375.6524 to discuss your particular situation 24/7/365 and we'll determine if we can help.

2nd Lawsuit Filed Against Toyota...This Time A Death Involved...

 

Today, I filed the second lawsuit in Chicago, Illinois (Cook County Case No. 2010-L-002399) on behalf of Willette Green against Toyota alleging strict liability and negligence. This one involved the death of a pedestrian and injuries to Plaintiff after her 2006 Lexus ES 330 was unable to stop.

The lawsuit alleges:

On August 26, 2008, the Plaintiff was involved in an automobile accident at or near the intersection of 22nd Street and the feeder ramp from I-94 in Chicago, Illinois after her gas pedal—in the Lexus at issue and referenced herein—stuck and Plaintiff was unable to stop at the intersection, resulting in the death of a pedestrian, a crash with a third party, property damage and injuries to Plaintiff and others involved.

The lawsuit further alleges:

TOYOTA, by and through its agents, employees or representatives, was then and there guilty of one or more of the following careless negligent acts and/or omissions:

               

a.     carelessly and negligently designed, manufactured and sold the above-described Lexus;

b.     carelessly and negligently failed to institute and enforce a policy for review of the automobiles that it designs, manufactures and sells, including the aforestated Lexus, to insure that the Lexus and the vehicles are sold with adequate safeguards and controls; and

c.      was otherwise careless and negligent in the design, manufacture and sale of the above-described Lexus. 

The lawsuit further alleges:

The above-described Lexus was manufactured, sold and placed into the stream of commerce by the Defendant, TOYOTA, in an unsafe and defective condition and was unreasonably dangerous to its users by reason of, among others, the following defects in its design, manufacture, testing and/or marketing:

a.     in designing, manufacturing and providing the vehicle at issue of such construction that it could fail for multiple reasons, including its inability to stop or slow down, during normal foreseeable use;

b.     in failing to provide proper and clear warning of the dangers that the vehicle at issue might fail by not working as advertised and intended, causing injuries and damages to the Plaintiff;

c.      in failing to use available design and engineering skill or knowledge to produce a vehicle that would allow for proper operation;

d.     in failing to provide adequate operating instructions and warnings to Plaintiff who used the vehicle at issue even though the Defendant knew or should have known that such warnings were necessary for the safe use of the vehicle at issue;

e.     in failing to adequately inspect and test the vehicle at issue for safety prior to offering it for sale;

f.      in failing to discover that the vehicle at issue was dangerously defective, improperly designed and manufactured, inadequately tested and inspected, entirely unfit for duty and unsafe for use, constituting a hazard to Plaintiff; and/or

g.    in other respects to be proved at trial.

If you believe you have been injured or suffered any property damage as a result of a potential gas pedal sticking, call us at 312.375.6524 to discuss your particular situation 24/7/365 and we'll determine if we can help.

 

The Attorney That Answers His Own Phone...24/7/365

A colleague of mine, friend and great attorney in Wisconsin, Jonathan Groth, noted the signs of an attorney who listens and cares on his blog here when he said:

I just finished a jury trial in Milwaukee County. During the trial preparation my client and I were talking about how long we’ve known each other. I was the attorney that answered the phone when he called in the very first time soon after the collision. He didn’t talk with a paralegal, 'intake specialist' or secretary. I worked with him since, literally, day one.

Jon went on to note something that is absolutely paramount when choosing a lawyer: 

This kind of service is important to think about when you search/interview for your attorney. Hiring an attorney is a very personal matter. Availability (email, cell phone etc) and personality are extremely important to make sure your attorney will be with you for the long haul. By this I mean potentially to trial. Even though the vast majority of my clients’ cases settle before filing a lawsuit and before trial I think it helps them to know that their attorney will be willing and has the experience to fight at trial.

Like Jon Groth does in Wisconsin, I do in Illinois: you call, I answer the phone--24/7/365. Send an e-mail--you'll get a response. If I don't answer immediately, I either have 3 other calls coming in or am in front of a Judge or in a deposition and I guarantee you will receive a return call that day or evening. Your issues matter. Make sure your attorney answers his or her phone--and listens.

First Suit Against Toyota in Chicago and Illinois...

According to Robert Langendorf, one of the attorneys for Mr. Izenstark, and an attorney I am working with on Toyota cases, we believe we have filed the first suit against Toyota in Chicago and perhaps Illinois for the gas pedal problem. Mr. Langendorf was quoted in the front page of the Business Section of the Chicago Tribune on February 6, 2010 here

In addition, unique to this case is that we also sued Hertz for renting the vehicle to the Plaintiff when it 'knew, or should have known about dangerous issues with Toyotas or the Toyota recall or intended recall.' 

If you believe you have been injured or suffered any property damage as a result of a potential gas pedal sticking, call us at 312.375.6524 to discuss your particular situation 24/7/365 and we'll determine if we can help.

Suit Filed Against Toyota For Gas Pedal Sticking...

Today, we filed a lawsuit in Chicago, Illinois (Cook County Case No. 2010-L-001675) against Toyota and Hertz alleging strict liability and negligence. Hertz actually rented the 2010 Toyota Corolla long after Toyota noted potential problems with gas pedals in various models.

The lawsuit alleges:

TOYOTA, by and through its agents, employees or representatives, was then and there guilty of one or more of the following careless negligent acts and/or omissions:

a.      carelessly and negligently designed, manufactured and sold the above-described Corolla;

 

b.     carelessly and negligently failed to institute and enforce a policy for review of the automobiles that it designs, manufactures and sells, including the aforestated Corolla, to insure that the Corolla and the vehicles are sold with adequate safeguards and controls; and

 

c.      was otherwise careless and negligent in the design, manufacture and sale of the above-described Corolla.

The lawsuit further alleges:

The above-described Corolla was manufactured, sold and placed into the stream of commerce by the Defendant, TOYOTA, in an unsafe and defective condition and was unreasonably dangerous to its users by reason of, among others, the following defects in its design, manufacture, testing and/or marketing:

a.     in designing, manufacturing and providing the vehicle at issue of such construction that it could fail for multiple reasons, including its inability to stop or slow down, during normal foreseeable use;

 

b.     in failing to provide proper and clear warning of the dangers that the vehicle at issue might fail by not working as advertised and intended, causing injuries and damages to the Plaintiff;

 

c.      in failing to use available design and engineering skill or knowledge to produce a vehicle that would allow for proper operation;

 

d.     in failing to provide adequate operating instructions and warnings to Plaintiff who used the vehicle at issue even though the Defendant knew or should have known that such warnings were necessary for the safe use of the vehicle at issue;

 

e.     in failing to adequately inspect and test the vehicle at issue for safety prior to offering it for sale;

 

f.      in failing to discover that the vehicle at issue was dangerously defective, improperly designed and manufactured, inadequately tested and inspected, entirely unfit for duty and unsafe for use, constituting a hazard to Plaintiff; and/or

 

g.    in other respects to be proved at trial.

The lawsuit further alleges:

HERTZ, by and through its agents, employees or representatives, was then and there guilty of one or more of the following careless negligent acts and/or omissions:

a.      carelessly and negligently rented, cared, maintained and serviced the above-described Corolla;

 

b.     carelessly and negligently failed to institute and enforce a policy for review of the automobiles that it rents, including the aforestated Corolla, to insure that the vehicles are rented with adequate safeguards and controls or that such vehicles, including the Corolla at issue, is safe to entrust to its customers;

 

c.      carelessly and negligently made the vehicle available for rent knowing, or in a situation where it should have known, of problems with the Corolla at issue or the Toyota recall or future, intended recall; and

 

d.     was otherwise careless and negligent in the rental, care, maintenance and service of the above-described Corolla. 

If you believe you have been injured or suffered any property damage as a result of a potential gas pedal sticking, call us at 312.375.6524 to discuss your particular situation 24/7/365 and we'll determine if we can help.

 

Toyota Gas Pedals Admittedly Sticking...

According to a Toyota press release, Toyota intends to recall 2.3 million vehicles to fix accelerator or gas pedals. Toyota claims its engineers "have developed and rigorously tested a solution that involves reinforcing the pedal assembly in a manner that eliminates the excess friction that has caused the pedals to stick in rare instances." 

Jim Lentz, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.'s President and Chief Operating Officer, has stated:

We know what’s causing the sticking accelerator pedals, and we know what we have to do to fix it. 

Per Toyota, vehicles affected by the recall include:

• Certain 2009-2010 RAV

• Certain 2009-2010 Corolla

• 2009-2010 Matrix

• 2005-2010 Avalon

• Certain 2007-2010 Camry

• Certain 2010 Highlander

• 2007-2010 Tundra

• 2008-2010 Sequoia 

If you believe you have been injured or suffered any property damage as a result of a potential gas pedal sticking, call us at 312.375.6524 to discuss your particular situation 24/7/365 and we'll determine if we can help.

Insurance Company? Witnesses? Should You Talk to them?

After an auto or other accident (auto, malpractice, slip and fall--or any incident such as a breach of contract, sexual harassment incident, assault and battery, nursing home negligence and abuse or any incident you can possibly imagine), insurance companies will most likely be the first to contact you. Next, will be other individuals or entities--all trying to investigate and obtain information to build a defense against any potential claim you may have.

Whether you should talk to the insurance company (or any other person or entity) is basically a judgment call on your part; however, you should simply consult with an attorney first and ask the insurance company or other investigator that your attorney be present on a teleconference call to protect your rights. You generally have a duty to cooperate with your own insurance company under your policy.

And if another party's insurance company contacts you, a witness or other investigator, you are generally not required to talk to at all--and should not without an attorney present. A third party's insurance company or other investigator will most likely take down notes, or worse, record the conversation and then try to build a defense in your case or use every single word you say against you 6 months, 1 year, 2 years later in your case. In addition, defendant's insurance companies will try to "push" low settlement offers--sometimes $500.00 or $1,000.00 when your medical bills could quickly escalate over those amounts after an accident.

As for witnesses or other investigators, you should absolutely consult with an attorney first. The attorney should be involved to take a witness statement if possible for preservation of thoughts and observations while they are fresh in everyone's minds. Again, such statements can greatly impact your case and you should get all contact information from a witness immediately at the scene of an accident--the more telephone numbers, the better!

If you are unsure of who to speak with, simply pick up the phone and call us at 312-375-6524 (24/7/365--and we really mean that!) for two minutes. We can help and those two minutes could impact your case significantly

In 2010: Texting / E-Mail Will Now Get You a Ticket! Just Don't Do It!

Effective January 1, 2010, using your mobile device can get you a ticket, but worse, they cause accidents which sometimes cause injuries to you and others for life. Bottom line, wait to use your mobile device, focus on the road and be respectful of others around you--especially while doing 65 m.p.h. down the highway. Mobile devices are shown to cause distractions and having handled numerous auto accidents, our firm learns that Defendants were often using mobile devices just before an accident and our clients pay dearly with life-altering injuries.

Illinois House Bills 71 and 72 were signed in August of 2009 by Governor Pat Quinn and according to a summary of the laws on the State of Illinois web site here

The new laws ban motorists from sending text messages while driving in Illinois, and make it illegal to talk on a cell phone while driving through a highway construction zone or school zone.  In addition, it will become illegal to compose, send or read text messages, instant messages and e-mail on a cell phone or surf the internet while driving.  The ban also includes personal digital assistants and portable or mobile computers, but does not include global positioning systems (GPS) or navigation systems.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates, driver distraction from all sources contributes to 25 percent of all police-reported traffic crashes. If you have a youth driver in the home, take 5 minutes and explain the ramifications of using a mobile device while driving. Plead with them to wait a few minutes before using their mobile devices. And even adults need to put the devices down, keep their eyes on the road and help make the roads a safer place for all.

If you are in an automobile accident and you believe the person who hit you was using a mobile device, pointedly ask the person (if you can have a civil conversation with him or her) if they were using a cell phone or texting when they hit you. If they admit it, tell the police officer that comes to the scene to at least make a note of it in the police report even if the police do not issue a ticket and ask the police officer to confirm the conversation. Contact us 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as wewill answer our phone) if you have any questions about how such an accident could affect your claim against that driver. 

PASSION - INTEGRITY - TRUST - RESULTS

PASSION - INTEGRITY - TRUST - RESULTS

Taking a personal injury matter where a man, a woman or a child has been injured (slightly or significantly) requires, first and foremost, passion and empathy. If a lawyer cannot truly understand the suffering (again, small or significant) that another human being is enduring, the lawyer cannot demonstrate or exhibit to every person, insurance company and, ultimately, the jury how that suffering has affected a person's life.

The same holds true when a person or company is cheated out of money. When money owed is not paid. When a person or a company is wrongfully sued and must be zealously defended. Money cheated, money owed and wrongful or frivolous lawsuits cause suffering in a person's life as well. People can't sleep at night. People worry. They cannot focus on their jobs, their family, life in general. People lose their homes because bills aren't getting paid. Credit is ruined. Family arguments erupt.

A person's life in personal injury situations is even more dramatically affected when even a hurt back or a hurt neck makes it next to impossible to sit at a desk all day long at work or perform manual labor--whichever life calling a person follows. Sometimes "calling off" from the pain results in a lost job and a downward spiral of a lost home, lost relationships, lost life. The things you used to enjoy you can enjoy no longer. It wasn't your fault.

Your lawyer needs to truly understand all of these aspects of how a personal injury matter or business dispute has affected your life. Aggressive and zealous representation and empathy are an absolute must. An attentive ear--listening to you--is the only way a lawyer can fully comprehend the situation. Phil Berenz listens.

Integrity is doing the "right thing when nobody is looking." Your lawyer must handle every aspect, every conversation of your matter with the utmost integrity-when you are not on the phone and when you are not present. Trust must be unequivocally paramount.

And, finally, while a lawyer can never guarantee a particular outcome in any matter, the passion, integrity and trust will usually (not always) end in positive, productive results.

Illinois State Police Speed Policy Change in Response to Deaths

The Illinois State Police is instituting a new speed policy that calls for a "four tier response code system" beginning January 1, 2009. Read the facts of the new policy here. After two sisters were killed when an Illinois State Police Trooper's squad car crossed an I-64 median last November, Illinois State Police felt it was time to institute a policy to prevent future tragedies. Notably, this is only the second state in the nation to implement such speed policies and as the Illinois State Police points out:

The policy will institute a four-tier response code system for officers responding to calls for service. This policy will outline the use of emergency equipment and the speed and manner in which the officer will respond to a call, including supervisory notification when the responding officer intends to exceed the posted speed limit more than 20 mph. Supervisors will also be required to monitor the incident as it evolves and make appropriate changes in their officers’ response code as necessary. 

Pursuing another vehicle "at all costs" is simply unacceptable. Hopefully, this policy will prevent future tragedies.

Gruesome Photographs: Admissible at Trial?

At trial time, Defendants may make a motion before the Court to exclude gruesome photographs of injuries. However, simply because the photograph(s) may be gruesome and possibly cause prejudice in the minds of the jury is no reason to exclude the photograph(s). See e.g. Burnett v. Caho, 7 Ill.App.3d 266, 272 (3rd Dist. 1972). Admissibility is within the discretion of the trial judge and it is common practice to display personal injuries to the jury "even though there is no controversy as to the existence, nature and extent thereof." See id. For example, it has even been held to include the right to show an injured eyeball that has been removed and it is not error to permit the plaintiff to display his injuries to the jury and to testify briefly while so doing. See id.

Generally speaking, such exhibits are admissible if the probative value of the exhibits is not outweighed by their inflammatory effect. See Drews v. Gobel Freight Lines, Inc., 144 Ill.2d 84, 99 (Ill. 1991). In Drews, the plaintiff introduced photographs of a decedent taken at a morgue to support Plaintiff's claim for decedent's pain and suffering. One of the photographs even showed multiple lacerations to the decedent's face and throat, and the other photograph showed a gaping wound and burns to a knee. Similar to the Burnett case, the Illinois Supreme Court in Drews held that in spite of the fact that a photo may be gruesome or inflammatory, the trial judge may admit it for the probative value in assisting the jury's determination of the extent of pain and suffering. See id.

The Person Who Hit Me Received a Ticket! Won't the Jury Hear About That?!

Many individuals who are in accidents often ask me whether the jury will hear that the defendant received a ticket in relation to the accident. They would love for the jury to hear that! They are often surprised to hear me say "absolutely not." In fact, I tell them that the Judge--prior to the trial even beginning--makes decisions on whether such issues will ever be heard by the jury. These decisions by the Judge are based on what are known as "Motions in Limine." Motions in Limine are specific requests brought by both parties to prevent the mention of, question of, reference to, inquiry of, suggestion of--directly or indirectly--certain evidentiary issues. The rationale for excluding certain issues such as traffic tickets is, among other reasons, to prevent unfair prejudice to a party. Defendants routinely demand that evidence of traffic tickets be excluded from admissibility before the jury unless, generally speaking, a proper foundation is made as to a defendant pleading guilty (as opposed to being found guilty) and a certified copy of the guilty plea being made available at trial time. Even then, there is no guarantee a Judge will allow a guilty plea to a traffic ticket to be heard by the jury depending upon the specific circumstances of the situation. If the Judge rules that no evidence of traffic tickets will be admissible and a plaintiff (or his attorney or potentially other witnesses) mentions the ticket, the defendant's attorney will most likely move for an immediate mistrial!