Chicago Trial Attorney: Personal Injury & Business Litigation - Will Your Lawyer Fight Every Inch of the Way?

Multiple "levels" of rules exist in law - from the Constitution all the way down to administrative rules and then the cases interpreting all of them. Skilled and experienced lawyers know how to employ them on your behalf - or in your defense every inch of the way throughout your case if necessary and possible. Is your lawyer doing that?

In fact, I often file motions when Defense Attorneys seem to want to start to "testify" for their own clients or file insufficient knowledge answers. Such is clearly not allowed:

 

Every allegation not explicitly admitted is denied. 735 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/2-610(b) (Lexis 2014).

In fact, the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure requires that a defendant’s answer contain an explicit “admission” or “denial” of each allegation in the complaint with one important exception: for situations where the defendant lacks knowledge to admit or deny the allegation, provided that the defendant (not the defendant's attorney) attaches an affidavit stating that s/he lacks the necessary knowledge. However, if the defendant does not attach an affidavit, the allegations may be deemed admitted. Bank of Ravenswood v. Domino’s Pizza, 269 Ill. App. 3d 714, 723-24 (1st Dist. 1995).

Allegations in a complaint should be deemed admitted when not specifically admitted or denied - or when an attorney, in essence, attempts to "testify for" his or her client. See Bank of Ravenswood, 269 Ill. App. 3d at 723-24.

The law also makes it clear that Defendants cannot demand “strict proof” and in fact even the federal courts have criticized this practice. See e.g. Sun Life Assurance Co. of Can. v. Great Lakes Bus. Credit, L.L.C., 968 F. Supp.2d 898, 904 (N.D. Ill. 2013); Gilbert v. Johnston, 127 FRD 145 (N.D. Ill. 1989) (noting that neither the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure nor the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure provides for demands for strict proof).

Will your lawyer watch out for such incorrect admissions or denials every step of the way? Will your lawyer explain to the Judge and Court that such is not allowed? Raise your hand and ask your lawyer. Get a second opinion if you are not getting a straight or thorough answer. 

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 may need, or simply want, a second opinion or want to know how to fight every inch of the way as these cases are battles unfortunately - 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 - Will Your Lawyer Actually File Suit? Second Opinion?

Will your lawyer actually take that step to file a lawsuit if necessary? Or will your attorney do what I call "short settle" and never step foot in court? 

There are times to settle outside of Court and before ever filing suit - and often. However, I see too many lawyers taking the first offer or what I call "short settling" a case - any type of case. Good lawyers "work up" cases to settle every time and often cases can be settled without ever filing suit - the key is: has your case been "worked up"? 

Many of my clients mistakenly believe that the insurance companies will have to spend thousands on legal fees to defend a case if a lawsuit is simply filed and demand that a lawsuit be filed immediately no matter what. This mistaken belief is often not true many times at all! In fact, the "way it works" in the real world is that many insurance companies - especially with respect to auto accident insurance companies - have lawyers essentially "on staff" and at a "fixed cost" without a need to pay their lawyers by the hour. On the flip side, sometimes the defense lawyers hired by the insurance company are, in fact, paid by the hour - but for a reason.

Filing a lawsuit could be one of the worst things you could possibly do depending upon the circumstances and every case is different. Again, the key is - has your case been "worked up" and analyzed to determine whether it's time to file or time to settle.

Big companies "skew" my clients' mistaken beliefs in the "system". In fact, a very recent Summer 2014 letter put out by the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association ("ITLA" and of which I am a proud member!), has established the true facts on how the system is working in relation to lawsuit filings:

The fact is the filing of civil lawsuits in Illinois has steadily declined since 2007 – the number is down nearly 25 percent – but making note of that does not support [big business'] objective. Nor do statistics showing injury lawsuits make up just 6 percent of all civil cases filed in state courts. Indeed, businesses and insurance company supporters initiate most civil litigation; nearly 70 percent of civil cases involve businesses suing other businesses or individuals for money. 

Next time you talk to your lawyer, ask him or her - did you work up my case before you suggested I take that first offer? Ask careful questions. I invite them from my clients. I want to educate my clients about the pros and cons of settling - or filing a lawsuit. Make sure you make the right decision at that fork in the road - or get a second opinion.

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 may need, or simply want, a second opinion - 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 - 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

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: 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: 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: Carnival Cruise Lines Ship Breakdown

As most are aware, Carnival Cruise ship the Triumph recently endured an incident at sea. Passengers allegedly endured horrendous and deplorable conditions on what was allegedly to be a vacation of a lifetime for some. 

When purchasing an automobile, purchasers routinely check out the safety features to make a decision before purchasing. How many people actually check the safety records of a cruise ship? Not many! According to research available here it’s almost impossible to locate.

Cruise ships are apparently not regulated under U.S. Federal safety regulations compared to airlines for example and nearly all cruise ships are registered under foreign "flags" doing business in the United States.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, a yearly inspection is performed of every cruise ship that docks in the United States for the operation of the vessel to the backup generators and life boats. The Center for Disease Control ("CDC") also maintains a database of disease outbreaks and other health safety information. 

If being towed for five days was just unacceptable, or if you suffered any other issues in relation to this cruise, contact us to discuss any potential legal remedies. 

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 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, Toxic Tort Law -- NBC Investigation into North Carolina Ground Water Contamination a Harrowing Must-Read

In an investigative study that feels eerily similar to a Hollywood screenplay, NBC recently released the details into their investigation claimed ground water contamination in North Carolina that the state allegedly did not notify residents of for over six years.

As the article details, the Environmental Protection Agency began calling residents in the area this past summer notifying them that their water was contaminated with an industrial cleaning solution that contained a chemical commonly known as TCE that is known to cause cancer when exposed to humans. The article further notes that the government quickly began damage control:

"the EPA set up an emergency command post and placed safe water on their doorsteps regularly. The EPA installed water filters in the homes with contamination levels above the EPA’s safety standard. And the EPA called a community meeting to explain what neighbors had been drinking."

The details of the article, however, suggest that if the damage has already been done, then the multitude of "red flags" that the article turned up in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request suggest that various agencies may have known about this contamination for years and done nothing about it.

This article, though extremely troubling, is a must-read all the same, and certainly something all should be vigilant about. If and when these sorts of matters do lead to widespread reports of cancer or other illness and/or side effects, the ensuing litigation generally tends to be amongst the more drawn out and contentious of civil disputes, and while it's far too soon to tell in this matter, there's nothing to suggest that this would be any different. But the paper trail unearthed, thus far, is certainly a disturbing one that sheds enough light on the situation to give anyone pause.

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 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: 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: 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: 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

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.

Guatemala Syphilis Study-Was Your Loved One Affected?

On October 1, 2010, numerous news articles were released regarding the recently-discovered Syphilis experiment or "study" in Guatemala on unknowing mental health "participants." Apparently, according to the numerous news articles including one from the Chicago Tribune found here where the doctor involved in the infamous Tuskegee experiment on African-American males in Alabama in the 1970s, Dr. John C. Cutler, and the National Institutes of Health, among other United States governmental organizations and the Guatemalan government, itself, knowingly participated and/or approved of the experiment on unknowing victims.

The United States apologized on Friday. President Barack Obama, himself, apparently expressed an apology to Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom as did U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins called the Tuskegee and Guatemalan studies:

a dark chapter in the history of medicine

According to the news articles, Wellesley College Professor Susan Reverby was responsible for uncovering the evidence of the experiment to infect people with Syphilis in an effort to explore treatments. Professor Reverby's Synopsis on  "'Normal Exposure' and Inoculation Syphilis: A PHS 'Tuskegee' Doctor in Guatemala, 1946-48" published in the Journal of Policy History, Special Issue on Human Subjects, in January 2010 can be found on Professor Reverby's web site here

Decades ago, a civil rights lawsuit was filed on behalf of victims and families involved in the Tuskegee Syphilis study on African-American males in Alabama against the United States and other governmental organizations. If you believe you or a loved one may have been affected by this newly-uncovered Guatemalan Syphilis study from the 1940s, contact us here immediately to discuss the situation. If we can determine that we can help you or your loved one, we would be truly honored to be an advocate for something so reprehensible and try to bring a sense of peace and justice to all.

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.

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

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.

Children's Products Get Lead Limit by New Federal Law...

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) was signed into law on August 14, 2008. The CPSIA establishes consumer product safety standards and other safety requirements for children's products and "reauthorizes" and "modernizes" the Consumer Product Safety Commission. It is a very strong law involving harsh civil and criminal penalties for those who violate it. Read all about the Act here.

One important aspect of the Act lowers the amount of lead that can be in children’s products. The limits will be phased in over the course of three years. By February 10, 2009, products designed or intended primarily for children 12 and younger may not contain more than 600 ppm of lead. Children’s products that contain more lead than 600 ppm are banned in the U.S. after February 10, 2009, and the sale of those products can result in significant civil and criminal liability. After 1 year from enactment, or August 14, 2009, products designed or intended primarily for children 12 and younger cannot contain more than 300 ppm of lead. The limit goes down to 100 ppm after three years, or August 14, 2011, unless the Commission determines that it is not technologically feasible to have this lower limit.

Another important aspect of the Act is that it requires third-party testing of children's products. Class actions against manufacturers of products that violate the Act may be warranted as compliance fails.