Debt collection, when has it gone too far? For one debt collector, a fax to the debtor’s employer was the line. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act was put in place to protect people who are being hounded by debt collection agencies. In the past, these collection agencies would not just call the person who owes them money, but also call friends, family members, neighbors and even the employers just as a tactic to shame the debtor into making a payment arrangement or simply trying to collect on the debt.

In this case, a fax was sent to the employer of a debtor after he disputed the debt. The collection agency sent a job verification form via fax, asking for salary and other financial information about  the debtor to his employer, several times. The judge ruled in the debtor’s favor allowing him to sue the debt collector for unfair practices.

According to the FDCPA, debt collectors may not engage in harassing or abusive conduct including communication with a third party other than the credit bureaus concerning collection of the debt. A collection agency must follow several rules or they open themselves up to lawsuits in violation of the FDCPA. These rules include verification of the debt, proper handling of disputes of the debt, and the way they handle themselves on each call. They may not harass or belittle a person who owes money, and threats of legal action cannot be made by anyone but law enforcement officials.

Have you been harassed by a debt collector? Have they called you names or threatened you with jail time or other unreasonable threats? If so, please contact us. We will help you find an attorney in your area who will look out for your best interest. What’s interesting about these cases and great for consumers is that it costs nothing up front to get an attorney to take on your case. All the lawyers we recommend handle these matters on a contingency basis.  If they win the case the Judge will order the debt collector to pay your lawyer fees.

There is a difference between favoritism and harassment in the workplace. Many people don’t understand that simply because their boss is downright mean or offensive, that doesn’t mean you have been a victim of work harassment, or that you would have the ability to bring suit against that employer.

Harassment in the workplace is unbearable. Anyone who has experienced it is aware how hard it is to continue wanting to go to work every day. Harassment in the workplace that is able to be litigated would stem from an instance where a worker was treated differently based solely on his or her race, gender, or age. For instance, if a woman was able to prove that she was not given a promotion because she refused when her boss came on to her, she might have a case. However, if the same boss called the woman a bad name or hurt her feelings in any way, she probably would not have a case.

Favoritism in the workplace is also very difficult to deal with. Everyone has that one person who the boss absolutely loves, regardless of what he or she does. It can make the workplace uncomfortable, but unless it is able to be proven, again based on race, gender, or age, there is little to nothing that can be done about it.

If there is favoritism happening in your office, one resource maybe your employee handbook. If the rules for promotion and pay raises are addressed in the handbook, you may be able to speak to your supervisor about the issue at hand. If your supervisor still breaks the rules in your employee handbook, you may be able to bring a breach of contract case against the employer. These cases are very difficult to prove, but in some situations, they have been successfully tried.

If your boss has made sexist, or racist comments, or has denied you a promotion or raise due to your age, you might have a case to pursue. Discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace is 100% illegal.

If you are unable to distinguish if what you are experiencing is harassment and illegal or favoritism, give us a call for a free consultation to go over the specifics of your case.

You can be sued for negligence if you get into a car accident while driving your own children; IF the circumstances all line up and a judge agrees. One father found this out the hard way. He was driving the children back from what was supposed to be a Boy Scouts of America camping trip. When bad weather came about, the trip was cancelled. Many in the group hunkered down for the night through the storm, and left in the early morning after cleaning the camping site.

In this circumstance, an unregistered volunteer of the Boy Scouts of America drove only his own children back to the location and guidelines the group had in place. Along the way, he drove of the side of the road, and his Buick flipped. His two children were injured. His younger son thankfully walked away with only lacerations. His older son however was not as lucky. He suffered a severe spinal cord injury and a broken ankle. He will have motor and sensory effects for the rest of his life due to the accident.

To make this case even more heart wrenching, the person who filed the lawsuit is not only the children’s mother, but also the wife of the driver. She chose to blame the father for the accident, believing it was driving while fatigued that caused the accident. She also chose to blame Boy Scouts of America, its local affiliate, the Three Fires Council, and Naperville Presbyterian Church. She sued and the negligence suit was later settled out of court for $11 million dollars. One attorney involved in the case stated that the leadership of the entire event had a responsibility to ensure no one left the site in a fatigued state. That responsibility was not upheld.

The guilt involved in any accident involving your own child is unbearable, but to then have to go through the horrors of court with the finger of negligence pointing at you in unimaginable. Needless to say, the wife has since divorced her tired driving husband, and has taken the children with her. Both children are now doing well, the oldest son is looking forward to graduation.

The reality of this case is that although the husband was named as a defendant, it was only because the Boy Scouts and the Church were the real lawsuit targets. So don’t expect to see a lot of similar kid vs. parent type cases in the future without a big defendant to be a part of the case too. In general a kid can’t sue a parent for this type of accident, but this case was an exception to the rule.

I was involved in a case that stemmed from a terrible act of negligence by a doctor. It was obvious when the case started that the doctor screwed up and there was no apparent defense. The family of the patient lost a great person who was loved by many. They weren’t looking for a lottery ticket, but wanted compensation for their loss and to ensure that measures were put in to place to prevent this from happening to anyone else.

The case took almost four years and right before the trial was about to start, the first settlement offer was made. Previously the insurance company said that no offer would be made. The first offer wasn’t good enough, neither was the second. But after a little back and forth the parties settled for a fair sum. Each side spent thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands in legal costs to get to this point. Nothing really changed from day one and the amount that was settled for was basically the bottom line from when this tragic accident happened.

So why do so many cases settle right before trial?

There are actually a lot of reasons. In no particular order:
– While the insurance company/defendant may know they are at fault, they don’t know who will be suing them. By making you give a deposition, they may learn that you’d make a terrible witness at trial or that your loved one was a terrible person. Maybe they’ll learn that you didn’t have much of a relationship with them or that you are a drug addict or convicted child molester. Most of these things aren’t probable, but before you give away millions, you want to find out.
– You or whoever is bringing the lawsuit could die. That would potentially reduce the value of the case. If a man dies and leaves behind a wife, but no kids, if she passes away, the impact of the loss isn’t as great. Sounds morbid, but this is how insurance companies think.
– They earn interest on the money they aren’t paying you.
– New facts could emerge that make what seems like a slam dunk case turn in to just a so-so case. They are looking for any reason to deny your claim and if they don’t go through the discovery process they’ll never know what defense they could have had. We were involved with a case of a woman who was rear-ended by a semi truck driver. Seems like a sure thing, right? Well their expert alleged that her break lights weren’t working and since this happened at night, it created a possible defense.
– People who are scared of trial might jump at a low ball offer. If your case is worth $10 million and they offer you $4 million a year before trial, you won’t feel as anxious because there is plenty of time to negotiate. On the other hand, if opening statements are tomorrow morning and then you have to testify, you might want that sure thing and avoid the agony of being on a witness stand. At least that’s their theory.
– The insurance company doesn’t want people to think these cases are easy. If they don’t make the plaintiff’s attorneys spend their own money and have something at risk then they will bring every possible lawsuit that they can.

Of course there are plenty of other reasons too and not every case takes this long. Just know that if it happens to you, you are not alone or experiencing anything unique. To you it’s rightfully a serious matter. To the insurance people it’s a game or about risk analysis.

Your cell phone rings, you look over and see the dreaded “unknown caller” show up on caller ID. Thanks to a recently written opinion, those phone calls to your cellphone will no longer be allowed at all. In addition, it enables the go ahead to pursue class action lawsuits against those companies who break the law.

Back in 1991, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act was put into place (TCPA). The TCPA made it illegal for people to receive robo calls to their landline phone numbers without prior consent. However, as a stipulation, the FCC regulations allow for tax-exempt organizations such as political surveys, etc. to continue making those prerecorded calls. In 1991, the use of cell phones was slim to none. According to InfoPlease.com (http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0933563.html) there were only 7,557,148 cell phone subscribers in 1991 opposed to the current approximately 262 Million users. Needless to say, the call to apply this law to cell phones wasn’t needed in 1991 the way it has been needed today.

Currently, there is a huge population of Americans who no longer have a landline home phone, and primarily use their cell phones. In the recently handed down opinion, the FCC exemptions do not apply, but the rules for a landline do apply for a cell phone.

This all was brought to light thanks to the more than one million people who received telephone calls from people claiming to be Political Opinion of America, in an attempt to show their non-exempt status. During these calls, people were offered a free cruise. They would only have to pay for the taxes and port fees and gratuity. However, if they wanted an upgraded cruise experience, they simply needed to tour a timeshare facility. After listening to the recorded calls, it is evident that this had nothing to do with Political Opinions and everything to do with soliciting new business for a timeshare company.

There are certain factors to the TCPA everyone should be aware of. One of which is that it is prohibited to auto dial, or prerecord non-emergency calls to cell phones unless the caller has prior consent from the person receiving the call. TCPA violations can be a big deal. Violations provide damages of $500 per violation, and if it can be proven that the violation was willful or knowingly done, the damages awarded could be up to 3 times the original amount. Meaning, these calls simply are not allowed to your cell phone without prior consent.

If you believe you have a TCPA violation there are a few things to keep in mind, the burden of proof will lie on you to prove your lack of prior express consent. Other infractions include excessive phone calls (more than four calls a day from the same debt collector), the use of an auto dialer or computer dialer, calling you at work or revealing a debt to a third party are all part of violations.

If you believe you have a TCPA violation, the best thing to do is speak to a competent attorney to discuss your options. If you’d like our help in finding an attorney with a track record of success in these cases, call us at (312) 346-5320 or fill out our form on our website.

In 2015, Illinois signed a new portion of the Probate Act. This new portion was designed to be a tool to help avoid elder abuse situations. However, this new portion of the law opens the door for meaningful transfers to possibly be voided too. How does this new law affect your estate planning and end of life documentation planning?

When most people think of elder abuse, they think about the awful videos online showing elderly men and women in nursing care being physically neglected or abused. Most people don’t automatically think of the mental abuse that happens often at the hands of the caretakers for the elderly.

A good example of non-physical abuse is a caretaker taking advantage of Aunt Sally by manipulating her into adding themselves to Aunt Sally’s will, in an attempt to gift or transfer property to the caretakers upon Aunt Sally’s death. This example is exactly why the new law was put in to effect; to prevent those transfers from happening.

The new law states that if a caregiver is transferred or given property that is valued at over $20,000, it is presumed that the transfer is void if contested by a family member. There are some major issues with that. Say for instance Aunt Sally has been with Ray since her husband died 35 years ago, but they never legally got married. Aunt Sally’s son has contested that Ray be able to receive the gifts and transfers she wanted Ray to have according to her estate planning documents and will. Because the house and other assets are valued above $20,000, Ray will have to fight Aunt Sally’s son in court to prove that there was nothing fraudulent about the transfer of property. To add a little salt to that injury, if by some weird chance the court does rule in favor of Aunt Sally’s son, Ray will also be held accountable for both his attorney fees as well as Aunt Sally’s son’s attorney’s fees.

So who is considered a caretaker? The answer may surprise you. Of course, if the person receiving the transfer or gift is a family member defined as a spouse, child, grandchild, sibling, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, first cousin or parent, they are then considered simply a “family member”. However, a trusted friend, neighbor, boyfriend or girlfriend, or teacher is considered a “caretaker”, there invoking the rule. The doorway is opened by the family member “status” of the person who is receiving the gift.

There are many ways to go about spotting if this rule will be an issue, and how you can prevent this rule from being an issue when preparing your will and estate planning documents. One of those things you can do as a preventative measure, is interviewing Aunt Sally privately to find out if she is feeling bullied into the decision to transfer the property to the caretaker. This interview could be taped or recorded to memorialize the interview. At minimum, an attorney should document notes of the interview that summarize the facts and circumstances as to why Aunt Sally wants to leave her house or other valuable property to her caretaker instead of her son. There is a document that can be drafted by an attorney called a “Certificate of Independent Review” which will state at the time of creating the documents with Aunt Sally, the attorney took specific consideration and acknowledgment that leaving her house to Ray could be seen as fraudulent, but it in fact was not. She 100% stood behind her decision at the time the documents were created. Another third option, would be for the attorney to have Aunt Sally sign an affidavit that states her circumstances and intentions from her point of view.

As you can see, this new “presumptively void transfers” law isn’t just the heavy hitting tool that lawmakers thought it would be. This new law can potentially deem legitimate gifts and transfers void as well. Attorneys and others who prepare estate planning documents need to be aware and plan the careful documentation to protect the wishes of your loved one, as well as the integrity of the will.

If you would like to contest a will, there are time limits for doing so. If you need help in finding the right lawyer for your case, call us any time at (312) 346-5320 or click here to email us.

If you are in a car accident in Illinois that is clearly not your fault, you might be stunned when the insurance company for the other party or even for you, denies your case without reason. It shouldn’t happen, but does all the time.

The paraphrased question I get all the time is “How can the insurance company deny my claim?” Let’s look at some of the most popular reasons.

This is how insurance companies make money. They have done studies that in a nutshell say that if they can wrongfully deny three out of ten claims and get away with it, it will save them hundreds of millions of dollars. So when you’ve been rear-ended at a stoplight they will tell you with a straight face that it was your fault somehow. If they frustrate you in to doing nothing, they win. And that’s their plan.
They are a sub-standard insurance company. You’ve seen the awful TV commercials where companies promise you insurance no matter how bad your driving record is. These operations are as terrible as some of their drivers. They won’t return phone calls, they’ll tell you insurance was cancelled when it wasn’t, they’ll offer only pennies on the dollar, etc. You almost have to sue when they are involved because otherwise they take the approach that it doesn’t cost them money to ignore the case.
You don’t have an injury or it’s really minor. It’s actually harder to get a settlement when there is only property damage to a car than when there’s a major injury. The insurance company knows that lawyers in Illinois who handle car accident cases work on a contingency basis (meaning they only get paid if they win), they won’t usually get involved in very minor or car damage cases only. That’s quite honestly because there is not much money to be made in those situations.
You were at fault. Sometimes you think you did nothing wrong, but the truth is there are facts which show you were at least 50% at fault such as turning left in front of a car that is speeding toward you. If there is any reason to deny your case even the good insurance companies will do so.
Y<strong>our coverage has lapsed or the other driver wasn’t insured. It could be that the other party was at fault, but they weren’t covered under the vehicle that they were driving. Remember, these lawsuits and claims are against the driver who is at fault so you might be forced to sue them directly.

There are other reasons of course like your file getting lost or them waiting on a police report, but these are the big ones. If you’d like to ask us questions about a car accident or want an attorney referral, call us for a free consult at (800) 517-1614 or fill out our contact form and we’ll call you. We help everywhere in Illinois.

President Obama and the Department of Labor have officially made a new overtime rule that will change the way employers will be able to pay their employees. The Labor Department has not made a rule or increase like this since 2004. This new rule means a huge bump in income for millions of people, and will go into effect starting December 1st.

For years, your boss could claim you were a “manager” and get away with paying you meager wages, as well as forcing you to work ungodly hours. Retail “managers” in particular were getting the raw deal. Some retail managers were working 60+ hours a week and only making a salary of $30,000 or less because as a “manager” the employer didn’t have to pay overtime. The rule for over a decade was if a “manager” made at least $23,660 per year as a salary, the employer could benefit from not having to pay time and a half for each hour worked over 40 in any given week. This new rule boasts the minimum requirement to $47,456 or more.

What this new rule means is that if you make a lower middle class or in some places average or below salary of $47,456 or below, you will be entitled to receive time and a half pay for each hour you work over 40 in a given week.

There are few ways an employer may try to weasel out of abiding by this new rule. One way would be cutting or limiting your hours to the regular 40 hours per week maximum or less. An employer may use this new rule as a reason to cut employees to part time as to not have to provide health care or other benefits as well. Another way an employer might try to skate away from this new rule, depending on how much your salary is, would be to bump your salary up to the $47,476+ amount to avoid paying time and a half. If an employer did that, they could still classify you as a “manager” and you would still be subject to working 40+ hours a week as required; with no overtime pay. However, depending on your job duties, that may not apply either.

The other major changes in the rule include the following: for those who receive a bonus or commission, the employer can use up to 10% of those bonuses and commissions to satisfy the minimum salary of $47,476. An example would be if your annual salary is $40,000, but you receive two bonuses per year of $5000 each, your salary + bonus would equal $50,000, which is over the salary threshold, making you not eligible to receive overtime pay. Also included in the major changes of the rule, requires future automatic updates to the salary threshold to occur every three years beginning in 2020.

Because of the drastic change, it is recommended for employees who are classified as salaried, making under $47,456 to keep meticulous records of their time worked. For some who haven’t had to punch a time card, this could be a drastic change. However, in the end those records could mean the difference between winning and losing a pay dispute with the labor board over unpaid overtime wages.

The world that we live in today is surrounded by advertising. From the billboards on the freeway to the internet; even my child’s school newsletter had advertising in it. It’s something we can’t get away from. With some form of advertising lurking around every corner you turn, how do you know what is real and what is not? What can you do if you think you have been a victim of false advertising?

False Advertising is defined as, “Any advertising or promotion that misrepresents the nature, characteristics, qualities or geographic origin of goods, services or commercial activities” (Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C.A. § 1125(a)). Failure to disclose, flawed and insignificant research, and product disparagement are the three main acts companies can carry out to make themselves liable to a possible false advertising lawsuit. What does this mean in actual English? Basically, it is illegal for any company to state false, misleading or deceptive statements about their products.

Sales people are out to “close the deal.” In doing so, sometimes they use high-pressure sales tactics or even “bait and switch” advertising both of which can also be examples of false advertising. For instance, you see an advertisement for a new printer and the store is also offering a cartridge of ink with any printer purchase. Yet, when you arrive to purchase the printer, they are out of the “free” ink cartridges, causing you to have to purchase the ink cartridge at a much higher price after all. This may be a “bait and switch/while supplies last” scam.

Kellogg’s Kashi Brand recently got in trouble to the tune of $4 million in Florida and an additional $5 million in California, for claiming their product was “All Natural” when in fact their products contained GMOs. Class action lawsuits were filed in each state, and to resolve these lawsuits, Kellogg’s Kashi Brand settled. Red Bull will no longer “Give You Wings” after a class action lawsuit was filed for false advertising in New York. $13 million dollars went to unhappy customers of Red Bull who claimed they saw no difference in their concentration or reaction speeds as the advertisements stated. In another case of false advertising, a lawsuit filed in California against Chipotle is still pending; the woman who filed the lawsuit says that Chipotle was not accurate in their advertising “non-GMO ingredients”

Lawyers in Chicago who we work with on cases have sued Subway for their “foot long” not really being 12 inches or tire irons being advertised at 41 inches but really being 39 inches.

If you think you might be a victim of false advertising, there are a few things a good attorney will ask prior to accepting your case. Do you have a copy of the original advertisement? Whether the advertisement was in a newspaper, magazine, on the internet or TV it is important to have an original printed or recorded copy. When possible, pictures of the product or damage caused by the companies false advertisement is helpful. Lastly, do you know of other people who were harmed by the product or companies claims? If so you may be able to file a class action lawsuit.

There is no up front cost to hire an attorney to pursue one of these cases. If you think a business is ripping their clients off and would like to talk to a lawyer about false advertising, call us any time at (800) 517-1614 or fill out our contact form to the right of this page.

In the US, there is a wage war going on that affects not just women workers in a traditional setting but also, have you noticed what is going on in the world of soccer? While soccer may not be “as big” of a sport as football or even baseball, soccer fans are always loyal. Those loyal fans are standing up and taking notice of something “off” and downright screwed up that is happening; the massive wage gap between the US men’s and US women’s teams. That gap being so large, the women’s soccer team has filed a wage discrimination action against the US Soccer Federation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In their complaint, Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapino and Becky Sauerbrunn cite figures from the USSF’s 2015 financial reports, which show easily that the women’s team brought in more than $20 million dollars more in revenue than the men did. Not to mention these facts:

• On average, women soccer players earn as little as 40% of the amount earned by male soccer players
• The women’s soccer team has claimed three World Cup championships
• The women’s soccer team has claimed four Olympic championships.
• Women’s soccer team is currently ranked #1, was briefly #2 before regaining the top position.
• Men’s team has qualified for the World Cup five times, but has never won.
• Men’s team has gone to the Olympics but has never won.
• Men’s soccer team is currently ranked #30 and hasn’t been above #4 since 2006.

For friendlies against teams not in the FIFA top 25, women get $1,350 for a win, men get $9,375.00. If you make the World Cup roster, women get $15,000.00, men get $68,750.00. The men get bonuses for just getting points in the World Cup and the women get nothing. The women got $75,000.00 a piece for winning the last World Cup. If the men were ever to do the same, they’d get almost $400,000.00 a person.

Putting those statistics and numbers in to perspective, I have to agree with Hope Solo who said, “Men’s players get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships.”
US Soccer officials have claimed the numbers used in the EEOC complaint aren’t accurate. In addition, they claim that the collective bargaining agreement is still effective, as well as stating that women have included provisions that the men don’t have, like maternity leave. Whereas, the USWNT has shown through the USSF’s annual general meeting minutes that they are expecting much higher revenue this year, and even higher in 2017. The collective bargaining agreement expired in 2012 at which point both parties signed a memorandum of understanding. The USWNT is now seeking to dissolve that memorandum while USSF says it is in fact a binding contract. The women have put themselves into position at a prime time in soccer history. The Olympics are right around the corner to be followed by a victory tour that could bring in a projected $8 million dollars in revenue, as well as US soccer certainly doesn’t want to be tarnished while preparing for the 2026 World Cup bid.

It should be noted that the men’s soccer team is behind the women’s fight for equal pay 100%. Many players have come forward supporting the women to fight for their right to equal pay. Even the men can see how unfair the women have been treated and they are not afraid to voice their opinions.
Will the women keep fighting? Will they “strike” and boycott right before this summer’s Olympics? Or will they come to an agreement both sides will accept? This will certainly be a case to watch as the sides go back and forth.