Do you like secrets? I’ve got a great one about personal injury lawyers in Chicago and really attorneys in Illinois in general.  Want to know what it is?

Ready???

Personal injury lawyers in Chicago or anywhere in Illinois love to make money?  Is that a surprise to you?  I’m guessing it’s not.

Even though it’s common sense, people seem to forget this fact.  If you have a good case that an attorney can make money off of, they will gladly take it.  The biggest consideration for them beyond “Is this a money maker?” is, “Is this worth the headache?”  That sounds terrible to say, but it’s true.

What do I mean by headache?  That refers to the work that needs to be done and the client themselves.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had lawyers tell me that some person has a decent case, but they are abusive to their staff and unreasonable in their demands so the lawyer is dropping the case.  The bigger the potential payout is for that lawyer, the more tolerance they will have for a difficult client.  The bigger the payout, the more likely they are to take on a case that needs to go to trial most likely and will require hundreds if not thousands of hours of work.

For example, if you are in a car accident and break your leg, if the other driver is at fault, that case has value. But if their insurance policy is only worth $50,000.00, that is likely all that will be recovered.  Getting a lawyer will actually get more money in your pocket.  Without one it’s probable that medical providers or health insurance companies will be the only ones that get paid. Most attorneys are happy to take that case on, but would be more reluctant if it turns out you are a really difficult and unreasonable client.

On the flip side, if you had a loved one who died or was catastrophically injured and it’s the fault of a semi truck driver, attorneys will bend over backwards to help you out and have a much higher tolerance for problem clients.  It sounds gross, but it’s true.

I thought of this recently when a nice woman contacted me.  She was looking for a car accident lawyer for a case in Indiana.  She had called ten firms locally, but was convinced that they had all been bought off or were corrupt which is why none of them would take their case.

Nope, that’s not what’s going on.  The truth is that she has a bad case as evidenced by the fact that she was listed as the at fault party in the police report.  Beyond that, the person she was in the accident with has no insurance and neither does she.  No lawyer is bought off or afraid to take this on. They see the truth that there is almost no chance that they’d ever make money on the case.

Would it be great if there was a free lawyer for everyone who would take their case on no matter what, that’s just not realistic or the case.  Most of the personal injury attorneys I know in Illinois are good people, who care about their clients and want to help people.  They also want to pay their office rent, staff and themselves like pretty much every other business person.  It’s not a big secret, but it is one that people often forget.

We are Chicago attorneys who help with work injuries all throughout Illinois.  If you have questions or want an attorney referral, call us for free at 800-517-1614.

There is a big misconception that if you are at work and get hurt, it’s a workers’ compensation case. Under Illinois law it usually is a case, but you have to show that something about your job contributed to you getting hurt.  If you can do that you win your case, if you can’t you lose.

This is shown when a worker falls down the stairs on the job. At first you’d think that sounds like a slam dunk case. The reality is that you have to prove why you fell if you want to win. The problem is that for most people they are walking and the next thing they know they are injured.  While you are lying in pain you aren’t thinking about if there was water on the stairs or some other defect.

Defect is the key word to think about. If the stairs are wet or slippery and you fall, it’s a case.  If your shoe gets caught in torn carpet you win.  Or as a recent case at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission shows, if there is some sort of dip in a stair from it being worn out, if you fall you’d have a good claim.

In that case, the worker was employed by the Illinois State Senate as a legislative assistant.  She was leaving the state capitol building and went down a marble staircase. It’s an older building and she testified that the stairs were worn and rounded at the edge.  She hit a worn area and lost her balance, causing an injury to her right side.

Nobody countered her testimony that the stairs had a defect and she was a credible witness so she won her case. That’s what it takes.  It’s unfortunate that her case was originally denied and she had to even go through a trial.

The other way to win a fall on a staircase at work is to show that something you were doing for the job contributed to you falling.  Maybe you were carrying a big box of materials which prevented you from seeing well or catching your fall when you stumbled. Maybe you are running to get to a meeting or deliver something.  Maybe both hands are occupied with work files.  Whatever it may be, if something about your job duties increases your risk of injury and you get hurt it should be a case.

The reality is that despite the law being crystal clear on falls on stairs, insurance companies really fight these cases.  We highly recommend that you do NOT give a recorded statement after the accident.  You don’t have to and if you do they will likely try to get you to say something that hurts your case.

If you have any questions about stair falls or anything else related to Illinois work comp law, please contact us at any time.

I really don’t like AT&T or Direct TV.  I’ve had the absolute worst customer service experiences with them. In recent months alone, the following has happened:

  1. They offered me faster business internet and said it would be cheaper too.  All they had to do was send out a technician. They did, but in doing so, that morning someone remotely disabled my internet at work. I’m a mostly web based business and with Covid of course, you need an internet connection. I was without one for half the day because for some reason they couldn’t cancel my upgrade and make things work as normal. The very nice customer service rep promised a call back to check and make sure everything was completed.  That never happened.  That fake call back must be one of their customer service script cons because it’s been told to me on two occasions and it’s never happened.
  2. I have four business phone lines. One day, my main one stopped working. I called and was told the error was likely on my end.  I was then told they’d send someone out the next day.  I told the rep I’d be gone by 3 p.m. that day and they said someone would be there earlier than that. The next day nobody had showed by 2 p.m.  So I called and was told that someone internally had cancelled the appointment because according to their check, the line was running fine. It wasn’t.  They also had in their system that I’d be there until 6 p.m.  They apologized and set something up for the next day. Long story short is that they had disconnected my phone line while setting up service for a new customer in a different suite.
  3. My kids are obsessed with football so we ordered The Sunday Ticket and Red Zone. Worked fine in week two, week three it was gone.  Once more we had to call in and deal with them which if you’ve ever called, you know you can’t get someone on the line right away.
  4. One day my work internet was out so I called the business support line. It somehow got routed to the customer service department for people who have issues with their home internet.  Not sure how I got there but after 20+ minutes I was told I need to call a different number and no, I couldn’t be transferred.

It’s partly my fault, at least at home, because I should just cut the cord and get rid of Direct TV. But in all of these customer service situations I think to myself, “I know others are going through the same b.s. and I would love to start a class action lawsuit against them.”

I can’t.

That’s because their contract and almost every other big business contract forces you to waive your right to a lawsuit or a class action and resolve any disputes via arbitration. This means you have to go it alone and almost any lawsuit against them would be out of principle.  You’d likely never recover as much as you’d have to spend.

This move by the George W. Bush administration to allow this has screwed consumers time and time again and allowed big business to step all over the little guy.  Hopefully the Dems will sweep in to office and change things, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

So I and most people have to eat the shit sandwich that is their terrible customer service and the only way to get back at them is to wait until phone service is available on a wide basis via satellite or some other platform.

I do take solace in the fact that I’ve helped AT&T employees go after the company for wage claims and work injuries. Every check I get from participating in those cases feels extra sweet.  But it doesn’t change the fact that whether it’s them or Apple or Amazon or any other big company, a class action lawsuit will probably go nowhere for you.

Unfortunately, among other things, 2020 has been the year of people getting laid off.  It’s understandable that businesses have had to make these tough decisions.  A lot of good workers have found themselves out of work.

The only silver lining for some of these workers is that many of them are getting severances. Under Illinois law, you have a right to have any severance package offered to you reviewed by an attorney.  The question is, what difference will that make and is it worth it?

The employment law attorneys we know who are experienced in reviewing severance packages, typically charge between $750-$1,000 for their time.  To be honest, for most people it’s not worth it.  I say that for a few reasons:

1. Your employer isn’t required to offer a severance at all.  What you get is done by them for good will and to close out any legal claims you might have even though most people don’t have any.

2. Because they don’t have to offer a severance, most people have no leverage to negotiate it.  If they offer everyone one week’s pay per every year worked, they aren’t likely to give you more than that because if they did it for you it would open them up to having to do it for others.

3. These documents are typically prepared by outside law firms who have no connection to you and no care of the meaningful contributions you made. They are emotionless by design and basically drive the bus in limiting their clients (your employer) from making very many changes to the boiler plate language they create.

4. So unless your goal is really just understanding what everything means, you are paying an attorney a decent amount of money to review a document when they won’t be able to get much if anything changed about it.

If you believe you were illegally laid off for reasons such as having complained about sexual harassment, your age, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc and can prove it, then you might have leverage to get more money out of this.  That’s when getting a lawyer does make sense and in many cases they can work on a contingency basis which means they only get paid if they get you more money.  Essentially they would get the employer to pay more for you giving up valid legal claims.

For everyone else, here are some things to know and ask for in your severance.  The might say no, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

1. You can’t give up your rights to work comp benefits via a severance agreement in Illinois.  If you’ve been injured at work though it’s wise to talk to a work comp attorney before signing anything (call us at 312-346-5320 if you want a free consultation).

2. Getting a severance doesn’t prevent you from applying for unemployment.  I recommend that you ask that they put in writing that they won’t contest your unemployment.  We’ve seen many companies lay someone off and then fight unemployment.  That shouldn’t happen and one sentence added could save you some grief.

3. Know that you are giving up your rights to sue them for almost anything.  If you think you might have a claim for something, talk to a lawyer first.  You are also likely giving up compensation claims for things like vacation pay or owed commissions.  Calculate what you are owed to make sure you aren’t being taken advantage of.

4. In my experience, it’s usually the little, non-monetary things they will agree too.  Maybe they’ll extend your company phone privileges.  They likely will let you keep your cell number. Perhaps you can get them to agree to a positive recommendation for your future employment opportunities.

5. Remember that anything verbal they tell you that isn’t in this document is not legally enforceable because you can bet that the document says that.  If it’s important to you and you think it’s been agreed to, ask for it in writing.

Every case and situation is different. I’m not saying you shouldn’t consider having an attorney review.  What I am saying is that most people I talk to learn the cost and decide that it’s not worth it because they have no evidence of illegal activity by their employer and thus have no leverage to change the terms of what has been offered.

It’s one thing to say that first responders are heroes and we should appreciate them. It’s another thing to actually do something about it. In Illinois we show appreciation for firemen, EMT’s, law enforcement officers, correctional officers, etc.

This is done through the Public Safety Employee Benefits Act.  In a nutshell, if any of these workers is seriously injured or killed in the line of duty, their family doesn’t have to worry about health care.   Children are automatically covered until age 25. Spouses are covered for life or until they re-marry.

That’s a big benefit, but that’s not all.  If any of these workers are killed in the line of duty, their children get free tuition at State universities.  Places like University of Illinois are quite expensive and this Act helps relieve a huge financial burden for these families.

I’m writing about this because we have helped a lot of first responders with work related injuries over the year and in some cases have helped families who had loved ones killed in the line of duty. I’ve been really surprised how few workers are actually aware of this law.  It’s on their local employers to make them aware of it and for whatever reason it doesn’t seem to happen.

In the big picture, if you are one of these workers who has been injured on the job, before you hire a work comp attorney, you should ask them about the Public Safety Employee Benefits Act.  If they don’t know what it is, it’s a sign that they don’t work with a lot of people in your field and aren’t likely the best choice to handle your case.

There are other special rules for first responders such as for fire fighters who have heart attacks.  Workers need to count on their lawyers to know these rules and protect their interests.

We have been helping people who need legal guidance or lawyer referrals since 2001. If you’d like to speak with one of our experienced attorneys for free, call us at 312-346-5320 any time.

A caller to our office was pursuing a worker’ compensation claim for carpal tunnel.  They had a lot of questions, but one of them was wanting to know what the odds were of them winning their case.

I get questions like that a lot about Illinois workers compensation law.  The honest answer is that every case is different and that a win to some people might be a loss to someone else and might be a push to another person.

There’s one very shady Chicago workers’ compensation law firm who advertises that they’ve won 98% of their cases.  That “win” total includes cases on which they recovered $500 for their clients when insurance companies just paid to make the case go away. If your medical bills aren’t paid, is that a win?  Of course not, but they claim that it is.

For this caller, the only way to say they won would be if their case was disputed and went to trial.  Most cases settle though. If 100% of your medical bills get paid, all of your time off work gets paid and you get a settlement for 85% of what your lawyer thinks your case is worth, would you consider that a win?  Most people would, but some would not.

If your best case scenario is getting $500,000.00 and they won’t budge past $420,000.00, is that a win?  It certainly could be and that’s a lot of money.

If your attorney is able to get every medical procedure your doctor recommends except one additional week of physical therapy, would you consider the case to have gone well?

What most people really want to know is if they will get most of the benefits they are entitled to.  To determine the chances of that, we have to look at the case facts. How were you hurt?  What possible defenses does the insurance company have?  What prior medical problems did you have?

In this case, since they are claiming a repetitive trauma injury, they’d have to prove how often they used their hands at work, the force applied, the angle of their wrists and of course get an orthopedic doctor to state that more likely than not their job contributed to them getting carpal tunnel.  The insurance company will surely have a hired gun IME doctor to state that it’s not work related.  They will point to things like diabetes, obesity, pregnancy, etc. that could be the “real” cause.

The stronger the possible defenses, the greater a chance you either go to trial or reach a compromise settlement.  Any compromise could be considered a win or loss depending on your perspective.

To me, the better strategy is to work with your lawyer to determine the best and worst case scenario on your claim.  After that you try and get most of the best case scenario as possible.  You almost never get everything, but the closer you are to that, the more that it will feel like a win to you in the end.

If you are considering a dissolution of marriage, you may have several questions and concerns. It can be a difficult time, but it is important to understand the process of family law. Just as each state enforces their marriage laws, the states regulate their divorce laws. Here, we have given you a few things we think you should know when considering a divorce in Illinois.

  1. No-Fault Divorce – For the most part, fault doesn’t matter in a divorce. One may think that issues such as adultery, cruelty or abuse should be taken into consideration during a divorce, but for the most part, they aren’t. Like the rest of the US, Illinois follows no-fault divorce laws, meaning that grounds for divorce are not taken into consideration when deciding how marital property should be divided, whether alimony should be awarded or how much child support a parent should pay.
  1. Annulments – In many ways, an annulment of a marriage in Illinois is very similar to divorce. You can expect to see the same kinds of property division, child and spousal support arrangements, and court proceedings in an annulment case as in a divorce case. However, annulments are rare and have strict grounds to be able to obtain an annulment.
  1. Attorney fees – Attorney’s fees are a significant chunk of the cost of divorce. Not only do you pay the attorney’s rate, you may be responsible for paralegals rates, court fees, witnesses, consultants, etc. A majority of attorneys require a retainer. With a retainer, you will pay a couple thousand up front and the attorney will then deduct their rate from the retainer as the case is handled. Once the retainer runs out, you’d most likely be required to refill it.
  1. Civil Unions – When it comes to the Illinois marriage and divorce laws, a civil union is similar to a marriage. The dissolution of civil unions follows the same procedures and is subject to the same rights and obligations that are in involved in the dissolution of marriages.
  1. Child Custody – Children do not necessarily get a say in their custody preference. Illinois requires judges to determine child custody based on the best interests of the child, if the parents cannot agree. The custody preferences of mature children may be considered, but ultimately it is up to the judge to decide.
  1. “Father’s Rights” – Don’t be fooled by a “Father’s Rights” lawyer. This term is just a marketing ploy. A good family lawyer is capable of handling a child custody case, no matter whom they’re representing.
  1. Conflict of Interest – If you and your spouse are on good terms you may think using the same attorney would be a smart and financial choice. Not only is it a conflict of interest, it is illegal. An attorney can only represent one party. What is best for one spouse is not necessarily best for the other spouse.

Divorce can be a tricky process and there are other laws you should be made aware of. Call and talk to one of our attorneys for free.

We are Chicago lawyers who since 2001 have offered free legal guidance and lawyer referrals to anyone who needs it on all Illinois legal matters. If you want to ask us a question just call us at 312-346-5320 or fill out our contact form.  We don’t promise you’ll like our answer, but do promise to give direct, honest advice.

Most of my blog posts are based off of cases I’ve read/worked on or good questions from callers. Some questions don’t need a whole post. Every few months I like to put together a post of some great questions that don’t need a big explanation.  In no particular order here are some recent good ones.

Can my employer make overtime mandatory?

Yes.  Unless you are in a union where hours can be negotiated, generally speaking your hours are what your employer says they are.  They have to pay you of course, but if you refuse to work overtime you can get fired.  I recommend everyone google the phrase “at will employment” for more information on your rights as an employee or lack there of.

Do you know a lawyer who specializes in unemployment?

This has been a hot topic unfortunately. The bad news is that I’ve never met a lawyer who focuses on this because it’s not an easy way to make a career. I’m sure they are out there somewhere, but I’ve never met them.

Is it legal for my lawyer to charge 40% of the recovery on my car accident case?

Legal? Yes.  A good idea to go with someone charging that much?  Usually no.  Most lawyers will charge 33%, sometimes less.  The exception is usually if the case has to be appealed following a trial.  I’d shop around if your attorney is asking for 40%.

My license is suspended in Texas so I can’t get a license here.  Can you help with that?

Most likely you need to clear up your out of state problem first.

The QDRO my ex wants me to sign says that if she dies the balance of what she is owed will go to her estate.  Is that common? Legal?

It is legal. It’s common among attorneys who are looking out for their clients, but it’s not mandatory and certainly negotiable.

I think I got Covid from work, but I’m not an essential worker.  Do I have a case?

You may based on the reasons you think it’s from work, but most likely would need your doctor to state that it’s more likely than not your job played a role in you getting it.

Why are the only IDFPR attorneys I can find in Chicago?

That’s because most of the hearings take place there.  Also it’s a very niche area of practice and making a living at it as a downstate lawyer would be hard.  You want someone who has a lot of experience with those cases and the reality is that those people are in Chicago. The good news is that they almost always can work with you by phone and email.

I settled my case eight years ago.  I think my lawyer gave me bad advice. Can I sue them?

You can sue anyone for anything, but this case would get tossed out because you waited to long. You can’t go back farther than six years to sue your attorney.  Also having regrets over a bad settlement is usually not a case.

These are some quick answers.  As always, every case is different so please take this as just general advice.  If you have concerns about your situation, contact us at any time.

It’s been 26 years since I first walked into Chicago-Kent on Adams.  I was an immature 22 year old who only applied to law school because a friend from college enlightened me that having a law degree can create a lot of options for you. Plus, it allowed me to delay entering the working world, which looking back, is a real entitled, white-privilege type of thought to have.  Of course law school and living wasn’t as expensive back then, and I was able to survive off of some savings and jobs as a law clerk and bartender.

It would be naive and arrogant to think I have all the answers for new law students, most of whom weren’t born when I started school.  Certainly technology and Covid have changed a ton for them compared to what I went through. But I do think I have honest advice that can help.  In no particular order, here are some things I wish I knew, or think you should know.

1. You will quickly discover that being a 1L is often a psych job. You hear the old, “Look to your left and right, one of those people won’t be here in three years” nonsense. People get paranoid and competitive. They read something for class and want to make sure you know how hard they are working.  The good news is that bad vibe does disappear once everyone settles in. And the people that are gone usually leave, not because they flunked out, but because they quit after realizing law school wasn’t for them. Better to do that before you have a huge student loan bill to pay back.

2. Do you know how to read a legal opinion?  I’m not aware of anywhere that it’s taught before you get to law school and I don’t recall being taught how to do it.  Instead it was just something you figure out over time.  Here’s a great resource to reduce that learning curve. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1160925#.XvJfyQGbaGI.twitter

3. If you go to a top 25 law school, being in the top half of your class can be enough to get a high paying summer clerk job, assuming those jobs come back next year (which I think they will). I’m not saying working at Jenner and Block, Sidley, Baker, etc. is a good idea.  That depends on the person.  But the summer clerking jobs pay a ton and can open up doors for you. If you are at a second or third tier school like I went to, you better be in the top 10% if you want one of those jobs.

4. One thing you will realize once you start working in a law firm is that there are a lot of smart lawyers.  There are also a lot of dumb ones.  All of those people passed the Bar exam.  That should give you confidence that if this is what you want to do, it’s attainable for you.  I’m sure you will see the same in your law school class. Some people will blow you away by how intelligent they are.  Others will blow you away because you won’t believe they got admitted to the same school as you.

5. Use your age to your advantage.  Lawyers have traditionally been slow to adapt to technology and slower to understand it. If you are knowledgeable about coding or social media, use that to your benefit when looking for jobs and creating your resume.  Just like speaking a foreign language, a niche skill can benefit you.  Some young lawyer is going to make a killing by teaching law firms how to really use social media.

6. I think the best way to succeed in law school academically is to treat it like a job. If you work from 9-5 most days that is enough to do well in class.

7. Network, network, network. Going on informational interviews is a great way to get to know people.  Become friends with your classmates.  Aside from being fun, the lawyers you know down the road can open many doors for you.

8. Participate in your school’s legal clinic. The best class I had in law school was a legal clinic on mediation. It taught me a ton and allowed me to become a licensed mediator and work on real cases.  Other clinics allow you to work for the State’s Attorney’s office and handle some actual cases.  There are options for almost every area of law. It’s a great resume builder and more importantly gives you exposure to practicing which will help you decide what area of law you might want to focus on.

9. Don’t be a dick. This is kind of the opposite of networking.  If you fail to realize that all of your classmates have value or you just act like an asshole, it will surely come back to hurt you some day.

10. Don’t be dumb on social media.  I’m sure I would have failed this advice if Instagram was around in the 90’s and I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but if you wouldn’t want something about your personal life coming up in a job interview, don’t post it. Most firms I know look into this stuff.

11. Have some fun. If you are in Chicago, you are in one of the best cities in the world.  You can’t enjoy all it has to offer right now, but I’d bet there are still some mixers with your classmates, chances to explore the City, etc. that you can still take advantage of. Don’t get psyched out by how hard law school is supposed to be. I remember one classmate who really enjoyed himself saying, “All I want to do is write wills for old ladies, I don’t need to worry about all the other stuff.”  It’s a good point in that if you treat law school like a job, even if you have to work a real job too, there still can be some time for yourself.  And I assure you that most law firms want to bring in people who are comfortable socializing as it’s often part of the job.  I’m not saying be a clown, but don’t be a hermit either.

I hope this helps a little. I wouldn’t say that law school was amazing, but I do have many good memories and my college friend was correct.  Being an attorney can open up many different possibilities in life for you.

 

Another week, another apparently terrible police involved shooting. This time it was close to home, just over the border in Kenosha where Jacob Blake was shot in front of his kids despite being unarmed.  It seems to be another case of unjustified, excessive force.

I don’t claim to be an expert on police issues, although it’s clear that something different than business as usual must be done. Not militarizing the police seems to make sense as does having social workers and other trained experts respond to calls that don’t need someone with a gun and a badge like traffic accidents and suicide calls.  Certainly solutions for the City of Chicago might not be the right ones for a small, rural police department.

No matter where you are though, I question why police officers don’t have to have a license?  You need a license in Illinois to work as a private security contractor or private investigator or even a hair dresser and attorney.  We all had to go through background checks and pass a character and fitness test. We have to fill out an application.  This is the step involved before going for a job interview.

If during our time as a professional we do something wrong, we are held accountable by an licensing board that has an independent hearing process.  Results of complaints can range from nothing to loss of license or anything in between like censure or suspension.  If we have substance abuse or other problems, there are resources for getting help.

Nobody (I think) wants unjustified police shootings.  Everyone I know supports good cops. But it’s very apparent that we have a broken system.  If you think cops are good and want good cops, is there any justification for opposing them to be licensed like most other professionals in Illinois including the ones that carry guns?  I don’t think there is.

The fact that we have never done it this way doesn’t mean we should keep doing it that way. This is especially true in Chicago where taxpayers have paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to settle lawsuits against the police.

Would licensing law enforcement officers solve everything? Of course not.  The realistic goal is to reduce bad behavior and be able to remove bad actors when they don’t live up to the professional standards that are set.  This doesn’t require them to be perfect or always look over their shoulder. What is does is set standards and have a real accountability system in place.

It would certainly make sense if we make the move to have social workers take on some police work such as responding to some domestic abuse situations.  Social workers in Illinois already have to be licensed by the State.  We essentially ask police to handle matters that they are not trained for in place of people who have to be licensed to handle those matters.  Licensing cops is the logical next step.

To me this is all an extension of calls to defund the police which are really calls to change the way the police operate and make them do it in a smarter, safer and more economical way.  If there is a reason that police officers shouldn’t be held to the same standards and accountability as any other Illinois professional, I’d love to hear it.