With a history dating back to 1842, Illinois railroads easily are the nation’s most important in terms of the region they serve and the volume of traffic which is handled. Chicago, where the East meets the West, has been coined as the nation’s railroad capitol.

Illinois proudly ranks second in the country with the greatest number of railroads, with total rail miles, and employing over 300,000 railroad employees. But unfortunately, railroad workers have a higher risk of injury than people in most other occupations. Considering the railroad industry is relatively small, the risk of injury is statistically very high. While railroad workers are not covered by workers compensation, they do have other legal options to help recover damages incurred by accidents at work.

Before workers’ compensation, there was the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). Put in place by the United States Congress in 1908, FELA provides compensation for work injuries to railroad workers. As a railroad employee, you are not entitled to state worker compensation benefits. FELA is your only right to compensation as a railroad employee.

FELA was born out of a need to protect railroad workers and force carriers to improve their safety standards for both their employees, patrons and property and become more accountable to their employees for any injuries they caused. Both programs, FELA and workers’ compensation were founded with the common goals of promoting a safe working environment and compensating workers following work-related illnesses and on-the-job injuries.

When compared to workers’ compensation however, FELA is considerably different in laws and process. The most important of these is the difference in proving the role of negligence. In a standard workers’ compensation claim, there is not always a need to prove employer negligence in order to claim benefits for medical expenses and lost wages. For FELA, an injured railroad worker must always prove the railroad was negligent in order to obtain compensation for their injury.

To add insult to injury, pun intended, every railroad retains skilled claim agents and attorneys whose sole job is to immediately investigate injuries of employees, focusing primarily on how to protect the interests of the railroads, not the injured.

The United States Supreme Court recognized the unfairness of this and as a counter action authorized a designated counsel familiar with FELA to represent injured railroad workers. It is in the best interest of the injured to hire an experienced and aggressive counsel to fight for their rights for several reasons.

While FELA provides an employee up to three years from the date of injury to file a claim, an injured railroad worker should seek counsel and advice at the earliest opportunity if they feel they have a potential FELA case against a railroad. This includes before submitting an injury report or talking to a claim agent. The people representing the railroad are trained and skilled at ‘manipulating’ the situation in the railroads favor. The wording, complaints and answers in an accident injury report can mean the difference between winning and losing a case and having an experienced FELA attorney is your right.

Another difference between workers compensation and FELA is filing claims. Workers’ compensation requires an injured employee to file a claim with the insurance company providing the workers’ compensation benefits. Under FELA, injured railroad workers can file claims in state or federal court and also mandates that the injured party is entitled to a jury trial.

Most FELA claims will end up in court as the railroads save money litigating every FELA claim. Here is just another reason an experienced attorney is best interest of the injured. If an attorney is not experienced and familiar with FELA, they may be unwilling to go to battle against the railroads in court and often times setting less than fair value.

Railroad employees are not in the social security system, but rather in the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) pension system. In an injury there can be a decreased earning capacity and a decrease work life expectancy, even if an employee is able to return to work. Even retirement annuity can be negatively impacted as it is determined by the employee’s earnings and length of service. Just another reason an experienced attorney is needed. They should properly investigate and quantify any loss from the (RRB) pension system and retirement annuity for the injured.

FELA can be a complicated claim. Many railroad employees are uncertain of their rights and their employer’s liability requirements under FELA and find answers with the help of an experienced FELA lawyer in Illinois.  If you would like our recommendation as to a great lawyer for your case or if you just have questions, call us for free any time at (800) 517-1614.

A very nice woman called me recently after getting in to a car accident in Chicago.  She has a pretty big injury, and the other car that hit her is clearly at fault.

Her concern was that she had just hired a personal injury lawyer in Chicago who advertises a lot. By a lot, I mean you have all seen the terrible commercials. He was charging her a fee of 40% based on whatever recovery they get for her.  She had talked to some friends after hiring them and was told that their fee seemed high.  Her question was, is a 40% fee normal for a Chicago car accident lawyer?

The answer is that while there are a lot of attorneys who charge that much, it’s not normal.  Most accident lawyers we know, certainly the best car accident lawyers we know, typically charge 1/3 of what they recover.  In big cases that can be the difference of tens of thousands of dollars in your pocket in the end.

So why does this firm and some others charge more?

It’s not because they do a better job. The biggest reason they do it is because they think they can get away with it.  They’d charge a client 50% if they thought they could line their pockets more.  Attorneys like this, in my opinion, don’t care as much about their clients as they do about their own bottom line.

Another reason they do it is because they have huge overhead.  All of that TV, radio, internet and billboard advertising isn’t cheap.  So they have to recoup as much of the costs as they can.

What’s crazy about this one particular firm is that car accident cases aren’t really what they do and certainly not what their main lawyer has done for most of his career. Of course their clients don’t realize that.  They also don’t understand that many of their cases are handled by very young lawyers.

The reality is that most of the prestigious law firms in Chicago would never do this and in many cases they will cut their fee to 28-30% depending on the facts of your case.

You can get a great lawyer on your case and at the same time not get ripped off by that attorney.  If you have any questions about law firm fees in Illinois car accident cases or simply want to speak with a lawyer for free, call us at 312-346-5320 or fill out our contact form and we will call you ASAP.

I’ve been involved in a nightmare with UPS over a lost package.  It reminds me of a phone call I had from someone once who wanted to sue them over a lost package.

That caller, like me, wasn’t as mad at the package going missing as they were at the response by UPS.  Their terrible treatment of their customers makes you want to sue.

I had a very important package shipped to me on December 26th from my office in Chicago to San Diego where I was located that week.  I paid extra for two-day shipping which, due to the weekend, meant it was to arrive on December 30th.  On December 29th in the morning, the package arrived in Ontario, CA, about two hours away.  It hasn’t been located since.

UPS ships thousands of packages and I get it that they can get lost.  It’s their response that has me fuming.  The first thing that happened was that I called four times and got four different answers.

On December 30th, I called because the package was still in Ontario at noon, which based on my history of shipping made no sense. On call #1 I was told that they would look in to it, and someone would call me within an hour.  That was lie #1.

After a little over two hours and no call back, I called again.  That person told me that despite what the online tracking said, my package was on a truck and would be for sure delivered by the end of the day.  That was lie #2.

Two hours later I called again because I needed to leave my house.  That operator said the package is definitely not on a truck which was true.  She also told me that if it didn’t arrive on the 30th, it would show up on the 31st.  That was lie #3 as they weren’t delivering that day for some reason.

The final call was at the end of the day.  That operator said the package did appear lost, but told me that it had to be missing for 72 hours before they could do an investigation. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it’s absurd if it is.  What was a lie is that she told me the delay was because my office messed up on the shipping weight.  The package wasn’t lost, just delayed.  Lie #4.

I started the investigation on January 2nd and now 11 days after sending my package via two day delivery it’s still missing.  No investigation appears to have taken place yet and I’m told it could take up to eight business days.  They told me I’d get a call from an investigator and that never happened.  Lie #5.

There is no way to call the Ontario location.  I emailed the customer service address I found online for UPS and it sent an auto response that said it’s not monitored.  In subsequent phone calls when I made clear how urgent it was to get this package ASAP I was essentially told that it’s too bad.

I understand that a package can get lost despite their tracking system.  But if my business screwed something up, I’d do whatever it takes to make it right.  It’s like going to a busy restaurant where everyone but one person at the table gets their entree.  The waiter doesn’t say “too bad, we are busy.”  They act like they care about you and try to make it right.

This hasn’t been my experience with FedEx or Amazon or even the USPS.  United Parcel Service is in the business of shipping packages and when they lose one they act like it’s no big deal.  They said I can make a claim to replace the contents of the package as if they assume I was shipping X-mas gifts instead of legal documents and checks that can’t be replaced.

It’s their flippant response and lack of effort that has me fuming.  It’s the same feeling my caller had when they wanted to sue them.  The reality is that the only way to get back at them is to take my company’s business elsewhere.  Every shipment has a contract that is certainly written in their favor.  Just like you can’t sue a restaurant for a rude waiter, there’s not much the average consumer can do about a company that doesn’t care about their customers. At least not in a court room.

So I will be pissed and keep calling until they find my package.  And I will take great joy the next time I have a case against them for an injured worker or one of their trucks hitting someone.  It doesn’t get me the delivery I desperately need, but it’s all I realistically have.

We are Chicago attorneys who help people, for free, with legal guidance and/or lawyer referrals on any Illinois legal matter.  Call us at (312) 346-5320 for a free consultation or fill out our contact form and we will call you.

A recent caller to my office thought they had a good medical malpractice lawsuit, but didn’t want to proceed because they didn’t think they could afford a lawyer to bring the case.

This is a common concern people have.  This isn’t a concern most people should have.  The short explanation is that every lawyer who handles medical malpractice cases in Illinois works on a contingency basis. That means they can’t charge an hourly fee and only get paid if they win the case.  As a result, attorneys in Illinois who handle these cases are very selective in which matters they get involved in.

There is a longer explanation though.  Some callers are worried about the case expenses.  Most contracts to hire a medical malpractice attorney state that the attorney will advance the costs of the case, but get paid back by the client.  These cases often cost more than $100,000.00 to take fully to trial.  Many callers are worried that the attorney will sue them if they lose the case. That is why they don’t think they can afford the risk of hiring a lawyer.

The truth is that if the case is successful, the attorney will be reimbursed their costs.  If it’s not successful, some contracts state that the client will have to pay the lawyer back. I’ve NEVER seen this happen with the attorneys that I know and recommend. I do think it’s happened with smaller firms that can’t afford to advance these costs.

My advice to anyone who is hiring a malpractice attorney in Illinois is to discuss this issue with the lawyer before you hire them.  The ones that I know will change their contracts to state that you’ll never have to pay them back a penny if they don’t make a recovery.  If you have a good case they will be happy to do this.  It’s a risk for them for sure as most cases, even the ones that seem good at first, don’t result in a recovery. But firms that really crush it in this area of law have the ability to take that type of risk.

Bonus tip.  There are some smaller firms who will ask their clients to contribute to some of the costs of the case. Unless there are really odd circumstances (like asking an attorney to file a last minute lawsuit) I don’t suggest you do that.  While any firm can take on a malpractice lawsuit, the truth is that most of the top results are handled by around ten different law firms, all in the Chicago area.  You don’t want to get a lesser firm on your case that would ask you to pay the costs.  You also don’t want to get a firm that skimps on costs, ultimately costing you a win or resulting in you not recovering as much as you deserve.

As always, if you have any questions or want an attorney referral, please contact us at any time.

I’ve been a lawyer since 1997 and started this company in 2001. When I did, I came in with two major values about how I’d run this service. First, I try to talk like a real person.  I don’t always succeed, but it’s gross when attorneys try to talk all fancy with legal jargon to show you how smart they are.  Second, I decided that if I’m going to give advice, I’m going to be blunt and honest.  I hate when people are wishy washy or beat around the bush.  You may not like what I’m going to tell you, but I’ll always tell the truth.

This brings me to a harsh reality that comes up in a lot of my phone calls.  For lawyers who own a law firm – in other words, not the ones who work for the Government, a non-profit, a corporation, etc. – there is one main reason they are doing what they do.

Lawyers are in it for the money.

That doesn’t mean that they don’t like he area of law they practice in. They might be passionate about helping people.  Deep down they are hopefully good guys.  We hopefully are spending some of our work time helping people who can’t afford legal help.

At the end of the day though, they are running a business.  You can feel empathy for someone who is struggling in life, but also choose not to give them tens of hours of free or discounted service in their custody case.  A lawyer can recognize that a doctor treated you poorly, but choose not to file a case that they think isn’t worth the money they’d have to spend to bring a lawsuit.

“Don’t you care about justice?” is something I hear a lot. So is “So they can just get away with it?!?!”  The truth is lawyers do care about justice, but not always to the extent that they will spend their work time fighting for it or for what you believe is just.  The truth is also that some bad people get away with acting bad because our legal system is too expensive to do anything about it.

If a scammer rips you off of $1,500.00 and the police won’t help you, your realistic choices are to sue them yourself in small claims court or walk away angry.  It would cost too much to hire a lawyer. In a worse example, if a loved one is in jail and can’t afford an attorney, you are likely stuck with the Public Defender even if they are doing a terrible job.  Attorneys don’t typically offer free help to those who have an option, even if that option is terrible.

With injury cases, dishonest attorneys who don’t think they can make money off of you will say something like, “I think you have a great case, but I’m too busy to take it.”  It’s the biggest bunch of b.s. around.  No injury attorney is too busy to take on a “great” case and if they were, they’d refer you to a buddy and make a referral fee. The truth is that they think your case sucks, or that they don’t think they’d make enough money off it to make it worth their time.  If a lawyer ever tells you they are too busy, call them the next day and tell them that a loved one was just killed by a semi truck driver who was drunk.  Their schedule will magically become open, and you can call them out on their lies.

There are of course exceptions to this rule.  In general though attorneys at law firms are like any other business. They are trying to keep the lights on and put money in their pockets.  It’s a sign of problems within the legal system itself and a product of capitalism.  It’s not nice to say or easy to hear, but it simply is the truth.

If you have a suffered a work injury in Illinois, the best-case scenario is to receive excellent medical care and recover well enough to return to work without restrictions. Unfortunately, the process of a Worker’s Compensation claim can often be long, arduous, exhausting and just plain complicated. The capstone to the process often ends with a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE).

So what is a Functional Capacity Evaluation? The FCE is a series of tests used to evaluate your work-related physical abilities. If one has been ordered for you, it usually means that you are coming to an end of your treatment and the doctor is ready to send you back to work, with or without, restrictions depending on the FCE report.

An FCE is prescribed by a doctor.  You have the right to choose the facility where it takes place. Careful to assess injuries without causing any further damage, the evaluator will test a variety of physical performances critical to an employee’s job including:

  • Push and pull strength
  • Overall strength
  • Lifting ability
  • Flexibility
  • Stamina
  • Range of motion
  • Ability to carry objects
  • Any abilities related to the employees job

For example, if an employee’s job requires heavy labor, the evaluator will be sure to administer tests specific to their ability to lifting and carrying heavy objects, push and pull strength and range of motion.

It is very important for the employee undergoing the FCE to be very honest, consistent and specific about what he/she is able to do and what hurts. The FCE’s are only as good as the data that received.  In addition, the FCE could hurt an employee’s case if they try to exaggerate their symptoms. This could be a costly mistake as the FCE has been designed to avoid any fraud.

Following the FCE, a report will be generated. A successful FCE test report will address an employee’s functional limitations, any additional rehabilitation needed, the employee’s ability to return to work and if so what tasks they will be able/unable to perform. This report provided by your doctor will ultimately determine the next course of action.

If your injury is serious enough that a FCE is needed, you would be nuts not to have an experienced attorney in your corner.  If you would like our recommendation as to which attorney is best for your case, please complete our contact form or call us at 800-517-1614 to speak with an attorney for free.

Back in 2013, a really nice woman called us with what seemed like a relatively minor Illinois workers compensation case.  She had hit her elbow on something on the job and originally it seemed like a relatively small bone bruise.  I didn’t expect that the case would take six years to resolve.  I also didn’t expect that she’d end up getting a major bout of RSD.

RSD or reflex sympathetic dystrophy is a chronic condition that causes burning, swelling, stiffness and/or skin sensitivity to whatever body part is affected by it. Nobody knows what exactly causes it, but it’s thought to be a malfunction of the nervous system. As happened in this case, it often occurs following some sort of trauma.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a synonym for RSD and they both don’t have a cure. Some physical or pain management therapy can make the pain tolerable.

Because you can’t see RSD and since treating it is expensive, insurance companies often dispute these cases.  That’s what happened to this nice woman.  Insurance companies have doctors for hire who will say that you weren’t really injured on the job or don’t have CRPS.

This woman was so severely affected by this issue that she is no longer able to work.  It took years but eventually the attorney we referred her to was able to get her a settlement for around $550,000.00.  This settlement included almost $200,000.00 for her future medical care.

What is scary about this case is that an inexperienced lawyer could have easily settled it right away.  If your attorney doesn’t understand the medicine behind CRPS, they can not truly advocate for you as well as someone who has handled many of those cases.

Fortunately we know many lawyers who have had success with RSD cases and were able to connect her with one of them.  This attorney told me that it was one of the most medically complex cases he had seen.  Getting the right lawyer likely put hundreds of thousands more in her pocket than she would have received without it.

In any work comp case that is beyond a minor injury, it’s really important to get an attorney who handles these cases all day, every day.  We see many firms who try to do workmans comp but also criminal law, divorce and other unrelated practice areas.  It’s not that those law firms couldn’t do a good job. It’s that they don’t give you the best chance for success. And since all Illinois work comp attorneys get paid the same amount, why wouldn’t you want the best firm you can get?

As always, if you need help with a case or just have questions, please call us any time at 800-517-1614 or fill out our contact form and we will call you.

 

 

In the 18 plus years we’ve run this website, we’ve helped about 400,000 people.  The most rewarding thing that can happen when we help someone find an Illinois lawyer is that we greatly improve their life.  Every now and then though we help someone and change the law

That happened recently on a case we referred to an Illinois probate attorney.  The caller had a relative who was stealing from their parent.  This is financial abuse.  In this case, they did it by essentially trying to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Our case lead to the passage of a new law, 755 ILCS 5/2-6.2.   In a nutshell, this law states that if you are criminally convicted of financial exploitation, abuse or neglect of an elderly person, you can not inherit anything from them even if that’s what their will says.  It goes on to say that if you are sued in a civil court and found by a “preponderance of the evidence” to have financially exploited someone, you can’t inherit from them either.

This is a game changer.  In the past, a will or trust was controlling.  So if you were a terrible person who stole from or abused the elderly, if their will gave everything to you, you’d still inherit.

Now you can’t get away with it.  The law in challenging a will or trust in Illinois has been greatly strengthened.  Bad people won’t get away with bad things as easily as they used to. In our case, a neighbor reported the abuse and the person was charged with four felonies. They ended up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor.  Under the old law they still would have inherited, but not anymore.

Of course it’s not enough just to say someone is abusing or exploiting an elderly person.  You have to file criminal charges or sue them civilly in order to prove that they are. If you do and you win the case, they will be barred from inheriting.

If this does happen, their share of the proceeds will go to anyone else who is mentioned in the will or trust. If there is nobody else mentioned it will likely be distributed based on Illinois intestate law.

Will and trust challenges are some of our favorite cases to work on.  We also know lawyers who take those cases on a contingency basis which means that they only get paid if they win.

If you would like to talk to an attorney who has had success with this new law, please call our office for a free consultation any time at 312-346-5320.

When someone refers to family law, most would think divorce. Sure, this is probably one of the more widely used services of a family law attorney, but there is so much more to family law. Family lawyers are experts in a variety of practice areas. A family lawyer covers every legal matter from marriage through divorce, and can also cover other familial issues such as adoption, domestic violence, child advocacy and other related issues.

Family law can be a complex and a subjective area of the law. Hiring a Family law attorney is a smart move. They give expertise advice, help reduce stress, and work to avoid mistakes and delays.

Unfortunately, a relationship between an attorney and client doesn’t always work due to a variety of reasons for a breakdown. What are the options when a client loses their trust or confidence? For one, you certainly have the right to switch attorneys in the middle of you case.

Again, there is a variety of reasons for wanting to switch attorneys’ mid-case. The most typical reason is poor “customer service”. Your attorney becomes hard to reach, or non-responsive in communication. Their files seem disarray and are asking for repetitive information from you. Or maybe you notice the attorney is failing to vigorously investigate all aspects of your case or fail to meet crucial filing deadlines.

Maybe you discover your attorney lacks sufficient knowledge within the dealings of your case. This could actually be as a result of the type of attorney you first hired. Many mistakenly hire a general practitioner, a lawyer that focuses on all areas of Illinois law, and not a specific family law lawyer prepared and capable of handling the complexities of family-law related issues.

Whatever your reason, firing a lawyer is your right but it is a major decision and can become costly in both time and money. It’s important to not act hastily. We always encourage clients to try and first work their issues out with their current attorney. Changing your attorney mid-case should only be a last resort when things cannot be resolved.  That said, if you know you hired the wrong person, switching before it’s too late is a smart idea.

Before you do anything, you will need to consider a few things:

First to consider is timing. The further along in a case you are the harder it can be to hire a new attorney. More events have occurred with new facts coming to light. This can be a timely and costly process for a new attorney to catch up on.

Secondly, it is important to consider additional costs. Your previous lawyer is entitled to be paid for their work already done. Any unearned money should be returned, but a new attorney will still require a separate and new retainer fee and possibly additional costs to expediate your case as needed.

We do suggest that you don’t fire one lawyer before you have another one in place to hire. Consider setting up consultations with potential lawyers. Do your homework. Be prepared and bring a list of concerns and questions. Your goal is to find out how they can best approach and handle your case with the most possible successful outcome.

If you do your due diligence you can find a family law lawyer that will work for you. Besides for the obvious reasons, it is also important to find a compatible attorney for you as you want to avoid switching lawyers’ multiple times. Not only is it a poor use of time and money it can cause further delay and confusion within the court system.

Family law related issues are stressful in nature. Be sure you find an attorney that helps alleviate the stress and truly works for you. Contact us for any questions or referral needs.

We are Chicago lawyers who help people find the right attorney for their case.  If you would like to speak to one our lawyers for free to get a referral or some advice, please call us any time at 312-346-5320.

A big part of any community is those who are dedicated to serving and protecting it. First responders are an important part of society and they put their lives on the lines to save others. Their jobs can be dangerous in many ways and sadly roadway safety is becoming one of them.

This year alone, there has been 26 total number of traffic crashes involving an Illinois State Trooper. In the history of the Illinois State Police, this has been the deadliest year on record, with four troopers having died in the line of duty. All 26 crashes and three of the deaths were traffic-related. A majority of these senseless accidents were a direct result of another motorist failing to use caution and mover over while a trooper was parked along the side of the road with emergency lights on.

While moving over for emergency vehicles may seem like common courtesy, it is actually the law. “Failure to yield to an emergency vehicle”, The Move Over Law or Scott’s Law, as best known, is an Illinois statue enacted in 2002 after the tragic death of an active Chicago firefighter in 2000.

With this law motorists are required to slow down, move over and proceed with caution. Initially this law only applied for law enforcement and first responders but an update to Scott’s Law in 2017 now governs emergency stopped commercial trucks and cars, such as licensed tow trucks, emergency management vehicles, vehicles from federal agencies and even some buses.

Just recently, In July 2019, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a legislation that will enhance penalties for who do not obey Scott’s Law.

First time violators will now have to pay a minimum of $250 in fines and a second offense could cost violators $750. Fines for violations can go as high as $10,000 and motorists could even have their license suspended. Jail time can be a penalty too if there is a result of harm to others.

In response to the increase of crashes resulting in injuries, Illinois law enforcement is extremely motivated to enforce Scott’s law this more than ever. Citations issued by the Illinois State Police has more than doubled this year compared to last year. Through November of this year, there has been a little under 6,000 citations issued from Scott’s Law compared to the same time period in 2018, issuing less than 750 citation.

Also signed into the law this year is the creation of the ‘move over’ task force. The objective of this work force is to study Scott’s Law violations in an effort to continually improve protection to law enforcement, first responders and civilians. With the help of social media, law enforcement is set on educating the public with the importance and changes in Scott’s Law.