I hear a lot of stories that make me sad and some that piss me off.  There are a lot of people who contact me looking to get a lawyer referral who have gotten a raw deal by the justice system and want to sue over it.

In the last year or so I’ve had a ton of calls from people who want to sue for a wrongful arrest.  Unfortunately most of these cases go nowhere.

To get arrested in Illinois and charged with a crime there just needs to be probable cause.  That can be as simple as some random person saying they saw you rob a store or that you hit them.  It’s a really low threshold. And as a result innocent people get arrested all of the time in Illinois.

To convict you the State has to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That is of course a much higher burden and allows some guilty people to go free so more innocent people won’t get convicted.

The problem is that if you are charged with a crime and can’t post bail, you can sit in prison for a long time.  That of course prevents you from working, being with your family and having any life.  It’s also very dangerous and can harm your health.  Even if you can post bail, being arrested can damage relationships and ruin your reputation.

So of course when you beat the charges whether winning at a trial or getting a good attorney who can get them dismissed, it’s natural that you’d want to sue.  Unfortunately it’s usually not a good case.

The people you could theoretically sue are the police and State’s Attorney. But if they have probable cause to bring charges, that is usually enough for them to avoid any liability for a lawsuit even if you think it should be obvious that you had nothing to do with the crime.

It’s typically only cases where you can prove a cop planted evidence or that the State’s Attorney hid evidence that would show you are innocent or something like that which would lead to a case. For example, in one case a guy was dating the ex-girlfriend of a police officer.  That officer was jealous and planted evidence on him to make him look guilty.  It was the intentional falsifying of the report that allowed there to be a case.

The better cases are the ones you wouldn’t want anything to do with and those are when people spend years or decades in jail after being wrongfully convicted.  Usually those cases are winners because DNA evidence shows that the police must have been lying about what they said happened and spending years in jail is a clear harm.

Either way, we are happy to talk to you for free if you think you might have a case or just want to know if you do.  We don’t promise a result, but do promise to always tell you the truth.

As lawyers in Illinois, we are required to complete 30 hours of continuing legal education every two years.  It’s somewhat tedious and a bit needless as I’m constantly educating myself on new laws, cases and legal happenings.  But we must formally attend conferences or in my case, watch videos online, so that’s what I do.

I was watching a live webinar that was provided by my legal malpractice insurance company on ten risk management tips.  Many of them were common sense such as don’t yell or return phone calls and respond to e-mail.    I didn’t need a video to know that.

As boring as it was, I did learn something new though.  The moderator asked how long on average does a potential client speak before a lawyer interrupts them?  They surveyed attorneys and the guess was 30 seconds which sounds quick, but usually is a point where either the client has said something I have a question about or they are going so far off track that we need to get on the same page.

The moderator said that they actually figured out the right answer is three seconds.  Three seconds before you get cut off once you start talking to a lawyer!

I’m not sure how they measured this, but I believe that it’s accurate.  I’m shocked, not shocked when I see attorneys and their clients talking at court.  You can tell that some of the lawyers are just bursting at the seams to not have to hear their client talk and many don’t fake their indifference.

I believe in predictors of success when it comes to hiring a lawyer.  If you talk to an attorney for the first time and they literally seem to have no time for you, it’s a huge red flag.  They should be asking you questions and it’s alright too if they are questioning you. They have to decide if they want you as a client just as much as you have to decide if you want them as a lawyer.  But if they won’t let you get a word out and don’t even care about anything you have to say, that’s a problem.

Note that there’s a big difference between them telling you “That’s not important for right now” versus you starting to tell what happened and them just cutting you off.  There’s also a difference between a lawyer saying “Tell me what brings you hear today” and a good lawyer who has a set of foundational questions they want answered at the get go because it’s always important.  For example, if an injured worker calls me, I always want to know when they were hurt and how before anything.  If you are looking for a divorce lawyer referral, I’d want to know where you live, how long you’ve been married, do you have kids and what you and your spouse do for a living. After that it’s up to you to ask what you want to ask and say what your concerns are.

Bottom line is that if an attorney is rude at the get go, they might be a fine attorney, but they more likely aren’t the one for you.

Questions?  Concerns?  Want to talk with an Illinois lawyer for free?  Call us any time at (800) 517-1614.

A couple months ago, a Cook County jury awarded a woman more than $148 million after she became paralyzed when a structure at O’Hare airport came loose during a storm and landed on her.  Her verdict against the City of Chicago was the largest I’ve ever seen in an Illinois personal injury case.

In reading about the history of the case, I learned that the City attorneys had offered $30 million to settle the case before trial.  That is a really large number and if she took it, it likely would have been one of the three biggest results in 2017.

She, through her attorneys, turned the offer down.  While the liability in this case was a slam dunk as the City admitted they were negligent (the bolts on the structure were missing) it takes a lot of guts to turn down a number that big. It’s possible that a jury could have awarded $10 million and even then that would have been a large result.

I bring this up because most lawyers will never get a $30 million offer to settle a case.  She was fortunate that she’d hired one of the top personal injury law firms in Chicago.  I’d estimate that there are maybe seven or eight firms that have the experience to handle an injury this severe and the confidence and intelligence to turn down such a large settlement offer.  For smaller firms or those without a big track record, their looking out for the client would be competing against their self interest of an eight figure pay day. Firms that have handled and won these cases before don’t make these decisions based on what’s good for their bottom line, but what’s good for the client.

The point is that if you want to get the best lawyer in Chicago or wherever in Illinois for your case, that doesn’t mean you hire the first attorney you can find.  I guarantee that any personal injury law firm in the country would have wanted this case.  What the victim did was make sure that she was with a firm that understood her injuries and knew how to maximize recovery by getting a proper investigation team on the scene.  They weren’t intimidated by the City attorneys or any of the games they played.

We exist and have so for over 16 years to help you find the best lawyer for you for your case.  The ones that deal with major injuries like this aren’t the right choice if you have $10,000 in medical bills and are for the most part better.  And those smaller firms aren’t the best choice for catastrophic cases.  They’d like a bigger case and they might even have a few seven figure cases in their background.  But the truth is that certain cases are worth more in the hands of certain firms.

So how do you make the right decision?

  1. You have to be aware and honest about what your case is really about.
  2. You have to know if there’s anything unique about your case such as an accident with a semi-truck or if it’s a divorce, a spouse who owns a business.
  3. You have to think about your individual goals.
  4. You have to understand track records of law firms and what is real and what is marketing b.s.

This might not sound easy and in some cases it’s not. You usually don’t know you made the wrong decision until it’s too late.  We started our FREE service in 2001 to help people figure out who the right lawyer is for their case. We’d be happy to help you make the right decision for you.  Call us for a no cost, confidential consultation any time (800-517-1614) or fill out our contact form and we’ll call you.  We cover all of Illinois.

On average we talk to 8-10 people a day who have been hurt on the job and have Illinois workers’ compensation legal questions.  We hear a lot of the same things over and over.  Here is a list of ten things that we think everyone should know about Illinois work comp law.

  1. It’s a no fault law.  Unless you are drunk or reckless (e.g. you jump off a roof for fun instead of using a ladder), your fault doesn’t matter if you get hurt at work.  You don’t have to prove the company was negligent and they aren’t off the hook if you are careless.
  2. Lawyer fees are 20% and don’t exceed that amount without special circumstances.  If an attorney asks you for any money up front you should not hire them.
  3. 100% of your medical bills should be paid for any treatment that is reasonable and related to your job injury.  No co-pays, no out of pocket expenses.
  4. The insurance company and your employer can not talk directly to your doctor and they should not be in your medical appointments. This includes any nurse case managers.  Don’t let them schedule your appointments either.  They have a right to get a copy of your medical records and bills.  That’s it.
  5. Any lawyer who tells you what your case is worth right after you’ve been hurt is probably full of it and telling you that just to try and get you to sign up with them.  No way to tell you for certain what the case is worth until you are finished with medical care and at maximum medical improvement.
  6. The value of your case is determined in part based on the severity of your injury, how it will affect you in the future, the medical care you have, how much money you were earning when hurt, your age, the job you can return to, whether or not you have any work restrictions and the need for future medical care.
  7. If you don’t want to sue your employer you are in luck.  Workers’ compensation cases in Illinois are  not lawsuits, but instead are claims for benefits like any other insurance claim.  There is no Judge or lawsuit although if you aren’t receiving payment we would go to arbitration on your behalf.
  8. Your employer can drug test you after an accident.  If you test positive it creates a “rebuttable presumption” that the drugs caused the accident.  You can overcome this based on the facts of how you got injured and witness testimony.
  9. You need to provide notice to your employer within 45 days of when you knew or should have known your injury was work related.  The sooner you report it, the better and do so in writing. You don’t want to lose a case on a technicality.
  10. You can switch attorneys if yours isn’t doing the job and it won’t cost you anything.  Lawyer fees can’t exceed 20%.  The new firm and old firm will have to work it out to split the 20% but it won’t affect your bottom line at all.

And of course if you have any questions about Illinois law, call us any time at (312) 346-5320 or fill out our contact form. It’s free, confidential and we cover all of Illinois.

I love being a lawyer.  It’s been 20 years and every day is different for me.  I didn’t know that I would feel that way when I started off and I consider myself very lucky. I had a long time client call me the other day about a situation he had. He knew it wasn’t something I handle, but told me that he wanted my opinion because “you are the only lawyer I trust.”  That made me feel great.

I told him as we ended the call to remember two things:  1. He can always call me with any questions. 2. Lawyers are the worst.  I said the second thing as a joke and he laughed, but the sad part is that it’s kind of true.

Now I know tons of passionate, great attorneys who really fight for their clients.  Those are the attorneys I recommend to people who call me for a lawyer referral.

I also though have met and talked to a lot of attorneys lately who clearly hate what they do.  I like to ask lawyers if they enjoy their practice area or if they see themselves evolving in to something else.  Too many attorneys are miserable having done the same thing for a long time.  I’ve been told by more and more attorneys is that all they really want to do is make enough money so they can stop doing law at all.

Now I’m not against anyone retiring and enjoying life.  In fact I get nervous if an attorney is in their 70’s and still practicing law.  To me that can be a bad sign.

What I’m talking about is lawyers that make clear in talking to them that they hate what they are doing, hate their clients and would rather do anything other than practice law, but don’t feel they have options.  Really these are people who worship the money they are making over personal happiness.  Yes it would suck to go from earning six figures to 40 grand a year, but if you hate life, isn’t that worth it?

The problem is that these miserable attorneys have clients like you who get harmed because you aren’t getting their best effort.  Sometimes you can still win or get a good result, but a lack of passion or caring can doom you.

Your attorney isn’t likely to come out and tell you that they hate their job, so what are the warning signs?

  • Failure to return phone calls
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • They don’t remember facts about your case that the two of you have discussed
  • Sloppy dress
  • High turnover in their office
  • Disorganized
  • They yell at you
  • Failure to follow through on what they say they will do

These are just some of the signs and if they do these things and aren’t burned out then they are just a bad attorney/person.  In most cases you can switch lawyers without problem and you should do so.  If you need help with a case or have questions call us at (312) 346-5320.

We are Chicago attorneys who will talk to you for free to answer any question you have or help you find the right lawyer for your case.  Call us any time at (312) 346-5320.  The service is free and we cover all of Illinois. Since 2001 we’ve helped more than 350,000 people and we would be thrilled to help you too.

Nobody wants to pay for a lawyer if they don’t have to.  Legal fees can be really expensive and in some cases even if you win, it feels like you lost and the only real winner is the attorney who took all of your money.

Because of this, we get a lot of calls from people looking for an attorney in Illinois who will work on consignment.  This is also known as contingency or “paid if you win.”  Essentially you don’t pay the attorney anything up front, but if they win the case, they get a percentage of what they recover for you, usually 1/3, but it can be more or less depending on the type of case and what you negotiate with them.  It’s risk/reward for them and you.

This type of fee isn’t available in all cases.  First, it can’t happen if you are in a case where money won’t be recovered such as a criminal case or when you are being sued.  It’s also not allowed by law in a divorce or custody case.  Attorneys typically don’t do it as well when the dollar amounts are small. In other words, if you are suing for $1,500, it’s not usually worth it to work on consignment.

So what types of cases can you get a lawyer who only gets paid if they win?

The most common cases are injury cases.  Car accidents, job injuries, medical malpractice, etc.  Every lawyer we know and recommend is consignment for those cases. If an attorney for an injury case asks you for up front money, you should run away.  It also happens with nursing home abuse, legal malpractice, social security claims (once you’ve been denied twice) and with class action lawsuits.

You can also get contingency attorneys in Illinois for some will contests (if the dollars are big enough), consumer fraud cases, some collection cases (when the defendant has money and your case is strong) and in some commercial litigation claims although when you are also being sued it makes finding an attorney much more challenging.

Bottom line is that there are consignment lawyers out there in Illinois.  If you would like our help in finding one, contact us at any time.

I got called by someone the other day who was beat up on the CTA red line and wanted to sue the Chicago Transit Authority because it happened on their property.  A month ago a woman was was sexually assaulted outside her apartment wanted to sue the building owner and asked for our help.  That same week a woman who fell down the stairs at her friend’s house when a railing broke called me looking for legal advice.  I was only able to help one of them.

To sue anyone for personal injury, you have to show that they were somehow negligent.  Getting hurt on their property does not make them liable under Illinois law.  You need to show negligence too.

So the guy who got beat up on the el train doesn’t have a case because the CTA had no way of knowing it was going to happen and they don’t have to provide security on every train.  If CTA staffers were watching it all go down it might be a case, but that’s not what happened here.

The woman who was sexually assaulted also doesn’t have a case. It was a stranger who followed her home that assaulted her.  It’s awful that this happened to her, but there was nothing that the building owner did that lead to this happening.  It would have been different if the door lock was broken and that allowed the criminal to get in.  Again, you have to show some sort of negligence.

Finally, the woman who fell down the stairs does appear to have a case.  A property owner has a duty to maintain their residence. If a railing breaks that is most likely due to some negligence and assuming there’s an injury, you can sue them and their homeowner’s insurance would likely have to pay for your medical bills, lost wages and any pain and suffering.

The bottom line is that getting hurt on someone else’s property is not enough to bring a case. You need to show negligence as well.  So it’s important to get all of the facts and see if we can make a case.

If you have questions or would like to talk to an attorney for free, call us any time at (312) 346-5320.  We cover all of Illinois.

I got a call from a really nice woman who had a civil matter in Tennessee that she needed legal help with.  She lived in Tennessee, but told me that she wanted an Illinois lawyer because, “All of the lawyers down here are connected and know each other.”

I explained to her that it would cost and arm and a leg to get an Illinois law firm to go to TN and that even if cost wasn’t an issue, unless it was a unique case like a trucking crash, getting someone local was a better idea.

It got me thinking though (do I write like Carrie Bradshaw), do people in Illinois worry that all of the lawyers are connected?

First off, there are over 90,000 people licensed to practice law in IL, 70,000+ of whom reside here.  In Cook County alone there are about 40,000 attorneys.  My job is to network with lawyers and even as someone who knows more lawyers than most people, I bet I don’t know more than 1,500 or so.

The point is that we aren’t all connected and even if we were, it’s not like we sit around and talk about selling out our clients because we are buddies.  Some of the most legendary battles at the Daley Center involve prominent plaintiff and defense lawyers who battle tooth and nail and then when the trial is over they’ll meet up for a cocktail or dinner.

Most of us are competitors.  It’s no different than if I was playing against a friend in basketball.  I play to win.  We also are businessmen and women.  Not so hidden secret, attorneys like to make money. If we sold out our clients for our friends then we’d not make as much and we’d probably lose the client.  I promise you that this just does not happen.

Beyond all of this, if we got caught doing what this caller alleged, we’d lose our license to practice law.  So to believe these theories, you’d have to believe I’d be willing to lose my career just so a friend looks good.

I get why people feel this way, especially when they think they have a great case, but can’t get representation or when the case isn’t going their way.  You might have hired the wrong firm for you or maybe you don’t really have a good case or maybe you just need to look more.  Whatever the reason, I guarantee you that we aren’t colluding against you or working with the other side.  Even the crappy attorneys who I’d never recommend don’t do this stuff.

On July 1st, Illinois radically changed its child support laws to become more aligned with other states that consider the incomes and parenting times of both parents when determining child support.

Under the new law, how much support you pay depends on how much time you and your ex have with the kids as well as how much you each make.  The State of Illinois has created a table (see: https://www.illinois.gov/hfs/SiteCollectionDocuments/IncomeSharesScheduleBasedonNetIncome.pdf) that tells you how much you’d have to contribute for support based on your monthly net income and the number of kids you have.  The key term is net as in after taxes and mandatory deductions for items like healthcare.

Under scenario #1 of the new law, you and your ex split custody of the kids 50/50.  If that happens you find your monthly income number on the table and theirs as well.  You multiply each by 150% and then subtract the lower one from the higher one.  Whoever earns more will pay that difference to the other person.  While there will surely be arguments about what each person truly makes per month, this is a relatively simple calculation.

Under scenario #2, if you have your kids less than half the time, but more than 40% of the time (146 overnights) then you will be paying child support, but under a different formula.   It’s a bigger calculation.  You take the joint monthly income of both parents, multiply it by 150% and then multiply it by the income percentage the paying parent earns and then by their soon to be ex’s parent percentage time. Does that sound confusing?  Let’s break it down.  If you and your ex combine to make $12,000 a month and you make $8,000 of that, but have the kids 42% of the time, you’d take the child support number on the table I linked to for $12,000, multiply it by 1.5 and then by .667 (your income percentage) and then by .58 (your ex’s parenting time).

Scenario #3 is a little simpler. When one parent has the kids less than 40% of the time (again this means overnights), you take the combined net income of both parents and find that number on the table.  You then multiply that number by the income percentage of the parent who will be paying.  So if a couple makes eight grand combined a month and the paying father/mother makes 75% of that amount, the number on the table is multiplied by .75.

There are a few things to know about this new law.  The biggest is that you can’t go in and get your old child support order changed just because the law is different.  You have to show a change in your circumstances such as making more or less money.  Also, Judges have some discretion in how to apply this law so if you try and get more custody of your kids just to pay less and they see through that, you’ll still end up paying.

The courts in Illinois are already getting flooded with cases and you can bet that will continue.  If you have questions or want help on a case, call us at (800) 517-1614 to speak with one of our Chicago based attorneys for free.

It’s an Uber rider’s nightmare; sitting in the back seat, when an accident occurs due to the driver being distracted. In many cases, ride share drivers will work for both Uber and Lyft. With both of these companies relying on cell phone technology, some drivers will use two phones at once and others are new to town and have no idea how to navigate without the help of their phones. So, what happens if you are that dreaded rider in the back when an accident occurs?

I was once in an Uber in Chicago, with a driver that didn’t know how to get from the Loop to Wrigley Field. Constant eye contact on his phone/GPS trying to figure his way around a new city instead of safely delivering me to my destination. Often, people will relocate to a new city and sign on to be an Uber or Lyft driver because it is an easy way for them to make quick money. The problem of course is they are completely unaware of their surroundings when they are so reliant on the app or GPS to get them where they are going or to pick up their next fare. There have been cases in other cities of pedestrians hit by Uber and Lyft drivers because the driver was too busy looking for another fare, to look up and see the pedestrian crossing the street. One accident left a man sitting in the back of an Uber with a broken leg after the driver ran a red light. Another left a woman with a broken collarbone after a Lyft driver was struck by another driver, who ran a red light.

Both Uber and Lyft have similar minimum insurance coverage of $1 million dollars in coverage for death, personal injury, and property damage. If you are the rider in an Uber or Lyft accident, the coverage can establish a claim against the other driver involved in an accident if they were at fault. This coverage will cover not only a passenger injured while in an Uber or Lyft, and will also cover damages if an Uber or Lyft driver causes damages or injury to your car. If you have been involved in an accident as a passenger,  pedestrian, or another vehicle struck by an Uber or Lyft driver, give us a call at (312) 346-5320. We will put you in touch with an attorney in your area who will make sure your medical bills are covered as well as any additional compensation you may be due including lost time from work.