If you get into a car accident, especially if you are rear-ended and don’t see it coming, it’s not uncommon to feel mostly OK immediately after it happens. If your buddy is unexpectedly whipped around, it will usually create a rush of adrenaline in your system. This often will prevent you from noticing any pain.

It’s not uncommon at all to wake up a day or two after an accident and then have back or neck pain. In fact, we probably see that more than we do see people have back and neck pain right away unless they hit their head on the window or have an airbag injury.

In these situations, you likely would not have received medical care right after the accident. So the question we get a lot is, “When is too late to go see a doctor.”

The correct answer is never. Your health is most important so whenever you start feeling poorly you should see a doctor whether it’s related to an accident or not.

But as far as the case itself goes, the correct answer is that the longer you wait, the harder it is to prove your injuries are related to the accident. I’ve noticed in uptick of people who have tried to “tough it out” and end up going months without getting any medical care beyond taking Advil.

If you were hit by a car in June and don’t see a doctor for back pain until October, it’s really hard to prove that your back problems are related to that accident. At the very least it creates a really good defense for the insurance company. I say that, because during the time in between the accident and the first appointment, you are living life, working, walking around, etc. It’s assumed that if you are able to do those things that you are fine. And it indicates that something else might have happened to cause you to seek care.

For us, we encourage people to get treatment ASAP and if anyone goes more than a month without doing that after the accident, we would be hesitant to get involved. On the other hand, if you went a doctor a couple of days after an accident and don’t return for 4-6 weeks, we can make a better argument that your need for treatment is still related to getting hit.

The bottom line is that the sooner you treat the better. I hate going to the doctor too and the US health care system is kind of a joke. But if you create a gap in treatment you are also creating a defense for the insurance company. And they love to deny cases for any reason they can.

We get so many great questions from people who are looking for an Illinois attorney to speak to for free. Some of those questions we turn into a blog post. Others we save up and put in one big post every few months. Here are some of the interesting questions we’ve received recently. If you have a question you can call us any time at 312-346-5320.

What is the lawyer fee on medical malpractice lawsuits in Illinois? Is it different for trial vs. settlements?

It’s 1/3 of what is recovered. That is an Illinois state law. An attorney can’t charge you more if the case goes to trial.

Can I get more alimony if my spouse cheated?

Illinois is a no fault divorce state. While sub-consciously a Judge might think about awful things your spouse did like cheating, there is no law that punishes them for doing it and it certainly won’t increase your maintenance (alimony).

Is it true you can’t expunge a felony?

No, this is not true. In Illinois, you can expunge or seal some felony convictions, but not all. You may be eligible to expunge or seal a Class 4 felony conviction if it is your first offense and you have completed all the terms of your sentence. You may also be eligible to expunge or seal certain non-violent Class 3 and Class 4 felony convictions. More serious violent crimes typically can not be expunged. Every case is different and you should call to see if you are eligible. Note that if you were charged, but not convicted, that arrest can be expunged or sealed.

I got fired with no warning or notice. Is that legal?

Assuming you aren’t in a union or don’t have an employment contract, the answer is yes. Illinois is an at will employment state which means you can be let go any time, for any reason, without warning, unless it’s for an illegal reason. Unfair or unjust isn’t illegal.

I’m worried I’m going to get fired. If that happens does my company have to give me a severance?

They don’t. It happens often for good will and to get you to waive your rights to sue them for anything. But it’s not required by law. That said, if there’s any indication that you are being let go illegally, we often can get one for you.

If I’m worried about treatment of my grandma in a nursing home, but she’s not injured, is there anything I can do?

Yes. Call the Illinois Department on Aging. They will investigate bad treatment in those care facilities.

Why can’t I be defended on a contingency basis? What if I win the case and get sanctions or lawyer fees awarded to me?

This doesn’t happen because there’s no realistic expectation that you are going to be recovering money when you are being sued.

Is it legal to spank my kids?

It’s not and why would you want to do that? It’s physical child abuse. You are a giant person to them. You might think it’s a good idea because it happened to you, but I promise you it’s not. And it could lead to a DCFS investigation and/or criminal charges.

Growing up I loved to rent and watch movies back when you went to Blockbuster or the town video store to actually rent a movie. I loved “Animal House” but now that I’m older I can see that while it was hilarious, there is also a really disturbing rape situation going on. I also enjoyed “Porky’s” and saw it a lot, but now that I’m an adult I see that there was a lot problematic with that movie too.

But the king of movies I didn’t realize had issues is “Revenge Of The Nerds.” I watched it again recently and couldn’t believe the number of felonies that it showed, most of which were committed by the “good guy” nerds. As an Illinois attorney who has helped thousands of people with Illinois criminal charges, I could make a career off of defending all of these cases.

The most obvious one is when nerd Lewis has sex with Betty by stealing the mask of her boyfriend Jefferson. It doesn’t seem like a big deal to a 13-year-old boy watching it because she ends up liking it and making him her boyfriend. But it’s clearly rape. I can’t imagine that scene getting made in a movie today. That is the worst one, but there are others:

  • Booger talks about going to the high school to look for jail bait.
  • The Tri Lambdas Film the sorority girls without their consent.
  • The Tri Lambdas watch the naked women with Wormser, the child who is in college. That’s sexual exploitation of a minor.
  • They then sell pictures of the nude women to others on campus. That could be felony revenge porn under Illinois law.
  • The Nerds put liquid heat on the jockstraps of the football players. It’s a funny scene, but also breaking and entering, potentially use of chemical weapons or battery.
  • The Nerds do a panty raid on the sorority. There were so many crimes there including sexual battery, theft, and criminal trespass.

Of course, the jocks committed a lot of crimes too. They include:

  • Ogre throwing a pledge off a balcony. It could be considered attempted murder.
  • The coach and police seem to commit insurance fraud when discussing the fire in their fraternity.
  • There are attempts at bestiality.
  • The Alpha Betas tar and feather Louis which looks like aggravated battery to me.
  • They unleash pigs on the Nerd house which includes many crimes including animal cruelty.

There were random crimes such as:

  • The old woman who hits on young Wormser.
  • The school having them get drunk while riding tricycles.
  • Football coach John Goodman encourages arson and threatens the dean with violence.

Now I’m not a no-fun person and I don’t take offense to this movie or take it seriously. It’s part of being a lawyer that you see things in a different light at times based on what we do every day for work. And holy hell, did I not realize that Revenge Of The Nerds is as much a criminal movie as it is a comedy.

This was almost a one word blog post. The answer is no. But I’ve heard stories of this happening so often in the last year that I thought it was worth expanding on.

When you hire a lawyer (or doctor, psychologist, probably real estate agent, many other professions) to represent you in a case, there is a natural power imbalance. You might be attracted to them. You might like them. You might want to have sex with them or date them. That doesn’t change the fact that the relationship is imbalanced.

Illinois attorney ethical rules are crystal clear that a lawyer can not have any romantic encounters with a client. In fact, if you are representing a client and begin to feel romantic toward them, if you want to date them you have to terminate the attorney/client relationship before that can happen.

We were involved in one case where the client was attracted to her lawyer and began a sexual relationship with him. After a while she felt that he was manipulating her into sex with issues related to her case and personal things that he knew about her. Eventually she felt she couldn’t say no because she had no more money to hire a lawyer and she was worried he’d drop her if she turned him down.

In many situations the sex is taking place in the lawyer’s office. That’s a sure sign that they know what they are doing is wrong. And even if it’s a more proper venue, I assure you that the lawyer knows what they are doing is wrong.

If this happened to you, there are two things you should do:

  1. File a complaint with the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, iardc.org which is the disciplinary body for lawyers. If your attorney does this they should lose their license to practice law.
  2. Call us or another law firm to file a lawsuit against the attorney. There action is a version of sexual assault. It would not be a surprise to see a lawsuit result in a settlement or verdict in the six or seven figures depending on the case facts.

If this happened to you, we would be happy to talk to you about if for free and in confidence. There is never a fee on these cases unless we are successful. Please note that there are time limits for filing suit, so time is of the essence. If you’d like to speak with an experienced Illinois attorney, please call us at 312-346-5320.

Recently a friend called me asking for a divorce attorney referral for his brother. Unfortunately the brother is in another state so I couldn’t help. We only handle family law cases in the Chicago area. I couldn’t help him, but gave the brother some guidance on questions to ask before hiring an attorney. These questions are helpful for anyone looking to speak with a Chicago divorce attorney.

  1. What is the retainer fee? If a lawyer wants $5,000 and you only have $1500, that attorney isn’t going to work with you. Retainers are payment plans and every lawyer wants that retainer amount paid in full, up front, before they do anything.
  2. How long will the retainer fee last? You might be excited that a lawyer has a low retainer fee, but some will do that to just get your money and get you in the door. If they are going to be asking for money in three weeks and you won’t have it, they’ll potentially drop you.
  3. Who is going to work on my case? There’s a law firm in Chicago that is potentially in big trouble for having multiple lawyers and staff members bill (over bill) on pretty basic cases. Most cases require just one lawyer and maybe one support person. Either way, you want to know who you will be hiring and primarily working with. You don’t want to think you are hiring a lawyer with 25 years of experience and end up with a young attorney just out of law school.
  4. What will I be billed for? They should bill for talking to you, attending court, writing motions, talking to the other attorney, etc. They shouldn’t bill you for un-needed research, talking to co-workers about your case, etc.
  5. What time increments do you bill in? Believe it or not some firms will bill you 15-30 minutes of time for reading an email from you that took them less than a minute to read. Others will charge an hour of time for a five minute court appearance. This is why we tell people not to worry about the retainer cost as much as hiring an honest law firm. Which leads to my next question to ask.
  6. What is the estimated cost for my case? They can’t tell you for sure because your spouse could make a case drag on. That said, if you know it will be amicable or there’s really only one issue to fight over, they should be able to give you an estimate. They should at least be able to give you a range.
  7. When will the case be filed and when is the first court date? This will help you understand the process.
  8. Will you be out of town or unavailable for an extended period in the next 12 months? I’ve seen cases where someone hired an attorney a couple of weeks before that lawyer got married and then was out of town for more than three weeks with wedding activities and a very long honeymoon. You should know that before you put your case in their hands.
  9. When you are unavailable, who do I talk to? Who will work on my case? Hopefully this is self explanatory. If the answer is nobody I would be worried.
  10. Who do I talk to when I call? Some firms essentially have paralegals or secretaries do all of the communication. That’s in my opinion not great. The lawyer will have other cases, but they should be able to speak to you when needed. That doesn’t mean every day or every call, but in general they should be available.
  11. What is the best way to communicate with you? In my opinion, the best way is email or text for basic stuff and phone calls for something more urgent or serious with meetings before big court events. Either way, find out.
  12. How often should I expect to hear from you? As stated, they have other cases and there is no reason for them to talk to you daily or weekly. But in most cases you should have at least monthly communication.
  13. How often will I be billed? My recommendation is to ask for monthly invoices so you can track what you are being charged for and don’t find yourself with a huge bill out of nowhere.
  14. What do you know about my spouse’s attorney? They might not have one yet, but if they do, your lawyer should give you some insight on them.
  15. What can you tell me about the Judge? This would be for cases already filed. If they have no idea about the Judge it’s a bad sign.
  16. What am I not thinking about that I should? You can’t be expected to know what a lawyer knows. They should educate you at that first meeting.
  17. What is a realistic outcome of my case? I like attorneys that are honest and direct. This gives them a chance to show that to you.
  18. What percentage of your practice is divorce and family law? It doesn’t have to be 100%, but in my opinion it should be close to that.
  19. What experience do you have with forensic accounting in your cases? This is if your divorce involves a business owned by either spouse. Properly valuing that business as well as searching for hidden money could be a big issue. If your lawyer usually deals with more basic divorces they are not the right attorney for you.
  20. What can I do to help my situation? This is a good one for when you have kids and custody is an issue. Documenting all the things you do for them is helpful. There are many other things you can do to increase your chances of success. What those are depends on the case issues.

I hope these tips help. Nothing guarantees a good result in your case, but having an attorney who does a good job really increases your chances of success. If you would like a recommendation of an attorney that we feel would do a good job for you, please call us at 312-346-5320 any time.

About once a week, we get a phone call from someone who is divorced and needs a qualified domestic relief order (QDRO) completed. In plain English, it’s a legal document that divides up retirement funds between the two spouses. It essentially gives you your share of a 401k for the amount that was accumulated during a marriage.

Even if a spouse isn’t retiring when you get divorced, a QDRO can be completed and entered into court when you get divorced. And it should be completed then. It’s a lot of paperwork and if you don’t know what you are doing it can be complicated. So even though it should be done during the divorce, a lot of lazy Illinois divorce attorneys simply aren’t doing it.

Typically a QDRO is filed by the spouse not on the benefits. So if you are a husband whose wife gets a 401k through her work, you’d want to file it. If you are a wife whose husband has a 401k, then the burden would be on you.

Why so many divorce attorneys don’t do their job is beyond me. I think it’s because so many lawyers who take on divorces don’t actually handle cases that are beyond simple. They likely handle divorce and traffic and car accidents and write wills and do almost anything that comes through the door.

What ends up happening is years later you have to hire a different lawyer to finish the job. That will cost you more money than it should.

Now some may say that it’s not a big deal, they’ll deal with it when they have to. But there are a couple of problems with that:

  1. You risk your ex bleeding those funds dry without a court order. That could literally cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars.
  2. Most real family law and divorce attorneys don’t want to do QDRO’s if it’s not a case they are handling for an existing client. They know that it’s something the first attorney should have done and because they aren’t really enjoyable, a lot of them just refuse to clean up someone else’s mess.

The good news is that we do know some very good attorneys who will do this work. It can be frustrating for you as you will have to shell out money to get money that you are entitled to. But when your first attorney didn’t do the job (or you went without a lawyer and didn’t have a QDRO done), you really have no choice.

If you are in the Chicago area and want help getting a QDRO completed, entered and approved by the Courts, please call us any time at 312-346-5320.

I have a son who plays high level soccer. He will often travel 3-5 hours to play a game. It’s fun to see him against other teams, but there are also times when I think it’s dumb as there is so much great competition within an hour of where his club is based. Other times they will travel to places like Florida, Maryland, Dallas (in the summer) to play teams from around the country.

I go along with most of the travel because that’s what you do as a parent and he loves it and has big goals. Certainly there are times when I think it’s ridiculous and I definitely don’t think the decision makers have the best interests of the kids at heart.

If he does play Division 1 soccer, it’s likely the travel will make even less sense. If you are a sports fan, you know that the Big 10 is now actually 18 teams consisting of schools that touch both the Atlantic and the Pacific. I don’t envy the players that have to fly from Washington to Happy Valley, PA or from UCLA to a game in Iowa. If you don’t have charter flights, none of these trips will be easy. It’s of course happening elsewhere. Arizona now will have a conference game in West Virginia.

The players who will have it best are actually the football players. Most teams will have only four to five road games and likely will only have one to two really out of the way trips with the exception of the west coast schools who probably will have three. It sounds like a nightmare for the other sports, especially baseball and softball who play multiple games in a weekend. If you play a Friday series that means you are likely gone Thursday until late Sunday, early Monday at best.

I worry about the mental health of these players. The reality is that college sports is pro sports and these conference realignments are only happening due to the revenue sports of football and basketball. There’s sadly no going back on the changes made because of those sports.

The question I have is why do we treat all the sports the same? There’s no reason to. Already for sports like hockey and men’s soccer, you will find schools playing in different conferences than their other sports. Akron is in the Big East for soccer. Kentucky is in the same conference as Coastal Carolina and Georgia State. San Diego State plays with five other Pac 12 schools.

So why not have these national conferences for football and basketball and sensible, reasonable conferences for all the other sports? All you would need is a commissioner for each sport and an agreement to do what’s best for the kids. I realize that is probably a pipe dream.

But if you really cared about the best interests of the kids, you’d have some rule that all efforts should be made to keep 80% of the games within driving distance.

Take Northwestern for example. They are part of the Big 10 in soccer and soon will have to travel to Washington or UCLA every year, but also go to Maryland, Rutgers, and Penn State. Why not have most of their sports in the same conference as UIC, Loyola, DePaul, Northern Illinois, Illinois, Bradley and even Purdue, Indiana and Notre Dame (yes, I know not all of those schools have men’s soccer). This would still lead to really strong competition and the schools with more money or interest could still play non-conference games a little further afoot.

This already happens and works in college hockey. Boston College of the ACC is in a conference with Boston University, Northeastern (also in Boston), UMass and a bunch of other New England schools that are within driving distance. You could play road games on a Friday and Saturday and still sleep in your own bed. None of this has prevented BC from being a college hockey powerhouse.

This of course would not only be good for mental health, but also save money. And it wouldn’t take away from the competition. Is it hypocritical to not do this for football and basketball? Of course it is, but the whole of NCAA sports and the idea of a student athlete is built on hypocrisy. But it’s a workable and reasonable solution, especially for the schools who have fellow conference members 2,000 miles apart from them. And if it doesn’t happen, the next step is going to be to drop these non-revenue sports which nobody wants to see happen.

The next step is for a leader to step up and propose something that may sound radical, but really is logical. It could happen if we put an athletes first person like Jay Bilas in charge of the NCAA. In other words, it will never happen.

Growing up I heard the term ambulance chaser. It’s meant to describe a low life personal injury attorney who would follow an ambulance to a hospital and try to sign up a client. The image is of an unkempt person with a bad suit and bad haircut.

I never imagined that could be a reality, but sadly it is. Now with the caveat that most Illinois personal injury attorneys are honest and ethical and the ones we recommend wouldn’t do these things, there do seem to be more and more that toe the line of morality. And in my opinion they greatly cross the line of what’s right and wrong. Here are some things I’ve heard from callers in the last few months:

  • One Chicago personal injury attorney may have stolen funds from a client as part of a settlement that were supposed to be used to pay off liens by medical providers. This same attorney paid the client in cash for the settlement instead of writing a check. I’ve literally never heard of an attorney doing that and can’t imagine why they would. Oh, and this lawyer has been suspended from practicing law for unethical behavior three times.
  • In one case where a person was rear-ended in Chicago at a stop light, more than 20 law firms reached out to them within a week, unsolicited. Many of them did it by phone, a couple had “runners” show up at their house. I hear this type of behavior all the time. Is that not ambulance chasing? Many firms buy crash reports. Some allegedly pay off cops to hand out their business card or alert them to big accidents.
  • One of the lawyers who does this chasing is backed by private equity money meaning he has investors in his law firm that fund his practice. They of course have an expectation of getting a return on their money. To me it’s a huge red flag if a firm is doing this as you have to question if they are going to be worried about your best interests or making their investors happy. In fact, I encourage you to ask your lawyer before you hire them if they are backed by private equity. One notorious lawyer who does this doesn’t actually try cases.
  • Another firm advertises heavily here with billboards and TV ads yet the main guy isn’t even licensed to practice law in Illinois. They just hire out attorneys to handle the cases. They are, in my opinion, marketers, not lawyers.
  • I’ve heard stories of some attorneys paying clients at the beginning of the case to sign up. It’s basically an illegal advancement on their settlement. It sounds great to the client, but the reality is that these lawyers are breaking the law and often you end up with less because they are just trying to churn through cases instead of get the best result possible.
  • And of course many lawyers pay doctors for referrals or have an arrangement where they send each other business even if it’s not in the best interest of the client.

It’s really disheartening that it happens so much and that it’s happening more and more. The public gets hurt. All I can tell you is that if someone will cross an ethical line to get your business, it’s a reflection of how they will handle your case. And the best firms who get the best results don’t feel a need to do this and their clients are happier.

Most Americans have heard about the opioid crisis in our country. Opioids (or opiates) are a broad class of drugs that help control or relieve acute pain. Some common opiate painkillers include oxycodone (sold under the trade names OxyContin and Percocet), hydrocodone (Vicodin and Norco) and fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic). Some opioids are derived naturally from the poppy plant and others are synthesized in a laboratory.

When opioid medications travel through your blood and attach to opioid receptors in your brain cells, the cells release signals that dampen your perception of pain and increase your feelings of pleasure.

Doctors often prescribe opioids following surgery or an injury, or for health conditions such as cancer. The opioid drugs are quite potent and readily available, which means there is a risk that patients will become addicted to them and possibly overdose. It’s not negligent for these doctors to prescribe these drugs, but it is negligent to not monitor their use or over prescribe them.

Since the 1990’s there has been an alarming increase in the overuse, misuse/abuse, and overdose deaths attributed to opioids. Yes, there is some level of personal responsibility involved when taking any medication; however, we are going to focus on corporate greed and physicians wrongly prescribing or over prescribing the drugs that lead to these awful outcomes.

Pharmaceutical companies make more money if more people take the medications they produce. That makes sense. But what is concerning is that, according to an analysis from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School, and CNN, “Opioid manufacturers are paying U.S. doctors huge sums of money for speaking, consulting, and other services—and the more opioids a doctor prescribes, the more money he or she gets paid by those same manufacturers.”

With pharmaceutical companies and doctors looking to line their pockets, is the best interest of the patient at the forefront? Can drug-pushing doctors be liable for the deaths of their patients?

Recently, a Cook County jury decided yes, in a particular case. That jury awarded $6 million to the family of a woman who died due to an opioid addiction the family says was caused by her doctor.

A woman was under the care of a pain management physician for years for neck and back pain from a work-related accident. That physician prescribed her hydrocodone with refills nearly every month. The doctor also increased her prescription several times as she said she was feeling no change in her pain level.

The woman began to abuse the opioids and died of respiratory failure related to her opioid use.

The woman’s family stated that the doctor failed to warn her of the dangers of opioid medications and failed to wean her off them after the doctor knew that the meds were not working to relieve her pain.

The $6 million verdict sends a signal to pain management doctors to be more thoughtful about how they prescribe these drugs.

While every case is different, we are interested in helping families who have lost loved ones due to the failure of doctors in monitoring these opioids. If you know someone who has died from opioid use related to a doctor over-prescribing these powerful meds, please contact us at 312-346-5320. All calls are free and confidential and there is no fee unless the case is successful.

We are experienced Illinois attorneys who can help you with an accidental death benefits lawsuit when the insurance company doesn’t pay out a policy. To speak with an attorney for free, call us any time at 312-346-5320. We cover all of Illinois.

We have written a lot about life insurance lawsuits in Illinois. Those are cases where someone dies and there is a life insurance policy on them that doesn’t get paid out for some reason.

Accidental death insurance is a different type of benefit than life insurance. As the name implies, it pays out for accidental death. It also can pay out for accidental injuries such as a loss of a limb. It overlaps slightly with life insurance, but only provides a benefit for stuff like being killed in a car accident, being murdered, a plane crash, etc. People like it because you are typically automatically accepted for it if you apply for it unlike life insurance which often requires a medical exam and screening.

Much like life insurance, we see insurance companies denying these policies without good cause and acting in bad faith. They will look for any non-accidental factor that contributed to a death and hope that you will accept the denial and go away.

The key thing to know is that quite often these denials are b.s. When you purchase and accidental death and dismemberment policy (AD&D) the beneficiary shouldn’t have to deal with a nonsense denial. What the lawyers we recommend typically do is immediately file a lawsuit to force the insurance company to provide a valid reason for the denial. Often doing so results in them just paying out the policy benefits. Some of the ways they deny you wrongly include:

  • Saying that the policy had lapsed when they didn’t give notice this will happen.
  • Alleging there is a misrepresentation in the application for benefits.
  • Saying the death was caused by an illness, not an injury
  • Putting a requirement in place that isn’t clearly defined or interpreting something vague in their own favor.

It’s important to know that these policies often have filing deadlines, so acting without delay is important. You should also know that the attorneys who take on these cases work on a contingency basis which means that there is no fee to you unless they are successful with the lawsuit.

The bottom line is that you should not accept a denial in the payout of accidental death and dismemberment benefits without talking to an attorney first. If you would like a free, confidential consultation, we would be happy to speak with you any time.