I recently binge-watched “Better Call Saul.”  It’s a great show, and to me, it’s even more interesting due to how it portrays being a lawyer. While it’s not 100% accurate of course, a lot of what they show mirrors experiences I’ve had when talking to potential clients.

In one scene, a person who is suspected of a crime discusses their case with Saul who is trying to convince them to hire him as their lawyer. The likely criminal says something to the effect of, “If I hire a criminal lawyer, won’t that make me look guilty?”

I laughed out loud when I heard that because it’s something I’ve probably heard over 100 times in the last 20 years.

First off, hiring an attorney doesn’t make you look guilty, even if you’ve done nothing wrong. It makes you look smart.  The police and prosecutors are not on your side and are not looking out for you.  Innocent people go to jail every day in this country. So if you are in Chicago or anywhere else, getting an attorney when the police want to talk to you is what smart people do.

You’ve certainly heard the saying that anything you say can and will be used against you. That comes from what is called a Miranda Warning.  The word warning is in there on purpose as in “warning, you should not talk.”  This isn’t ripping on cops. There are good ones and bad ones.  But neither of them are looking out for you or on your side.  When you talk you can get in trouble.  When your lawyer talks for you, it can’t be used against you.  A lawyer will protect you whether you are guilty or not.

Beyond that, I can point to hundreds of cases where not having a lawyer or hiring one that doesn’t specialize in criminal defense can hurt you. Last year, the scumbags who murdered Ahmed Aubrey were in my opinion only arrested and then convicted because they hired a personal-injury-focused lawyer who reportedly let the client/murderer share a video of what happened with a radio station.   You want to get a lawyer who is handling criminal defense all day, every day.  Those guys thought they were innocent and only their stupidity led them to be arrested.

I don’t blame callers for not knowing this or being worried about how they will look. You can’t be expected to know what attorneys know.  But hopefully you can trust that we are trying to look out for you and do what is best for you.  Especially in Cook County where prosecutors and Judges can be tough, it’s really important to protect yourself. Call us at 312-346-5320 if you want to discuss a case.  It’s free and confidential.

Picture a 20-year-old college student from Wilmette, Naperville, or wherever, and they get pulled over and arrested for driving on a revoked license.  They themselves aren’t rich but have rich parents who can hire a good attorney and pay the $1,000 or $2,500 that the Judge asks for bail. Eventually, the case works its way through the system and the attorney his parents hire gets the case dismissed or knocked down to a smaller charge with a fine and no jail time.

Now imagine someone who lives paycheck to paycheck and doesn’t have parents to bail them out of a tough situation.  They only drive because they have to get to work, and they too get pulled over and arrested. Bail is set at $2,500 which is money they don’t have. In fact, nobody they know has that. So they spend six months in jail and eventually plead guilty with time served as the punishment. Of course, now they’ve lost their job, their apartment, and their car has been impounded and taken away.

A version of this story happens all of the time.  We essentially, in Illinois and in the United States in general, decide who will spend time locked in a cage before trial and who will be home with their family based on how much money they have or can get access to.  After 25 years of being an attorney, it’s still the most shocking and upsetting part of my job.

Bail is punitive. People think it’s designed to protect the public and guarantee the alleged offender will show up to court. But what about having more cash than someone else makes the public safer? Of course not. We criminalize poverty in this country.

This is why I have been a big proponent of bail reform laws.  If someone is charged with a violent felony and could be an actual danger, then detention makes sense. If someone is a true flight risk, then a cash bail with ankle monitoring might make sense. But for most of the general public, bail is punitive and unjust.

In many cases, a family will struggle to raise $5,000 or so in order for a loved one to get out of jail. By doing that, they no longer have the money to pay for a lawyer or at least not a good one.  So again, the lack of true justice continues. It’s simply wrong to get a different result in a case based on your income.

Financial inequity happens all over the law, especially in cases like divorce or general civil litigation where you have to pay an attorney by the hour.  There is, sadly, no good solution to that problem beyond the State funding attorneys for people who are below a certain income level.

But in criminal cases, we know that this problem exists and we continue to let it happen. And it happens even though there are logical solutions that, while they won’t completely make things equitable, they will reduce the imbalance of outcomes between rich and poor.  So when you see someone running for office as “tough on crime,” it might sound good or make you feel safe. But the reality is that the way it’s done is unjust and ends up leading to more problems than it’s worth in most cases.

When a person lives in an apartment building, what can they reasonably expect in return for the rent they pay? There are obvious answers to this question. A space in which to live and sleep. Working appliances. A dumpster or cans for their trash. A mail receptacle. Maybe a parking space is included in the rent. If you are lucky it’s not too loud and you can enjoy life. Having great neighbors or making friends is just a bonus for some people.

One thing that may not come to mind right away centers on the safety of the renters in the building. Tenants can expect a basic level of security provided by the building owner and/or property management company. Now that doesn’t mean every building should have a live security guard on duty 24/7, but it does mean that at a minimum, doors to the building should lock properly. If there is a security guard there, they should screen the people who want to come in and out. If the security guards notice something they should act on it. If locks are broken and the owner/management company becomes aware of it, they should fix it in a timely manner

There was a recent case brought by a woman who was sleeping in her Chicago Gold Coast apartment when a man entered and sexually assaulted her. How did the man get into the building in the first place? The victim stated that the man walked into the building through a security door with a malfunctioning lock.

The woman sued the owners of her building, the property management company, and a company that employs maintenance workers at the building. She alleged that tenants had notified the building staff that the deadlock latch on the security door was not working prior to the attack and that their negligence allowed the man to enter the building and then assault her.

The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, and she received an award for her pain and suffering, loss of a normal life, and emotional distress. The jury, siding with the woman, made it clear that landlords should have basic, working safety measures in place in their buildings. They awarded her $5.4 million in damages. That is one of the largest verdicts ever for an apartment building attack in Chicago.

Their knowledge of the broken door and failure to act is what made this a case. It likely would have been a different result if the plaintiff couldn’t prove they were aware of it.  It also would have been different if it was a fellow tenant who attacked her, an invited guest of a tenant or someone who broke through a locked door or window to get in. Building owners don’t have to guarantee your safety and aren’t usually responsible when someone beats good faith efforts to keep a building secure.  When they fail to deliver on what they promise you or don’t take reasonable actions to fix problems, that’s when they may be liable.

We have helped a lot of people in the last 21 years who have been attacked in buildings in Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois. Not every case is a winner, but if you have any injury, it’s worth discussing. If you would like to speak with an experienced attorney for free about what happened to you, please call us any time at 312-346-5320.  We can’t promise a result, but do guarantee to treat you like a family member or friend and offer honest advice about what you can do and if you have a case or not.

I recently applied to an apartment for my child as a co-signer.  As part of the process we had to go through a criminal background check.  It came back clean, but took a couple of days.  The paranoid lawyer in me wondered during the delay of hearing back if there was some sort of screw-up.

Unfortunately not every criminal background check comes back clean when it should. It usually happens when people are applying for jobs.  We see it a lot with ride share companies like Uber and Lyft and regular employers as well. The most common error happens when someone has a common name. It’s not unusual for their information to appear wrongly as yours.  Other errors occur when they report on offenses that have been expunged or sealed. And believe it or not, sometimes they simply misread public information and don’t realize you were found not guilty of a crime.

While the economy is going great and the jobless rate is at all time lows, losing a job you want because of someone else’s error shouldn’t happen.  It’s often because the company that does these reports isn’t using all available reasonable procedures to ensure maximum accuracy in reporting. Sometimes they only match a name and date of birth.  I’ve seen cases where someone who has lived in Chicago their whole life lose out on a job because someone with a similar name in California was arrested. This caller had never left the midwest.

If you discover an error on your report, the background check company must, for free, conduct an investigation into the reporting. The agency must then report back the results, and if the information is removed, offer to send this new report to the company that received your incorrect report. This investigation has to happen within 30 days of you notifying them.

Note that the employer has to provide you with a copy of the bad report if that is why a job is denied to you. They can’t hide whoever it is that they were using to make this background check. They can’t just turn you down and not show you why.  And if they are using the report not to hire you, the must say so in writing and provide reasons for the rejection in writing.

If there is incorrect information on your background check and it costs you a job, you might have a lawsuit. We know consumer fraud attorneys in Chicago who have a great track record of success in suing over these errors. They work on a contingency basis which means that you won’t have to pay them anything to start a case and they only get paid if they win.

If you would like to ask questions about a bad background check, you can speak with an attorney for free by contacting us at 312-346-5320.

Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or other healthcare professional is negligent, deviating from the standards of care in their profession, and causes injury to a patient. The negligence could occur during the diagnosis, treatment/surgery, aftercare, or health management of a patient.  Illinois lawyers who take these cases are typically looking for for negligence that leads to serious injuries.

If you or a relative have suffered from medical malpractice, you will want to file a lawsuit against the doctor, healthcare professional, and/or hospital to get the compensation you deserve for your injuries and to help prevent something similar from happening to another family. Under Illinois law, you have to meet certain conditions first before filing that medical malpractice lawsuit. If those conditions are not met, the court could dismiss your case.

The two perquisites are: 1) the plaintiff’s 622 affidavit of merit, and 2) the report of the reviewing healthcare provider.

622 Affidavit of Merit  

The Illinois Code of Civil Procedure, 735 ILCS 5/2-622, states that a person (plaintiff) alleging medical malpractice and seeking “damages for injuries or death by reason of medical, hospital, or other healing arts malpractice” must file an affidavit stating that they have consulted with a healthcare professional who:

  1. Is knowledgeable in the relevant issues involved in the particular action;
  2. Practices or has practiced within the last 6 years or teaches or has taught within the last 6 years in the same area of health care or medicine that is at issue in the particular action; and
  3. Meets the expert witness standards set forth in 735 ILCS 5/8-2501.

In plain English, what happens is the attorney you hire will complete this form. It’s kind of odd because it’s basically just a piece of paper that says they consulted with a doctor who says malpractice occurred.  Then they attach that report.

Written Report from a Healthcare Professional 

Along with the 622 Affidavit, the plaintiff must include a written report from the healthcare professional with whom they consulted. The report includes the healthcare professional’s opinion that there is merit and reasonable cause for filing a lawsuit.

A single written report must be filed for each defendant. If both a doctor and the hospital are believed to be negligent, two reports must be written and submitted.

Oddly although the report is provided, it’s not actually signed by the doctor and doesn’t have their letterhead.  So the doctor/hospital you are suing doesn’t actually know what expert is testifying against them. I’ve certainly heard stories of lawyers who have doctor friends that will provide these reports just to get the cases filed, but won’t serve as expert witnesses if the case proceeds. In other words, they don’t fully believe what they are writing and the lawyer will have to find a different and better expert if they want to get any compensation for their clients.

Your lawyer will find the expert to create this report.  This will happen after months of record review by your attorney, their in house nurse/medical consultants and talking to doctors who are experienced in medical malpractice lawsuits. It’s important to identify the right type of doctor to testify because the goal isn’t to file a lawsuit, the goal is to win the lawsuit.

Why do Illinois courts require the 622 Affidavit and written reports? In theory it’s designed to prevent frivolous lawsuits. If you can’t find a doctor who says the health care provider screwed up, then a lawsuit can’t be filed. In that regard it’s a really good rule. While I’m only interested in the rights of potential plaintiffs, there certainly is an argument that can be made that the expert witnesses should be disclosed right away. Without it, a slimy attorney could theoretically fake an affidavit to get a case filed.  That said, the reality is that these cases are so expensive and so hard to win that most law firms won’t take them on if they don’t think they have merit.

One important thing to know is that the “best” firms in these cases don’t ask their clients to find an expert and they don’t ask their clients to pay for the expert.  If the attorney you hired is asking you to find a doctor to testify, then you either don’t have a case or went to the wrong firm.

We realize that this information is a bit technical and may seem like a lot of legal mumbo jumbo. Feel free to contact us if you’d like to talk through your medical malpractice case. We can discuss the next steps and how an attorney can help at no cost to you. You can speak with a lawyer for free any time at 312-346-5320.

We are Chicago lawyers who will talk to you for free about any Illinois legal matter. Fill out our contact form or call us any time at 312-346-5320.

We get so many good legal questions that aren’t worthy of a full blog. So every few months I like to group the “best of the rest” in to one post.  Here are some great questions we’ve received recently:

I just found out that my ex-husband took out a life insurance policy on me. Is that legal?

It is. It’s up to the insurance company to choose to write or not write a life insurance policy.  They don’t need your approval, but typically won’t do this because they can’t give you a medical exam. Most likely this is either a continuation of an old policy or an accidental death policy that would cover you if you were killed in a car accident or something like that. Your ex is likely wasting money.

Can you turn down an inheritance? It’s not much and I really don’t want it or to have to go through the legal hurdles.

Yes you can. This is called disclaiming an inheritance and it typically involves putting that in writing.

How do I fire my lawyer? They hardly return my calls and when they do they are really rude.

It doesn’t sound like calling them would do the trick. For most cases I would encourage you to have someone in place before getting rid of your current representation. It’s usually not hard to find (we can help with that), but in some cases it can be.  In my experience, the new attorney can help you in communicating to the old one.  In cases that are in court, the lawyer will need permission of the Judge to get out of the case.

I was accused of shoplifting. I didn’t do it. I wasn’t arrested, but the store had a lawyer send me a letter saying that I need to pay a re-stocking fee of the item for $400.00 and that if I don’t do it I could be arrested or sued. Do I have to pay?

No. I’m not saying you can’t get arrested still. It’s not likely, but possible. I’m not saying they won’t sue you. It’s not likely, but possible.  But in any case they’d have to prove you did it and the fee for their damages can’t just be random like that.  I think the attorneys who do this work are kind of gross and if it was me I wouldn’t pay, especially if I didn’t do anything. That’s not a guarantee of a result, but you don’t usually see a company paying a lawyer to sue someone for a few hundred dollars and if you were going to be arrested it likely would have happened already in most cases.  I really don’t like these tactics because they, in my opinion, take advantage of a lot of people.

There was hair in my food. I’m so grossed out. Can I sue for that?

Anyone can sue for anything, but I don’t know any attorney who would take that case as it has no value beyond replacing the food you bought.

My soon to be ex wants to sell our home.  I don’t want to. We are both on the title. Can she just list it without my approval?

Not unless she forges your name. If you are on the title, a sale can’t happen without your approval unless they get a court order to do so.

I was sued for a car accident but the other person ran the red light. How is that possible?

People lie all the time about what happened and insurance companies go after people who don’t have insurance.  So there is a likelihood that one of those two things is happening here. Or maybe the police report got it wrong. Bottom line is that if you did get sued and had insurance at the time of the accident, report it to them and let them sort it out. That’s what they are there for.

My brother got killed by a random person.  We learned that person was having a psychotic episode because their doctor took them off of their meds.  Can we sue that doctor for not monitoring their patient which led to my brother’s death.

This is a really sad situation. Unfortunately, doctors generally don’t owe a duty to third parties. So if their malpractice causes harm to someone who isn’t their patient, courts have ruled that they can’t be held responsible.

We’ll do another one of these in a few months. If at any time you have a question, no matter what it is, please do not hesitate to contact us.

We are experienced Illinois attorneys who since 2001 have helped hundreds of thousands of people with their legal situations. Call us any time at 312-346-5320 for a free consultation. We help everywhere in Illinois.

Any time there is a police report involving a car accident in Illinois, it will list the vehicles involved.  Most crashes involve two cars and they list one car as vehicle one and the other as vehicle two. That might not seem relevant, but it’s quite often the most important part of any car accident lawsuit in Illinois.

On these reports, vehicle one is typically listing the person who the police officer on the scene believes is at fault.  That usually involves them getting a ticket, but doesn’t have to. There will also be a written statement as to what happened and what citations were given, but generally speaking, if you are listed as vehicle two, you’ll have a right to sue the other person. And if you are listed as vehicle one, the officer is saying it was your fault.

Of course in most cases the police officers don’t directly witness these accidents and make their reports based on the statements of the parties. And for many of them, they don’t really care if they get it right or not. It’s paperwork and cops don’t love paperwork.  So if you get hit by someone and end up getting taken away by ambulance, it’s not unusual for the crash scene officer to just take the word of the person that ran in to you. If that person lies, you’ll be listed at fault if you didn’t get a chance to tell your side of the story.

I’m noticing these types of errors more and more recently. In one case, a young kid ran a stop sign and slammed in to a woman’s vehicle who had the right away. She was taken away from the scene in an ambulance with severe injuries. The young kid lied about where he was coming from and she ended up with the ticket. Fortunately video proved that she wasn’t at fault.

The most important thing to remember is that while being listed at fault on the police report is a hurdle, it’s not one that you can’t overcome.  An experienced car accident attorney will investigate the damage on your car, seek out witness statements, search for video recordings, etc. If the damage to your vehicle is at your back bumper, that doesn’t make your case a slam dunk, but can go a long way toward showing that what you are saying happened is the truth. In some cases we can get police officers to amend their reports.

This of course can be very frustrating when you know you weren’t at fault.  The opposing insurance company not only will use it as a reason to deny you payment, but will also go after you. My advice is to not panic. Just get an attorney in your corner who knows what they are doing and has a track record of success to prove it. If you would like a referral to lawyer who handles car accident injury cases, please contact us any time.

Everyone who is currently or was in the past licensed to practice law in Illinois does so through the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC).  Sometimes I will look up the name of a lawyer for their contact information and see the name of a similar attorney from the early 1800’s. It’s kind of wild, but a great tool for knowing if any specific person is currently authorized to practice law or ever was in the past.

The ARDC released their annual report recently and it had a lot of interesting information.  Currently there are over 95,000 people licensed to practice law and more than 66,500 of those are in Illinois, with almost 29,000 living/working outside of Illinois. It’s not uncommon for someone to get admitted here and then move out of state and either work remotely or get a license in their new state. They keep their Illinois license active for many reasons including convenience, referral fees and because they still do work here.

Approximately 60% of the licensed lawyers are male and 40% are female with .07% reporting as non-binary. I would expect that women will narrow the gap as time goes on. About 47% of all attorneys have been practicing for between 11-30 years so there are a lot of experienced lawyers out there.  Just 10% have less than five years experience and 2% have more than 50 years experience. Generally speaking I tell people not to hire someone too young or too old that they aren’t doing law full time anymore. Just because you have an active law license doesn’t mean you are actively working.

Of the attorneys located in Illinois, 87% of them are in the Chicago area with over 47,000 of those in Cook County alone. So as you get downstate, sometimes it can be more challenging to find the right attorney.  27% of attorneys are solo practicioners meaning that there are no other attorneys in their firm.  26% of lawyers work in firms with over 100 lawyers and another 26% work in firms with 2-10 lawyers.

In 2021, there were 3,881 grievances against 2,979 lawyers representing 3.1% of all registered lawyers.  The main allegations were neglect, failure to communicate, improper billing and incompetence. The two most common areas of complaint were criminal law and family law. Together they comprised over half the allegations.

The number one reason for discipline against attorneys was fraud. In my experience of reading these findings that usually means they stole or misappropriated funds.  In 2021, 16 attorneys were disbarred which means they can never practice law again. That tells you that they did something serious. 12 others were given indefinite suspensions.

Of the 83 attorneys in total who were disciplined last year, 70% of those were solo practicioners. That can be a warning sign for you when it comes to hiring a lawyer. Sometimes these attorneys don’t have a good support staff or become bogged down by too many cases, but can’t afford to hire someone to help. Other times they take on cases they shouldn’t because they need the money. I’m not saying you should never hire a one lawyer firm, but you should think about if there aren’t better choices.

When an Illinois attorney steals from a client, the ARDC has a program in place to help you recover some of your lost funds. Last year they gave out over $715,000.00 from 58 claims against 31 different lawyers. I doubt that everyone was made whole, but every little bit helps.  22% of those payments came from real estate or loan modification cases.

The ARDC to their credit is also worried about substance abuse and mental illness.  183 attorneys were monitored for this issue with 40 of those referred for treatment help.

It’s great that this information is so public and transparent. If you want to read the full report go to their site.

I try to never fly out of O’Hare because for me getting to Midway is easier.  It’s about half the time on the train from the Loop and when you get to the airport at O’Hare it feels like it takes forever to actually get to a gate. That’s to be expected at what was once known as the world’s busiest airport.

Despite my personal preferences, more than 30 million people come through O’Hare each year which is almost double the traffic of Midway.  And while crimes can occur at both places, I definitely see more arrests at O’Hare by far.  One of the biggest is for people who are found to have a gun in their carry on luggage or a loaded weapon in their checked luggage.  While you can legally check an unloaded firearm in a locked hard-sided container, many people make a mistake.

The most common error we see is someone who simply forgot that they had a gun in a backpack or didn’t know. Often these are legal gun owners from places like Indiana who drove to O’Hare to catch a longer flight.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) can issue a civil penalty to you for this type of violation with a first offense being around $4,000.  The fine could exceed $13,000 depending on aggravating factors.  The bigger worry is that in most cases you will get arrested for this error and charged with at least a misdemeanor. That is potentially punishable by up to a year in jail. Of course a felony charge could have a more significant jail sentence.  Although TSA is a Federal agency, any arrest would be made by the Chicago Police and you’d end up in criminal court in Cook County.  You will get arrested even if you have a valid FOID card and a concealed carry permit. Simply put, there is no right to bring a gun through security at an airport.

The good news is that most of these cases are charged as misdemeanors and attorneys who know how to defend criminal gun charge cases in Chicago can usually get the case dismissed.  There’s no guarantee of that of course, but in almost every case we’ve been contacted in, the lawyers we have recommended have been able to achieve a successful outcome to the case.

In other words, this arrest is of course something you should worry about, but not something to panic about.  Unlawful use of a weapon is a serious charge, but with the right attorney in your corner, you can avoid a conviction and jail time.  Most of these attorneys are former prosecutors with over 20 years of experience and a great track record of success.

If you would like to speak with a lawyer for free about these charges and get help in a referral to the best Chicago criminal defense attorney for your case, please call us any time at 312-346-5320.  All calls are free and confidential.

We are experienced attorneys who will talk to you for free. If you would like to speak with a lawyer, call us at 800-517-1614.

Although we are Illinois attorneys for Illinois legal matters, there are some unique cases in which and Illinois lawyer can handle a case for an injury that occurred in another state. One such time is when suing the US Government.  There is an active situation right now that we are helping former marines and there family members with, many of whom live in Illinois or surrounding areas.

Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune is a military training facility in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Those serving in the United States Marine Corps and going through combat training likely spent time at Camp Lejeune.

Between 1953 and 1987, the servicemen and women at Camp Lejeune, their family members (including those in utero), and others who worked there were exposed to contaminated water. As many as half a million people may have been exposed over those thirty-four years.

Water testing found that drinking water sources at Camp Lejeune were contaminated. The main chemicals found were benzene, trichloroethylene (TCE, a degreaser), and perchloroethylene (PCE, a dry cleaning solvent), but more than 70 chemicals have been identified as contaminants at Lejeune. These chemicals are known to be carcinogenic or harmful to people.

Water contamination at Camp Lejeune has been linked to cancer and other serious health issues including:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Female infertility
  • Hepatic steatosis
  • Kidney cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Liver cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Miscarriage
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Neurobehavioral effects
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Renal toxicity
  • Scleroderma
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Other health conditions

People at Camp Lejeune who have suffered from cancer or another serious health condition have filed claims for disability only to be denied by the Veterans Administration. However, there is hope that a bipartisan bill called The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 will be passed. This Act will allow those who worked, lived, or were exposed in-utero to the contaminated water to file a claim in U.S. federal court. Those harmed by the water contamination may finally receive the compensation they deserve.

We are monitoring the status of this proposed Act and can speak with you in greater detail about what your rights are and what the best course of action will be if and when the Act passes. There are lawyers we work with that already have cases up and running and know how to secure maximum compensation for these cases. And of course there is no fee unless they are successful and you will only pay a fee if they make a recovery for you.

If you were exposed at Camp Lejeune and have any of the above issues, we would love to speak with you. Contact us any time.  We can not promise you a result, but do guarantee to treat you like a family member or friend and connect you with an attorney who gives you the best chance of success.