One of the most common questions that comes up in any Illinois personal injury lawsuit is should I settle or go to trial?

This is of course a very sensible question.  The answer to it really depends on the case, the facts, your goals and some other things.

For most cases, getting a settlement makes sense if you get a good offer. If we think your case is worth at most $300,000.00 at trial and you are being offered $275,000.00, settling and getting the cash now is most likely the sensible thing to do.

In other major cases, you may not be offered close to your best case scenario at trial, but the amount is still so much that not settling seems risky.  We had a client on a case whose trial was delayed until late 2021 due to Covid. The case settled earlier this year for $1 million.  It’s possible at trial the case could have been worth double that, but the client who is very ill wanted the sure thing and the money now.

We supported the decision of this client because it’s their life.  Our job as lawyers is to lay out the best and worst case scenarios and help you make an educated decision as to what to do.  The lawyer who was working hard on this case would have gladly gone to trial, but an attorney’s job is to do what is best for the client.

In other cases you might want to go to trial for a non-monetary reason. Perhaps you want their to be publicity to prevent something like what happened to you from happening to others such as in a sexual abuse or police misconduct case.  Maybe telling your story in court is therapeutic which is something a settlement can’t give.  In some cases you want to confront the person who harmed you.  Again it comes down to what is personal to you and in YOUR best interests.

On the flip side, we’ve seen cases where we knew the client would never go to trial.  It could be that they make a very bad witness and being on the stand would hurt them. It might be that they don’t want to have to confront the person that harmed them as it would have a negative psychological impact.

And sometimes the offer is not good enough and you have your dollar amount that if not met means you will be taking your chances in court.  In one famous case from when I was a young lawyer, a violinist lost her leg when she was dragged by a train for 200 feet. Back then it was rare to get settlement offers in the eight figures and there were stories of her and her lawyer turning down offers in the high seven figures and low eight figures.  The rumor was that she wanted $20 million, not a penny less.  She didn’t get that offer, went to trial and the jury awarded her almost $30 million.  Rolling the dice with trial clearly worked out for her.

My advice to you is to make sure you are given the best and worst case scenarios as well as the likely scenario. You might want $1 million, but if your best case scenario is $50,000.00 and you get offered that, going to trial is foolish.

Every case is different. Learning what is realistic for your case will help you make a smart decision.

As always, we are lawyers who will talk to anyone for free. Call us any time at 312-346-5320.

I had a call recently from a very upset person who did not get the result they were looking for in their divorce case.  They were sure that they had a great legal malpractice lawsuit because their lawyer was unprepared and did not ask for things that the client wanted.

I explained to this caller that I couldn’t help because it’s very difficult to successfully sue an Illinois attorney for a bad judgment call.  The caller became more upset and told me that lawyers are all pieces of shit and that we all protect each other which is why we won’t sue each other.

I really do empathize with people in these situations. You lay out a bunch of money for an attorney and they do a bad job and you don’t get the results you want. When you lose custody of your kids and are going bankrupt, it’s of course worse.

All of this said, we do sue other Illinois attorneys and are happy to do so when it’s a good case. But just like it’s difficult to sue a doctor for malpractice, it can be hard to sue an Illinois attorney for malpractice.  And finding a top Chicago legal malpractice lawyer is hard, but not if you have good facts and damages on your side.

The truth is that there are over 70,000 Illinois attorneys.  Some will screw up.  A lawyer I know who is regarded as one of the best Illinois personal injury attorneys out there was successfully sued recently. It doesn’t make him a bad lawyer. It means he had a mistake that was “beyond the standard of care” and his client suffered real damages that can be measured financially as a result.

Most successful Illinois legal malpractice lawsuits involve an attorney who has caused “irreparable harm.”  That means their mistakes can’t be fixed. If they drop your case 60 days before your time to sue runs out, you can still sue so it’s not legal mal.  If they promised to get in to court six months ago but never did, you can still get in to court and don’t have irreparable harm.

On the other hand, if your lawyer failed to file a lawsuit in time, sued the wrong parties or did something to cause a financial loss you can’t recover from, you might have a case to sue them.

The cleanest example is when someone is injured in a car accident that is clearly the fault of the other car. If your attorney has two years from the accident date to sue and fails to do so, you’d have a lawsuit against them.  Another common one we are seeing now is for birth injuries where the attorney believes they have until the child’s 8th birthday to file a lawsuit, but it turns out they only have until their 2nd birthday to sue because the treating doctor worked for a Federally funded medical clinic.  That changes the time limits for suing and is a mistake many lawyers make.

What you can’t do though is sue because you don’t like the case result and think the attorney should have been better or done different things.  The defense in those cases will be the lawyer saying “I felt prepared and made a judgment call to do what I did.” If the judgment fails it’s not necessarily negligence.

As a result I can tell you I’ve never read about a successful lawsuit against an Illinois divorce attorney.  That’s not to say it hasn’t happened or couldn’t happen, but it surely is rare.  Most success claims against lawyers for malpractice are against personal injury lawyers.

This of course makes clients feel that bad lawyers get away with robbery.  Sometimes that does happen, but even if you can’t sue them, you can always file an ethical complaint against them with the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission or ARDC.  Their standards for holding a lawyer accountable are worthy of a whole other post, but they do discipline bad behaving attorneys which can include taking away their license.

The best thing an attorney can do for you when you feel like suing a past lawyer is to talk to you for free and give an objective, honest assessment of your possible case. We will do that for you for free any time. If you’d like to speak to one of our lawyers in confidence, please call us any time at 312-346-5320.

I’m usually asleep at 11:11 p.m., but occasionally catch the clock at 11:11 a.m. and by superstition say to myself, “make a wish.”  Well it’s November 11th today, so in honor of 11-11, I thought I’d make some legal wishes.  In no particular order.

– It would be amazing if our court system could get back to operating as it was before.  And if we can’t do that, I’d wish that the court leaders would come up with alternative options like using hotel ballrooms, McCormick Place or other venue to have socially distance trials.  The lack of justice is shocking and it’s going to have a ripple effect for years to come.

– I wish people would understand that insurance companies make money by not doing the right things.

– I wish bail would be just and nobody would sit in jail for months because they are too poor to get out when charged with a non-violent crime.  Let’s have real bail reform now!

– I wish that we’d only imprison those who are a danger to society.

– I wish that if you were convicted of a crime a long time ago when you were young and dumb that it couldn’t continue to hurt your chances of getting a job.

– Zoom attendance for minor court matters have been great. I sure wish that continues when this pandemic is all over. Why make someone take a day off from work, find daycare, pay for parking, etc. when their actual court time is going to be three minutes or less.

– I wish the EEOC and Illinois Department of Human Rights were more efficient in investigating illegal activity. Covid has made illegally firing someone a lot easier.

– I wish that before you got married in Illinois that you had to sign a prenuptial agreement. It would save divorcing couples a lot of time, money and headaches.

– I wish attorneys that are scum bags would actually lose their licenses. Ambulance chasers and severe over billers are alive and well in Illinois.

– I wish law school would change the third year to either be a rotation of school run legal clinics or internships at law firms. Law students are sent out in to the world far too often with no good experience or real idea about what they want to do with their degree.

– I wish Illinois Supreme Court justices didn’t have to campaign to be appointed.

– I wish continuing legal education (CLE) requirements for lawyers were reflective of the actual work we do in educating ourselves through blogging, researching, talking to other attorneys, reading trade journals, etc.  Most of my CLE time is taking a variance of the same course telling me how to be ethical.  That stuff is important, but you can only hear it so many times.

– I wish there was a realistic way for people who can’t afford lawyers to represent themselves without getting screwed over on the case because they don’t understand some minor legal technicality.

– I wish employers wouldn’t get away with calling workers independent contractors when they are really employees.

– I wish we’d end solitary confinement.

– I wish people would stop believing conspiracy theories that their attorney was bought off or that all lawyers conspire against them.

– I wish law school was more affordable.

– I wish that being a former prosecutor wasn’t the top quality that most Judges seem to possess.

– I wish being a public defender paid better.

 

Well, that’s a lot of wishes. I don’t want to be greedy. One thing I don’t wish for is that there was a place where you could call an Illinois attorney for free to ask a question. That exists. You can call us any time at 312-346-5320.  We help everywhere in Illinois.

Covid has greatly impacted everyone’s lives. That’s not breaking news or surprising to anyone.  Other than hand sanitizer manufacturers, most businesses are suffering as a result.

Law firms are no exception to this impact although compared to the restaurant and bar industry, we generally don’t have it as bad.

The most obvious impact in Chicago is the fact that you can’t go to trial in most cases.  There were hundreds of claims set for hearing that have been reset until 2021.  While the courts did require all parties to try and settle if they can through a pre-trial, the reality is that a lot of justice is being delayed or denied. There is no guarantee as to when trials will start and for whatever reason, they aren’t using creative ideas like moving trials to hotel ball rooms where social distancing is possible.

An unforseen impact is the reality that many people who are getting injured in car accidents, slip and falls and other personal injury cases are refusing to go to the doctor to get treatment.  They often have underlying conditions that make getting Coronavirus a real risk to their life.  So they self medicate and do what they can to get by rather than risk getting infected by being at an ER or medical office.

In general you can’t prove an injury without getting medical care.  While a slight delay is understandable, if you wait too long or refuse treatment, you will likely have no case or at least greatly impact the case in a negative way.

I get why at risk people wouldn’t want to go to the doctor and would never tell someone they have to do so.  I would recommend that they at least try telemedicine if possible. In some cases if you express your concern, a doctor’s office can also have you enter and leave through a separate entrance than the regular public or even examine you outside.  It’s not ideal, but what I don’t want to see if worry over Covid cause anyone to have a life long injury they otherwise could have avoided.

Bonus tip, while in most cases if you ignore a doctor’s instructions it will hurt you, if you skip physical therapy because you have Covid, we don’t expect that would impact your case in a negative way at all.

As always, if you have any questions you can call us at 312-346-5320.

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

Ready???

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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