There is a Chicago class action attorney I know who also does consumer fraud cases.  I’ve referred her some cases over the years.  Some of the cases she’s pursued, others she has rejected.  But on a lot of cases she has told me that she wants to bring a lawsuit, but the client doesn’t want to do the work needed to help her find out if there’s a good case or not.

Take this recent referral where a man had his car re-possessed.  He hadn’t done anything wrong, the repo company thought they were taking it from the old owner.  This is likely very illegal and a good case. Here is part of what she said to him in writing as a follow up.

As we discussed, when the car is released to you, if you are forced to sign anything, indicate you are signing under protest and without waiver of any rights.

You will also want to inspect the vehicle to ensure there has been no damage.  Take photographs of any issues and log any personal property that may be missing or lost.

And to reiterate, here is the paperwork I need:

  1. A summary from you of what happened (provide dates, times, the names of the people you spoke with and what you said to one another)
  2. A copy of all vehicle paperwork from the dealership
  3. A copy of your payment stubs or correspondence with your finance company
  4. A copy of the title
  5. A copy of any documents the dealership says it sent to the finance company who claimed to have an interest in your car
  6. Any Carfax or Autocheck reports you received

Once you have gathered this together, call me and we can arrange an appointment or telephone conference after you’ve e-mailed/faxed me the above.  Then I will be able to see if this is a matter my office can assist you with.

I’ve seen similar correspondence on other cases.  The reason the lawyer is asking for this is because the client is the only one who can get this information.  Surprisingly, many clients just want to verbally tell their story and turn over papers.  They expect the lawyer to just figure everything out.

No matter the type of case, that’s not how it works.  It’s also not how you can be successful and win the case which is of course the goal.  Your job is to paint as clear of a picture as possible for the attorney.

This is how it works in just any type of case.  It’s always a great idea to give your lawyer a summary of what happened.  If it’s an injury case, you want to get copies of accident reports, medical records or any other information.  If you’ve lost pay, you want to prove what you make via pay stubs.  Most of these items your lawyer can’t get.  In all cases you increase your chances of success by working with your lawyer.

Lawsuits aren’t meant to be easy, even when you’ve been obviously wronged.  If you want justice, you have to put some work in.

As always if you have questions and want a free consultation, please call us any time.

We are experienced Chicago attorneys who will talk to you for free about your legal matter.  Call us any time at 312-346-5320.

Many people invest in securities like stocks, bonds and mutual funds, some for years and often decades, saving for retirement, children’s education, family support, wealth accumulation, to create a sense of financial security or to leave behind a legacy. Whatever their reason to save, most investors seek the guidance of a financial advisor, whose very role is to both advise and manage a clients’ investments in order to ensure that they are getting a good return on their money.

Sadly though, investors will lose tens of billions of dollars not always due to market forces, but due to unethical and negligent financial professionals who abuse the trust and confidence of clients.  We’ve seen this a lot lately with the Coronavirus pandemic.  Some financial advisers make money based on you staying in the market. If you were to have sold all of your stock, they’d lose their commissions.

As a result we’ve seen some brokers who told their clients to stay in the markets when they knew or should have known the market was about to tank.  As a result, many people have lost their nest egg.  If you can prove your broker was negligent they may have to reimburse you for your losses.  It’s like suing a doctor or someone else for malpractice in many ways.

There are a variety of financial laws and obligations in place for stockbrokers, broker dealers and investment companies along with both federal securities laws and state securities law to regulate the duties that apply to the financial industry and the standards that the industry must meet.

Unfortunately, wrongful conduct within the industry still occurs every day. In 2018 alone, according to FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority), brokerage firms and financial professionals were fined more than $61 million and ordered to pay over $25 million in restitution. Additionally, 386 individuals were barred from practice and another 472 suspended.  You can bet that those numbers are going to sky rocket this year.

Investors have a “Bill of Rights” designed to protect their interests and investments from acts of fraud or wrongdoing. Brokers and financial investment companies, like in any other profession, have obligations to their clients. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Duty of Good Faith and Fair Dealing – Brokers must reflect honor and integrity. They may not trade securities without investors permission, excessively trade to increase commissions or misuse funds.
  • Duty and Knowledge of the Customer and Financial Conditions – Brokers must learn about the investor’s financial conditions before making recommendations.
  • Duty of Requirement of Suitable Recommendations – Recommendations must be aligned with the investors financial condition, investment, objectives and risk level.
  • Duty of Loyalty – Brokers must continually put the investor’s interests first
  • Duty of Disclosure – Brokers must remain truthful, including communicating risks, relating to any investment decision.
  • Duty of Authorization for Trading – Brokers are only to execute trades with permission from investor.

If a financial advisor or stockbroker has not fulfilled his or her obligations and that breach of duty to any of the above examples has caused a loss of money, then compensation through a claim can be pursued.

But how do you tell if you’ve been a victim of investment or securities fraud? It’s not always easy to determine, but here are some telltale signs of investment fraud:

  • An excessive number of stock trades
  • Sudden and unexplained losses
  • Withdrawals from your accounts without explanation
  • Trades not authorized appearing in your account
  • Brokers or firm not responding to calls or emails

When the financial market climate goes bad, investment fraud and stockbroker misconduct and negligence become obvious more than ever. Whether it’s recommending unsuitable investments, making false statements, omitting material information or simply just negligence, when a broker fails to comply with the laws and regulations that govern their conduct and responsibilities, causing you to lose money,  there is a right to file a claim against them and the firm that supervises them.  If you want a FREE consultation with an experienced attorney to discuss your losses, please contact us at any time.

I’m a Chicago lawyer and haven’t gone through every county in Illinois, but I am 99.9% sure that the entire state is handling the COVID 19 crisis the same way.  There is so much you need to know if you have a legal issue.  I will list them in no particular order.  If you have any questions or concerns, you can call me for a FREE consultation any time at 312-346-5320 or fill out our contact form and we will call you.

  • Until the State or Federal government quarantines everyone, most law offices I know are open. They may have a skeleton staff or be working remotely, but they are still handling cases.  We are open and when we aren’t in the office, our calls are forwarded to an answering service.  This is how we always operate.
  • Most civil courts are closed for the time being except for emergency situations like a child custody issue. I can tell you that most cases are not considered emergencies.  As of now the closure is to the end of the month in most places but I expect that courts won’t open as normal until June at the earliest.  Hopefully I’m wrong and it’s much sooner.
  • Even though courts are mostly closed to the public, cases are still being filed electronically.  So if you have a lawsuit to file, I wouldn’t expect that you’d get out of a statute of limitations violation because you can’t get in the court building.
  • Many lawyers, including most of the ones we work with, do everything electronically already.  Beyond that, nobody wants to travel right now or should travel much. That doesn’t stop you from getting a lawyer.  You can expect attorneys can sign your case up electronically and meet with you via Face Time or video conferencing. Some attorneys are behind the times when it comes to technology and this is going to hurt them.
  • The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission is also closed, but they will consider some emergency cases.  No word on how they are going to process settlement contracts yet, but I expect that the Arbitrators will have them mailed to them.
  • Criminal courts are mostly operating as normal although in many areas they are not pushing low level misdemeanor cases very hard.  If you don’t have a violent crime charge or a serious felony, you might be able to negotiate a better plea than you would at other times.
  • It’s not illegal for an employer to let you go right now over Coronavirus making their business slow.  If that happens or your hours get cut, you should immediately file for unemployment.
  • Evictions are mostly being halted right now. If you don’t pay your rent it’s likely you won’t get evicted, but not guaranteed and of course when this all blows over it could be trouble for you.
  • Don’t let your attorney tell you that they can’t do anything on your case right now. Depositions can still happen. Court filings can still happen. Negotiations can still happen.  COVID 19 is bad for everyone, including those with legal matters, but it’s not shutting everything down. If your attorney can’t do an in person deposition then they should seek to do it by video conference or telephone if appropriate.
  • One thing this virus is going to reveal is that some attorneys who are overly reliant on their support staff are going to be exposed.  If your attorney is never available by phone and usually has his clerk talk to you, what are they going to do when that person is working from home or let go.  You should demand/expect to talk to a lawyer anyway.
  • Be very wary of hiring a one person law firm right now. We have no idea how widespread this disease is going to get, but if your one attorney shop is suddenly quarantined it could greatly harm you.
  • Nobody has called me looking to sue someone who gave them the virus, but I’m sure that is coming. If you can prove you caught it work that might be a case.  But suing someone who gave it to you is likely a long shot because you can get this virus from anywhere.  It’s one reason you don’t see people suing someone who gave them the flu.

I have other thoughts, but 12 tips is a good start.  Stay safe and please call us any time with legal questions.

Short blog answer:

NO

Longer blog answer:

Illinois has been called a Judicial Hell Hole. It’s a phrase that was made up by people in the insurance industry.  They did it to try to help in lobbying for laws that favor them and would make them even more money on top of the billions they have in profit every year.

A bogus message like that doesn’t play too well in the Chicago area.  It does, however, play well downstate.  They’ve marketed to people in a way that makes it seem like lawyers are the enemy and insurance companies are somehow the good guys.

It’s been effective.  I was called recently by a nice man with a major injury on the job that caused him to lose his career as a plumber.  He trusted in the insurance company until one day they told him his case was closed.  They played nice and then blew him off and by the time he called a lawyer he missed the statute of limitations to file a case.

Their marketing saved the insurance company a couple hundred thousand dollars and of course left the plumber with nothing.

Stories like that happen all of the time. It goes to the root of what insurance companies do.  They make money, in part, by limiting what they pay out in cases.  If they know that a case should cost them 50k and they get out of it for 20k, it’s a huge win for them.  And if they get away with paying nothing then they’ve really won the day.  It’s not about people or what’s right or the law.  It’s about their bottom line.

Does Illinois have a lot of lawsuits?  Not in compared to other places that have a lot of people. And despite what you’ve heard, attorneys aren’t filing baseless lawsuits because they know insurance companies don’t pay on those cases and juries don’t award money on them.

Somehow they’ve gotten away with it and have made people think that the decline in manufacturing is due to lawsuits instead of technology and the economy.  People are looking for someone to blame and unfortunately are doing it at their own peril.

I wouldn’t want to hire a lawyer either, but if you are injured in an accident or otherwise wronged, not doing so could cost you.  If that happens you’ll be left holding the bag or having to go on public aid.  Neither option is a good one.

If you are a good person with a legitimate injury you should at the very least learn your rights and make an educated decision before it’s too late.  If you’d like to discuss any case with one of our lawyers for free you can call us at 800-517-1614.

A recent caller to my office had a relative charged with a felony and told me that they wanted to hire the “best criminal lawyer in Chicago.”  He wanted to know who I recommended and made clear that money was no object.

I get this type of call a lot. There is a quick and easy answer to the question. The answer is that there is no “best” criminal attorney, but rather you need to hire the one that is best for you and your case.

Let me give a longer explanation.

When hiring a criminal attorney, especially in Cook County where there are lots of cases, you have certain things to look for to help you figure out who is best for you.  Some of the baseline things to consider:

1. Are they only handling criminal cases or do they dabble in other areas of law?

2. What is their experience? Did they use to prosecute cases?  That can be a good sign as often that leads to good connections which can matter.  If they aren’t former prosecutors, how long have they been defending cases?  I look for someone with at least ten years of experience.

3. How often do they handle cases similar to yours?  There is no point in paying $10,000 to a lawyer who mostly handles high level felonies if you are charged with misdemeanor retail theft.  You can get a good lawyer to make the case go away at 1/10th of the cost. On the other hand, if you are being accused of criminal sexual assault, aggravated UUW or some other case that could lead to serious jail time, you better have an attorney that has handled that type of case before.  You don’t want anyone gaining experience from your case.

4. How often do they go to the courthouse your case will be at?  It’s not the be all, end all, but it does matter in many cases if your attorney knows the prosecutor and/or Judge.  A dirty little secret about Illinois criminal law, especially in Cook County, is that there are too many cases on the docket.  As a result, they will often dismiss lower level cases and one of the best ways to make that happen is to know what the prosecutor or Judge like to do or have their ear.

5. Is their price too cheap?  If someone is quoting you way less than all of the other lawyers you are talking to, it might be a sign that they aren’t a fighter. I’m not saying you should hire the most expensive lawyer on the block, but you also don’t want the cheapest.  Getting a good result usually takes a lot of work.  If others are quoting you $2,500 and some lawyer is telling you they will get it done for $400, my guess is that they’ll have you plead guilty and get probation which is a conviction you might have on your record forever.  You can plead guilty for free.  A real attorney works to get the best result possible.

You will note that won/loss record isn’t on this list.  Lawyers who promote that are often full of it. This is especially true because these statistics aren’t officially kept and in some cases you can plead guilty but still call it a win if your client doesn’t go to jail. Sometimes it’s a win if they go to prison for two years instead of ten.  Technically you lost, but really you won.

So even with all of these things in mind, how do you know who is best for you? You never can tell for sure, but that’s partly why we exist. We give honest recommendations based on the criteria mentioned along with feedback from their clients as well as seeing the work they do. If you want our recommendation as to who is the right attorney for you to hire, call us any time, for free, at 312-346-5320.

It’s that time of year where even with the occasional nice day of weather, there has been a lot of snow, ice and slush.

Depending on where you live in Illinois, there are different laws about whether or not you have to shovel.  There are also different outcomes when it comes to falling on ice and getting hurt on someone else’s property.

Generally speaking, if you fall as the result of the “natural accumulation” of snow and ice, the property owner will not be held responsible.  In other words, if it snows overnight and the Jewel parking lot is icy, they likely won’t be at fault if you fall.  Property owners aren’t always required to clear snow or ice and certainly aren’t required to do it as it’s happening.

In Chicago residential homeowners can face a fine for not shoveling, whereas business owners can be sued by you if you fall and get injured.  The City of Chicago requires that if snow stops coming down before 4 p.m. you have three hours to clear it. If the snow stops falling after 4 p.m., you have to clear before 10 a.m. on the next day. No shoveling is required on Sundays. You are required to clear a 5-foot wide path along the sidewalk, where conditions allow.

In most cities outside of Chicago you aren’t required to shovel, but can’t create a hazardous condition or ignore defects the snow and ice cause.

So what is an un-natural accumulation?  The most common example would be ice that forms because it came down off of an awning or a gutter.  Those things are man made and added to properties.  If they create a hazard, you’d likely be successful in suing the property owner for an injury from a fall. On the other hand, if you fall from water that is dragged in to stores off of shoes, you’d have a harder time prevailing.  Store owners are not required to continuously mop.

If you are hurt as the result of a fall on snow or ice, this is what attorneys we work with want you to think about:

1. Get medical treatment right away if you need it.

2. Have someone take a photo or video of the area where you fell right away. You have to prove that you fell due to some negligent or hazardous condition. It’s hard to do this when you are on the ground with a broken ankle, we get it. To the extent you can though, have someone document the area  where you fell right away.

3. Talk to an attorney who understands the Chicago ordinance and/or the Illinois Snow and Ice Removal Act.  An experienced lawyer can certainly be the difference between winning and losing a case or even the difference of tens of thousands of dollars when a case settles.

If you have any questions or want a referral to a lawyer with a track record of success in these cases, please call us any time, for free at 312-346-5320.  We help everywhere in Illinois.

 

The usage of biometrics has merged into our everyday lives and the collection of biometric data is on the rise.  Biometric data refers to unique, measurable human biological or behavioral characteristics that can be used for identification. Biometric identifiers include fingerprints, voiceprint, retina or iris scans, and scans of hand or face geometry.

Companies are gradually incorporating biometric identifiers into their everyday practices with their employees and consumer transactions. This has the potential to make authentication dramatically faster, easier and more secure than traditional passwords, but companies need to be careful about the biometric data they collect.

In many states, biometric data is considered protected information, just like your name or social security number. Biometric data, like a retinal scan or a fingerprint, is also considered protected information under certain data protection statutes.

In 2008, Illinois became the first state to regulate the collection of biometric data passing the Biometric Information Privacy Act, or BIPA. The Illinois Legislature implemented this act to protect individual privacy after public concerns of heightened risks of identity theft became associated with biometric information. BIPA stands as the strongest biometric privacy law in the U.S.

There are several requirements adopted by the BIPA requiring companies in Illinois to comply with when it comes to biometrics. Employers must obtain written consent from individuals if there are any intentions to collect or disclose any employees’ personal biometric identifiers, they must destroy biometric identifiers in a timely manner and they must securely store biometric identifiers. Additionally, employers may not disclose biometric information except in limited circumstances. Employers may not sell, lease, trade or otherwise profit from any individual’s biometric information.

This statute flew under the radar until recently when Facebook agreed to a $550 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit. Facebook was accused of violating the rights of millions of Illinois users by accumulating their biometric data without permission. Many more class-action lawsuits have surfaced, taking aim at smaller employers in Illinois. Understandably so when the penalties associated with BIPA range from $1000 to $5000 per violation. It should be noted that the BIPA is also the only law that allows for private individuals to file a lawsuit stemming from a biometric violation.

As biometric technology advances, so do the lawsuits. According to the Cook County Record, the parent companies of Mariano’s supermarkets and the Intercontinental Hotel Group have both been hit with class action lawsuits in IL regarding employee’s biometric data. They’re not alone though. Several lawsuits have surfaced in state court involving NorthShore University Health System & L.A. Tan Enterprises, Inc. Additionally, federal courts have seen similar lawsuits against Facebook, Shutterfly, Google, and Six Flags.

Biometric privacy issues are likely to continue growing as more and more companies begin to implement biometric technology.

As this is a newer law, firms that can claim real experience with these cases are few and far between.  We know which lawyers have had success with these cases.  If you would like a recommendation or just have questions, please call us at 312-346-5320.

One of the common tactics big employers use in the state of Illinois when a worker gets injured on the job is to send them to a “company clinic.”

These are legit medical facilities, but in my experience, they tend to favor the employer.  It’s not that they will ignore injuries, although that has happened.  It’s more so that their treatment plan seems to often be VERY conservative.

You may have heard of Concentra as that is a big company clinic with over 500 locations across the US. There are others too.  A recent caller to my office was injured in the Illinois and got sent to Concentra.  Every detail of how he describes his injury sounds like he has a herniated disc in his neck.  He has burning pain that shoots down his arm and also has numbness and tingling in his fingers.  Despite these complaints, he’s not been sent for a MRI or referred to an orthopedic doctor even though he’s been off work for over a month.

The biggest problem I have with these company clinics is that often the employer makes their workers feel like this is the only place they are allowed to receive medical care.  That’s simply not true.  Employers want their workers at these clinics because it saves them money and often the care is very conservative.  That’s well and good, but has nothing to do with looking out for your health or best interests.

The best advice we can give you is that if you have been injured on the job in Illinois and are in pain after seeing a company clinic, go see a doctor of your own choosing.  If that pain continues, ask that doctor for a referral to a specialist.  Get to that specialist and let them tell you what is wrong with you and what treatment you need.  A company clinic doctor may be great, but they are not the best person to take care of a serious injury.  They are more like an urgent care for a first diagnosis.

And if you get any push back from your employer or just have questions or concerns, you should get with an attorney. If you’d like to speak with a lawyer for free about Illinois workers’ compensation law, contact us at any time.

With the caveat that all of the information I get is from disgruntled patients or their family members along with from malpractice attorneys in Chicago, and just my opinion, I have to wonder how is St. Bernard Hospital in Chicago still in business.

In the last month I’ve had six different people call me looking to sue them for medical malpractice.  Not every one of them had a case, but they all had nightmare stories of how they were treated and allegations of terrible medical care.

It would be one thing if this was atypical, but the truth is I get more calls from people looking to sue them than any other hospital.  This is true month after month.

St. Bernard is an important hospital because it serves a lower income area.  Not every doctor or nurse is willing to work there.  It’s a grind and they are allegedly over worked and under staffed.

All that said, I once had a prominent Chicago medical malpractice attorney tell me that he wouldn’t take his dog there.  This is not a guy that blurts that type of stuff out willy nilly.

When we think about social justice or social equality, it is clear that health care has a long way to go in terms of catching up.  The reality is that the behavior that is acceptable by staff at Saint Bernard would not fly just a little down the road at University of Chicago hospital or at a place like Highland Park Hospital.

This is a little bit of a rant.  Medical malpractice will happen.  It’s inevitable.  At any hospital.  The problems that I hear about St. Bernard are that it’s a rather outdated facility.  It’s dirty. The security guards, per online reviews and people that have called, and some of the staff, are rude and will look at you like you are a criminal.    I’ve been told many times about terrible bedside manner, that exams are rushed.  Twice in the last month I’ve had a call from someone who was told by a different hospital that if they hadn’t sought a second opinion after being discharged by St. Bernard, they would have died.

I’ve heard complaints about almost every hospital in the Chicago area. The number at this one is staggering though. In my opinion, if you have the ability to go somewhere else, you should.  And if you go there and don’t think you got the best treatment, get a second opinion right away.  If your experience is like that of some of my callers, it could literally save your life.

I kind of hate writing posts like this because they seem insensitive.  That is not my intention at all, and I almost never do it if it happens in Illinois as I don’t want to be seen as trying to fish for a case.

That said, I do find that events like the tragic helicopter accident that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others, can be very educational to people who are curious about wrongful death law.  It can also be instructive if you have a family member or friend in this situation. You don’t want their grief to prevent them from having a chance at justice.

While I don’t know anyone involved with this case, I would bet anything that within hours of this terrible crash happening, there were experienced personal injury lawyers and their investigators on the scene.

There are not a ton of major helicopter, airplane or trucking deaths per year in the United States.  When those accidents do happen, they are usually investigated by the Federal Government.  While I expect that in a high profile case like this they will do a thorough and clean investigation, it isn’t always the case. Like many government agencies, they can be under-staffed and over worked.

The families of the victims, if they bring a lawsuit, will need to prove negligence. While it appears that this is a case of a pilot making an error to fly in fog – other helicopters in the area were reportedly grounded due to weather – the pilot was very experienced. It’s possible that there was mechanical failure or some other reason the chopper went down.

Attorneys and their investigators can’t interfere with the official investigation, but they can also make sure that no potential defendant is interfering either.  If they see something like that, they can go to court to make it stop.  In one case we were involved in, the lawyers on the scene actually video taped the potential defendant removing debris from the scene of the accident.  That quick thinking likely saved the case.

Lawyers would also want to go around to anyone who may have heard or seen what happened. Documenting this type of information, especially when it’s fresh in someone’s mind, is very important.  Investigators can also share information with and learn information from the government workers.

I wouldn’t expect that any of the husbands/wives/parents of the deceased are thinking about any of this right now, but I’d bet at least one had a family member or friend step up and make sure that this happened.  It may not seem like it, but it’s really the best way you can support someone when they lose someone so suddenly and tragically. At first they will be just grieving but at some point they will want answers and justice to prevent it from happening to anyone else.  Getting an early investigation is the best chance to make that happen.