We get a lot of calls about social security laws and benefits so we thought it would make sense to provide some information.

The differences between Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income

If you’ve suffered a severe injury or are suffering from an illness or disability that is keeping you from being able to work and earn a living, you may want to consider help. But, where does one start?
Thankfully, The Social Security Administration (SSA) oversees and manages two disability benefits programs to those suffering from disabilities who are unable to work or unable to perform substantial gainful activity (SGA). The SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) and SSI (Supplemental Security Income) are two different and separate governmental programs. With similar initials and only one letter away from similarity, it’s easy to confuse the two.

We’re going to jump in at the individual differences and requirements of each benefit program, but first, let’s quickly look at the few similarities between SSDI and SSI. Again, both SSDI and SSI are disability programs set by the SSA. To be eligible, they both evaluate the severity of your medical condition using the same criteria to show that your disability is enough that you are unable to work. A person cannot be earning or have the capacity to earn above the set substantial gainful activity (SGA) level (differs by program and state). Lastly, they provide monthly cash benefits and provide access to health care benefits, but are distributed differently.

The most notable difference between the SSDI and SSI is how benefit eligibility is determined. Specifically, SSI is based on need whereas SSDI is based on work records. Aside from this major difference, each program has its own qualifications and application procedures.

Social Security Disability Insurance

SSDI is a taxpayer-funded program for those with a either physical or psychological disability as well as blind persons. This cash payment is paid out early from the Social Security trust fund and is available to those who are ‘insured’ or have worked, and paid FICA taxes, for a required number of years.

The SSA does have a list of impairments that automatically qualify for SSDI benefits and should be an easy approval if one is able to show documents on the impairment, how and why they suffer.
Otherwise, it is not easy to obtain SSDI benefit as the rules, regulations, and guidelines can be rigid and overwhelming to applicants. However, the applications process is easier and the approval rates for SSDI are higher on average than they are for SSI. SSDI is based on work records, so benefits can vary dramatically.

There are two main qualifications the SSA look at: documentation of the disability and the evaluation of ones work history. Once deemed disabled, SSA will look at the recent and total duration of ones work history to determine their average indexed monthly earnings (AIME). Depending on the age one becomes disabled will depend on the amount of history records needed to qualify. Payment will then be based on the individual’s average covered earnings over this period.

There are times when a disabled individual is still able to work. Federal law states that any individual earning in excess of $1,000/month are able to meet the “substantial gainful activity” and, by definition, are not disable. The earned income for the blind is slightly higher.

Once approved, there is a five-month waiting period for benefits pay out. SSDI beneficiaries are also eligible to receive Medicare two years after deemed eligible for SSDI benefits. The amount of your monthly disability benefits will be based on your Social Security income record. Lastly, under SSDI, spouses and dependents, under the age of 18, are eligible to receive partial benefits.

Social Security Income

The SSI program is a need-base welfare cash benefit to low-income individuals over 64, blind, or disabled who have limited income and resources. This program is called a “means-tested program” and has nothing to do with one’s work history, as is completely a financial need. The fund does not come from Social Security Trust Fund as SSDI does, but by The Federal Government from general tax revenues.

SSI is not only qualified on the bases of income, but also based on ones resources. If an individual’s personal possessions were worth more than $2,000 (individual) or $3,000 (couple), they would be considered ineligible. (SSDI has no asset limits to personal property).

To be entitled to SSI benefits, an individual must be a U.S. citizen that can provide medical evidence that a disability will last for at least a year. If working, the total countable income should also be below listed Supplemental Security Income levels. This amount differs from state to state and can be pretty complicated.

Unlike SSDI, SSI has no waiting period for benefits and will start payout the same month as applied. Because the program is solely based on need, SSI pays out a standard benefit, Federal Benefit Rate or FBR, for everyone and then subtracts any countable income. In Illinois for 2018, an individual can receive up to $750 a month in federal SSI payments. In most cases, a person qualified for SSI immediately qualifies for Medicaid benefits. However, with SSI, there is no dependent coverage.

Clearly, SSDI and SSI benefits can be confusing and strict. Understanding the qualifications process will best be done by speaking to an experienced and knowledgeable attorney. If you’d like a referral please call us at 312-346-5320 any time.

Many people call us to talk about “Pain and Suffering” after an injury. However, what they don’t always think about is what “Pain and Suffering” is, and in what circumstances you are able to file a lawsuit for pain and suffering.

There are two types of pain and suffering. The first is regarding physical injuries and the after effects of those injuries. A good example of this would be if were hit by a car and shattered your leg, resulting in a surgery with pins put in place to hold your leg together.  The pain you experience from getting hit, the surgery, the recovery and the long term effects would all be a part of compensation for pain and suffering.

The other type of pain and suffering is mental pain and suffering. Mental pain, anger, humiliation, post-traumatic stress, and emotional distress are all examples of mental pain and suffering. While these two can go hand in hand in cases of catastrophic injuries, typical injuries do not also include mental pain and suffering. For example, if a person was sexually assaulted in a hotel by a worker there.  If after they medically need to seek counseling, the mental anguish they are going through could also be proven as pain and suffering.

So how do you tell how much pain and suffering is worth in an Illinois personal injury lawsuit?

The honest answer is that every case is different and it’s quite often where the skill of an attorney will be the difference in getting a little or a lot out of a lawsuit.  If you strain your back in a car accident, there won’t be much compensation for pain and suffering.  If on the other hand you have to have a back fusion, your testimony as to how this injury impacted you in the past and is still causing you problems will play a big role in determining what the case is worth.

In wrongful death lawsuits, loved ones and/or medical experts will testify as to the agony the victim was in before they passed away.  There have been cases where it was proven someone died on impact and didn’t know it was happening that have lowered the value of a case and others where it’s been shown that a victim suffered for as little as 30 seconds, but that information greatly increased the value of the case.

Bottom line is that every case is different and the skill of your attorney, on a major injury case, can dramatically change the value of the claim.

If you have been injured and have ongoing medical and or mental issues due to the injury, contact us today at 312-346-5320 for a free consultation. We are experienced attorneys who have a state wide network of the best accident law firms and will recommend the one that is right for you.

We are a group of lawyers who are here simply to help you. We offer a free consultation over the phone, will answer all of your questions, go over your options and then recommend a specific law firm to represent you. We are not paid by these law firms, so we can truly offer you free, fair, and unbiased confidential legal advice that is unique to your situation.

We have vast knowledge and experience in helping those who may have had issues that threaten their professional licenses. Doctors, nurses, real estate agents, mortgage brokers and others  all have been helped even in this specialized small area of the law. T

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulations (IDFPR) is accountable moderating more than one million people in more than a hundred different industries, all in an effort to make sure the Illinois professionals are protected. Separately, They make sure that professional standards for safety, welfare and licensing standards are upheld. If you are facing an investigation from them, the #1 factor in hiring a lawyer is realizing that this is a niche area of law.  There are probably less than ten attorneys in Illinois who dedicate more than 90% of their practice to this work. If you hire a firm that only dabbles in it you are taking a huge risk.

There are two branches of the IDPR. First, the licensing and testing division makes sure that all of the requirements of licensed professionals are met within their chosen field in order to obtain licensing. The second branch is the enforcement branch. This branch enforces the laws that govern the conduct of many professionals in Illinois. In this case, professionals could be anyone with a license from a locksmith to a physician and everything in between.

If a complaint has been filed against an individual person holding professional license, an IDFPR investigator will be assigned to look into the complaint. That person will look into the situation to make sure no rules or regulations have been broken, and that the professional has all of their licensing up to date including ongoing education and notifying the proper boards of any criminal convictions, arrests or any other conduct that could be considered unprofessional.

The investigator will decide if any infraction is severe enough to be assigned to a prosecutor. That prosecuting attorney will then decide if a board disciplinary hearing or IDFPR Hearing is appropriate for the case. Often times, the result of these hearings can include no disciplinary action at all or the other side of the pendulum, total loss of a professional license.

Because of the severity of the possible disciplinary action, any professional who has an investigation brought against them, should get an attorney who knows what they are doing in their corner before the case gets too far.  These cases can be won and lost at the investigation phase.  We can help you find that attorney. Much like a criminal case, anything you say can and will be used against you.  Smart people have their lawyer do the talking for them.

We have helped hundreds of people in this situation and have a very high success rate with cases concerning professional license defense. If you would like our help, we will gladly take your call confidentially, listen to your situation and put you in touch with a qualified and experienced attorney to represent you. Our service is free and the lawyers we recommend are the  best at what they do in Illinois.  Call us any time at (800) 517-1614 or fill out our contact form and we’ll call you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you ever thought of drawing up a written agreement between you and your partner for anything that could be legally related, but decided not to because “it’s not a real contract”? As one woman in Cook County found out, written agreements do in fact matter.

A woman in Cook County filed a lawsuit for child support for her twins. In most instances, this would be an easy fix. There is a father, and child support payments would be ordered. This is not the typical case. The man in this case wanted to be a sperm donor only, and in 2012 the parties signed an agreement as such which relinquished all of his parental rights and obligations. Again, not being the typical case, this couple also engaged in a sexual relationship during this time.

If it were to be proven that the twins in question were conceived during natural intercourse, the father would be held responsible for support of the kids. If it were proven they were conceived instead through IVF, the signed written agreement would be enforceable relinquishing his rights as the parties had agreed upon in writing.

In this case, the judge ordered that the parties split all costs and fees associated with determining a better timeline to pinpoint the conception. This order caused the woman to drop her case. The mom in this case said that there was no point in proceeding because she already knew that the kids were conceived during the IVF process. She apparently had not been completely honest with her attorney when they decided to file the Petition for Child Support.

Honesty and written agreements do matter. While a written agreement may not constitute an actual contract, they do show what the party’s intent was at the time of negotiation. Had this just been a verbal contract or agreement between the two of them, it’s much more likely that the Dad would in fact be on the hook for child support. The contract literally saved him tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Most people don’t enter in to contracts because they are trusting, don’t want to offend someone or think it will cost a lot to do so. The reality is that you can be trusting, but smart and protect yourself. You can’t worry about offending anyone when you are looking out for your best interests. And most of these contracts are simple and many don’t even require a lawyer.

Getting agreements in writing is what banks do, car dealers do, real estate agents do and anyone else who is smart does as well. Protect yourself by getting it in writing. If you don’t it could cost you a ton in the long run.

While people call me to help them find a lawyer, I actually offer two services with my website. It’s lawyer referrals AND legal guidance. By that I mean that I will give you my opinion of what should happen on your case and often that means telling you that you don’t need a lawyer.

Some people aren’t happy with that advice and are usually talking out of emotion instead of logic. A good lawyer takes the emotion out of a situation and offers objective advice. So for example, I had someone call me who was furious that their friend had borrowed $200.00 from them and hadn’t paid it back. They wanted an attorney no matter what it costs because to them this was about justice.

I tried to reason with them and make clear that while they could sue their former friend in small claims court, paying an attorney would be a waste. They’d likely spend $1,500.00 or more to recover $200.00 which when you aren’t angry clearly makes no sense.

There are hundreds of other examples I could give. Sometimes small claims court makes sense. Other times (especially if you live out of state), you just have to take the loss and move on.

Even in more serious matters, sometimes getting a lawyer isn’t worth it. For example, when someone calls us for an Illinois medical malpractice attorney, we can agree that a doctor or hospital was negligent, but also end up telling you that we don’t know a lawyer for your case. That’s because many people don’t have (fortunately for them) big damages which would justify the costs of a malpractice lawsuit.

In other words, it can cost more than $100,000.00 to go to trial in a medical malpractice lawsuit in Illinois. Just because a doctor was negligent does not mean that their insurance company will pay you anything voluntarily. So if we sue that doctor and you have only $50,000.00 in damages, we’d likely have to spend more than we can recover to take on the case which makes it not worth the while. Essentially we’d be going to trial in order to get our expenses back. You’d end up with nothing in the end.

In those situations small claims court isn’t a realistic option so all you can do is report the doctor to the Illinois Department of Professional Regulations, but realistically nothing is going to happen.

None of this is fair of course, but while we want justice in every instance where it’s possible, the hard truth is that just doesn’t happen.

When people call me for Illinois legal advice, I tell them the number one thing to do is be honest. It helps their case and helps their credibility. And of course it’s just the right thing to do. So I’m always surprised when there are attorneys who don’t follow the same rule. Or I guess I’m not surprised. Three examples lately have puzzled me.

Attorney #1 told a potential client that he could get his whole record cleared within 35 days tops. That surprised the client as he had heard different from other attorneys so he called me to find out the truth. Unfortunately this attorney was either lying or just making stuff up because the minimum time for a challenge to sealing or expunging your record is 60 days and even then the process takes 4-6 months on average from beginning to end. But some lawyers will just tell clients what they want to hear in order to get a case.

Attorney #2 is apparently short on money or burned out from the legal profession because he is teaching grammar school part time. But he assures his potential criminal defense clients that this other job won’t impact his ability to help them. Really??? What happens on the days that he needs to be in school and in court? Aren’t his relationships with prosecutors and Judges going to be lessened because he isn’t around them as much? If this attorney was honest with himself as well as the client of his that was freaked out about the teaching job, he would admit that you can’t be great at two things at once. Attorneys do get burned out on the law at times and some choose to leave the profession for other jobs. That’s fine, but don’t hurt others. Be honest and don’t take on cases that you shouldn’t handle.

Attorney #3 promotes himself heavily and talks about all of the great work that he does for clients. But the truth is that he’s just an incredible marketer and never actually goes to court. The lawyers that work for him do, but many people hire them on the belief that the main guy will be in their corner. That’s not at all true, at least not according to the many people who have fired him and called me for advice. But this guy apparently has no moral compass or is able to ignore it because he makes millions off of his brilliant self promotion.

For you as a potential client of any lawyer, the lesson is that while most lawyers are legit, not everyone is. You won’t offend them if you ask tough questions about them and verify what they do, who will handle your case, what to expect, etc. And if they have a problem with it you should find someone else.

When I was younger, I assumed that if you hired a lawyer, you were also hiring everyone that they worked with. Why else would a group of people share an office together and represent themselves as one big firm if it wasn’t the case?

What I’ve learned is that a lot of times, law firms are essentially a group of individuals under one banner, but not really a partnership. It’s similar I’ve learned to a lot of doctor groups in that they essentially “eat what they kill.” In other words, it’s not a collaboration, but instead they make money off the cases that they work on. So they end up with a motivation to work on certain cases over others because their hard work only pays off if they collect a lot of money.

I’ve know this about doctors for a while, but only recently learned this is also true for lawyers. It came to my attention when a top Chicago personal injury attorney left his firm for another firm of great reputation. I wondered why he would make what is at best a lateral move and that’s when I discovered that he wouldn’t really be working for the new firm as much as he would be trying to make more money off of the cases that he generates.

It’s financially sensible for the attorneys and doctors, but not so great for the clients and patients. For doctors, while the ones I know still talk about cases with their “partners” when asked, they also don’t worry about anything other than their own patient list. The same holds true for lawyers, but I think it’s worse in those cases. Let me explain.

Lawyers get paid a salary and also a percentage on the cases they bring in and the cases that they work on. If you are a personal injury lawyer and have a case that you think is worth $3 million, that means the lawyer fees would be worth $1 million. If you bring in more lawyers to work on the case, it’s better for the case and better for the client. But to do that, you have to give up a good chunk of your fee. In other words, by doing what is best for the client you might cost yourself $100,000.00 or more.

I’m sure in some of these fake partnerships there are lawyers who do the right thing every time. I’m also sure that there are many who don’t. There are a lot of stories around town of law partners who hate each other, but stay together because their firm name has brand value which they don’t want to lose. Before you hire a firm, especially if you have a major injury case or something complex that will require multiple lawyers like a truck accident, verify who will be working on your case and if the firm is really a firm.

Dating is almost like a dirty word at any age. Especially in the fast paced swipe-right-or-left-to-meet-your-match society we live in today. Every single person is looking for the magic answer on how to find your perfect partner and truth be told it doesn’t exist. Nor is any avenue truly 100% safe. However, a few dating sites are being held accountable for not having safer policies.

If you were to sign up for a profile for Match.com today, it would cost you approx. $30 if you wanted to use the service for a month. Once you have paid the fees for the duration of time you would like to be a member, they make it very easy for you to scope out all of the people who fit your interest criteria. You complete your profile, likes and dislikes and maybe even throw in a deal breaker or two, decide on the picture that makes you look the best and bam… almost instantly you receive your first message from a possible suitor.

The butterflies and excitement take over as you set up your first date before you realize, wait a second… I didn’t have to give any sort of documentation to prove who I am, my background, and criminal history. If I didn’t, then the other person didn’t have to either. Reason being, services like Match.com do not filter out information posted on their website. They don’t run background checks, and they don’t check for accuracy in information.

However, one thing has changed thanks to a lawsuit that came to a settlement recently. The basic story to the lawsuit is that Jane Doe #1 went out on a date with a man she met on Match.com, who ended up allegedly sexually abusing her. After the alleged attack, Jane Doe #1 found that the man still had a profile running on Match.com. Jane Doe #1 alerted Match.com to the allegations. Match.com did nothing and allowed the man to continue using its services.

Jane Doe #2 met the same man through Match.com two years later, and he sexually attacked her as well. Two years later the man was convicted of criminal sexual abuse and unlawful restraint for his attack on Jane Doe #2. Jane #2 then sued Match.com for failure to remove the man’s profile, monitor his use, failure to notify police or warn other users about him. Her attack could have been avoided if Match.com would have done some sort of blocking of the man’s use of the site.

Through this lawsuit, it was found that more than 1200 complaints from straight violence to rape, were filed in a 2-year time frame with Match.com. While Match.com may not have to go through and check who is lying about being married, or who has a criminal past upon first registration, they do have to now verify any and all complaints made to make sure they uphold the safety of its users.

All of us know, dating is scary enough without having to worry about cases like this one. While it still doesn’t provide fool proof safety, it certainly helps at least a little bit to know there is a check in place. Safety on the internet is something that will never come with 100% certainty, so the best option is to always look out for yourself before agreeing to meet anyone in person that you have been speaking to online.