It’s the most wonderful time of the year, or at least the most wonderful if you don’t fall and get hurt.

Already it’s been a brutal and crazy winter in Chicago.  With lots of snow, ice and slush you can count on one thing happening: lots of slip and fall injuries.

This time of year we get a ton of calls for people looking for help with a slip and fall lawsuit. There are a lot of misconceptions out there.

The biggest myth is that if you fall and get hurt on someone else’s property, they are liable and you have a case.  Sadly that is not true in Illinois.  Property owners are not in general required to salt and shovel and they do not get punished for not having someone clearing walkways 24/7.  With some of the days we’ve been having it would be literally impossible to prevent a surface from being slick.

So how do you ever have a case?

Under Illinois law you can sue for a slip and fall if the snow or ice you fell on does not develop naturally.  What does that mean in plain English?  If there is a gutter or awning or roof or other “un-natural” object that is causing snow or ice to develop and you fall on that area, you might have a case.  So if you are at a store and fall in the parking lot, you probably don’t have case.  But if in front of the store there is a sheet of ice because of a gutter draining in to a certain spot, if you fall you likely have a case.

The same rules hold true for individual home owners.  We see a lot of falls on steps at apartment buildings in Chicago.  A good attorney will investigate if the snow naturally blew on to the steps or if something about the building caused it to happen.

A lot of falls actually occur inside of businesses due to wet floors.  These are tough cases as well. Under Illinois law, if you slip on water that has been dragged in from people’s shoes, you probably don’t have a case. Essentially stores are not required to make their whole floor carpet or mop all day.  On the other hand if you fall on a wet floor from a leaky freezer or something else within the store’s control, you’d likely have a case if injured.

These laws can be very confusing.  Stay safe and if you have any questions about this area of law, call us any time for a free consultation at 312-346-5320.

I had a pretty sad call the other day. It was from a woman who was looking for help with a divorce. She’s been married for 40 years and loves her husband dearly. He loves her too.

She doesn’t want a divorce and neither does he. Unfortunately she works and he is very ill. They applied for aid from the State of Illinois and were denied because she makes too much money. Essentially her income is being held against him.

So they are facing a choice. Get divorced and lose their best friend or stay married and watch your best friend suffer.

They were thinking about a divorce, but not a real divorce. They thought that they could get the benefits he needs, get a divorce and keep living together as they have for the last 40 blissful years.

Unfortunately, as I advised them, this would be considered a sham divorce and against the law. When you say you are getting divorced and go through with it only to obtain public aid benefits, you are essentially defrauding the Government.

This call was heart breaking because these are not criminals and they want to do the right thing. They did not realize that a divorce would mean selling the house or one spouse buying out the other. Didn’t realize they’d have to have separate bank accounts. They didn’t realize that they couldn’t live together as a husband and wife do.

Most of all they didn’t know this was a crime that theoretically could result in jail time and almost certainly, if they got caught, would require them to pay back all of the benefits plus a fine. In other words they could lose their home.

They appreciated our candor and directness which is how we talk to everyone who calls us. As we left it they were weighing their options, but the wife was leaning toward a real divorce because it pains her more than anything to see her husband suffer, even if that means being apart.

I would NEVER encourage a caller or client to break the law and didn’t here either. But it is a tragedy that they have to consider this option at all. If they stay together there is no guarantee they will get caught and if they did it would likely be from a nosy neighbor or a state aid worker who checked up on them. Either way they’d have to essentially be looking over their shoulders at all times. That’s not a way to live.

If there ever was a law or rule that needs to be changed, this is it. As lawyers we don’t make laws, we just deal with what they are and try to fight as hard as we can for our clients. There’s no fight in this case, just the hope that good people with an amazing marriage don’t get screwed over by our Government.

If you Google what sentence someone gets for armed robbery, you’ll see a ton of cases where the defendant gets sentenced to 21 years in jail. That’s right, 21 long, hard years in jail.

Why is that?

Under the Illinois sentencing guidelines for robbery, a defendant will get a minimum of six years in jail if they are found guilty of robbery and a maximum of 30 years. But if you commit forceful robbery with a weapon, which usually means a gun, it’s a mandatory 15 year enhancer to the sentence.

If you take the mandatory 15 years, plus the minimum six years, you get a total of 21 years for the sentence.

That is a really long time and a stupid decision or one that was done while intoxicated on drugs can literally ruin your life. This is all true even if someone wasn’t shot or otherwise injured. It’s a very tough gun law.

The smart thing of course is to never commit this crime in the first place. That said, if you or someone you love does screw up and do this, it’s incredibly important that you get an experienced attorney in your corner to defend these charges. It’s not cheap, and it requires A LOT of work by the lawyer, but in many cases they can get the charges reduced to a lesser crime. That doesn’t always mean that you walk away with no punishment, but it can mean that you don’t lose out on the best years of your life.

Think about it. If you have a child and get the minimum sentence, your child will be an adult before you can ever see them outside of a prison. So if you get a really good attorney and end up with a five year sentence, that actually is an incredible result. In fact, if you read in the paper that someone charged with armed robbery or aggravated armed robbery received a sentence of less than ten years it’s a sign that either the case against them wasn’t very good or that they had a fantastic lawyer in their corner.

So where can you find a top robbery defense lawyer in Chicago, Wheaton, Joliet or Waukegan? That’s why people come to us. Since 2001 our lawyers have helped more than 300,000 people find the right Illinois attorney for their case. Call us at (312) 346-5320 to speak to one of our attorneys for free and in confidence. We’ll treat you like a family member or friend and do whatever we can for you.

Alternate energy companies have provided consumers an additional resource to be able to purchase gas and electric services to allow for choices opposed to only having the use of their local utility company to provide services. Such companies as North American Power & Gas, have used direct to consumer marketing to describe how their rates are lower.

In these marketing materials, consumers were promised a low “New Customer Rate” as well as a “market based variable rate.” The problem ensues when alternate energy companies do not always follow their own promises. One woman in particular was promised a new customer rate that was never applied to her account, and her monthly usage rate was much higher than the local utility company was. Again, a marketing practice that has been deemed false and deceptive.

According The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, claims against alternate energy suppliers can be filed in their local courts. In a recent decision, claims such as these no longer require that the Illinois Commerce Commission has exclusive jurisdiction over the legal claim. The consumers are able to file a lawsuit to recover damages in their local county courthouse.

If you have used one of the varying alternate energy companies in Illinois, and were a victim to false or deceptive advertising, please contact us. We will put you in direct contact with a local attorney who will review your case details and help you resolve your case with the gas company or electric company. These cases are all handled on a contingency basis which means that the lawyer only gets paid if they win the case. We are happy to talk to you for free to see if you have a case. We are looking for customers of any company other than Com Ed or People’s Gas. If you would like a free consultation, call us any time at (312) 346-5320.

When someone passes away, a series of issues start to compile. Besides the high emotions running there are also legal issues to worry about. Did the loved one do their estate planning documents while they were still alive? Is there a Will and Beneficiary Deed in order? If not, you may have a nightmare on your hands.

Say for instance, your father passed away and your older sister is not able to take care of the house your father lived in. He didn’t prepare a Beneficiary Deed or any other Estate Planning documents; he had just stated that he wanted the house to go to all three of you kids. Who gets the house officially? How does your sister get taken care of?

Many people have the misconception that a simple will is enough. It is not. A will simply states wishes and transfers personal property. There is a full set of Estate Planning documents that need to be completed to ensure that property is distributed per the person who has passed a way’s wishes. For a house, a beneficiary deed will help tremendously. If there is a beneficiary deed recorded prior to a person passing, whoever is listed, as the beneficiary will be able to obtain ownership based on that deed.

If there is not a beneficiary deed or other estate planning documents regarding the house, a probate case might need to be opened. Typically, without a will, the ownership would go according to family succession. Oldest children, spouse, etc. In the case above, if the older sister is unable to care for herself or the home, you may also want to obtain both guardianship and conservatorship of both her and the estate.

Before making any major moves after a loved one has passed away, the best thing to do is to speak to an attorney about your personal specific situation. In some cases, a probate case is needed, and in others, no legal action is needed at all. Only an experienced attorney will be able to decipher your situation.

An engineered trait known as MIR 162 has caused chaos and billions of dollars to the corn farming industry, including those corn farms in Illinois. Syngenta Corporation did not obtain import approval from China for the MIR 162 strain of corn seed prior to releasing, marketing and selling it to Illinois farmers. This strain has been genetically modified to be more resistant to insects and other pests. It was supposed to be helpful to farmers but instead, it has caused entire crops to be turned away at the Chinese import borders. Millions of bushels of corn have been turned away, leaving farmers to take the biggest hit.

This situation began in 2013 and has continued to affect Illinois and other corn farmers across the nation. The chaos has caused a total rejection of all U.S. corn and corn by products, including the crops grown by farmers who did not plant or harvest the Syngenta MIR 162 seeds. China has since approved the seed, however the ripple effect in the corn market can still be felt.

Many class action lawsuits have been filed by corn farmers against Syngenta, however in some situations it may be better for the farmer to not pursue the class action and to instead file an individual case in Illinois. If you are a farmer who was or has been affected by the non-approved Syngenta MIR 162 corn seed, please give us a call at (800) 517-1614 to go over your personal situation. Because each situation is different, each situation will warrant individual attention. We may be able to help. There is no cost for a consultation and we only get paid if we take the case on and are successful.

There is a class action lawsuit for these problems, but in our opinion, the damages are so great that it’s better for farmers to opt out of the class (in most cases) and pursue their individual cases. The worry is that otherwise they will not be adequately compensated. Our goal is to make sure that each individual farmer is made whole for their losses. If you’d like our help we are available 24/7 at (800) 517-1614 or you can fill out our contact page and we’ll call you.

You and your friend were out for a drive when another car ran through a stop sign, striking your car on the passenger side. Your friend has decided to sue the other driver as well as you. If these two lawsuits end up going to settlement instead of trial, who pays the settlement?

Several factors would apply to this case. For instance, were you going the speed limit, did your seatbelts work properly, had you done anything at all that could lay some culpability on you? Were you injured in the accident as well? All of these are important factors both the other driver’s insurance and your own insurance company will look at. Depending on where the fault actually falls, both insurance companies may choose to settle based on a percentage of fault.

If you were speeding as the other person went through the stop sign, they could find you 30% at fault and the other driver 70%. In which case, 30% of the settlement would need to be paid by your insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company would pay 70%. If you are found to have zero fault in the accident, then only the other driver’s insurance will accept liability and pay for actual damages such as medical bills. In many instances, the amount of settlement is based only on making sure the actual medical bills are paid. To sue and win any monetary damages, the passenger would have to prove a “serious injury” occurred.

In a situation like this, especially if you were injured too, it is very important that you speak with an experienced attorney. If you were injured as well, getting your own attorney separate from your friend is essential in making sure your personal best interests are upheld. Call today to have a qualified attorney assess your specific case.