A solvent trap is a gun accessory that can be used as a barrel cleaning accessory which provides an easy way to recycle solvent and save the gun owner some money.  It attaches to the gun and can also be used as a silencer which in many cases is illegal.

Some companies that sell solvent traps appear to have been accused of selling them with a bit of a wink, wink to the sale. In other words, they are implied to have meant to sell these products as illegal attachments and not cleaners.

Diversified Machine is one such company and their offices were raided by the ATF in late 2020.  As part of the raid they seized computers and have access to the list of people who bought their products.  Those people have been receiving letters of warning from ATF agent Keith Krolczyk advising that they may be in violation of Federal law. A copy of the letter is below.

SILENCER SATURDAY #209: Solvent Trapped - The ATF Warning Letter

Apparently there are four other companies that are accused of the same violations and their customers will soon begin receiving similar letters. Or at least that is the belief of what is going to happen. It can certainly be nervy to get a letter from the Federal Government accusing you of a felony.  So the question is what should you do and what do you need to know?

1. Don’t panic.  There are literally thousands if not tens of thousands of people who are getting the same letter.

2. While it’s theoretically possible that you could get prosecuted for this, it’s not realistic as the government doesn’t have the resources to go after that many people nor do they have the desire to do so.

3. Be smart, part one. The only people I see getting in trouble for this are those that give a big middle finger to the ATF and ignore the letter or tell them to pound salt over it. The ATF is being very clear that you can’t possess these items and if you try to fight them on it, that’s your right, but it’s a big risk.

4. Be smart, part two. The ATF is asking people to call them within 30 days receipt of the letter to discuss abandoning the silencers.  What is unknown right now is how they want to do that, what they will ask you about your use of this product, what else they might ask you about your life, etc. As the old saying goes, anything you say can and will be used against you. Beyond that, it’s a big crime to lie to a Federal officer.  So the safest play is to get an attorney to make the call for you and arrange for you to discard of these items. Nothing a lawyer says on your behalf is going to be used against you.

5. The letter from the ATF is very poorly worded. It doesn’t say which products from Diversified Machine are thought to be illegal. Surely not everything they sold was illegal. So before you get rid of items that you spent your money on, it needs to be clarified what they are actually talking about.

6. While it can be illegal to possess a silencer, I don’t expect people who aren’t difficult to face charges and it’s possible that even the pains in the butt won’t either.  If you buy a product that is advertised as one thing, the Government would have to prove you knew it was actually something else. Short of you using the device as a silencer in shooting the gun, I don’t know how they’d do that.

The bottom line is that while it’s something to worry about, it’s not something to panic about just yet. You should never speak to an officer without an attorney. If you are an Illinois resident and would like to hire a lawyer to protect you in making this call, please contact us at 312-346-5320. We will refer you to an experienced criminal lawyer who knows gun laws.

If you would like to speak to an experienced injury attorney for free, please call us at 312-346-5320 or fill out our contact form and we will call you.

Here’s something that most people who hire personal injury attorneys in Illinois don’t know. You can fire them if they aren’t doing a good job.  Now you probably shouldn’t do this without having a new firm in place, but if your lawyer has created the impression that once they are hired you can’t get rid of them, they are lying.

So when should you fire your attorney?

For me, if in the first six or so months on a case, there are clear customer service issues, it’s a huge red flag that you hired the wrong firm.  If they aren’t calling you back or not doing what they said they would do, that’s a huge problem.  It’s often predictive that you won’t be happy with them when the case is done and will realize you would have ended up with more money elsewhere.

The biggest worry callers have is that they will owe this bad firm money. In almost every case, if they haven’t filed a lawsuit or obtained a settlement offer, they will get nothing. And even when they’ve done some work, typically the new attorney will end up splitting their fee with the first firm. In other words, it almost never costs you anything to switch although you should of course discuss this with the new firm before you hire them.

I’ve been told that some law firms add clauses to their client contracts that state you can’t get rid of them. Those contracts are illegal and not enforceable even if you’ve signed them.

The reality is that most personal injury law firms in Chicago do a good job and don’t lose clients. We get calls from clients of many of the bad ones. There is one notorious firm that advertises a ton, but then their clients discover that not only are the lawyers in the ads not in Illinois, but they also aren’t even licensed here! They hire local attorneys to handle their cases, but the consumer isn’t getting what they really thought they were. To top it off, I’ve been told that they try to take 40% of what they recover which is insane to me.

Another infamous Chicago injury lawyer has relocated to Florida and has their staff allegedly fax down all information about their cases. Nothing reportedly can happen without their say-so. This of course slows down the case speed and is a prime example of not great service. Needless to say, many of their clients aren’t happy because they can’t get answers.

The other type of call we get a lot is from someone who got into a car accident or had some other injury and they hired a lawyer they used for a divorce, real estate closing, or something not related to injuries at all. That lawyer assures them that they can handle the case. In many instances, the attorney is just thinking of themselves and thinks they can make an easy buck by taking on a case they aren’t qualified to handle.  These cases are much harder than they seem and can involve unique issues like medical liens, hidden insurance, bogus denials, etc.  Before you hire an attorney for an accident, you should ask them how many personal injury lawsuits they’ve filed in the last five years. If the answer isn’t in the hundreds or thousands, you are at the wrong place. And if you realize they are in over their head, you can and should get rid of them.

Bottom line is that it’s your case and your life. You have to do what is best for you and that means getting the best representation possible.  And if that requires you to fire one firm to get another then so be it.

 

There is a fascinating new documentary on Netflix called “The Tinder Swindler.”  The basic summary of it is that an Israeli man changed his name to Simon Leviev and told women he was the son of a diamond billionaire. That billionaire is a real person, and he does have a son, but it’s not the man who is the subject of the documentary.

He would meet women on Tinder and allegedly tell him that he was the son of this billionaire and begin to date them.  For a couple of them, their first dates involved five-star hotels, private jets, fancy dinners, and other luxuries, all seemingly on his tab.  The reality appears to be that he was telling elaborate stories of his life being in danger and getting these women to send him money, take out loans, give him credit card access, etc. One woman appears to be out around $270,000.00.  All told, he is accused of swindling around $10 million from people all across the globe.

He did some jail time in Finland and Israel for fraud and I believe that if he were to come to the United States where he allegedly conned some people, he’d be arrested here too.

I’ve had phone calls from people looking for a lawyer who have been taken advantage of by romantic interests. Maybe not to this high of a level, but certainly in the five figures. They want to sue their now ex’s and ask me for advice.

While the Tinder Swindler subject is now a free man in Israel, and somehow apparently living a luxury lifestyle again and dating an Israeli model, if it was a similar person in Illinois, suing them would be a challenge.

I say that because you can’t stop a crazy person from being crazy and you can’t stop a scum bag from being a scum bag.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t sue and can’t win, you probably can. What it does mean is that collecting against this type of person would be a challenge.

As a result, hiring a lawyer in this situation probably requires a victim to shell out money to an attorney without a guarantee of a recovery.  If you just lost your life savings, do you want to spend another $5,000-$10,000 or more trying to get a judgment against someone you may never be able to collect from?  Most people wouldn’t.  And while it would be nice to find a lawyer willing to take this case on a contingency basis, most attorneys wouldn’t do that because they know that collecting from a thief is really difficult. It’s one of the flaws of our legal system.

And while I don’t know anything about civil lawsuits in Europe where most of this alleged activity seems to have happened, there is potentially one piece of good news. This apparent fraudster is on Cameo now and reportedly made over $30,000 creating messages in his first few days on the service. In Illinois, if you had a judgment against him you could probably put a lien against his Cameo earnings. Hopefully, it’s the same way over there.

The best advice I can give someone is to try not getting into these situations which of course is easier said than done. While we rarely see situations where someone gets tricked out of giving some more than $5,000 or so, we sadly quite often see them taken advantage of by agreeing to co-sign a loan for someone they think cares about them.  I can’t emphasize enough how bad of an idea it is to co-sign for someone else and highly encourage you to never do that no matter how much you trust or care about someone.  In my experience it ends badly so often that it’s just not worth the risk.

I won’t forget the first day of law school. Honestly not much has stuck with me from most of my classes, but on my first day, a professor pointed out everything that is, or could be, a tort. Walking across the street? That can be a tort.  Driving a car? Tort. Entering a store, working a construction site, eating food?  All of these case be torts. Taking that class in law school made me paranoid and changed the way I looked at the world.

The reason for that paranoia is because a tort can be defined (very informally) as all the crazy/bad stuff that you can possibly imagine happening to someone.

The formal definition of a tort is a civil wrong for which a remedy may be obtained, usually in the form of damages. A civil wrong is a wrong committed against an individual, whereas a crime is a wrong committed against the state.  In plain English this typically means bringing a personal injury lawsuit.

There are four elements to every tort case: duty, breach of duty, causation and injury. In order to have a strong tort lawsuit, there must have been a breach of duty made by the defendant against the plaintiff, which resulted in an injury.

The law of tort protects the rights and freedoms of individuals, as well as their property and reputations. The basic principles of tort law are similar across all states. However, the exact law/rules are determined in each state.

If a plaintiff wins a tort case, the remedies should place him/her (the injured party) in the position he/she was in prior to the tort. Punitive damages are also a possibility to punish extremely reckless or malicious behavior. Basically this means that you should expect to be compensated for your loss. If it’s a car accident that would mean payment for medical bills as well as pain and suffering.

It is very important to hire an experienced attorney who knows the ins and outs of tort law and has demonstrated success in making a great recovery for clients who have similar cases to you. In other words, you don’t just want to hire “the best tort lawyer in Illinois” but instead the best one for what you are dealing with.

Cost wise, a tort lawyer should work on a contingency basis, meaning you don’t pay them a dime out of pocket. They only get compensated if they help you win your case. Some attorneys will seek a fee as high as 40% of the damages they recover. We generally tell people to avoid those lawyers and work with ones who have a fee of 33% which is more typical. Of course since attorneys only get paid if they win, they will want to get involved in a case where you are likely to make a recovery that is worth their while.

If you have any questions about Illinois tort law or would like to speak with an experienced lawyer for free, you can call us any time at 312-346-5320.

A question we get a lot about lawsuits in Illinois and the lawyers who handle them is:

What is your win/loss record?

It’s a sensible question if you don’t know how the legal system works.  You might have a case that one lawyer could get you $5 million on but the lawyer you hire gets $1 million. That’s technically a win, but to us it’s really a loss. This sadly happens all of the time. Who your lawyer is and how good they are is a huge factor as to whether or not you will “win” or “lose” your case.  But there is a much more important factor.

The number one influence of any lawsuit result is, how good are your facts? By far that determines who gets a great result or who feels like they lost at the end of the day. For example, if you are stopped at a stoplight and rear-ended by another car, those are strong facts in your favor. If the other driver was drunk that is even more helpful.  Did you break your leg and need surgery? Those are good facts. Did you just go to the ER and are feeling fine?  Those facts make the case worth less.   If they are driving an Amazon truck, that will make the case worth more money if your injury is serious. If it’s an uninsured driver that will make recovering money from them difficult no matter how great your lawyer is.

You could have the “best car accident lawyer in Chicago” on your side, but if you turn left into oncoming traffic and get hit by a car, they will have a hard time proving the other party wasn’t at fault. You could have the top criminal lawyer in Cook County on your case, but if you are on video robbing a store at gunpoint, getting a not guilty finding is likely impossible.

What great lawyers do with bad facts is make the end result better.  Take the guy caught on video robbing a store.  With a bad lawyer, you are more likely to get the harshest sentence possible. With a fighter on your side, the bad facts make a not guilty unrealistic, but maybe they get you out of jail within a year instead of ten.  That to me is a win.  But even with that great lawyer, facts like your background, family, job, mental health, etc. have a huge role in how a Judge will sentence you.

There are some lawyers that will only work with the best facts. These are firms that get the best personal injury cases that are usually worth in the seven figures and don’t always require a ton of hard work. Why would they take on a tough case when they make a lot of money off of easy cases with huge damages?  The point is that when the facts aren’t perfect, you need to really have a fighter on your side.  And in reality, you need that when the facts are good too because at some point there will usually be a hiccup and cases are worth more or do better when the lawyer really cares.

Two out of every five Americans will need long-term care at some point in their lives. Sadly, senior citizens are sometimes victims of abuse and neglect (both intentional and unintentional) within nursing homes and assisted living facilities. While it is difficult enough to place a family member in a home, it is even more difficult to see that family member suffer under the care of an overburdened, under-trained or abusive nursing home staff.   Even worse is when you feel like the staff doesn’t care about the health of their patients.

We get calls, chats and emails regularly from people asking, “Is this a nursing home case?” Here are some of the questions we ask to determine if people do have a case.

  1. Where did the injury occur? We need to know the exact location. Often people come in to a nursing home with physical problems already. Other times they are in a nursing home, but maybe got sent to a hospital for one reason and developed a bed sore there. Furthermore, at what facility did the injury occur? Unfortunately, there are some nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the state that have a reputation for being understaffed and inattentive to their residents.  Sometimes when we hear the name of the facility it’s a good indicator that a screw up occurred because we do see the same names over and over.
  2. Who is the injured party? What exactly is the injury?We always ask for the details of the injury. Who is the family member you are calling about? Tell us exactly what happened or what you observed. Potential nursing home negligence includes:
  • Unexplained bruises, cuts, burns, sprains, or fractures
  • Bedsores or frozen joints
  • Dehydration and malnutrition
  • Unexplained venereal disease or genital infections; vaginal or anal bleeding; torn, stained, or bloody underclothing
  • Falls from the bed
  • Staff refusing to allow visitors to see resident or delays in allowing visitors to see resident (unrelated to Covid)
  • Staff not allowing residents to be alone with visitors
  • Resident being kept in an over-medicated state
  • Falls by patients who are supposed to be assisted when walking
  • Patients who get dropped and injured by nurses
  • Failure to diagnose an injury or disease
  • Sexual abuse
  1. When did the injury occur?Or when did you first notice the injury/neglect? There are statutes of limitations for nursing home injuries in Illinois. It is typically two years from the incident date although there are some exceptions. The longer you wait the harder it can be to prove a case as we often rely on testimony from the patient themselves and serious injuries can affect memory.

Helping people determine whether or not they have a case is part of what we do. Another part of our free service is to point people in the right direction if they do have a case. With nursing home cases, it is critical to contact/hire an experienced attorney who specializes in them. If you would like to talk to an attorney for free about a possible case, please call us any time at 312-346-5320 or fill out our contact form and we will call you. Every attorney we recommend has a track record of success and they only get paid if they win the case.

We as lawyers don’t expect the public to know what the law is and don’t blame them when they think the law is one thing when it really is something else. The most common example of that happening is when someone calls and wants to sue for a civil rights violation.

Often people think that being treated unfairly is a violation of their civil rights. For example, maybe you have treated with a doctor who no longer wishes to treat you or your landlord wants to end your lease.  Those situations on their face are not civil rights claims. A civil rights lawsuit has to show that a protected class has been harmed due to their status as part of a protected class. These violations occur if a person has had their granted freedoms taken away or is discriminated against based on:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Gender
  • Age
  • National origin
  • Disability
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religion

So if you are denied the chance to buy a house because of the color of your skin, that would be a case. If you are being sexually harassed at work, that could be a lawsuit.  If you are denied entry in to a restaurant because you are gay, that could be a case.

The most high profile of these lawsuits are when the police use excessive force, often based on discriminatory reasons. Those are also civil rights claims, either under Federal or Illinois laws.

The purpose of civil rights laws is to protect people against discrimination. So to show you have a case, you have to prove that you were discriminated against. You can’t just suspect it’s true, you have to have evidence. So if you think you were fired because you are 60, knowing in your heart that it’s true isn’t enough. An email or statement that says they are getting rid of you because you are too old would be needed or circumstantial evidence like the only workers being fired are over 40. It’s not illegal to fire an older person, but it is illegal to do it because they are old.  You have to prove your case.  The defendant doesn’t have to disprove anything.

These cases can be difficult to prove since most people don’t come out and announce that they are choosing to discriminate against you. But it’s not impossible. If you would like to speak with a lawyer for free to see if you have a case, you can fill out our contact form or call us at 312-346-5320.

There is a famous Chicago family law firm that does a lot of advertising and they get a lot of cases.  They also end up with a lot of unhappy clients.  That’s because while their marketing makes people think they are one thing, it quickly becomes obvious that if you hire them you are going to be ripped off.  I’ve seen divorce cases they’ve handled where before the first court appearance is made they’ve billed over $10,000.00 in legal work on a not complicated case.

What happens apparently is that they will bill their clients for “research.”  While there are some cases where research is needed, most family law cases don’t require it.  If you are a lawyer and have to bill for research in to child support statutes or custody law, then you must be handling one of your first cases.  This “research” is not the same as a client who brings some unique issue forward such as determining the international custody arrangement the United States has with a country like Morocco. That’s not an issue that comes up more than once in the lifetime of most lawyers and would be legitimate.

So does this mean that all lawyer research bills are ripoffs? No.

The most common, legitimate legal research that takes place for the average person who hires an attorney comes in two cases. The first  is criminal law.  If your attorney can find a case that has gone to the Appellate or Supreme Court and can help you avoid jail then that’s worthy research. I’m not talking about minor retail theft situations. I’m referring to major felonies that can result in long jail time.  The catch is that if they’ve done the research on one case, confirming their findings haven’t been over-turned by a new court case should not take more than 30 minutes or so.

The other common area of legit research is in civil cases. If you are trying to argue for or against a motion for summary judgment, research in to similar situations makes a ton of sense and can be the reason you win or lose a case. It’s especially relevant when the Judge is asking for a legal brief in support of your argument.

So what should you do to make sure your legal bills aren’t inflated with bogus research charges?  Here are some tips:

  1. Before you hire the lawyer, ask if they anticipate billing for research. If the answer is yes, ask what for.
  2. It’s not inappropriate to ask that they contact you for approval before billing for significant research.
  3. If your bill has a charge that simply says “research” and doesn’t explain what was done, ask them to clarify and provide a copy of the research results. Most legitimate research will result in some sort of a memo, especially at a larger firm where more than one person is working on a case.
  4. If it happens, ask why a more expensive senior lawyer is billing for research instead of a paralegal or cheaper associate.
  5. Most importantly, if the research you are billed for seems basic (e.g. they charge you to look up child support rates), call them out on it.

The good news is that most lawyers are honest, but I’ve seen enough cases where legal bills are severely inflated that you have to be on the lookout.

Most people are familiar with the term commission. In certain jobs, especially sales jobs, the compensation arrangement typically includes commission pay. An employee may receive a salary, or some level of guaranteed base pay, but the commission pay over and above that, is dependent on how many goods/services the employee sells. Commission plans vary by company and position, but the underlying premise is the same. Performing at a high level and selling more equals more money in that employee’s pocket.

Seems straightforward, but we have encountered many questions from employees over the years about their commission. Let’s take a look at some of them.

  1. I had a rough week with low sales and made very little commission. Is there a minimum my company has to pay me?

Yes, there is. A Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was first introduced in 1938 to protect workers. It had laws regulating child labor, setting the number of maximum weekly work hours, and establishing a minimum wage. Obviously, laws have evolved since then, but your company is required to pay you the current minimum wage when your weekly pay is averaged by the number of hours you worked. The minimum wage is currently $11.00 per hour in Illinois.

For example, let’s say that during your rough week, your commission averages only $5.00 per hour you worked. Your employer must pay you an additional $6.00 per hour to make up the difference between that and the minimum wage.

  1. My employer and I agreed that they would pay me commission but now I’m not getting paid. Now what?

Do you have a clear agreement with your employer about commission pay? Is the rate of commission in writing? If so, your first step is to notify your employer in writing that you aren’t receiving your commission as promised. If your employer does not comply, the next step would be to contact an attorney. Illinois has a law that ensures employees seeking their unpaid commission will be reimbursed for their attorney’s fees.  The lawyers we recommend for these cases never ask for a penny up front and only get paid if they make a recovery for you.

  1. I earn commission, and I worked 55 hours last week, but my company did not pay me overtime. Do they have to?

That depends on a few things. Are you an inside or outside salesperson? If you spend more than half your working hours making sales outside of a central office, you are an outside salesperson and don’t qualify for overtime. If you are an inside salesperson, you still may not be eligible for overtime if you work in a retail or service establishment, if your pay rate is higher than 1.5 times the minimum wage (i.e., $16.50 in Illinois) and if over half of what you earn comes from commission.

Are you in a similar situation? Or do you have a question that is different from the ones above?  Do you just want to speak to a lawyer for free? Whatever your situation, you are welcome to contact us any time at 312-346-5320 for a confidential consultation.

Happy New Year!  Did you know that there are over 300 new laws that just went into effect in Illinois?  A lot of them won’t come up in your life, but a bunch are going to be relevant to a lot of people. Here are some that I think will have a big impact and some of my thoughts:

– If you ask for medical assistance for an opioid overdose, you will be immune from prosecution for possession of those drugs.  Great idea, now expand it to all drugs.

– Non-compete clauses are banned for people making less than $75,000.00 a year. This is a great start, but I personally think the limit should be higher and the length should be reduced to a year.

– Minimum wage is up to $12 an hour and is on its way to $15 an hour.

– No contact orders now also include email and social media. I can’t believe this wasn’t already the case.

– Expecting mothers can now use handicap stickers for up to 90 days in the third trimester.  Hopefully, this doesn’t get abused by family members, but helping pregnant women is always a good thing.

– Restaurants have to serve water, milk, or juice as the default beverage on kids’ meals rather than soda.

– Schools are banned from discriminating against kids whose hairstyles reflect their racial, ethnic, or cultural traditions.

– Companies can no longer charge early termination fees for customers of telephone, cellphone, television, internet, energy, medical alert system, or water services who die before the end of their contracts.  I can’t believe they would do that, except I have AT&T so I can totally believe it.

– Pubic school students can have up to five mental health days with no doctor’s note required.

– Public universities can no longer make prospective students submit ACT or SAT scores.  Google the bias in those tests and you’ll likely agree this is a good idea.

– Health departments can’t regulate lemonade stands run by kids under 16.  Who in their right mind would do that?  Obviously someone did, as this seems like a reactionary law.

– Counties and cities with populations greater than 500,000 will require all law enforcement officers to wear body cameras. All officers in the state will be required to wear them by the beginning of 2025.

These are 12 of the most impactful ones in my opinion. As always, if you have questions about any Illinois laws or want to speak to an attorney for free, call us at 312-346-5320.