There are many things in our country that could be better. Our health care system is atrocious. We have great doctors, but so many people can’t afford treatment, and for many others, you have to go through a lot of red tape to get a procedure approved.

Like healthcare, our legal system is well-intentioned and there are many great lawyers (and some not so great). And just like with medicine, your outcome is often due to how much money you have and what you can afford.  There isn’t true equal justice for everyone.

So what happens is that some people can afford the right attorney for the case and get the best result possible.  Others can only afford a cut-rate attorney who isn’t experienced or doesn’t specialize in the area of law your case involves. So maybe you lose because you have someone who is out-matched.  And for some people, they can’t afford anyone and they have to represent themselves.

I don’t blame anyone in that situation.  In some of the cases like small claims court, it only makes sense to represent yourself. In others, if it’s a choice between paying your rent or hiring an attorney, it might make sense to pay the rent.

For others, they choose to represent themselves because they know they are in the right and believe if they go to court and tell the truth, things will work out.  In a sensible legal system that is how things would work.

In reality though, that’s not how it usually goes.  There are two reasons for it, one that is really unfair and you have to know about.

The first is that when you represent yourself, you are held to the same standard as an attorney. That means you have to know how to properly enter evidence, the appropriate way to write legal motions, how to ask questions of witnesses, etc.  These are hurdles that some people can overcome. While it would be nice if each court had someone to assist these pro se litigants, that doesn’t happen.

The second reason which you must know about is something that ruins the process. There are many Judges in Illinois who simply will not listen to someone who chooses to represent themselves in court. They won’t let you speak.  They will shut you down. They’ll only engage with the lawyer for the other side.  They’ll tell you that you have to come back with an attorney.  So you might be prepared.  You might be clearly in the right.  You might know exactly what to say to the Judge. And none of that will matter.

The legal system shouldn’t work this way. The goal should be to get the best result. The reality is that many Judges view themselves as the Kings/Queens of their courtroom and unless they do something outrageous, there is no check or balance on them.  And not listening to you isn’t outrageous.

While you want to get your story out, many Judges just want to get through the 100 or so cases on their docket every day. If it’s summer they might have a tee time or desire to enjoy the warm weather. Or maybe they have a kid and want to pick them up from school. Or it could be a Friday (the worst day to be in court if you are representing yourself) and have a desire to make it to Wrigley Field or a happy hour.

So what happens is that they try to move as many cases as quickly as possible. The lawyers that are there a lot know what to say, how to say it, and say it quickly.  In the view of some Judges, if they let everyone talk, they’ll never get out of there, so they don’t let any non-lawyer talk. In fact, some of them won’t listen very long to attorneys that they don’t know.

Lawyers know if they are going before a Judge for the first time to ask others about the Judge’s tendencies. Even that is no guarantee that they will get fully heard and they will get shut down too if they don’t keep things simple and short.

This can be infuriating to hear and it’s maddening to even type.  But this is the reality of how the legal system works. It’s why many traffic and criminal defendants get supervision on their cases. I’ve seen Judges tell everyone in a courtroom with a first offense under 20 miles an hour to see the court clerk for supervision which essentially wipes out half the cases on a morning docket within minutes.

For you, if you have to represent yourself or choose to do so, if you find that the Judge isn’t going to listen to you and believe they are about to enter an order against you, you should ask for a 30-day continuance to try and secure legal representation. They don’t have to do that for you, but usually, if you ask early enough they will grant that.  If you try to get an attorney once you’ve lost, it will likely be too late.

If I had a magic wand and could change the court system so people don’t need lawyers as much, I would.  Or there would be court-appointed and paid-for attorneys when needed. But until that happens just be very careful if you do go at it alone. You can be right and lose because nobody knows you are right but you.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching “Better Call Saul” that I’ve been thinking about this a lot, but I did get asked recently by someone if you should ever talk to the police. It’s a really easy answer.

No.

But what if you are innocent?  No.

But what if you think you can explain what happened? No.

How about if they tell you that things will go easier or it’s not a big deal? No.

What if they’ve caught you committing the crime? No.

What if they tell you if you don’t talk, you are going to lose rights to your children? No.

What if they say they will arrest a family member if you don’t cooperate? No.

What if a witness is saying something in front of them and I want to rebut that? No.

Won’t I look guilty if I don’t talk? Who cares, just don’t talk.

You’ve surely heard the saying that anything you say can and will be used against you. That is the warning that the police must give you before they try to question you about a crime.  It doesn’t always happen, but this Miranda Warning exists for a reason. It’s a bad idea to talk to the police.

In most situations, they are not looking out for you or your best interests.  While you can feel pressure being with the police or just want your problem to go away, the smart thing to do is say nothing and focus on the long term.  Whatever you personally think about the police, the reality is that they don’t solve most crimes.  Most of the convictions that they help get occur because a suspect agrees to talk and provides the information needed to convict themselves.

When you say nothing other than you want a lawyer present, it protects you. Anything an attorney says can not be introduced as evidence. The less evidence you create, the more leverage you give your attorney to get you the best result possible.  The police aren’t your friend and are not on your side.  They aren’t looking out for you and don’t care about you.

I can tell you that if you surveyed 100 experienced criminal lawyers in Chicago or anywhere else in Illinois, they’d tell you the exact same thing. And if you’ve started to talk, but now realize you shouldn’t, just stop talking. If they want you to come in for an interview, you either decline or have an attorney accompany you.  In almost every situation this is how you best protect yourself and end up with the best result possible in your case. And that is the goal. Period.

If you have any questions or want to speak with a Chicago criminal lawyer for free, call us any time at 312-346-5320.

If you are in a car accident or looking to sue a doctor and do an internet search for “personal injury lawyers,” you will come up with thousands of law firms and attorneys who say they can help you. If you don’t know who is who, it can be really confusing to figure out who to hire.

One thing you should know if you’ve been in a serious accident is that there are certain types of injury lawyers that are better than others for every case.  If you’ve been in a car accident and have $15,000.00 in medical bills, hiring a lawyer who regularly handles major trucking crash injuries would not be a good idea.  And if you have a very serious injury case such as a death, something that required surgeries, etc., hiring a law firm that usually handles smaller cases would not be a great idea.

The bigger firm cases will usually turn down your case if it’s too small or refer you elsewhere. Most firms that don’t regularly handle seven-figure cases though will act like they do if your case is catastrophic and could be worth a lot. They want to make money and some will sadly do what’s best for them and not best for you.  So how do you avoid hiring the wrong firm if you have a potential seven-figure case?

One great question you can ask is, “How many seven-figure cases have you tried or settled in the last five years?” It’s a really direct and relevant question.  There’s no magic number answer, but if you ask it to a few different firms and one says zero, another says two, and the third says 15, it’s a really strong indicator as to who is used to dealing with high-value cases and who isn’t.

Some of these less accomplished attorneys who don’t have the track record you should want will try to tell you that they are great trial attorneys. That may be true for the cases that they usually handle, but you don’t want them getting their first experience with a major case while representing you.  You also don’t want a firm to feel pressure to settle a case for $3 million when it may be worth $15 million.

In many ways, figuring out who to hire is like realizing that just because someone can run a five-person business doesn’t mean that they could be CEO of United Airlines or some major corporation like that.  There is a huge difference between running a five-person company and a 100 person company and a 10,000 employee company.  The skillset for each is way different which is why you see these companies bring in new people with experience as they grow.

The same idea is true when it comes to hiring a lawyer. The small case attorney might fantasize that they could do well with a big case and they might be right. But more likely than not your best chance of success comes from a law firm that can really show a track record of winning these cases and getting the best results possible.

If you have any questions or want our lawyers to refer you to the best personal injury law firm for your case, please call for free at any time at 312-346-5320.

We are lawyers who will talk to you for free and give you a referral to the best attorney for your situation. Call us any time at 312-346-5320 to discuss your case. 

When you are hurt on the job in Illinois, and your doctor takes you off work (or gives you restrictions that your job can’t accommodate), you are entitled to temporary total disability benefits or TTD.  This is 2/3 of your average weekly wage, tax-free.  This is of course very important because this money allows you to survive while you focus on getting healthy.

Sadly, many injured workers in Illinois have to deal with shady insurance companies. They are looking for a way to not pay you your owed benefits and sometimes do it in an illegal manner.  So what do you do when your check is constantly late or stops showing up without any reason?

The first thing to know is that you are not alone. This is a common insurance company tactic when it comes to IL work comp benefits. They want to frustrate you so you’ll go against your doctor’s advice and return to work before it’s safe to do so. They know that many people live paycheck to paycheck and if they squeeze you just enough that you’ll do things against your best interests. It’s a real scummy thing for them to do, but to them, it’s just business.

The way to solve this problem is for a lawyer to file what is called a 19(b) petition for an immediate hearing.  It’s essentially a trial motion that says benefits are being improperly denied and allows you to jump ahead of other cases that want a trial and get before an arbitrator. While not every case needs a lawyer, when your benefits are delayed, you certainly do.  And having an attorney on the case before a problem happens not only acts as a deterrent to bad behavior by the insurance company but also gets you into court faster.

When the insurance company is really acting in bad faith, we can also file what is called a petition for penalties and fees. You’ve probably heard the term “punitive damages.” This isn’t that, but it’s similar in that the insurance company can be forced to pay you extra money and your lawyer fees for acting so inappropriately.

The point is that when an insurance company is being aggressive to you, you need a lawyer in your corner who will be aggressive back. A good Illinois work injury law firm uses the law to make sure their clients don’t get taken advantage of. In fact, even just the filing of these motions is often enough to get the insurance company to back down. If they don’t, they know they’ll lose and also waste a lot of money on a defense attorney to fight a case they have no defense against.

Beyond that, when your checks are late, experienced attorneys who deal with the same insurance companies and insurance adjusters all of the time, often have relationships where an email or phone call can get results.

In sum, if your TTD checks are late, don’t panic, but also look out for yourself. There are solutions to these problems that can work for you.

I hope this helps. If you have any questions or want to speak to a lawyer, get in touch with us any time.  We cover all of Illinois.

We are experienced Illinois attorneys who since 2001 have helped tens of thousands of people with their cases. If you would like to speak to a lawyer for free to see if you have a case, call us any time at 312-346-5320.

There is nothing more exciting in life than seeing your child be born. It comes with hopes, fears, a bit of nervousness, and a lot of joy.  Most births go smoothly, but occasionally there are problems. Some are unavoidable due to genetics. Others happen from hospital errors and at times this leads to a birth injury lawsuit.

One rare, but very serious birth injury involves something called kernicterus.  To understand that though, you must know about jaundice first.

What is Jaundice?

Most people have heard the term “jaundice” in relation to newborn babies. Jaundice occurs when a chemical called bilirubin builds up in the baby’s blood. Bilirubin is a yellow substance your body creates when red blood cells break down.

When the mother is pregnant, her liver gets rid of the bilirubin for the baby; however, once the baby is born, his/her own liver has to remove the bilirubin. In some babies, particularly premature ones, the liver might not be developed enough to effectively get rid of the bilirubin. In these cases, the baby’s skin and whites of their eyes may appear yellow. Jaundice refers to this yellow discoloration.

Signs and Symptoms of Jaundice

Jaundice is common. About 60% of all babies have it. The main sign of infant jaundice, the yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes, usually appears between the third and fifth day after birth. Jaundice typically appears on the face of the infant first, then it moves to the chest, belly, arms, and legs as the bilirubin levels increase. Jaundice can be harder to see in babies with darker skin color.

Symptoms of jaundice, aside from the change in coloring, include the baby:

  • being hard to wake up, or conversely, not sleeping at all
  • not breastfeeding or sucking from a bottle well
  • being very fussy, having high-pitched cries
  • not having enough wet or dirty diapers.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Jaundice

The baby’s doctor or nurse can check how much bilirubin is in the baby’s blood by using a light meter that is put on the baby’s head. If the level is high, the doctor or nurse will likely order a blood test. Typically, a small blood sample from the baby’s heel is taken to obtain a total serum bilirubin level.

Jaundice is easily treated. The baby will be undressed and put under special lights that do not hurt the baby. This can be done in a hospital or even at home. The baby’s milk intake may also need to be increased. In cases of very high bilirubin levels, a blood transfusion may be needed.

What is Kernicterus?

No baby should develop brain damage from untreated jaundice. However, this is sadly not always the case. When severe jaundice goes untreated for too long, it can cause a type of brain damage called kernicterus.  Affected infants may experience respiratory distress, muscle spasms (including those in which the head and heels are bent backward and the body bows forward), and diminished muscle tone.

As infants with kernicterus get older (about the age of 3 or 4), other symptoms may develop, including:

  • delayed motor development or abnormal motions
  • convulsions or seizures
  • muscle rigidity resulting in muscle spasms
  • slow, involuntary, writhing movements of the limbs or entire body
  • hearing loss
  • problems with vision
  • difficulty speaking

What Should I Do If I Suspect My Baby Has Kernicterus?

If your child has been diagnosed with kernicterus, or if you suspect that they might have kernicterus, you need to get with a top pediatrician right away. They will test for bilirubin levels and try to reduce them before brain damage becomes permanent in your child.  This is also done with light therapy.  It’s really important that the baby be treated quickly.  You can’t reverse the damage that has been done, but you can stop it from getting worse.

Finally, if your child does have kernicterus, you should speak to an experienced birth injury attorney. It’s possible the doctors or their staff dropped the ball and failed to prevent this often treatable problem from getting worse. Depending on whether or not any Federally funded doctors were involved, you may have as little as two years from the birth to file a lawsuit (up to eight years in other cases) so time is of the essence.

If you would like to speak to a lawyer for free to see if you might have a case, please contact us any time. All calls are confidential and require no commitment on your part.

Approximately 700,000 knee replacement procedures are performed each year in the United States. The most common reason for knee replacement surgery is to relieve severe pain caused by osteoarthritis. People who have trouble walking, going up and down stairs, and getting in and out of chairs are candidates for the surgery.

Knee replacement surgery entails cutting away damaged bone and cartilage from your thighbone, shinbone, and kneecap and replacing it with a medical device/prosthesis. Those devices are made of metal alloys, high-grade plastics, and polymers.

Knee replacement surgery goes well for most patients, but like any surgery, there are risks. So if you had a knee replacement, and the surgery did not go well, you could only sue the doctor if they clearly did something wrong. In other words, you would have to prove they were negligent and that you suffered damages as a result.

However, sometimes the surgery goes just fine, but as time goes on, the device breaks down. There is a need for additional corrective surgery, also known as revision surgery. It could turn out that the doctor did nothing wrong, but there still was some negligence.

Exactech, a company that makes knee and ankle replacement devices, has been in the news recently because they recalled over 140,000 of their devices. The concern is that improper packaging failed to protect their devices from early exposure to oxygen, which can begin oxidation. Exactech says that this oxidation can “severely degrade” the components of the device and can “lead to both accelerated wear debris production and bone loss, and/or component fatigue cracking/fracture, all leading to corrective revision surgery.”

In other words, if you had a knee replacement with an Exactech device, and you had or need revision surgery earlier than expected, you may have a legal case against Exactech.  It’s not a medical malpractice lawsuit, but a product liability lawsuit. Damages can potentially work in a similar manner to medical malpractice lawsuits including compensation for future medical care and pain and suffering.

Exactech has recalled about 147,000 devices, all manufactured since 2004. The following devices are included in the recall: OPTETRAK, OPTETRAK Logic, TRULIANT, and VANTAGE. Just because you had one of those devices implanted doesn’t mean that you have a case.  What it does mean is that you have a case worth looking in to. Time is of the essence. If you wait too long, you will lose your rights to bring a case. If you would like to speak with an experienced attorney for free to see if you might have a lawsuit, please call us any time at 312-346-5320.

We are experienced attorneys who will speak with you for free. Call our office at 800-517-1614 or fill out our contact form and we will call you.

At first glance, workers’ compensation seems like a straightforward concept. If an employee gets hurt at work, they should get money to pay for their medical care and time off of work. But in reality, it is quite often not that clear cut. Workers’ compensation claims in Illinois can be very complex. The specifics regarding the accident, injury, and resulting medical care are critical. Details matter.

We get calls, chats and emails every day from people asking, “Do I have a workers’ compensation case?” Here are some of the questions we ask to determine if they do or don’t have a case.

Where were you injured? We need to know the exact location. In what city and state did the injury occur? We are Illinois lawyers, so we need to verify that the injury occurred in the state of Illinois. However, if you were traveling for work in a location outside of Illinois, but your employer is based in Illinois, you might still have a case. Another reason why we need to know the city/county is because the best attorney for a workers’ compensation case in the city of Chicago might not be the best attorney for a workers’ compensation case in Decatur or Belleville.  Things have changed a bit with online hearings due to Covid, but we still take in to account how many cases a lawyer has in your area before recommending them.

How were you hurt at work? What is your injury?We always ask for the details of the injury. Tell us exactly what happened. Was it a repetitive motion injury (e.g., carpal tunnel syndrome)? Or was it a singular accident (e.g., strained back while lifting a box, slip and fall, incident involving machinery or a vehicle)? Falls at work have to usually be the result of some risk such as a wet floor, running to a meeting, etc.  A pre-existing condition doesn’t bar you from bringing a case, but could be a possible defense. Facts matter.

When did the accident occur?There are statutes of limitations for workers’ compensation claims in Illinois:  three years from the accident date or two years from the last payment of compensation, whichever is longer. If you don’t formally file a case in time, it will be barred.

Have you reported the injury to your boss/employer?This is critical and seems like a no-brainer. But some people say, “I like my boss and company. I didn’t report it because I don’t want to sue them.” A workers’ compensation case is a claim against your employer’s insurance, you wouldn’t be suing them. You have to report your injury on a timely basis. If not done within 45 days of when you knew or should have known you sustained a work injury, you can lose your rights.

Have you gotten medical care?A big piece of a workers’ compensation claim is proving that you are, indeed, injured. The way to do that is to see a doctor, explain what happened and proceed with the care/treatment plan that they recommend.

The bottom line is, day in and day out, we communicate with people who have work injuries. Since 2001, we have helped tens of thousands of people with workers comp questions. We can tell you rather quickly whether or not you have a case worth pursuing and recommend the best lawyer for your case.. 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.

Recently I had two calls from people looking for lawyers in Illinois that were different yet very similar.

Call number one was from a guy who had been convicted of theft. He chose to represent himself and lost his case after his argument to the Judge failed.  His argument was based on something he read on the internet that if he refused to acknowledge the court had authority over him, they couldn’t convict him.

The second case was sadder.  A woman called me after she had gone to court in a family law case. She too represented herself. Her ex wanted visitation, and it was granted.  The problem with that is that he’s a pedophile. The Judge would not listen to her when she tried to bring that up.

Both of these people want to get a lawyer now and essentially have a do-over.  The problem is that it’s too late.

While they can hire lawyers, they can only do so for an appeal (if it’s not too late) or if new evidence has developed since the court hearing. Learning that your internet arguments aren’t real or wanting to get the Judge to listen to you isn’t a new development.  The pedophile did his gross acts years ago, not since the visitation ruling.

While it would be nice if courts worked in a way that made it easier for people to represent themselves, the hard truth is that it doesn’t.  A lawyer for the guy charged would theft would have explained that their argument was not a real one. They also would likely have gotten him supervision which ultimately would be a dismissal of the case. Now this too smart for his own good guy is going to spend some time in jail.

The woman who lost her visitation case would have been way better with an attorney.  They would know how to properly present evidence of pedophilia including how to properly bring in witnesses and experts that could testify about the danger to the kids. That didn’t happen and she lost and unfortunately, the kids are at risk. The worst-case scenario with a lawyer likely would have been supervised visitation.

I get that lawyers can be expensive. And it’s certainly possible to represent yourself and get a good result.  But you must remember that you only get one chance at this, and if things don’t work out, there won’t be a do-over.  So the safest thing is always going to be to have an attorney, especially if the stakes are high.  The time to not get a lawyer is when it would cost more than the case is worth. But when prison time or safety are at stake, or if you’ve been injured in an accident, you have too much to lose by going at it alone.

My common statement when people ask me if they can represent themselves is that if your stomach hurts, you can get a knife and remove your own appendix, but the smarter thing is to have a doctor who has done it 1,000 times handle it.  It’s not much different when it comes to hiring a lawyer in Illinois.

If you would like to speak to an experienced Illinois attorney for free, contact us at 312-346-5320.  We cover all of Illinois.

I consider myself lucky in that even after 24+ years, I still enjoy being a lawyer in Illinois. I believe it’s due to the fact that I’ve carved out a niche doing something I love and every day is different for me. Sure some days are better than others, but I can’t imagine doing anything else. Some attorneys aren’t so lucky.

I read an article that said of all the lawyers who passed the bar in the year 2000, almost 25% of them were no longer practicing attorneys within 12 years.  A lot of these attorneys bust their butts to become partners at a law firm, make partner, and then realize life isn’t getting any better.  The old joke is that it’s like winning a pie-eating contest where the prize is more pie.

Most of the lawyers who quit seem to go on to careers that have nothing to do with the law. I’ve seen some become fitness instructors, restaurant owners, nurses, teachers, and even a stand-up comedian.  Yes, a law degree can be valuable in other industries, but a lot of lawyers are running away from the law altogether.

So why should this matter to you?

While many of the lawyers who are quitting come from huge firms that only represent giant corporations, there are plenty of attorneys who represent consumers in areas like divorce, car accidents, civil litigation, etc that are getting burned out too. You want to make sure that you don’t hire one of these lawyers and if you do, recognize some of the signs of burnout so you can switch firms before it’s too late.  Some of these include:

  • They don’t return your phone calls or e-mails in a timely manner.
  • They don’t follow through on things they say they are going to do or you have to bother them to do it.
  • They are different than when you worked with them in the past.
  • At times they appear disheveled.
  • They seem unprepared or forget basic facts about your case.
  • You discover they are spending a lot of time away from Illinois.
  • You can only get a hold of their secretary or paralegal.
  • They are rude or short-tempered in their interactions with you.
  • They are talking about a lot of things unrelated to your case when you speak.
  • Their bills aren’t sent on a regular basis and have generic entries.

Sometimes lawyers like this are just bad business people, but in my opinion, attorneys who love their jobs and want to help clients don’t do these things.  They are all red flags to me.  I remember being a young lawyer and seeing lots of miserable old attorneys who seemed stuck in their jobs. Things have only gotten worse since then.

The good news is that in most cases you can switch law firms without cost or problem as long as you don’t wait too long. In other words, you need to be your own biggest advocate and not stand for bad customer service and fire your attorney if things don’t get better.  I also recommend asking questions to the lawyer about how they work before you hire them.

If you have any questions about hiring or firing an Illinois attorney or anything else, please call us any time at 312-346-5320 for a free, confidential consultation.

 

 

In movies or on TV people like to say, “I will call my lawyer.” Or, “You will hear from my lawyer!” In some cases, you see that lawyer handling all sorts of legal situations for their friend/client. That of course is not real life.

In real life, I talk to many people who want to have access to an attorney in case something should come up. At least once a month I get a call from someone with no pressing legal need who wants to have a lawyer “just in case the need arises.”

The reality is that life is not like TV or the movies and especially in a bigger city like Chicago that has over 30,000 attorneys, there is almost never a need to have a lawyer on retainer.

The reason I say that is if you need a lawyer, you want the best one for your situation. If you think you might get arrested or the police want to talk to you, you need a criminal defense attorney. But even then the best one depends on what the charges will be, which courthouse you will go to and the timing. If you are a business, you probably want a different lawyer if you are sued for a wage claim than if you are sued by a customer over product disputes.

In real life, in almost any case, you can get a good lawyer when your problem arises instead of paying money out of your pocket in case something comes up.  It’s one reason I’m against the concept of pre-paid legal plans.  I’d bet I’ve had more than 1,000 calls from their clients who go to one of the “plan attorneys” for help when a legal situation came up only to discover that attorney isn’t the right fit for the problem.

A big part of this is that in most cases, while having a pressing legal matter can be a stressor to you, the legal system takes time which affords you time.  If your spouse files for divorce, you most likely won’t be due in court for 30 days, and in most cases, nothing of substance will happen on that first court date. If your company is sued it will likely even be longer before you have to show up in court and many months before anything of substance takes place. Even in criminal cases, if the police want to talk to you, you can almost always tell them that you want a lawyer and then go search for one.

So do yourself a favor and don’t make legal decisions based on what you see in the movies. And if you feel an urgent need to talk to a lawyer, you can call us for free and in confidence any time at 312-346-5320.