When most people think of having to testify under oath, they think of a courtroom with a Judge, a jury, and drama. That’s from TV and movies, but certainly if you testify at trial those things will be there.

The reality though is most people will never testify in a courtroom as most cases don’t make it to trial. But you still will testify under oath and it will be in a deposition.

A deposition takes place during a process called discovery. This is a way for each party to a case to learn facts and get answers to questions after a lawsuit is filed.  Some of this is done via questions answered under oath in writing and some of it is done by the attorneys having a chance to ask you and other parties or witnesses questions under oath.

If it was a trial, most likely your attorney would call you as a witness and ask you questions first. Then the other attorney would get to do what is called cross examination which is fancy lawyer talk that means the other attorney is asking the questions. At a deposition it works differently. Your attorney talks to you and if they want to know things about your case, they can ask you directly. So at a deposition, it will be the other attorney who is asking the questions and your lawyer there will be there to protect you.

When I say protect you, I mean they will object to any questions that are irrelevant, be a person you can ask a question to and generally look out for your best interests. Even in a hostile case, most depositions are friendly because there isn’t a jury.  That takes away the theatrical element of it.  When the other attorney is done asking questions, your attorney can ask some as well and will do so if clarification is needed of a certain point.

At the deposition there will be a court reporter who will take down your testimony and also have you sworn under oath that what you are going to say is the truth. Other than the lawyers it’s possible the other party to the case will be there and that’s it. It typically takes place in a lawyer’s office or on Zoom.

There are a lot of things you can do at a deposition to help your case. In no particular order:

  1. Be honest. Don’t exaggerate or embellish.
  2. Answer the question asked only and don’t ramble on. Your attorney should prepare you for this in detail.
  3. Don’t guess at what the other attorney is asking. If you don’t understand, say so. If you don’t know, say “I don’t know.”
  4. Be friendly. A big part of the deposition is the other side assessing how you would come off to a jury and Judge at a trial. If they think you will fly off the handle or act like a jerk, it will strengthen their position.
  5. Dress appropriately. How you look also comes in to opinions on what impact you will make at trial.

And what you should certainly know is that there is no reason to be nervous. In the depositions I’ve been at, both as an attorney and as a witness, I’ve been stunned how unprepared so many lawyers are. It’s almost offensive when you consider how much you are thinking about the deposition and how clearly you can see how little they’ve thought about it.  As long as your lawyer is prepared it’s nothing to worry about.

In most cases a deposition can’t last longer than three hours. Before the deposition happens your attorney should explain how to answer questions, tell you about the other attorney and ask you questions they anticipate the other lawyer will ask. This should help prevent any surprises at the deposition and give you a chance to collect your thoughts before you answer any questions because you’ll have a day or so to reflect on it.

Bottom line is don’t worry. And if you have any questions about testifying under oath at a deposition please call us at 312-346-5320 to speak with a lawyer for free.

When it comes to hiring a lawyer in Cook County, where most Illinois lawsuits get filed, it shocks me how long some attorneys wait to file a lawsuit. For most personal injury cases, there is a two year time limit from the accident date to file a lawsuit or the case will be forever barred. Some lawyers wait until the very last day possible to get a lawsuit on file. There are a lot of problems with this. First though let’s discuss why they do it.

While every case requires some investigation, most can have a lawsuit on file in a matter of days, with the exception of medical malpractice which often takes up to a year to investigate. But for car accidents, slip and falls or stuff like business disputes, once you know all the parties, filing suit doesn’t take long.  It does cost around $500 and creates a lot of work as it begins the process of depositions, court appearances, discovery, etc. So some attorneys try and settle out of court without gaining the leverage of having a lawsuit filed.

That strategy might make sense if you have a car accident with serious injuries and a small insurance policy.  Those cases can usually be settled without a lawsuit. But if there is a large insurance policy, the case is disputed, you aren’t getting a response, etc., there’s no reason to wait. A lawsuit makes the other side take you seriously because they have to deal with the court and assess their worst case scenario.

But there’s another reason in Cook County why a lawsuit should get filed in most cases ASAP. To deal with the backlog of cases, most cases have to go to trial within 28 months of the day that the lawsuit is filed.  The reality is that many disputed lawsuits don’t get resolved until a trial is about to happen.  As attorneys we say, “The case settled on the courthouse steps.”  So of course if your attorney doesn’t file a lawsuit early on, it takes that much longer to get you to the 28 months when your case will go to trial if a settlement isn’t reached.

So when looking to hire an attorney, you should try to figure out if they are really a trial attorney or not. Most cases settle and there is nothing wrong with settling, but you have to be willing to go to trial if you don’t get a good settlement.  You also have to be willing to do the work needed before the trial happens. A lot of lawyers just want to do nothing but try and negotiate and that’s not usually in your best interests.

My recommendation is to ask the attorney how many cases they’ve tried in the last five years.  It varies based on area of practice, but if there immediate response is “we try to avoid trial for you” it could be a red flag. I also recommend you ask how soon they will file a lawsuit. If it’s not going to be within a month or so of hiring them, ask them why.

And if you want to know who a good litigation attorney is or have any Illinois legal questions, contact us any time for a free consultation at 312-346-5320.

I was young, dumb and immature when I decided to go to law school. A college friend had told me that he was applying to law school because there is a lot you can do with a law degree and it was a delay of having to go in to the “real world.” I worked during law school, but as a bartender and in low pressure law firm jobs. I grew a lot during those three years, and it turned out to be a great decision for me even if it was a bit accidental.

Going into law school, I had no idea how the day-to-day learning environment worked. I didn’t know anyone who was in law school at the time, and the internet was just getting started so I didn’t have easy access to information that kids fortunately have today. My expectation was that they were going to teach us laws because on TV and in movies it seems like all the lawyers know what the law is.

The reality is that you are taught about important cases and how the courts work to make those decisions as well as important legal principles such as jurisdiction and evidence.  What you aren’t taught are the laws themselves.

The other day, someone called me saying they wanted to discuss a case involving 750 ILCS 5/504.  ILCS stands for Illinois Compiled Statutes.  So every law in Illinois will have ILCS in the official filing. This particular law deals with maintenance in divorce cases which is something I’m very familiar with. But off the top of my head I had no idea what 750 ILCS 5/504 was referring to and I’d bet almost every lawyer out there would be the same.

This wasn’t a rare occurrence. A month prior someone told me they needed a lawyer familiar with 720 ILCS 5/12-13 because that is what they were charged with. Again, I had no idea what that law was but it turned out to be for criminal sexual assault.  Even an experienced prosecutor or criminal defense attorney couldn’t rattle off these statutes and almost surely would have to look it up. I suspect that this person was a bit embarrassed by what they were facing and didn’t want to be blunt until they knew who they were talking to.

It makes sense that attorneys don’t know the law by statute number and it also makes sense that it’s not taught in law school. The laws of every state are different. So if you go to law school in Illinois and they teach you the Illinois Compiled Statutes, what good does that do you if you move to another state?  Instead, most of the cases that are taught if not all of them are Federal cases as they take precedent over state cases and apply everywhere in the United States.

Bottom line is that if you quote a statute number to an attorney and they don’t know what it refers to, it’s not a big deal.

A caller to our office was looking for a medical malpractice attorney in Chicago.  They had a routine surgery that itself went well.  For whatever reason, the doctor kept the patient sedated for a couple of days after the surgery. During that time his hand and fingers swelled up.  It’s to be determined what went wrong, we suspect it was an IV error, but the bottom line is he spent days in that condition. Sadly he had to have multiple fingers amputated.

This occurred during peak Covid time when visitors were limited to the hospital. Things are changing at most places, but even if we were to go back to limiting visitors, there’s one pay to prevent a post surgical error like this that shouldn’t happen. Your family and/or friends must advocate for you.

By that I mean if they are in the hospital, they need to talk to the doctors and nurses and ask a lot of questions. If they have concerns they need to raise them. If they see something that appears off, they have to ask about it. You might see bruising and be worried. It could be normal or it could be the sign of a huge problem. I’m sure had his wife or kids seen his hand swollen up so badly, they would have asked a doctor to check on it. Had that been able to happen perhaps his fingers could be saved.

You may feel like doctors always know what they are doing. They don’t or aren’t always monitoring things. They don’t know what “normal” is like for your loved one. You may worry about bothering them. Don’t. You are the customer. You have a right to ask questions.  And you need to do this every day until your loved one is in the clear.

You also need to advocate for yourself when you can.  Of course my caller couldn’t do anything while sedated, but he sure raised an alarm when he came out of it.  Unfortunately it was too late, but at least he tried.  You can do this in pre-operative meetings by asking questions. I had a colonoscopy and raised concerns about my colon being nicked and asked how they check for that. My doctor is great and I’m sure he’d be careful anyway, but I felt good knowing that I had raised that issue in his mind. After the procedure he let me know that they were sure nothing bad happened. Not every doctor is this considerate, but it’s worth raising your fears ahead of time. That doesn’t guarantee a result, but does at least put it out there.

Your advocacy for yourself should continue as long as it’s needed. If your doctor says it’s going to take six months to a year for something to heal and you don’t feel right, get a second opinion. You have to look out for you.

And of course if you suspect a medical error occurred and want to discuss it for free with an attorney, you can contact us any time at 312-346-5320. Time is usually of the essence in these cases and we will try to help you figure out if there is a case at all.

I recently binge-watched “Better Call Saul.”  It’s a great show, and to me, it’s even more interesting due to how it portrays being a lawyer. While it’s not 100% accurate of course, a lot of what they show mirrors experiences I’ve had when talking to potential clients.

In one scene, a person who is suspected of a crime discusses their case with Saul who is trying to convince them to hire him as their lawyer. The likely criminal says something to the effect of, “If I hire a criminal lawyer, won’t that make me look guilty?”

I laughed out loud when I heard that because it’s something I’ve probably heard over 100 times in the last 20 years.

First off, hiring an attorney doesn’t make you look guilty, even if you’ve done nothing wrong. It makes you look smart.  The police and prosecutors are not on your side and are not looking out for you.  Innocent people go to jail every day in this country. So if you are in Chicago or anywhere else, getting an attorney when the police want to talk to you is what smart people do.

You’ve certainly heard the saying that anything you say can and will be used against you. That comes from what is called a Miranda Warning.  The word warning is in there on purpose as in “warning, you should not talk.”  This isn’t ripping on cops. There are good ones and bad ones.  But neither of them are looking out for you or on your side.  When you talk you can get in trouble.  When your lawyer talks for you, it can’t be used against you.  A lawyer will protect you whether you are guilty or not.

Beyond that, I can point to hundreds of cases where not having a lawyer or hiring one that doesn’t specialize in criminal defense can hurt you. Last year, the scumbags who murdered Ahmed Aubrey were in my opinion only arrested and then convicted because they hired a personal-injury-focused lawyer who reportedly let the client/murderer share a video of what happened with a radio station.   You want to get a lawyer who is handling criminal defense all day, every day.  Those guys thought they were innocent and only their stupidity led them to be arrested.

I don’t blame callers for not knowing this or being worried about how they will look. You can’t be expected to know what attorneys know.  But hopefully you can trust that we are trying to look out for you and do what is best for you.  Especially in Cook County where prosecutors and Judges can be tough, it’s really important to protect yourself. Call us at 312-346-5320 if you want to discuss a case.  It’s free and confidential.

Picture a 20-year-old college student from Wilmette, Naperville, or wherever, and they get pulled over and arrested for driving on a revoked license.  They themselves aren’t rich but they have rich parents who can hire a good attorney and pay the $1,000 or $2,500 that the Judge asks for bail. Eventually, the case works its way through the system and the attorney his parents hire gets the case dismissed or knocked down to a smaller charge with a fine and no jail time.

Now imagine someone who lives paycheck to paycheck and doesn’t have parents to bail them out of a tough situation.  They only drive because they have to get to work, and they too get pulled over and arrested. Bail is set at $2,500 which is money they don’t have. In fact, nobody they know has that. So they spend six months in jail and eventually plead guilty with time served as the punishment. Of course, now they’ve lost their job, their apartment, and their car has been impounded and taken away.

A version of this story happens all of the time.  We essentially, in Illinois and in the United States in general, decide who will spend time locked in a cage before trial and who will be home with their family based on how much money they have or can get access to.  After 25 years of being an attorney, it’s still the most shocking and upsetting part of my job.

Bail is punitive. People think it’s designed to protect the public and guarantee the alleged offender will show up to court. But what about having more cash than someone else makes the public safer? Of course not. We criminalize poverty in this country.

This is why I have been a big proponent of bail reform laws.  If someone is charged with a violent felony and could be an actual danger, then detention makes sense. If someone is a true flight risk, then a cash bail with ankle monitoring might make sense. But for most of the general public, bail is punitive and unjust.

In many cases, a family will struggle to raise $5,000 or so in order for a loved one to get out of jail. By doing that, they no longer have the money to pay for a lawyer or at least not a good one.  So again, the lack of true justice continues. It’s simply wrong to get a different result in a case based on your income.

Financial inequity happens all over the law, especially in cases like divorce or general civil litigation where you have to pay an attorney by the hour.  There is, sadly, no good solution to that problem beyond the State funding attorneys for people who are below a certain income level.

But in criminal cases, we know that this problem exists and we continue to let it happen. And it happens even though there are logical solutions that, while they won’t completely make things equitable, they will reduce the imbalance of outcomes between rich and poor.  So when you see someone running for office as “tough on crime,” it might sound good or make you feel safe. But the reality is that the way it’s done is unjust and ends up leading to more problems than it’s worth in most cases.

When a person lives in an apartment building, what can they reasonably expect in return for the rent they pay? There are obvious answers to this question. A space in which to live and sleep. Working appliances. A dumpster or cans for their trash. A mail receptacle. Maybe a parking space is included in the rent. If you are lucky it’s not too loud and you can enjoy life. Having great neighbors or making friends is just a bonus for some people.

One thing that may not come to mind right away centers on the safety of the renters in the building. Tenants can expect a basic level of security provided by the building owner and/or property management company. Now that doesn’t mean every building should have a live security guard on duty 24/7, but it does mean that at a minimum, doors to the building should lock properly. If there is a security guard there, they should screen the people who want to come in and out. If the security guards notice something they should act on it. If locks are broken and the owner/management company becomes aware of it, they should fix it in a timely manner

There was a recent case brought by a woman who was sleeping in her Chicago Gold Coast apartment when a man entered and sexually assaulted her. How did the man get into the building in the first place? The victim stated that the man walked into the building through a security door with a malfunctioning lock.

The woman sued the owners of her building, the property management company, and a company that employs maintenance workers at the building. She alleged that tenants had notified the building staff that the deadlock latch on the security door was not working prior to the attack and that their negligence allowed the man to enter the building and then assault her.

The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, and she received an award for her pain and suffering, loss of a normal life, and emotional distress. The jury, siding with the woman, made it clear that landlords should have basic, working safety measures in place in their buildings. They awarded her $5.4 million in damages. That is one of the largest verdicts ever for an apartment building attack in Chicago.

Their knowledge of the broken door and failure to act is what made this a case. It likely would have been a different result if the plaintiff couldn’t prove they were aware of it.  It also would have been different if it was a fellow tenant who attacked her, an invited guest of a tenant or someone who broke through a locked door or window to get in. Building owners don’t have to guarantee your safety and aren’t usually responsible when someone beats good faith efforts to keep a building secure.  When they fail to deliver on what they promise you or don’t take reasonable actions to fix problems, that’s when they may be liable.

We have helped a lot of people in the last 21 years who have been attacked in buildings in Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois. Not every case is a winner, but if you have any injury, it’s worth discussing. If you would like to speak with an experienced attorney for free about what happened to you, please call us any time at 312-346-5320.  We can’t promise a result, but do guarantee to treat you like a family member or friend and offer honest advice about what you can do and if you have a case or not.

I recently applied to an apartment for my child as a co-signer.  As part of the process we had to go through a criminal background check.  It came back clean, but took a couple of days.  The paranoid lawyer in me wondered during the delay of hearing back if there was some sort of screw-up.

Unfortunately not every criminal background check comes back clean when it should. It usually happens when people are applying for jobs.  We see it a lot with ride share companies like Uber and Lyft and regular employers as well. The most common error happens when someone has a common name. It’s not unusual for their information to appear wrongly as yours.  Other errors occur when they report on offenses that have been expunged or sealed. And believe it or not, sometimes they simply misread public information and don’t realize you were found not guilty of a crime.

While the economy is going great and the jobless rate is at all time lows, losing a job you want because of someone else’s error shouldn’t happen.  It’s often because the company that does these reports isn’t using all available reasonable procedures to ensure maximum accuracy in reporting. Sometimes they only match a name and date of birth.  I’ve seen cases where someone who has lived in Chicago their whole life lose out on a job because someone with a similar name in California was arrested. This caller had never left the midwest.

If you discover an error on your report, the background check company must, for free, conduct an investigation into the reporting. The agency must then report back the results, and if the information is removed, offer to send this new report to the company that received your incorrect report. This investigation has to happen within 30 days of you notifying them.

Note that the employer has to provide you with a copy of the bad report if that is why a job is denied to you. They can’t hide whoever it is that they were using to make this background check. They can’t just turn you down and not show you why.  And if they are using the report not to hire you, the must say so in writing and provide reasons for the rejection in writing.

If there is incorrect information on your background check and it costs you a job, you might have a lawsuit. We know consumer fraud attorneys in Chicago who have a great track record of success in suing over these errors. They work on a contingency basis which means that you won’t have to pay them anything to start a case and they only get paid if they win.

If you would like to ask questions about a bad background check, you can speak with an attorney for free by contacting us at 312-346-5320.

Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or other healthcare professional is negligent, deviating from the standards of care in their profession, and causes injury to a patient. The negligence could occur during the diagnosis, treatment/surgery, aftercare, or health management of a patient.  Illinois lawyers who take these cases are typically looking for for negligence that leads to serious injuries.

If you or a relative have suffered from medical malpractice, you will want to file a lawsuit against the doctor, healthcare professional, and/or hospital to get the compensation you deserve for your injuries and to help prevent something similar from happening to another family. Under Illinois law, you have to meet certain conditions first before filing that medical malpractice lawsuit. If those conditions are not met, the court could dismiss your case.

The two perquisites are: 1) the plaintiff’s 622 affidavit of merit, and 2) the report of the reviewing healthcare provider.

622 Affidavit of Merit  

The Illinois Code of Civil Procedure, 735 ILCS 5/2-622, states that a person (plaintiff) alleging medical malpractice and seeking “damages for injuries or death by reason of medical, hospital, or other healing arts malpractice” must file an affidavit stating that they have consulted with a healthcare professional who:

  1. Is knowledgeable in the relevant issues involved in the particular action;
  2. Practices or has practiced within the last 6 years or teaches or has taught within the last 6 years in the same area of health care or medicine that is at issue in the particular action; and
  3. Meets the expert witness standards set forth in 735 ILCS 5/8-2501.

In plain English, what happens is the attorney you hire will complete this form. It’s kind of odd because it’s basically just a piece of paper that says they consulted with a doctor who says malpractice occurred.  Then they attach that report.

Written Report from a Healthcare Professional 

Along with the 622 Affidavit, the plaintiff must include a written report from the healthcare professional with whom they consulted. The report includes the healthcare professional’s opinion that there is merit and reasonable cause for filing a lawsuit.

A single written report must be filed for each defendant. If both a doctor and the hospital are believed to be negligent, two reports must be written and submitted.

Oddly although the report is provided, it’s not actually signed by the doctor and doesn’t have their letterhead.  So the doctor/hospital you are suing doesn’t actually know what expert is testifying against them. I’ve certainly heard stories of lawyers who have doctor friends that will provide these reports just to get the cases filed, but won’t serve as expert witnesses if the case proceeds. In other words, they don’t fully believe what they are writing and the lawyer will have to find a different and better expert if they want to get any compensation for their clients.

Your lawyer will find the expert to create this report.  This will happen after months of record review by your attorney, their in house nurse/medical consultants and talking to doctors who are experienced in medical malpractice lawsuits. It’s important to identify the right type of doctor to testify because the goal isn’t to file a lawsuit, the goal is to win the lawsuit.

Why do Illinois courts require the 622 Affidavit and written reports? In theory it’s designed to prevent frivolous lawsuits. If you can’t find a doctor who says the health care provider screwed up, then a lawsuit can’t be filed. In that regard it’s a really good rule. While I’m only interested in the rights of potential plaintiffs, there certainly is an argument that can be made that the expert witnesses should be disclosed right away. Without it, a slimy attorney could theoretically fake an affidavit to get a case filed.  That said, the reality is that these cases are so expensive and so hard to win that most law firms won’t take them on if they don’t think they have merit.

One important thing to know is that the “best” firms in these cases don’t ask their clients to find an expert and they don’t ask their clients to pay for the expert.  If the attorney you hired is asking you to find a doctor to testify, then you either don’t have a case or went to the wrong firm.

We realize that this information is a bit technical and may seem like a lot of legal mumbo jumbo. Feel free to contact us if you’d like to talk through your medical malpractice case. We can discuss the next steps and how an attorney can help at no cost to you. You can speak with a lawyer for free any time at 312-346-5320.

We are Chicago lawyers who will talk to you for free about any Illinois legal matter. Fill out our contact form or call us any time at 312-346-5320.

We get so many good legal questions that aren’t worthy of a full blog. So every few months I like to group the “best of the rest” in to one post.  Here are some great questions we’ve received recently:

I just found out that my ex-husband took out a life insurance policy on me. Is that legal?

It is. It’s up to the insurance company to choose to write or not write a life insurance policy.  They don’t need your approval, but typically won’t do this because they can’t give you a medical exam. Most likely this is either a continuation of an old policy or an accidental death policy that would cover you if you were killed in a car accident or something like that. Your ex is likely wasting money.

Can you turn down an inheritance? It’s not much and I really don’t want it or to have to go through the legal hurdles.

Yes you can. This is called disclaiming an inheritance and it typically involves putting that in writing.

How do I fire my lawyer? They hardly return my calls and when they do they are really rude.

It doesn’t sound like calling them would do the trick. For most cases I would encourage you to have someone in place before getting rid of your current representation. It’s usually not hard to find (we can help with that), but in some cases it can be.  In my experience, the new attorney can help you in communicating to the old one.  In cases that are in court, the lawyer will need permission of the Judge to get out of the case.

I was accused of shoplifting. I didn’t do it. I wasn’t arrested, but the store had a lawyer send me a letter saying that I need to pay a re-stocking fee of the item for $400.00 and that if I don’t do it I could be arrested or sued. Do I have to pay?

No. I’m not saying you can’t get arrested still. It’s not likely, but possible. I’m not saying they won’t sue you. It’s not likely, but possible.  But in any case they’d have to prove you did it and the fee for their damages can’t just be random like that.  I think the attorneys who do this work are kind of gross and if it was me I wouldn’t pay, especially if I didn’t do anything. That’s not a guarantee of a result, but you don’t usually see a company paying a lawyer to sue someone for a few hundred dollars and if you were going to be arrested it likely would have happened already in most cases.  I really don’t like these tactics because they, in my opinion, take advantage of a lot of people.

There was hair in my food. I’m so grossed out. Can I sue for that?

Anyone can sue for anything, but I don’t know any attorney who would take that case as it has no value beyond replacing the food you bought.

My soon to be ex wants to sell our home.  I don’t want to. We are both on the title. Can she just list it without my approval?

Not unless she forges your name. If you are on the title, a sale can’t happen without your approval unless they get a court order to do so.

I was sued for a car accident but the other person ran the red light. How is that possible?

People lie all the time about what happened and insurance companies go after people who don’t have insurance.  So there is a likelihood that one of those two things is happening here. Or maybe the police report got it wrong. Bottom line is that if you did get sued and had insurance at the time of the accident, report it to them and let them sort it out. That’s what they are there for.

My brother got killed by a random person.  We learned that person was having a psychotic episode because their doctor took them off of their meds.  Can we sue that doctor for not monitoring their patient which led to my brother’s death.

This is a really sad situation. Unfortunately, doctors generally don’t owe a duty to third parties. So if their malpractice causes harm to someone who isn’t their patient, courts have ruled that they can’t be held responsible.

We’ll do another one of these in a few months. If at any time you have a question, no matter what it is, please do not hesitate to contact us.