The beginning of 2019 brought some significant changes to Illinois state divorce laws, impacting spousal maintenance, or also known interchangeably as spousal support and alimony in Illinois. Most are aware of the basis of spousal support, but to be clear it is a recurring payment from one former spouse, typically the higher earning individual, to the other former spouse. Essentially, the purpose is to avoid unfair financial effects of the divorce on the spouse who earned less income than the other spouse. The duration that spousal maintenance is paid largely depends on the length of the marriage.

As it was before, the court must still make a finding that maintenance is appropriate given the specifics of each individual case, including:

  • Each former spouse’s income, property, needs and earning capacity
  • The standard of living while married
  • Any contributions to the education and career of the higher earning spouse.
  • The tax impact of property division in the couple’s divorce.

Before now starting in 2015, spousal maintenance was calculated by subtracting 20 % of the recipient’s gross income from 30% of the payor’s gross income. As of January 1st of this year, spousal support payments will be calculated by subtracting 25% of the recipient’s net income from 33.3% of the payor’s net income.

Under this new law, the recipient’s spousal maintenance and net income, when added together, cannot amount to more than 40% of the former couple’s combined net income. If this were to happen, the amount of maintenance would be reduced until below the combined net income.

Not only was there a change in state spousal maintenance law, but also a significant federal law change is now in effect. For those whose judgment was entered before January 1st, 2019, the ex-spouse paying alimony could deduct the expense from his or her federal taxes. On the same note, the ex-spouse receiving alimony payments could claim the payments as taxable income. Now, the recently passed tax bill eliminates the tax deduction for payor’s spousal maintenance payments and makes the spousal maintenance income tax-free to the recipient.

These changes have lead to a ton of court cases where people are modifying their old support orders.  If you haven’t done so already you may be making a huge mistake that could cost you a lot of money.

The changing laws for spousal maintenance law can be complicated and confusing. Speaking to an experienced attorney can help clarify and ease any tension and confusion.  If you would like us to recommend an experienced family law attorney who will consult with you for free, call us any time at 312-346-5320.

There are a lot of “dirty secrets” when it comes to lawyers and how they market themselves, celebrate their success and talk to clients.  One dirty secret covers all three of those areas and it has to do with what a case is worth.

When you go to a lawyer in Illinois, it’s expected that they will know what they are talking about and that you will not.  Your hope is that they will be honest with you and look out for your best interests.  When it comes to accident cases, it’s not uncommon for an attorney to say something like “The more I get for you, the more I get for me, so I’m motivated to get you the most money possible.”

If I was a client and I heard that, I’d assume that the attorney is on the same page as me. If down the road they told me that my case was at most worth a million dollars and that’s what the settlement would be, I’d believe them and think they did a great job.

The problem with this is that I could be very wrong and it could cost me a lot of money.

I’m not saying one million isn’t a lot. It is. But if your case is worth 5 million and they get you one million or two million and they get you one, then they really sold you out.

What happens in some cases is people hire law firms that either aren’t doing well financially or don’t want to do the work needed.  If you are a lawyer and struggling to pay the bills, getting 333k now for settling a case for one million dollars might be better for you rather than doing the work needed to go to trial and possibly get five million in a year. If your office is closed by then it doesn’t help you.

The problem is that shouldn’t matter.  The client’s best interests should be all that matter, but unfortunately that’s not always the case.

The second and more common scenario is when an attorney just doesn’t want to do their job. If they went to trial that would mean a lot of depositions, a lot of prep work and in most trials, a week or two where they are doing nothing else.  Sadly some attorneys will tell their clients lies and make it seem like their position won’t get much better at a trial or lie and say “you could end up with nothing.”  That could be true in some cases, but some attorneys use that in every case as a lie to convince their clients to take an offer.

To me it’s outrageous that attorneys would sell out their clients and crazy that they would turn down the strong likelihood of a much higher payday for themselves, but it does happen.

On the plus side, their are a ton of really good personal injury attorneys in Illinois.  There is a famous story of a top Chicago accident lawyer who turned down a six million dollar offer because he was confident his client’s case was worth at least 20 million.  He took the case to trial and got over 29 million awarded by a jury.  Because he cared about his client she ended up with more than 35 million at the end of the day after the appeals process played itself out.

It’s not just these seven and eight figure cases where this can happen.  We see cases worth $50,000 get settled for $30,000 all the time.  You won’t always get the maximum, but should avoid getting low balled whenever possible.

If you want our recommendation of the right attorney for your case, fill out our contact form or call us at 312-346-5320 to speak with a lawyer for free.

We are Chicago attorneys who help people find the best medical malpractice lawyer for their case, anywhere in Illinois.  If you would like to speak with one of our lawyers for FREE, please fll out our contact form or call us at 312-346-5320.

It’s a question asked by most anyone involved in a case of medical malpractice: how much is my case worth? With the time, expense and stress that goes in to a case, it is understandable to want to know a cases’ worth even when your main goal is to prevent a similar medical error from happening to a different patient in the future.

Unfortunately, there is not a “formula” for calculating the value of a claim and, in fact, the worth of a case depends on a slew of different factors. These include, but are not limited to, jurisdiction, severity, life expectancy, income loss, future treatment or pre-existing conditions. Here’s the lowdown on some of the factors that can make or break the worth of your medical malpractice case.

Essentially, it comes down to economic and non-economic damages. However, both can be complicated to determine.

Economic damages or “specific” damages, refer to more actual, measurable losses, such as lost earnings, future earnings or to expenses incurred as a result of an injury, such as medical costs, co-payments and insurance costs. Lost earnings and medical costs are more specific and concrete figures and are easier to calculate. However, with medical costs they can become problematic as doctors may disagree about the necessary medical treatments needed. And since treatments costs differently, this can alter the claim cost. Future earnings are where it gets really tricky. Without knowing the remaining numbers of working years a person has or what those years earnings would offer, future earnings are more speculative and harder to predict in advance.  As a result, in many malpractice cases an economist will testify to try and establish a financial harm.

Non-economic damages or “general” damages, on the other hand, are not measurable. Meaning the damages cannot be calculated or added up with documented bills and receipts and are non-monetary and not readily quantifiable losses. Examples of non-economic damages include loss of consortium (the inability to have normal marital relations, sexually and emotionally), pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and disability, just to name a few. Again, these damages are highly subjective and vary from case to case.  Punitive damages are not allowed in Illinois malpractice cases, but it does seem that the more egregious the error, the higher the non-economic damages are.

The location where the incident took place also counts. Bigger counties like Cook County are more likely to yield higher reward than smaller southern counties such as Urbana or Winnebago. This can be due politics or doctor liability by county. Some rural counties in Illinois have not had a medical malpractice case in a number of years.

Lastly, in any type of case, choosing the right lawyer for your type of case greatly influences the worth of your case. If the representing law firm has a positive and proven track record as well as resources, cases often will settle for a higher amount than they might otherwise. Based on the facts of your case, an experienced lawyer will know which expert witnesses can be vital importance as well as where to file for the best verdict possible.  While $4 million is a big number for a case, if a lawyer feels pressure to take that offer when the case is really worth $15 million, they are doing a bad job for you.  In our opinion there are really only around ten law firms in Illinois with the track record to get you the most money that a case can be worth.

Medical malpractice suits have the potential to get complicated quickly. Seeking the most experienced and successful lawyers helps ensure you receive the best settlement possible. The compensation does not undo the harm caused by a health care provider, but it can provide much needed medical and personal care for someone injured by a medical provider.  If you’d like our help in finding the right lawyer for your unique case, please contact us any time.

We are attorneys in Chicago who will talk to you for free about any Illinois legal matter.  Call us at 312-346-5320 or fill out our contact form and we will call you.

If you are considering a dissolution of marriage, you may have several questions and concerns. It can be a difficult time, but it is important to understand the process of family law. Just as each state enforces their marriage laws, the states regulate their divorce laws. Here, we have given you a few things we think you should know when considering a divorce in Illinois.

1. No-Fault Divorce – For the most part, fault doesn’t matter in a divorce. One may think that issues such as adultery, cruelty or abuse should be taken into consideration during a divorce, but for the most part, they aren’t. Like the rest of the US, Illinois follows no-fault divorce laws, meaning that grounds for divorce are not taken into consideration when deciding how marital property should be divided, whether alimony should be awarded or how much child support a parent should pay.

2. Annulments – In many ways, an annulment of a marriage in Illinois is very similar to divorce. You can expect to see the same kinds of property division, child and spousal support arrangements, and court proceedings in an annulment case as in a divorce case. However, annulments are rare and have strict grounds to be able to obtain an annulment.  Usually it’s just a Church term.

3. Attorney Fees – Attorneys’ fees are a significant chunk of the cost of divorce. Not only do you pay the attorney’s rate, you may be responsible for paralegals rates, court fees, witnesses, consultants, etc. A majority of attorneys require a retainer. With a retainer, you will pay a couple thousand up front and the attorney will then deduct their rate from the retainer as the case is handled. Once the retainer runs out, you’d most likely be required to refill it.

4. Civil Unions – When it comes to the Illinois marriage and divorce laws, a civil union is similar to a marriage. The dissolution of civil unions follows the same procedures and is subject to the same rights and obligations that are in involved in the dissolution of marriages.

5. Child Custody – Children do not necessarily get a say in their custody preference. Illinois requires judges to determine child custody based on the best interests of the child, if the parents cannot agree. The custody preferences of mature children may be considered, but ultimately it is up to the judge to decide.

6. “Father’s Rights” – Don’t be fooled by a “Father’s Rights” lawyer. This term is just a marketing ploy. A good family lawyer is capable of handling a child custody case, no matter whom they’re representing.

7. Conflict of Interest – If you and your spouse are on good terms you may think using the same attorney would be a smart and financial choice. Not only is it a conflict of interest, it is illegal. An attorney can only represent one party. What is best for one spouse is not necessarily best for the other spouse.

Divorce can be a tricky process and there are other laws you should be made aware of. Call and talk to one of our attorneys for free consultation.

Imagine an occupational hazard that affects millions of workers and potentially contributes to one of the main reasons people see a doctor for pain. Did you consider whole-body vibration? If you’re like many you may not have even been aware of whole-body vibration, let alone the injuries caused by it.

So, what is a whole-body vibration injury? First off, whole-body vibration occurs when a person’s entire body is supported by something that shakes. Mechanical vibrations from machines are then transmitted into the entire body at various frequencies, leading to cumulative type injuries. In the U.S., approximately 6 million American workers are exposed to whole-body vibrations for more than two hours a day. Whole-body vibration can cause a variety of health problems, most commonly low back pain, but also has been linked to musculoskeletal problems, digestive problems, prostate problems as well as miscarriages in women.

At first glance, whole-body vibration may not appear to be so serious. And while the number of injuries or illnesses caused to workers as a result of whole-body vibrations may be low in comparison to other occupational hazards, this doesn’t mean it should be ignored. The truth is, it is very likely that the number of injuries or illnesses caused by whole-body vibrations may be under reported.

When it comes to whole-body vibrations, it is important to realize that not all vibrations cause injuries, and not all injuries that do surface, such as lower back pain, are caused by vibrations. Whole-body vibration is exposed to nearly everyone, at some point in their life. It occurs in airplanes, boats and cars. Exposure from these rarely causes problems. It is people who at are at risk are those in occupations such as agriculture, forestry, construction, mining, automotive and driving or operate heavy equipment.  But the biggest risk is probably for truck drivers.

Any workplace accident should be fully compensated by the business. However, as harm from vibration may be subtle and difficult to detect, there may be controversy between the injured employee and their employer as to exactly how much of the harm came from workplace exposure. An attorney may be able to help an injured employee prove that their damage came, in part from their occupation which is what you need to do in order to win your case.

If you would like our recommendation as to a great Illinois work injury attorney for a whole-body vibration injury, please call us any time at 800-517-1614.

Building codes may feel like the bane of a contractor’s and business owner’s existence, but they are integral to public health, safety and environmental protection. Basically, they are designed to keep buildings and other structures safe for everyone. If these building codes are ignored or violated, people can get hurt.

Building owners and managers are required to perform regular inspections and maintenance to ensure everything is up to code. The theory of premises liability obligates property owners to maintain safe buildings and structures, and holds them liable for any damages or injuries occurring on their property when failing to keep their property in safe conditions. In Chicago and other parts of Illinois there are specific rules required purely because it’s been determined that it is the best way to keep the public safe.

Unfortunately, premise safety often takes a back seat to financial considerations. When innocent peoples are injured because of an accident involving a building that was not in compliance with applicable building code provisions, the victim may be entitled to compensation through premises liability.

Take for example Bonita Milem. A 68-year-old woman who broke her right ankle and wrist at a Chicago restaurant when she fell walking down the stairs to a basement dining area. Obviously, a slip and fall can happen almost anywhere but in Milem’s case the 10.25-inch stair riser violated Section 13-160-300 of the city’s building code stating the maximum height of a stair riser should not exceed 7.5 inches.

In Milem’s premises liability lawsuit, a Cook County jury awarded Milem $500,000 arguing that the restaurant’s manager failed to not only warn customers of the step, but also failed to resolve the violation.

Generally speaking, if you fall coming down a stairs you have to show that something negligent made you fall.  If you are at a private business you probably don’t have a tape measure handy to determine if the stairs are too big and certainly won’t be thinking about that if you lay on the ground in pain.  But if you do get injured from a stair fall, you should have someone go back and check the height of the stairs.

So while this is a unique case and it’s more common to fall due to bad lighting, holes in stairs or a lack of required railing, there are some stairs and risers built too high. If that’s why you fall and get hurt, you’d likely have a case.

Property managers and building owners can be held accountable for any injuries caused if they choose to ignore building code requirements. Because premises liability involves complex legal issues with the need of solid evidence, it is important to consult an attorney that has experience with a personal injury and premises liability laws.   Not every accident lawyer can really demonstrate a track record of winning those cases. If you’d like our recommendation as to a law firm with a real record of success, contact us any time.  There is never a fee unless the case is successful.

If this post were a tweet it would say: Are lawyer awards worth anything?  No.

But I’m going to give a longer explanation as to why.

The marketplace for legal services is overcrowded, with no shortage of attorneys. It’s no wonder why lawyers feel the need to distinguish themselves from their peers. Lawyers can easily discuss their educational background and experience for recognition, but for a perspective client this may not be enough to stand out. Applying for a variety of attorney awards and submitting to be listed in attorney rankings is a way an attorney can get a leg up in the marketplace because for many consumers, perception is reality.  Naturally, with any profession, there are awards and rankings for lawyers that are prestigious, worthy and are based on an attorney’s good works. But also, with any other profession, there are the rankings that have no merit or meaning to the works of an attorney.

The biggest sounding of these is being awarded as a Super Lawyer. While many worthy attorneys are designated as Super Lawyers, the designation does not necessarily mean that the Super Lawyers are any better than other lawyers who do not have this designation or any good at all. It seems, as far as I can tell, that the award of a Super Lawyer is really more of a “social” title. The Super Lawyer designation is primarily based upon how many votes an attorney receives from other attorneys, making it more of a popularity contest, or by how extensively an attorney has engaged in a website operated by the ranking organization. There are basic qualifications of those applying for these ranking, but otherwise the vetting process appears to be lacking and the award is used more as a marketing tool for lawyers.

They of course aren’t unique.  There are tons of other awards that sound like Super or Best or Top, etc.  Some of them only give you the award if you pay a fee.

It’s a natural feeling to want to feel good about oneself and what better way than to receive an accolade. Most are happy to have been selected for something, but few lawyers consider the vetting process when considering if an accolade is worthy of praise. There will always be organizations profiting off the underlying desire to be recognized and awarded.

The idea of organizations profiting off the “ego industry” is nothing short of new. These organizations feed on people’s need for feeling accomplished even at an early age. Some will ‘recognize’ an elementary student’s literary work just to turn around to sale their ‘published’ work for an outrageous fee to their parents. High School students are frequently ‘selected’ in a list of accomplished high school students. Just another way to go after one’s wallet. Even college students will receive letters claiming to be selected for an exclusive honor society, only to have to pay fees or dues to the society.

Many of us have encountered at some point of our life an “ego accolade”. Lawyers are just as easily targeted, perhaps due to their need for prestige. Websites and companies that offer accolades, rating and reviews often encourage lawyers to reference their recognition or ratings when advertising. This may help a lawyer stand apart from other lawyers, but really it is just lining the pockets of these organizations.

The bottom line for you is that you shouldn’t hire a lawyer because of an award or a fancy looking website.  Hire them because of their track record, the type of case you have and because you connect with them.

I recently received an inquiry from a 13 year old student in Chicago asking me for advice on what it takes to become a lawyer.  Here’s what she said:

Hello , my name is XXX (removed to protect their name) and I’m 13 years old .Im not emailing you for a report on anything if your wondering . Like I said , I’m 13 and when I grow up i’m looking forward to becoming a lawyer . I am currently in summer break and I’m planing to do some research about the requirements to be a lawyer . I wanted to ask if you can give me some information on whats it like in becoming a lawyer . Whats it like to become a lawyer , how do you prepare for your cases , how do you prepare for your cases , questions that will lead me to the right path and let me distinguish it . Please , feel free to give me as much information as you possibly can . im sorry for bothering you at this moment I just really want to see if this is would lead me to the right path in life and if I’m really up Toit . I want to see if this job is suitable for me .  I would like for you to answer questions about three types of lawyers if possible ; Immigration , Criminal law , and family hood . Again i’m so sorry for bothering you guys , hope you have a wonderful day . Thank you for your time

I get these questions a lot and try not to give boiler plate answers just as I try to be honest when someone calls me for legal advice.  Here is what I said.

Thanks for contacting us. Honest answer is that you will change so much between now and 18 and then again between 18-22 when you are in college that there’s no way to figure out now if you really want to become a lawyer or not.  It’s a good profession and the good news is that unlike medical school, you can major in anything and still apply to law school and get accepted.  In other words, the best time to start thinking about this is when you are in college.  In addition, technology is changing the law a bit, so how we prepare for cases now, might not be the way we do it in 12 years when you can be an attorney.  I was one of the first lawyers with a website in 2001 and now almost every firm has them for example.
I have a 13 year old son, and if I was going to give him career advice, it would be learn how to code, because that seems to be the most relevant skill out there.  But I would also want you to enjoy being 13. My son has a job and thinks about the future, but I wouldn’t want him or you to be over-burdened by it right now. I hope that makes sense.
Something to file away for the future if you do think about law school, is that the good is you can do a ton with a law degree.  I recommend googling all of the accomplished people who have a law degree but don’t practice as lawyers.  President and Michelle Obama are just two such people.  The other thing I would suggest to anyone down the road is don’t get yourself boxed in to a career you can’t get out of.  Many attorneys I know are miserable but don’t know how to do anything else.  The best advice I ever heard on this is to chase your passion, not money.
With respect how you get in to law school, it’s mostly based on your grades and a standardized test called the LSAT.  But it wouldn’t surprise me if that changes between now and when you’d be ready to apply.  There is literally nothing you can do to prepare now for applying to law school beyond being a good student nor should you worry about that.  If you are thinking about anything academically it should be what college is the right fit for you and even then, I wouldn’t think about that until high school.
I wish you the best.  If you have any questions you are welcome to contact me at any time.
Yours truly,
Michael Helfand
Attorney at Law

Medicine in general is complex which makes medical malpractice lawsuits in Illinois complex as well. If you are at a stop light and get rear-ended, it’s common sense that you have a case.  But if a doctor fails to diagnose an aortic aneurysm or doesn’t find cancer in time, it’s not as clear cut that you’d have a case.

As a result, one of the most common questions we get is “Do I have a medical malpractice case?”

The answer depends on a bunch of things.  Here are ten things we look for when evaluating whether or not to take a case.

1. Is there a major, long term injury? A doctor can screw up, but if it doesn’t hurt you then there’s not a case for us.  I hear all of the time, “I could have died!” I’m sympathetic, but if you have a case where a doctor is negligent and nothing happens it’s not worth pursuing.  If it’s a death, brain damage, permanent disability, etc it’s worth looking in to.

2. Was it really negligence or just a bad result? If your loved one has a really risky surgery and dies on the operating table or if you have a knee replacement and aren’t fully recovered in six months, that doesn’t mean someone screwed up.  We’d still look in to the case, but it’s no slam dunk.

3. Was what happened to you a risk of the procedure? Getting your colon punctured in a colonoscopy is a risk of getting that done. If it happens and there isn’t more to the story, it’s not a lawsuit.

4. How long is there to file the case? There are various statutes of limitations for bringing a lawsuit in Illinois for malpractice.  It typically takes 3-6 months to properly investigate a case.  If you call us a week before the deadline to file, we wouldn’t get involved because there just isn’t enough time for us to do a proper investigation.

5. What county is the case in? The reality is that in smaller Illinois counties it’s really hard to bring a case if it’s not a slam dunk.  It’s not easy in Cook County either, but you get more of a fair shot.

6. Do we know what the ultimate recovery will be? The sooner you call a lawyer if you suspect malpractice, the better.  That said, sometimes we know there was a screw up, but we don’t know what the long term harm will be. In those cases we take a wait and see approach.

7. If there was a death, was there an autopsy?  It’s not mandatory, but in some cases you can’t prove malpractice without it.

8. What “co-morbidities” does the victim have? Sad, but true, if you are 85 years old, have diabetes, renal failure and stage 4 lung cancer, if you die due to a surgical error that case wouldn’t have much value as your life expectancy is essentially nothing.

9. Did you listen to your doctor? Let’s say you go to the doctor with pain in your side and they tell you that you are likely alright, but should return if the pain persists.  If you ignore their advice and two weeks later die of an aneurysm it’s a very defendable case.

10. How old is the victim? Another sad truth is that a doctor or hospital can sometimes be negligent in the death of a very old person and nothing happens because it would cost more to bring the case than can be recovered.  My grandmother was the greatest person ever and very active up until she passed at 97 years young.  So I get it when people tell me about their active and healthy parents and grandparents who were suddenly taken away from them.  You might have a case, but it’s not as strong as if it happened to someone much younger.

I don’t want any of this to discourage you, but I do want to paint a realistic picture of what goes in to investigating and pursuing these cases.  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.

We are Chicago injury attorneys who help people with accidents anywhere in Illinois.  If you would like our help or just have questions, fill out our contact form or call us at 800-517-1614.

One of the most type of accidents causing injuries in the United States is from slips, trips or falls. In fact, according to the National Safety Council (NSC), nearly 9 million people visit emergency rooms around the country for treatments from an extremely serious injury by a trip or fall accident. The term “slip and fall” is a term used for a personal injury case in which a person slips or trips and falls, and is injured on someone else’s property.

Dangerous conditions such as torn carpeting, changes in flooring, poor lightning, narrow stairs or a wet floor can cause someone to slip and hurt themselves inside a building. Other slip and fall incidents can occur when people trip on broken or cracked sidewalks, or trip and fall on stairs or escalators. In addition, a slip and fall case could arise when someone slips or trips and falls because of rain, ice, snow or a hidden hazard, such as a pothole in the ground.

Every property owner owes a duty to protect others from an unreasonable risk of harm caused by dangerous conditions on their property. Failing to do so could make them liable for any accidents and/or injuries that occur. This is known as premises liability.

However, there is an exception to the general rule of premises liability: the open and obvious doctrine. The rule states that if the hazard or condition would have been open and obvious to a reasonable person, then the landowner is not liable. The idea of this is that a person has a duty to recognize the warning signs of obvious dangers and to protect themselves from harm. In majority of these type of case scenarios, the property owner will then not be responsible for injuries.

Take for an example a recent case in which a man tripped over a knee-high sign at a Menards store in Lake County. The courts looked at every angle of this case and ruled he does not have a personal-injury claim against the home improvement chain, thanks to the open and obvious doctrine.  The sign was not hidden so the store didn’t have liability.  Compare that to a situation where leaves on the ground are covering a hole, or a dark stairway has debris on it.  In those cases the property owners would likely be responsible for any injuries from a fall on their property.

Simply because you fell on someone else’s property does not mean that anyone will be found negligent. Not only does there need to have been an unsafe condition, there also needs to be proof that there was negligence. A big question to ask is if a reasonable person with the same knowledge of the situation would have understood and avoided the hazardous condition. If not, the open and obvious doctrine will take the case.

Bottom line though is that you shouldn’t make any conclusions without talking to an attorney.  If you’d like our opinion as to whether or not you have a case you can contact us for free at any time.