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.

A blood clot in an artery, also known as arterial thrombosis, is a serious, growing public health issue that everyone needs to be aware of. Blood clots are preventable, yet are one of the most commonly misdiagnosed affecting an estimated 900,000 Americans and ultimately resulting in nearly 100,000 deaths each year.

An Illinois man was awarded $15 million on a medical malpractice case after his lower legs were amputated when doctors failed to timely diagnose and treat his arterial blood clots.
When Corby Bell underwent blood testing at Katherine Shaw Bethea Hospital in Dixon in 2015, doctors ruled out deep vein thrombosis from the venous ultrasound done. Initially, they failed to do any arterial tests. He was then simply discharged with undetermined leg pain.

Clots are classified by where they form. Venous, as you may guess, form in your veins. Arterial clots form in your arteries or the blood vessels that carry blood away from your heart to the rest of the body and the heart muscle. Usually, an arterial blood clot doesn’t show symptoms until it blocks the flow of blood to part of the body. Serious problems caused by this can be a heart attack, stroke or critical limb ischaemia. In the case above, failing to have completed arterial tests forced Bell to return to the hospital the same day with pain in his lower legs and numb cold feet… a symptom of critical limb ischaemia.

These are all medical emergencies. When another failed diagnosis was given to Bell, claiming he had peripheral neuropathy, a type of nerve damage preventing normal sensations in the arms or legs and causing pain, the hospital and staff continued to neglect Bell’s condition. Following this misdiagnosis, Bell was treated by Zeman, a physician assistant, for the following week.

It wasn’t until Bell returned to the hospital’s emergency room later in critical condition and unable to walk that the hospital finally did an arterial blood test. Arterial clots block blood and oxygen from reaching other vital organs, sometimes leading to tissue damage. This was the same results as Bell’s tests revealed blood clots from the knee down in both legs, meaning his legs were “effectively dead” as stated in the release.

It is important to understand that blood clots can happen to anyone and are often preventable. Early diagnosis is critical to prevent death. When a blood clot is misdiagnosed it can lead to a worsened condition. If not caught in the earlier stages it can cause a heart attack, stroke or even death. If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of a medical professional’s failure to diagnose ot treat a blood clot, you could be entitled to compensation.  Please call us any time at 312-346-5320 for a free consultation with an attorney to see if you have a case.

Why are there so many lawsuits against Illinois nursing homes?

This is a common question asked by our clients. There is no simple answer to this, but a primary factor is due to the high number of for-profit facilities putting a profit ahead of patient care.

The nursing home industry is a big business. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are over 15,600 nursing homes in the United States. In Illinois alone, there are more than 732 facilities caring for more than 100,000 patients.

More so, nearly 70% of these are operated as for-profit facilities. 37% of these facilities were deemed to be below average by surveyors, according to recent data by Medicare.

While there is nothing illegal about making a profit by caring for people, a conflict arises when there is an intense pressure of intense competition and desire to make a profit over the care of others.

The following cost-cutting measures by nursing home operators are putting patients at risk, impacting patient care and often causing serious injuries and death.

Reducing staffing levels:
When nursing homes are short-staffed, nurses and aides are forced to scramble when delivering patient’s meals or medications, helping bedbound residents to the restroom, notating and filing paperwork properly, and answering phones for inquiries and pain medications. Essential medical tasks such as repositioning patients to avoid bedsores and sepsis is often overlooked when nurses are overburdened, sometimes leading to avoidable hospitalizations.

Hiring inexperienced workers and failing to train them:
Unlicensed employees provide support to the ongoing care of residents. When facilities fail to meet residents needs, many facilities will combat this problem by hiring inexperienced workers and rushing them into their job roles with no proper training. All staff members must be provided with the tools and support needed to do their jobs properly and within state standards for nursing homes.

Not following industry guidelines or Illinois law:
There are several Federal and Illinois laws implemented to protect patients with skilled care and a reasonable quality of life. If a nursing home fails to abide by these standards, then it may have its license revoked. Not doing so can negatively impact a patients care.

Ignoring reports of abuse and neglect by patients:
It is estimated that at least 2.3 million seniors will become victims of nursing home abuse, yet most cases go unreported. Family members are often oblivious; victims are too afraid to come forward, or they don’t know that inadequate care is abuse under federal regulations. The American Association of Justice reported that only 1 in 14 nursing home abuse cases are reported to the proper authorities.

Not addressing issues with clients and their families:
Staff members described staff-family interactions as difficult, problematic and time consuming, but by not doing so they are not allowing for family members to become involved with in care decisions. This is important for the health and well being of patients.

When facilities choose to cut costs and practice unethically, nursing homes cannot operate safely and effectively. Patients aren’t always capable of comprehending the extent of what’s going on around them or feel unable to express it to their loved ones. It’s important for family members to be aware of any neglect, abuse or suffering and help be their voices.

We are a Chicago law firm who help people find the best attorney for their case anywhere in Illinois. If you would like to speak with one of our attorneys for free, please fill out our contact form or call us at 800-517-1614.

Many of the blog posts we write are from questions that we get from readers and clients.  Some of the questions we don’t blog about, but are still worth sharing.  Here are some of the best questions we’ve received in recent months.  If you have a question fill out our contact form or call us at 312-346-5320 to speak with an Illinois attorney for free.

I am being considered for a labor job that I really want.  To help convince them to hire me, can I agree to waive my rights to workers comp if I get hurt?

By law this is not allowed and even if it was, it would be a terrible idea, especially for a laborer who is at a high risk of injury.  Fortunately, Illinois law saves you from yourself in this situation.

Do I have a right to get my medical records from my doctor?

Yes, under Illinois law you are entitled to a copy.

How long does a civil lawsuit take?

That depends on the facts of the case and whether or not you and the other party can agree to a settlement. On average it seems to be 12-18 months, but more complex cases or those with many defendants can take much longer.

I own a business.  How many people do I have to employ in order to have to have workers comp?

One. If you have any employees and don’t have workers comp insurance it’s a felony in Illinois.

How long do I have to contest a will?

The sooner the better, but in general it’s supposed to challenged in court within six months of the date that it is filed.  A failure to do that could cause you to lose your rights.

How do I know if my case will really go to trial?

Good question.  Honest answer is you never really know for sure.  Many cases seem like they are headed that way for sure only to settle at the last minute.  I can tell you that you can’t go to trial if your attorney doesn’t take all of the necessary steps required so if the case isn’t settling and seems to not be heading that way, they should absolutely proceed as if they are going to trial. Often doing that forces the other side to compromise.  Even if you start a trial, it’s not unheard of for a case to settle before it’s over.

My attorney is 80. Is that too old or should I be happy to have someone that experienced?

It probably depends on the lawyer, but I’m really suspicious in general when an attorney is working at that age and question if their heart is in it, how much vacation they take, how sharp they are, etc.

My sister died without a will, isn’t married, has no kids and told me she wants me to get everything.  My brother said that doesn’t matter.  Who is right?

Unless there are parents who are alive, verbal wishes don’t matter and the surviving siblings will split everything equally.

I caught my wife cheating on me. I confronted her and she filed for divorce.  Can I make her pay for it since it’s her fault.

Unfortunately no.  Judges don’t care who is at fault for the divorce when it comes to paying for it.  In fact, if you make a lot more than your spouse, you might have to pay for your lawyer and theirs too.

I was arrested and the charges were dismissed.  Can I sue?

Can you?  Yes.  Will you win.  That’s doubtful because the burden of proof to arrest someone is much different than that to convict someone.  So people get arrested every day of things they are innocent of and things that they are found not guilty of.  That alone doesn’t mean you have a case.  If everyone who had charges dropped could sue, we’d have no court system because it would be bankrupt.  I’m sure it sucks to have this happen to you, but it’s just the reality of how our criminal justice system works.


If you want to ask a lawyer a question for free, contact us any time.