A toxic tort is a claim for harm caused by exposure to a dangerous substance, generally arising in four circumstances: occupational exposure, pharmaceutical drugs, exposure in the home, and consumer products. In order to succeed, a plaintiff must show that the substance was dangerous, the plaintiff was exposed to the substance and that the substance caused harm. These are often brought as class actions, with a group of people alleging the same or similar harm caused by the same dangerous substance; however, they may also be brought by single individuals. The plaintiff must establish the substance caused the harm which sometimes can be difficult due to the need of relying upon complicated and conflicting scientific evidence.
Tips While Biking This Summer
Bicyclists face a higher risk of crash related injury or death than motor vehicles. Below are some of the ways to prevent bicycle related death and injury:
- Wear a helmet. Wearing a helmet can mess up your hair or prevent you from looking the way you want while riding your bike, but the undeniable fact is helmets help save lives and decrease the probability of death and/or serious injury.
- Always signal when you turn. The traditional signals are a left arm parallel to the road for left, an “L” with the left arm or the right arm parallel to the road for right and, finally, the left arm facing down at the road to signal stopping.
- Be cautious. Bikes are smaller and more difficult to see than most cars. Remembering that a bike can be potentially more dangerous than a car will keep you more vigilant and alert when riding.
Stores and shops owe a duty of reasonable and ordinary care to their business invitees and are responsible for injuries that occur as a result of negligence on their property. However, there is a level or “reasonability” which comes with this duty; hence, “duty of reasonable care.” What this means is there is a balancing act a court will do when determining if a store violated its duty and had notice of a dangerous condition that caused the injury. If, for example, a substance was spilled by another business invitee on the ground for less than a minute or two before the injury occurred, a judge may find that the store acted reasonably. However, if that substance was spilled by a person employed by the store or in the presence of a person employed by the store, or if that substance remained on the floor for a substantial period of time, a court may determine the store did not act reasonably and, therefore, the plaintiff’s claim will likely prevail. The likelihood of prevailing in these types of cases is determined by how the facts are developed. If you or someone you know was injured while shopping, please contact our law firm to discuss the circumstances surrounding the occurrence and your potential claim.
McDonald’s Coffee Lawsuit
“Frivolous lawsuit” and “tort reform” are words often thrown around without any genuine research or investigation into why, and one of the poster cases for this claim for reform is the McDonald’s hot coffee case, Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants. The common understanding of the case is a woman spilled a little bit of coffee on herself despite the warnings on the cup and sued for millions of dollars and won. The common perception of Liebeck is absolutely and fundamentally incorrect.
In reality the plaintiff, a seventy-nine year old woman, spilled near boiling coffee on her pelvic region which caused extremely extensive burns requiring skin grafts, significant injuries, and eight days in the hospital. The plaintiff, nonetheless, just wanted McDonald’s to pay her medical bills and did not even ask for additional money. McDonald’s fought her tooth and nail for every cent and refused to settle with Liebeck despite the fact the coffee they were serving was over 180 degrees, a mere thirty-two degrees under boiling. In the end the jury awarded Liebeck over $2.7 million in punitive damages and $160,000 in medical expenses. The judge then reduced the verdict and Liebeck and McDonald’s settled privately. In essence, the plaintiff in this case has been smeared and used as the posterchild for frivolous lawsuits when she was severely wronged by a large corporation, McDonald’s.
Winter Driving Tips
Driving in the snow can cause additional dangers. There are a couple basic strategies one can take to avoid an accident this winter.
- Give yourself enough time. If it takes fifteen minutes to get to work in the summer, give yourself twenty or twenty-five minutes in the winter because snow can cause delays. If you are rushing during traffic delays, accidents are more likely to happen;
- Drive defensively. You are not the only driver on the road. Being a great driver, yourself is fantastic, but none of us are driving during rush hour alone. During snowy months be hypervigilant of your surroundings; and,
- Leave extra space between you and the cars around you.
Despite these tips, accidents can still happen. If you are injured in an accident during the winter, please call our law firm today.
Cell Phone Use While Driving
Cell phone use is ingrained in modern culture. However, cell phone use while driving can be dangerous, reckless, and could cause permanent injury or death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states approximately nine people die and over 1,000 people are injured every day due to distracted driving.
The State of Illinois recently amended the statewide law banning “electronic communication device[s]” by removing certain exception to the law. The State of Illinois is attempting to curtail the amount of traffic related accidents cellphone usage causes. In Illinois, if an individual is in violation of this statute and an injury causing great bodily harm, permanent disability, or disfigurement occurs, the offender is charged with a Class A misdemeanor, and if the use results in death, the offender is charged with a Class 4 felony. In order to adequately protect oneself the use of hands-free devices, such as a Bluetooth headset, is advisable; something as simple as having a cell phone on speaker in a cup holder will protect drivers from citations and ensure a safer passage for other drivers.
Despite the State of Illinois’s efforts to stop cell phone use while driving, cell phone use while driving is ever pervasive. If you or someone you know was injured in a car crash, please contact our firm for advice.
How to Responsibly Walk Through the City
As a pedestrian, you face risk of injuries from many different types of hazards: cars, bicycles, other pedestrians, structures, sidewalk conditions, etc. As a pedestrian you are owed a duty of care by the surrounding entities and individuals, but you also owe a duty of care to others using the sidewalk and roadway. A pedestrian is generally required to act with reasonable care and caution under the circumstances. The Illinois legislature has outlined some of the rights and duties of pedestrians: they must cross the road at a crosswalk and, if none exists, at the corner at a right angle or take the shortest route possible; they must not suddenly cross in front of oncoming traffic; they must use the sidewalk if one is provided or walk on the left side of the road; and, they must obey all traffic signals. To ensure your safety and protect yourself from liability, you should be sure to follow these laws and walk with care.
That Dog Bit Me!
In Illinois, you have a right to recover from a dog owner that has failed to control their dog. The Illinois Animal Control Act serves as an incentive for owners to maintain tight control of their animals to protect the public from harm. A person who is peaceably conducting themselves in a place where they are legally allowed to be that is attacked by an unprovoked dog is provided recovery under the Act. Prior to the passing of the Act, a plaintiff had to show that the animal had dangerous propensities; however, under the Act this is no longer necessary. The focus is not on the history of the animal or the knowledge of the owner, but only on the particular circumstances of the attack at issue. Liability extends beyond owners and to people who “harbor” or act as a caretaker of a dog at the time of the attack.
You Signed the Waiver, But What Does it Mean?
We sign waivers regularly in our lives at physician’s offices, health clubs, etc… but what do these waivers actually mean? Generally, these agreements absolve the other party from liability for harm by you assuming the risk of the activity. They confirm that you understand and accept the nature and the various risks involved. For example, when a waiver is signed prior to going bungy jumping, you are recognizing that the activity you are about to participate in is dangerous and may result in harm, no matter the steps taken by the other party to prevent the harm. However, in certain circumstances, you may still be entitled to recover. When faced with a waiver, carefully read it to determine what you are agreeing to and don’t be afraid to ask questions about the risks you are assuming. If you are unwilling to assume a risk, then either negotiate the terms you do not agree with or refuse to sign it.
Damages: Determining the Value of Your Case
Damages can be measured in various ways but the ultimate goal is to compensate the plaintiff for harm caused by the defendant. In a personal injury case, this could include damages for pain, suffering, disfigurement, disability, emotional distress, loss of a normal life, loss of society, and/or loss of consortium, as well as pecuniary losses such as those for lost earnings or earning capacity, past and future medical expenses, loss of profits, and/or property damage. Damages are applicable when a reasonable person could foresee a particular type of harm occurring in response to the negligence claimed. The jury ultimately decides what a plaintiff is awarded for a particular injury. Awards for the same injury from different juries, can vary dramatically.
In determining how much your case is worth, you can look to previous awards for similar injuries as guidance; however, be aware that these valuations are made on a case by case basis dependent on all the surrounding circumstances. And, can vary dramatically based upon the lawyer you retain. Please call our law firm with any questions you may about your personal injury case.
Physicians are held to a higher standard than lay people because they have specialized training. A physician is taught he/she must receive informed consent from the patient in order to properly advise them about foreseeable complications. However, if a patient does not agree to an informed consent document, and it is not an emergency situation, the physician will probably not provide care and/or treatment. If a patient suffers an injury due to a medical procedure but did not provide informed consent, the physician may be liable. Further, if a patient signs an informed consent and the complication that causes injury to the patient is not on the informed consent, the patient may have a stronger action against the physician because the patient can argue that if the injury was a foreseeable complication, it should have appeared on the consent. If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of a physician’s actions, please contact our firm as soon as possible to discuss your case.
Certain activities are simply more dangerous than others. Playing football or field hockey is more dangerous than playing chess or checkers. When an individual engages in an inherently dangerous activity, the individual assumes some risks which come with the dangerous activity. An example would be the following scenario: park goers decided to ride on “The Flopper,” a conveyor belt which moves passengers and passengers could elect to sit or stand on it for fun. A passenger falls on the ride, is injured and claims The Flopper did not adequately protect him/her or other passengers from being injured. Unfortunately, the Court most likely would hold that because the risk of falling was foreseeable, the passenger assumed the risk and the amusement park would not be held liable.
Something bad happened, but I don’t know exactly what. Do I have a claim?
It is possible there is still a claim despite not knowing how a negligent act occurred? The doctrine of Res Ipsa Loquitur, a Latin phrase meaning the “thing speaks for itself,” was created to ensure plaintiffs are compensated when wronged despite not knowing exactly how the negligence occurred. For instance, a scaffold detaches from a high rise building and injures pedestrians on the street. The owner and management company of the building are presumed responsible for the injuries caused despite the plaintiff knowing what caused the scaffold to detach. The negligence can be inferred because a scaffold should not detach from the building, without some level of negligence. If you have a matter that falls within this category, please call our law firm.
Many types of personal injury lawsuits can proceed even after the victim/plaintiff dies. An example of such, are lawsuits commonly referred to as survival actions. Illinois permits survival actions which allow the plaintiff’s estate to pursue a personal injury claim for the decedent after they died and seek damages that would have been compensable to the decedent if they had not died. The types of damages that can be recovered include economic and non-economic losses such as pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, etc… Questions about specific claims can be directed to our law firm.
Is an Employer Responsible for an Employee’s Negligence?
An employer can be held responsible for an employee’s actions if the employee commits the act during the course of his/her employment and within the scope of his/her employment. This legal theory is called “vicarious liability.” Even if the employee is going to grab coffee for the office, the employer can still be held liable for the employee’s negligence despite the act not being part of the employee’s job description. This is called a “detour,” and even though the action may not be part of the employee’s regular duties the employer can still be held liable while the employee is on a “detour” because the employer is still exercising a certain level of control over the employee. An employee, however, could be on a “frolic.” A “frolic” is when the employee’s actions deviate so far from his/her job that the employer can no longer be held responsible for the actions of an employee. For instance, if an employee, during the course of the work day, leaves to go grocery shopping without his/her boss knowing, that employee is likely on a “frolic” because grocery shopping is a major departure from the employee’s traditional duties. If you were injured due to an employee’s negligence, please contact us today.
When a child endures a severe birth injury or trauma, it is devastating for parents and loved ones. Even more reprehensible is that studies have shown birth injuries are generally preventable and arise due to the malpractice or negligence of medical personnel. Birth injuries encompass an extensive scope of injuries. In some instances the injury can include trauma suffered during development in utero or trauma at birth. If you believe you or your child’s birth injuries were a result of medical negligence or error, please contact our law firm.
Nursing Home Abuse
Oftentimes families lose the ability to care for their loved ones and the difficult decision must be made to place them in a facility better equipped and staffed to tend to their specific needs. These decisions are supposed to bring families comfort and peace of mind knowing their loved one will be cared for and treated properly with the utmost respect they rightfully deserve. Unfortunately, this is not what happens in many cases.
Nursing home neglect occurs when a nursing home employee, either through action or inaction, deprives an elderly resident of care preventing them from maintaining physical and mental health. Nursing home abuse and neglect can include physical abuse such as failing to properly turn a patient resulting in bed sores, failing to properly monitor a patient resulting in a fall that causes injury, and/or over medicating a patient. These are types of injuries that we see commonly inflicted. It can also consist of sexual and/or physical abuse. If you believe you or a loved one has been injured by a nursing home employee, please call us regarding your specific case.
Attractive Nuisance Doctrine
Generally homeowners do not owe a duty of care to those that trespass on their property. However, the law treats children differently. If a homeowner has an artificial construct on his/her property that is both attractive and dangerous to children–and it is foreseeable that a child can access the nuisance–then the homeowner owes a duty of ordinary care to prevent children from getting to it. A common example of an attractive nuisance is a well or a pool. A homeowner that puts a well or a pool on his/her property owes a duty of care to children to prevent them from getting to the well or pool and falling in. An attractive nuisance can be anything that may attract a child to it: an interesting looking machine or even a lawn mower left unattended. The best way to protect yourself is to take reasonable steps to prevent children from getting to something on your property that could hurt them.
The justification for this tort doctrine is simple; the law wants to protect children as best it can. Further, children cannot fully grasp the dangers that come with certain objects, so by shifting the responsibility to homeowners the law protects children.
Advertisements and the Law
Advertisements are a great way of learning about the abundance of products on the market; however, legal advertisements, like other products, may not depict the best products on the market. The best attorneys generally have a clientele large enough that they don’t need to advertise, so the attorneys that choose to flood the market with advertisements may not be the best fit for you.
When looking for an attorney to fight for you, referrals and word of mouth speak volumes because the law firm isn’t paying anyone to make those recommendations like they would for an ad on the CTA. Rather, the clients of a law firm are choosing to recommend that firm because of a positive experience they had. When looking for an attorney we recommend researching for a law firm that will best fit your needs and has demonstrated success in the field. Remember to research the individual lawyer and not simply the law firm to ensure that you will have a lawyer that meets your requirements.
Children as Parties
According to common-law, children are treated differently when it comes to their legal actions. This has been known as the rule of sevens. A child from birth to age 7 has no legal capacity because they simply cannot make proper decisions for themselves. Children from ages 7 to 14, have a rebuttal presumption of no legal capacity because they likely cannot form intent properly. From ages 14-21 there exists a rebuttal presumption that the person has legal capacity because once a minor is over age 14 they can likely form a level of intent that could warrant filing a lawsuit or being sued. Finally, once a person is over age 21, he/she has full legal capacity. To summarize, children cannot be held legally liable for their actions when they are under age 7, likely will not be held liable for their actions between ages 7 and 14, may be held liable for their actions between ages 14 and 21, and can be held liable for their actions once they are over age 21. If your child has been injured, please contact our law firm for a consultation.
Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes
According to recent data from the National Council on Aging, ten percent of senior citizens experience elder abuse. Elder abuse in nursing homes can come in many shapes and forms, such as emotional abuse, financial exploitation, and physical abuse. It is not an easy decision to place a loved one in a nursing home; however, many people must do so because the needs of an elderly person cannot be met without professional help. In such cases, neglect and abuse of the elderly can be difficult to recognize, especially in instances where an elderly individual experiences memory loss or an inability to communicate a need for help. Some non-verbal indications of elderly abuse to keep an eye on include the development of bedsores or bruises, extreme weight loss, uncharacteristic emotional disconnect or anxiety, or unexplained changes in medication. Nevertheless, it is still difficult to determine whether an injury is caused through neglect on the part of a nursing home. If you have any questions pertaining to whether someone you care about is a victim of elder abuse, contact our firm.
Dangers to Children
Children are inquisitive, playful and mischievous by nature. These traits can sometimes place children in situations that lead to injuries and heartbreaking results. Common objects on a neighbor’s property can be impossible for children to resist which can threaten them with harm. The property owners or land occupiers who know or should have known that there is a possibly that a child may enter onto their premises, and due to the child’s age, the child may be incapable of appreciating the risk involved, have a duty to use ordinary care to protect those children from dangerous conditions. Even though the child may be entering the property without permission, it does not bar recovery by the plaintiff. Questions about specific claims can be directed to our law firm.
Swimming Pool Accidents
Swimming pools are great places to cool off during the summer months and provide fun activities for children. Unfortunately, they are often frequent locations of accidents and injuries, especially when the weather begins to warm up. Common injuries include slip and falls, broken bones, drownings, electrocutions and infections. Drownings occur despite the Illinois law requiring public pools where children under the age of 16 are allowed without supervision to have lifeguards on duty. However, many swimming pool accidents occur at home or at a friend’s home. This is because private home pools are not required to comply with the same types of laws pertaining to supervision and fencing that public pools are required to implement.
In Illinois, if an injury is suffered, a property owner can be held accountable for the injuries if they are negligent due to failure to warn, follow regulations, if the pool or a component of the pool was not adequately maintained and/or had a defect, etc… During the summer months, it is important to supervise children at all times, keep the pool area clear of debris, and make sure dangerous and/or risky behavior is not being engaged in. Questions about specific pool related claims can be directed to our law firm.
The eggshell plaintiff rule is commonly known as “the defendant must take plaintiff as he finds them.” What this essentially means is under the law, a defendant can be held accountable for any injuries caused by defendant’s actions, no matter how unforeseeable plaintiff’s injuries may have been. Furthermore, if the plaintiff has a pre-existing health condition at the time of the accident that results in damages more severe and costly than they otherwise would have been, a defendant is responsible for damages resulting from the aggravation of that preexisting injury or condition. Therefore, just as a defendant is held responsible for an injured party’s injuries following the initial accident if they are sufficiently connected, he/she is further responsible for conditions that are accelerated or exacerbated. The injured party does not have to be aware of a pre-existing condition before the accident. The condition can be discovered while receiving treatment for injuries related to the initial accident and the defendant can still be subject to liability.
Hospital Acquired Infections
Patients sometimes contract an infection while visiting and/or in a hospital. Hospital acquired infections can happen very quickly, and their effects can be quite serious. One in every twenty-five patients contracts a hospital-borne infection, the most common types of which include pneumonia, Staph infections, and bloodstream infections. Some of these infections can be harmless if treated right away; however, from some of these infections, the patient can suffer serious health problems, or sometimes even death. Hospitals are obligated to maintain sterile, orderly, and clean premises (which includes cleanliness on the part of staff members) in order to prevent such infections. In the event that a hospital fails to do so, a patient who suffers injury from an infection may have a claim for medical malpractice. If you had or are experiencing, a hospital acquired infection, reach out to our law firm for a better understanding of your rights moving forward.
Preventing Wrong Site Surgery
Hospitals have numerous protocols in place meant to ensure that surgeries are performed at the correct location on the body. Nonetheless, mistakes are still made and surgeries are sometimes performed on the wrong body part or wrong patient, up to a projected 50 times weekly in the United States. The results of “wrong site surgery” can be devastating, and include a need for additional surgeries, or the unnecessary creation of additional, life-threatening, health problems. Common causes of this problem include a failure to abide by hospital surgery protocol and/or poorly-established protocols. A patient can take certain steps to prevent wrong site surgery, such as thoroughly reviewing all consent and waiver forms prior to the procedure, confirming all surgery details with the relevant health care providers prior to the day of the procedure, and verifying all surgery details immediately prior to the procedure. If you believe you may have been the victim of wrong site surgery, please contact our firm.
How to Minimize Fault in a Bicycle Accident
Illinois laws protect cyclists who have been injured in an accident with a vehicle, especially in instances where a driver failed in his duty to yield to a bicycle with the right-of-way, or to respect bike lane boundaries. However, even where a driver was negligent, a bicyclist’s ability to recover damages for an injury may be reduced—or eliminated completely—if the bicyclist also acted negligently. To maximize the ability to recover as a bicyclist, it is necessary to minimize your fault. Some simple ways to do so include: using all appropriate turn signals, even on what appear to be empty streets; wearing reflectors visible from all vantage points at night; avoiding the use of cell phones, cameras, or iPods that cause distractions; riding on the right side of the street; and using extra care (such as adjusting speed) to account for inclement weather. Complying with these minor adjustments will allow you to maximize recovery for your injuries and damages caused by a collision.
Is a Parent Liable for Tortious Acts Committed by a Negligently Supervised Minor?
Parental liability is a parent’s obligation to pay for injury or damage caused by a minor who was negligently supervised. The extent of a parent’s responsibility to supervise varies by case. In addition to damages caused by physical injury by a minor, a parent may also be liable for indirect expenses, such as medical bills. To prevail in a claim of negligent supervision, a plaintiff generally must prove that: the minor was under the parent’s supervision; the parent did not properly supervise the minor; under the circumstances, the parent could have foreseen (or reasonably anticipated) the resulting injury or damage; and, the minor actually caused the harm. A person’s parental status alone does not, in and of itself, result in liability for a minor’s tortious behavior. If you are harmed by the actions of a minor, please contact our law firm for advice.
Can I Secretly Record My Doctor?
As a patient, there are various reasons why you might want to record your doctor visits. Often, patients tend to forget the instructions given to them by a doctor, or are unclear as to what those instructions meant. Patients undergoing surgery may feel uneasy about the “unknown” aspect of going under and prefer to record all that took place for later reference. Be aware that in Illinois, all parties must be informed when a conversation is being recorded—that includes those between you and your doctor. Many times, hospitals and doctor’s office will have policies prohibiting any electronics or recording devices in examination or operation rooms as indicated by signage visible in the vicinity, or as part of a waiver signed by the patient prior to treatment. To be safe, it is always a good idea to first ask your doctor if he or she is willing to be recorded. This will prevent legal concerns later down the road.
What Happens When You Pay a Speeding Ticket?
In Illinois, for most traffic violations, it is unnecessary to appear in court. By paying the required fine, an individual is essentially pleading guilty to the offense. Pleading guilty to a traffic offense can be added to an individual’s license history and the accumulation of certain types of tickets can result in a suspended license. The failure to pay the fine or appear in court can have consequences such as a suspended license or an arrest warrant issued for the individual. However, appearing in court can also have consequences. If the individual contests the ticket and appears in court, the individual may end up owing additional costs such as court costs, that may exceed the cost of simply paying the original ticket. Before selecting the appropriate method of resolution, the individual should make sure he/she is aware of the consequences and costs.
The Importance of Medical Record Documentation
Often, individuals who are injured through the negligence of another person must undergo continuing medical treatment as a result of physical and/or emotional injuries, sometimes before the individual decides to pursue litigation. In personal injury cases, an individual’s medical records are used and accessed by both parties as evidence for or against an individual’s claim for alleged injuries. Because the nature and extent of an individual’s injury is what determines damages, it is important to be upfront with any health care provider, to explain the source of the injury and any ongoing complaints or complications and make sure that your complaints and residual problems caused by the injury are being properly documented. This is critical for any potential future litigation resulting from the injury.
Municipal Tort Liability
In Illinois, the Local Governmental and Governmental Employee Tort Immunity Act insulates local government entities and employees from being sued for ordinary negligence causing personal injury or property damage to a private citizen. A local governmental entity includes public entities, such as school districts, park districts, police and fire departments. This Act is interpreted broadly to protect volunteers and employees from being liable for certain acts or omissions related to their every day job functions. However, generally speaking, a local public entity or employer may be held liable for the willful, malicious, or even criminal acts of its employees if those actions appear to be closely connected with what the employee is employed to do.
Whether or not damages can be recovered for injury caused by a local governmental entity or employee tend to be very fact-specific. If you believe you have been injured by a local governmental entity or employee, please call us regarding your specific case.
Important Rule Pertaining to Falls on Snow and Ice
Personal injuries resulting from a slip or fall involving snow or ice are often decided on what is known as the “natural v. unnatural accumulation rule.” Generally, Illinois property owners do not have a duty to remove natural accumulations of ice, snow, or water from their property; however, they do have a duty to prevent dangerous unnatural accumulations of ice and snow that result from voluntary efforts to clear ice, snow, or water from their property, or from design deficiencies. Examples of unnatural accumulations include water dripping from a roof and freezing on the ground and the plowing of snow in a manner where freezing and thawing results in dangerous drainage conditions. These types of cases turn on whether the ice, snow, or water that caused the injury is considered to be an unnatural accumulation (one caused by negligence) or a natural accumulation (for which there is no liability on the property owner). For specific questions related to premises liability, please contact our firm.
Cab Driver Insurance
Those of us who call or hail a taxi are simply looking for a safe ride to our destination, and do not consider the complicated business relationships that exist between the cab driver, the cab owner, and the cab company. Most people assume that the cab company whose logos are on the taxicab owns the cab and employs its driver. However, this is usually not the case. Oftentimes, the company whose logo is on the taxicab does not own that cab, employ its driver, and/or provide insurance for the cab driver. This can present issues for a passenger seeking to recover damages for personal injury caused by the conduct of a cab driver. Questions about specific claims can be directed to our law firm.
Keeping an Open Mind During Jury Selection
Very often during jury selection, potential jurors mention the “McDonald’s hot coffee case” as a case that has affected them one way or another. Unfortunately, many of those potential jurors have not heard all the facts of the case. The plaintiff had suffered third-degree burns to numerous areas of her body that required repeated skin grafts and left her with permanent disfigurement. The plaintiff had tried to settle the matter with McDonald’s prior to trial for a much less figure, but McDonald’s refused.
There is no denying that high verdicts in personal injury cases, such as this one, can be controversial. However, verdicts can also influence companies and corporations to make safer changes in certain products and procedures, which ultimately protect consumers from injury.
Potential jurors should do their best to keep an open mind during jury selection and accept that what is reporter in newspapers or on the news is not always accurate or the entire story. Typically, jurors reach fair decisions based on the facts and not on limited skewed information. Trials should be, and most often are, searches for a fair resolution based on the facts: they should not be outcomes influenced and affected by pre-conceived notions about information heard about other cases from outside sources.
Loss of Consortium Claims
When a person is injured by a defendant’s negligence, that injury affects their life, but also can completely alter the lives of their spouse. In Illinois, the spouse of an injured plaintiff in a lawsuit for negligence may assert an additional claim, called loss of consortium. Loss of consortium is a claim for damages suffered by the spouse of an injured victim. The spouse of an injured plaintiff may bring a loss of consortium claim to recover the value of past and future services, society, companionship and sexual relationship of their spouse of which they have been deprived because of the injury. Recovery of damages for loss of consortium is determined by the jury based on the evidence presented in the case. Questions about specific claims can be directed to our law firm.
During the course of litigation, there can be an overwhelming amount of unfamiliar legal jargon surrounding discussion of a case; oftentimes, a regular, every day word can stand for a complicated legal doctrine. As your attorney, we explain legal concepts relevant to your case to you. In the personal injury context, the concept of “comparative negligence” can have a huge impact on a plaintiff’s case.
The “comparative negligence” defense operates to shift the fault of the plaintiff’s injury to the plaintiff, thereby barring or reducing the injured plaintiff’s recovery of damages. Illinois, has adopted a variation of comparative negligence. In Illinois, an injured plaintiff is allowed to recover damages only if he or she is 50% or less at fault for the injury. The damages recovered by an injured plaintiff will be reduced in proportion to his/her fault for the injury. In other words, if the jury determines the defendant was 80% at fault for the plaintiff’s injury, but the plaintiff was 20% at fault, a plaintiff’s $100,000 recovery will be reduced by $20,000, which is equivalent to 20%. However, if a plaintiff is found 51% or more percent at fault for his injury, he/she is barred from recovering.
Ask our law firm if you have any questions about the application of this defense to your lawsuit.
Most people are generally aware that a special relationship exists with their retained attorney. However, most people do not know what exactly is protected by this relationship, or how the protection can be waived.
The attorney-client privilege protects confidential communications between the client and attorney for purposes of providing or obtaining legal advice. This relationship is special because it encourages clients to be completely honest when speaking with their attorney about a legal matter without fear of the information being disseminated or used against them.
The privilege belongs to the client, which means the client can invoke or destroy the privilege. The key to the privilege is the confidentiality of the communication – a communication made in the presence of a third-party destroys the confidentiality of the communication and, therefore, removes it from the protection afforded by the privilege. This is called “waiving” the privilege, and can only be done by the client.
The attorney-client privilege not only protects disclosure of the confidential communications made between the retained attorney and his/her client, but continues even after the representation has ended. Hence, the duration of the attorney-client privilege is much longer than most people recognize – the privilege can outlive the client!
If you retain a lawyer, it is important to be honest and up-front with your attorney. Remember: the attorney-client privilege exists to help foster a good relationship with your attorney so that they may be your best advocate!
Illinois Gender Violence Act
Do you feel like you have been a victim of a violent crime, threat, or sexual assault and/or harassment on the basis of your gender? Illinois recognizes that violence toward someone based upon gender is a form of sexual discrimination. Under Illinois law, 740 ILCS 82 et seq., a victim of gender motivated violence may bring a lawsuit if someone threatens to or does one or more of the following acts if it is motivated by the victim’s gender:
- If you are a victim of violence or physical aggression based on your gender. The physical violence or aggression must qualify as a “battery” which in Illinois means someone intends to cause physical harm (a punch or slap), offensive contact (spitting on someone), or place you in fear of such harm/contact, and, as a result, you are in fact touched or harmed. No criminal charge is necessary to bring this lawsuit, though police incident reports are always important tools in any case.
- If you are a victim of a physical intrusion of a sexual nature, either through coercion or force. This can be any sort of sexual contact from an unwanted grope to forceful rape. No criminal charges need to be brought to bring a lawsuit.
This lawsuit can be brought against the person who is personally committing the violence or anyone that encourages or assists in the act. This lawsuit must be brought within seven years of the gender-related violence. Courts may award money damages to the victim for emotional distress, related medical expenses, punitive damages to punish the perpetrator, and/or “injunctive relief,” meaning they legally order and require the individual to stop the behavior.
Motorcycle Danger and Safety
Car accidents occur frequently, but motorcycle accidents are actually much more frequent – even though less people use motorcycles as their means of transport. A 2006 study by the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showed that for every 100,000 cars in the country, 13.1 ended up in fatal car accidents, while 72.34 motorcycles out of 100,000 motorcycles ended up in fatal accidents. Motorcycles also have a higher fatality rate per mile traveled compared to cars and a much higher risk of bodily injury. Cars, unlike motorcycles, provide a metal barrier between the occupants and the potential dangers of the road, as well as seatbelts and other safety devices like airbags.
It is important to always practice utmost safety when riding a motorcycle to avoid these risks. Wearing personal protective equipment, such as a helmet, abrasion resistant cloth or leather, jackets with padding, and weather protection is important, but even that does not prevent serious injury and death. It is important to always make sure that the driver functions at a high skill level, which includes having the appropriate licensing, taking safety classes, and studying the rules of the road and motorcycle safety. Other tips for safety include avoiding bad drivers by leaving space, changing lanes, or pulling over; avoiding surfaces like ice, gravel, severe precipitation, or oil slicks; and, avoiding riding in large groups and sharing lanes with other motorcyclists, as it exposes motorcycle users to higher risk of injury.
Summer Driving Tips
According to a recent Department of Transportation Report, summer is the most dangerous season for driving. Many factors contribute to this spike in crashes including increases in travel, pedestrian foot traffic, road construction, tire blowouts, and teen drivers. Here are some tips for staying safe during the summer driving season:
- Check your tires – well-maintained tires provide protection against avoidable breakdowns and crashes and improve vehicle handling;
- Never exceed your car’s load capacity. Check your owner’s manual for maximum weight information for cargo and passengers;
- Wear sunglasses and use your car visor while driving to keep your road sight sharp and clear;
- Share the road – when driving through cross walks or construction zones, use extreme caution, follow all road signs, and keep a good look-out for pedestrians or workers; and,
- Lastly, do not text, email, Snapchat or take photos while driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, text messaging is by far the most alarming driving distraction because it requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver.
Always, keep your focus on the road, and do your part to keep the roadways safe this summer!
The Importance of a Police or Incident Report
If you are in a car accident or injured in any manner, it is important that you file a police or an incident report. Police and/or incident reports can play a critical role in a future lawsuit.
First, they preserve a record of the event and who was at the scene of the event. This is especially important if, for some reason, a defendant claims it was not he/she and it is your word against his/hers. Secondly, they also provide the defendant’s contact information and sometimes even his/her driver’s license number. This information is crucial to filing a lawsuit, as you need to be able to locate the defendant to serve him/her. Additionally, they frequently document the contact information of any potential witness to your accident who you may later need to locate to help your case as an eye-witness at trial or during discovery. Also, they may even have space to provide the facts and a diagram of how it happened. Lastly, a police report also protects you if, in the case of a car crash, the defendant driver has no insurance or flees the scene. To pursue an uninsured/underinsured motorist claim, you will need a police report.
If the police are not at the scene of the incident, call the police to come to the scene to take a report. If that is not possible, go to the local police station precinct near where the incident occurred within 24 hours, or, if you are in the hospital, have the police come to the hospital to take the report.
Dressing for Success in Your Lawsuit
As a client, certain aspects of your case will be about presentation and impression which are affected by your appearance. For example, you will likely have to attend a deposition and testify in front of other lawyers. If your case is heading toward settlement, you may attend a mediation with attorneys and a mediator, or you could attend a settlement conference with a judge present. If your case does not settle, then you will appear at trial to testify in front of a jury and a judge. Presentation plays a major role in each of these steps in your case.
When it comes to dressing for success in your lawsuit, it is wise to dress as you would for an important occasion such as a job interview, an important meeting, or even church. Suits, slacks, button up shirts, or a conservative dress are good options. Sticking to neutral colors is also a good idea, as well as covering any bodily piercings or visible tattoos. Old, torn, frayed, or revealing clothing such as skirts that are too short, thin strapped tank tops, or low-cut shirts should be avoided. As should t-shirts with writing and/or graphics on them. It is important that you are taken seriously in your case: a composed and formal appearance will add to your credibility.
Who May Recover in Wrongful Death Actions?
The Illinois Wrongful Death Act provides a right of recovery for certain family members of victims who died as a result of a wrongful act or negligence. These types of claims must be filed by a personal representative of the decedent and are for the exclusive benefit of the decedent’s next of kin – the people nearest in degree of blood relationship – to recover damages suffered as a result of the loss. The next of kin are entitled to recover for loss of society which includes non-monetary losses such as loss of love, affection, relationship, grief, sorrow, etc. … If the decedent was married, the surviving spouse can be compensated for the loss of the consortium that includes services, companionship, love, affection, sexual relations, etc. … he or she experiences as a result of the decedent’s death. Surviving children, both minor and adult, can be compensated based upon the degree of economic or noneconomic losses they suffered. If the decedent did not have children, parents and siblings of the decedent may be entitled to recover for the loss of companionship, love, affection, etc. … of an unmarried child, brother or sister if they can prove that they experienced an emotional or economic dependency on the deceased.
If you believe a loved one’s life was cut short because of a wrongful act or negligence, contact an attorney to help you investigate your case.
Misdiagnosis of Syphilis Results in Verdict For Gay Plaintiff
On the evening of March 1, 2016, our law firm obtained a verdict of $1,051,234 on behalf of a 52 year-old gay man who developed neurosyphilis after a misdiagnosis by a board-certified internal medicine physician. At the end of a four-day trial, the highly diverse group of twelve jurors deliberated for only 2.5 hours before reaching their verdict.
The case emanated from two medical visits that took place on February 26, 2008 and March 18, 2008 with a board certified internal medicine physician in Chicago, Illinois. On February 26, 2008, the plaintiff, a new patient, presented to defendants with complaints of a cough, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. During the visit, the plaintiff disclosed that he was a homosexual but defendants did not write this in the record or ask any follow-up questions regarding his sexual practices or habits. Defendants diagnosed the plaintiff with bronchitis, prescribed a five-day azithromycin antibiotic and codeine cough syrup. Fifteen days after plaintiff finished his prescribed medications, his symptoms returned and he woke up with a non-itchy rash all over his body, including on the palms of his hands and the soles of his feet – a tell-tale sign of secondary syphilis. The plaintiff returned for the follow up visit with defendants 1.5 days after the rash appeared and after he had showed it two friends. At that visit, defendants diagnosed the rash as a drug allergy and did not provide any follow up instructions. Several weeks later, plaintiff’s rash and symptoms disappeared as defendants assured him they would.
In the spring of the following year, plaintiff began to experience vision problems and blood tests performed by a retina specialist confirmed that the plaintiff tested positive for syphilis and HIV. Plaintiff was immediately hospitalized for treatment, and diagnosed with neurosyphilis, an invasion of the central nervous system with the syphilis bacteria which can lead to neurologic damage. Had defendants properly diagnosed his syphilis rash condition at the March 18, 2008 visit with a simple blood test, he could have been treated with a single shot of penicillin and cured before it progressed.
This case faced numerous challenges going into trial. As a gay man with syphilis and HIV, our client was particularly susceptible to prejudice by potential jurors and to personal attacks by the defense arguments. Our law firm worked tirelessly to bar irrelevant and highly prejudicial references to and arguments regarding the plaintiff’s sexual practices and history through the use of motions in limine. The judge granted 29 of plaintiff’s 30 motions in limine, which helped to focus the trial on the negligence of the defendants, rather than allow the defense to distract the jury by blaming the plaintiff for having contracted the disease and for his lifestyle choices.
There was no offer to settle this case. This verdict confirmed that each person, no matter what their background or sexual preference is entitled to the same standard of care. It was truly a pleasure to fight for this client.
How Long Do I Have to File my Lawsuit?
If you have been injured, do not wait to file your lawsuit! In many cases, especially those involving catastrophic injuries, one is inclined to wait to file a lawsuit for damages. There can be a number of valid reasons to wait, such as not knowing the extent of your injury, not having the time or opportunity during your rehabilitation period to find an attorney, etc… However, it is important that you keep in mind a law known as the statute of limitations.
In Illinois, lawsuits must be brought within a certain time frame or else they are barred, meaning you cannot sue the responsible person or entity after a certain period of time expires. The clock starts ticking on this window of opportunity to sue at the time the injury occurs (i.e., the day of the injury, fall, or death). It is important for you to know which statute of limitations and time period applies to your particular case. Statutes of limitations for certain types of cases have exceptions. For instance, some types of cases have a discovery rule that allows the statute of limitations to start running when the injury is discovered.
If you believe you have a claim for damages, it is important that you contact an attorney as soon as you are able and find out what time period (statute of limitations) applies to your case.
Were You the Victim of Medical Malpractice?
Physicians are people who patients should be able to trust: they know personal and sometimes embarrassing details of your health, life and body. Frequently, your relationship with them is for years. Many times a physician or medical professional may be seeing your whole family. Your health, and sometimes even your life, is in their hands. So what happens if they make a mistake?
Medical malpractice is when a medical professional does something (or fails to do something) that does not comply with the standard of care and causes you harm, injury, or damages. This mistake can happen at any time throughout your interactions with a medical professional. It can occur as a result of a failure to diagnose a condition, a missed diagnosis, prescribing the wrong medicine or performing treatment improperly. However, not all mistakes are actionable: only those that did not comply with the standard of care.
If you think that you have been the victim of medical malpractice, follow the following steps:
1. Get a second opinion. Follow-up with an independent medical professional for the injury or damages you suffered and find out if that medical professional will confirm that it is a result of medical malpractice.
2. Get copies of your medical records. Do not inform the medical professional that you want the records for a lawsuit.
3. Then contact a lawyer as soon as possible. Do not wait as you may run out of time to file your lawsuit.
Can You Sue for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Damages?
Illinois recognizes a cause of action for “intentional infliction of emotional distress.” To prove so, someone must engage in “extreme and outrageous” conduct that is “beyond all possible bounds of human decency” either intending to cause you emotional distress or knowing that such actions would cause you such emotional distress. You must also prove that you did in fact suffer from emotional distress as a result of that person’s actions.
Some examples of “extreme and outrageous” conduct in Illinois include: marital domestic violence, hiring a hit-man to commit murder, a news organization entering a hospital room to take photographs of a mother’s dying son, purposeful abuse by employer of employee in retaliation for the employee reporting employer’s illegal behavior, purposefully and maliciously cremating a decedent’s body against the wishes of family members, repeated and prolonged harassment at someone’s home over a long period of time and in front of family and neighbors.
Courts also consider other factors in the context of the perpetrators behavior such as if their behavior is over a long period of time, or if the perpetrator is in a position of authority or power over the victim and abuses that authority (such as a boss abusing an employee or a teacher abusing a student). Consult an attorney if you think someone has intentionally caused you emotional harm.
Basics of Premises Liability
You may have a “Premises Liability” case if you were injured on another person or entity’s property because of some sort of hazardous condition. A common cause of hazardous conditions are code violations. Nearly every city, village and/or municipality, has some sort of code that sets forth requirements that a property owner must comply with in order to ensure a property is safe.
Defective stairways are a very common cause of injury. Applicable codes usually require property owners to provide handrails alongside stairs and have requirements for height and depth of stairs. There can also be a risk if stairs are broken or uneven.
While you do not need to familiarize yourself with all aspects of your city’s Code, if you are injured on a premise, it is important to consult the code because it may help you win your lawsuit. With any premises liability case, be sure to take photographs and even measurements of the area where you fell, to preserve the evidence for your case.
Understanding Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations refers to how long you have to file your court case. It is very important to be aware of what the statute of limitations is because if you do not file your claim within the time allotted by the statute of limitations, you will be barred from bringing a lawsuit, regardless of how injured you may be. To avoid your claim from being barred because the statute of limitations has expired, contact an attorney as soon as you know you have been injured. This will help you ensure that your claim is filed before the statute expires.
Steps to Help an Attorney Win a Case?
1. Form a relationship with your client that encourages them to help by giving you the information needed to win. Create an atmosphere of honest communication and be accessible. Make sure they provide you with all necessary information so you are not hit with surprises during discovery. It is also important to form a relationship with key witnesses, as well.
2. Be realistic with yourself and with your client. If you are realistic from the get go, things should move much easier.
3. Be organized. Develop an organizational method that will help you process information, meet deadlines, find information in a client’s file easily and allow you to better focus on the important aspects of the case.
4. Do the research and preparation. Make sure you know everything about the case and applicable law that you can possibly know. Knowing the details of the facts makes you more credible.
Riding in Cabs Alone – Be Cautious!
Frequently you hear reports about an individual being assaulted by a cab driver. People assume that because cabs display a company name, that company must employ responsible individuals. But that is not always the case. Your cab driver has probably not been subjected to an extensive background check or any background check at all. Your cab driver might have a violent criminal history and you are entrusting your safety to them.
Although the majority of cab drivers are law abiding citizens, you have no way to determine who you are getting into a cab with. Be Cautious! When taking a cab at night try to share a ride with a friend. If riding alone is your only option, call or text a friend. Let them know where you are and when you anticipate being home. Also, never ride in the front seat of the cab when you are alone. Always be aware of your surroundings and be cautious!
Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Not all individuals have automobile insurance. What happens if you are involved in an automobile accident with one of those individuals? Will you be able to recover anything to pay for your medical bills? Many states require all motorists to purchase automobile insurance, but some motorists do not or they purchase low limits of insurance coverage that will not cover your injuries. To help reduce your risk of this type of scenario occurring, insurance companies offer underinsured and uninsured motorist coverages. These coverages can be purchased along with your automobile insurance to protect you if you are involved in an accident that is someone else’s fault who has little or no automobile insurance. When the at-fault but uninsured driver is the cause of the accident, your insurance company pays your damages to the extent of the coverage you purchase. Contact your insurance company to make sure you are covered!
How to Pay for a Lawyer – Contingency Fees
Have you worried that if you are ever injured through the fault of others you could not afford excellent legal representation? If so, then you should know that we do not charge an hourly rate. We charge what is called a contingency fee, which is a percentage of whatever monies we recover for you. The percentage of the contingency fee is dependent on the type of case and the outcome. We do not get paid if we do not win your claim. If you have been injured, you are already stressed about other financial concerns including medical expenses and missed work due to your injury. You should not have to worry about paying a lawyer to make you whole again.
How Clients Help Their Attorney Win Their Case!
1. Form a relationship with your attorney that encourages them to help you by providing the information they need to win. Make sure you provide them with all the information so they are not hit with surprises during the process of discovery.
2. Create an atmosphere of honest communication. Make sure your attorney knows everything you know about the case. Withholding facts that you think may or may not be important is a mistake. Knowing all the details and facts of your case helps your attorney ward off problems that may arise down the road.
3. Be organized. Most attorneys are managing more than one case at one time. Develop an organizational method that will help you remember to send information to your attorney about your case as it comes into your possession. Make sure to organize the information that you send. Organization will help your attorney process the information faster and meet deadlines and allow him/her to focus on the important aspects of your case.
4. Be realistic. If you are realistic from the get go with your attorney, your legal matter will move along much faster.
“Nudging” is a concept that utilizes indirect suggestion and positive reinforcement to attain a desired result. “Nudging” is not meant to change what a person thinks but how the person perceives or responds to a certain situation. The business world routinely implements “nudging” techniques in both employer-employee relationships, to improve work environments and productivity, and in customer relationships, to increase sales. “Nudging” is a technique that lawyers can implement with their clients to make them compile better information. It helps clients feel more inclined to share information. Successful “nudging” results in a client consistently sharing information without the attorney actually having to ask them to share. “Nudging” requires the attorney to think on their client’s level. Avoid using legalize and complicated questions when talking to a client. Make your objective clear but non-abrasive. Ensuring ongoing communications will “nudge” a client into becoming more comfortable with their attorney. Tell your client to call if they can think of anything else and make sure the client understands that their attorney’s door is open! All of these techniques will increase a client’s ease in providing their attorney with better information and enhance attorney-client relations.
Pitfalls of Using Facebook While a Party to a Lawsuit
Facebook can be a valuable social networking tool; however it has drawbacks that you may not be aware of. When a party to a lawsuit, information control is one of your greatest assets. Managing what information is divulged to whom is very important. Facebook information is public, and anyone may have access to it, including the opponents in your lawsuit. If your opponent can see your Facebook information, they can use it against you to assert things that may or may not be true. For instance, if there is a photograph of you posted on Facebook after an accident, and you are not wearing a knee brace your doctor instructed you to wear, the opponent in your lawsuit can use the photograph against you and argue that your failure to wear the knee brace is a contributing cause of your injury, for which he/she should not be responsible. This is only one of the many ways that information can be used against you. If information such as this is accessed by your opponent, it can reduce the probability of a successful lawsuit, or the amount of money damages you can recover. It also makes your lawyer’s job much more difficult. Therefore, be cautious as to what you are posting on Facebook, or any other social media tool.
However, when they do, it is important to be ready not only protect yourself during the accident, but afterwards as well. In the personal injury setting, a case becomes much easier if there is a plethora of objective information that lawyers can access. While testimony is good, documents and photographs are much better. After you have been in an accident remember to remain calm and make sure to take the following steps to maximize your chance of recovery.
- If you are in pain, do not move and wait for the paramedics to arrive so they may preserve you from further injury.
- If your vehicle is drivable, drive it to the closest safe place that does not obstruct traffic and call the police immediately! Police reports are essential in reconstructing accidents, and the police will provide you with copies of their observations.
- Cooperate with the police in preparing an accident report.
- If there are other drivers or pedestrians involved in the accident, speak to them and only swap your names, addresses, and registration numbers. DO NOT SPEAK TO THEM ABOUT THE ACCIDENT, and absolutely do not make any statements of fault such as “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you.”
- Make sure to obtain the other motorists or pedestrian’s insurance policy information such as the policy number, the policy name, and the provider.
- Do not fill out or sign any insurance documents, or provide recorded statements without first consulting with a lawyer.
- After the accident, photograph the exterior and interior of the vehicles involved in the accident. Also photograph anything that better explains the scene of the accident better, or explains how the accident occurred. This could be the traffic light location, an obscured road sign, or tire skid-marks.
- Make sure to consult with your physician or doctor after the accident. While you may have apparent injuries, injuries like whiplash, can be latent. Often latent injuries don’t manifest until weeks or months after the date of the accident. Consulting with your doctor not only ensures that you are healthy after the accident, but creates a record of your treatment, and will help your chances of prevailing in a future lawsuit.
- Lastly, when consulting with your attorney, make sure to provide them with as much of this information as you currently have. This information is essential for the attorney to determine who is at fault, and if your suit will prevail in court.