Everything You Should (and Shouldn’t) Ask at a Personal Injury Consultation

You hear it in commercials all the time: if you are injured, you may be entitled to compensation. If this is the case for you, then I sincerely hope you are able to get the compensation you deserve. The first step in this process is finding the right personal injury lawyer, and the first step to doing that is a consultation.

Simply doing a search for “free consultation” will present you with pages upon pages of options, and this can be somewhat overwhelming. Once you’ve scheduled a consultation, what should you do and how will you know if the consulting attorney is the right one for your case?

Luckily, consultations in person or over the phone give you the perfect opportunity to get more information about the attorney and how they will represent you. Here are a few things you should–and shouldn’t–ask before making a decision.

What You Should Ask

1. What are the conditions of my consultation?

If a lawyer does not tell you from the outset whether your consultation will involve any fees or contractual obligations, it is a very good idea to ask. Many personal injury lawyers will give you a cost- and obligation-free consultation, so unless you have your heart set on a specific one, there is no reason you should be charged for this first step in the legal process.

2. Do I have a viable case?

It is often a new client’s first instinct to ask this, and for good reason. This is what the attorney is trying to determine during a consultation as well. At the end of the consultation, any personal injury lawyer should be up-front and honest with you about the strengths and weaknesses of your potential case.

3. Do you have experience as an injury lawyer?

There are excellent lawyers in all different areas of law, but if you are looking for workers’ compensation or personal injury representation (or potentially both at once), a defense or real estate lawyer is not who you want to hire.

If you are consulting with a lawyer who does not list this information on their website, ask them what percentage of their yearly cases are workers’ comp or personal injury. You should also ask how many personal injury cases they have successfully tried and/or settled. This will give you an idea of their experience with this area of the law.

4. Who will work on my case?

At some firms, it is not uncommon for the attorneys to assign all the work to young associates or paralegals. They may be highly qualified and smart individuals, but it is still important that your attorney is honest with you about who is working on your case, and is willing to put the work in themselves, if necessary.

5. Will you go to court?

Many cases don’t go to court, but some attorneys never do.

Everyone would rather settle a case for a satisfactory amount than go to trial, but your lawyer should be prepared to go to court if necessary. There are some attorneys who will simply pass off your case to a colleague when they realize litigation will be necessary. If any injury lawyer can’t tell you during a consultation that they are willing to go to court for you, don’t hire them.

6. How will I be charged?

Before you hire an attorney, you should be aware of how and when you will pay them for their services after the initial free consultation. Most, but not all personal injury lawyers charge a one third contingency fee, meaning they do not get paid unless you win. Find out for sure if this is the case before you sign on officially.

7. How Should we proceed?

If you feel that a lawyer is a good match for your case (and if they choose to represent you), ask them what the next steps toward winning that case will be, so that you can stay involved and up to date.

8. How will you keep me informed?

Communication is key in any lawyer-client relationship. Therefore, it is a good idea to exchange contact information at the outset of a case, so that you can keep each other well informed. Ask them if they will primarily contact you via mail, email, or phone, so that you can be sure not to miss any messages from them.

9. What materials do you need?

The attorney will likely ask you to bring some materials, such as medical records and police reports, to your injury case consultation. Even so, it’s a good idea to ask them what other materials they will need for your case, so that you can begin to compile them right away. The faster you do that, the sooner you will be compensated, in the long run.

What You Shouldn’t Ask

1. How long will my case take?

There is simply no way of knowing the answer to this. Some injury lawyers may give you an estimate, but even that is difficult to do at the beginning of a case and is likely not to be correct. Personal injury and workers’ comp cases usually require clients to seek full treatment and us lawyers to collect an extensive amount of information before we can even begin negotiating. They often take years. Be patient and remember that we are on your side.

2. How much money will I get?

Again, an injury lawyer can’t answer this for you during a consultation because they simply don’t know yet. A more productive alternative might be to ask “Will you do everything you can to make sure I get as much compensation as possible?” and if they are a good lawyer, they will not have to stop to consider before saying “yes”. I’ll take a moment to add a word of caution here: if an attorney does give you a decisive answer to either of these questions during a consultation, they are lying through their teeth, which does not bode well for their capacity to provide you with ethical or even good representation.

At my firm, you will always be taken care of honestly and personally by myself and my small team of capable professionals. If you would like a free consultation or would like to know more about how they work, please feel free to call our office at (312) 258-8188 or contact us here.

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Posted in free consultation, injury lawyer, Law Office of Steven A. Sigmond, lawyers, legal advice, legal consultation, Legal News, Personal Injury, Practicing Law in Chicago, SigmondLaw Blog, Uncategorized, Workers' Compensation | Leave a comment

We Should All Be Concerned About Net Neutrality

Written by Steven A. Sigmond and Juliette Sigmond

Today is Net Neutrality Day. You have no doubt already seen reminders of the debate cropping up in hashtags and banners throughout your daily online activities, so you likely already know that the Federal Communications Commission has proposed to repeal the rules that ensure freedom of speech and information on the internet.

There’s a good reason for the sheer volume of this collective call to action. Google, Twitter, Netflix… all of these websites and more will be negatively impacted if we allow the FCC to get rid of Net Neutrality. But more importantly, so will everyday Americans like you and I.

Net Neutrality prevents ISP’s (Internet Service Providers) from hindering or manipulating the material you view online. Without it, they would be free to do things like blocking or slowing down websites and apps that compete with their own products or promote messages with which they don’t agree.

Here’s an example I’m sure many of us will find relevant: enjoy binge-watching TV shows on Netflix and Hulu? Well, your ability to conveniently do that is in jeopardy. Many of the most powerful ISPs–Comcast and Time Warner, for instance–also provide cable, so they certainly have incentive to make online streaming less of a viable alternative. Slowing down websites like Netflix, or hiking up the price of access to them, would almost definitely be profitable for these corporations. Net Neutrality is the only thing preventing them from doing it.

If you’re thinking, If my Internet Service Provider did that I would just switch to a different one, then think again. Because of high costs and monopolizing, most Americans have a very small handful of broadband providers available to them, if that. All it takes for us to be completely out of options is for one ISP to start misusing their control and one or two others to follow suit in order to keep up.

So far, the major ISPs’ response to concerns that they would misuse their control seems to come down to, but we promise not to do that. This promise seems shaky at best, considering that there were multiple recorded instances of them doing exactly that before Net Neutrality was instated in 2015.

For small business owners, myself included, this repeal would be devastating. Without these rules, ISPs are free to make services slower on websites that don’t pay them an extra fee. A lot of business owners don’t have room for that in their budget, but if we don’t pay up, our websites will lag and become miserable to use, which will cost us potential customers in droves.

This is bad for the consumer too. Online research and interactions with any business that hasn’t struck a deal with your ISP is likely to become a slow and tiresome process. This means that finding the best products and values will become much more difficult and a handful of companies will slowly but surely cultivate a monopoly, controlling what you will be able to purchase.

So, what can we do to fight this repeal? Call your representatives and find other platforms on which to speak out. The government works for the people, and this is not in the people’s best interest. Let’s let them know before it’s too late.

For legal services or to schedule a free consultation, you can visit my websites here and here (assuming your ISP continues to allow it, that is).

Posted in FCC, Federal Communications Commission, Internet, Legal News, net neutrality, Politics, SigmondLaw Blog, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Your Lawyer’s Top 5 Lawyer Movies

In honor of the holiday weekend, I’m providing one of my favorite kinds of legal advice: what are the best lawyer movies?

5. The Verdict

Critics love this film and so do I. It’s amazing how many different types of roles Paul Newman was great in. Butch Cassidy, Slapshot, Cool Hand Luke… add this one to the list.

Here, he stars as Frank Galvin, an alcoholic lawyer determined to restore his own self-respect by trying and winning a medical malpractice case that is crawling with corruption from almost everyone involved. The movie is half sympathetic character study, half nail-biting courtroom drama.

4. Presumed Innocent

This one is adapted from Scott Turow’s masterpiece of a book and like that book, the movie is intricately plotted and stuffed with important details.

It follows a big-name prosecutor (Harrison Ford) who takes a turn sitting in the defendant’s chair when he is charged with the murder of one of his colleagues. As he teams up with a former courtroom rival (Raul Julia) to represent him, twists and turns ensue.

3. Reversal of Fortune

Another academy award-magnet. This one is adapted from the book by Harvard law professor, Alan Dershowitz, about a real-life murder trial in which he represented the defendant.

Jeremy Irons plays Claus von Bülow, a dislike-able rich guy who may or may not have tried to kill his wife (Glenn Close), putting her in a permanent coma. This movie won’t give you a clear answer on who killed whom, but it will give you remarkable performances by the main cast and some important insights on everybody’s right to a fair trial.

2. My Cousin Vinny

On a lighter note, this movie is not only full of comedic gold, but surprisingly accurate in its portrayal of the legal process. It follows Vinny Gambini (Joe Pesci), an audacious, rookie New York lawyer, as he tries his first case in the middle of small-town Alabama… but the stakes are high because the defendants are his cousin and friend and the charge is murder.

Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster!) as the judge is priceless and Marisa Tomei won an Oscar for her role as Vinny’s girlfriend and muse.

Seriously, go and watch it.

1. Inherit the Wind

Inherit the Wind is a classic and my all-time favorite lawyer story. It was this portrayal of the famous attorney, Clarence Darrow (along with my inability to hit a curveball) that inspired me to become a lawyer.

A fictionalized version of the Scopes “Monkey” Trial, it depicts a science teacher who is prosecuted for teaching evolution in the 1920s, leading two of the country’s top lawyers to go head-to-head over his case: Henry Drummond (played by Spencer Tracey and based on Clarence Darrow) and Matthew Harrison Brady, a populist politician, fresh off a presidential run, who denies accepted science (played by Frederic March, based on William Jennings Bryan).

A timeless take on a timeless debate.

Honorable Mentions

  • …And Justice for All
  • The Rainmaker
  • The Firm

 

 

Posted in Law Office of Steven A. Sigmond, lawyer movies, lawyers, Legal News, movies, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

6 Things Nobody Told You About the McDonald’s Hot Coffee Case

Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants, better known as the “McDonald’s Hot Coffee Case” is perhaps the most infamous civil lawsuit in modern history. A case frequently ridiculed by insurance industry lobbyists and their cronies pushing for tort reform, it has had a significant impact on the way personal injury cases are viewed by the general public.

But in reality, the plaintiff’s case was anything but ridiculous, as I have repeatedly heard it called. Certain details of this case have been strategically kept out of the public eye. Here are a few of them:

1. The Car Wasn’t Moving

You likely know that then-79-year-old Stella Liebeck was in a car when she purchased the now-famous cup of coffee from a drive-through window, and that she was still in the car when she removed the lid to add cream and sugar. The details that are often conveniently left out are that the car was parked when the injury occurred, and that Liebeck’s grandson was in the driver’s seat, with Liebeck next to him in the passenger seat. When Liebeck removed the lid, she accidentally tipped the cup backward toward herself, spilling the coffee into her lap. So it is true that Liebeck was at least partially responsible for the spill (and the jury did acknowledge this), but to say that she was driving while trying to doctor the coffee is plainly false.

2. It Wasn’t Just Any Burn

Yes, we have all burnt our tongues on a hot cup of coffee from time to time. Regardless, I would venture to say that few of us will ever experience the amount of pain that Liebeck did. When the spill occurred, the scalding liquid was absorbed by the fabric of her sweatpants, which held it tight against her skin, covering her inner thighs and groin. She suffered severe burns, including 3rd degree burns that covered six percent of her body, which could not heal without extensive and costly skin grafts and whirlpool treatments. She was hospitalized for eight days and disabled for the following two years. Her treating physician later testified that hers was one of the worst scald burns he had ever seen.

3. McDonald’s Knew Exactly How Dangerous Their Actions Were

In fact, with full knowledge of how dangerous this policy was, they enforced it. McDonald’s admitted to requiring employees to hold coffee at between 180 and 190 degrees Fahrenheit, well aware that it would hurt people at this temperature. They argued that most of their customers were commuters who wanted their coffee to still be hot when they reached their destination, several minutes later. This was debunked, however, by the company’s own research. What is even more shocking is that they not only knew coffee at this temperature would hurt people–they knew that it was hurting people. In the decade leading up to the 1994 jury verdict, McDonald’s had already settled hundreds of cases of people being severely burned by their coffee, including young children, and at least one consumer whose coffee was accidentally dropped into their lap by a company employee. Despite knowing that this was going on, McDonald’s determined that it was more profitable for them to continue settling cases than to change their harmful policy. So they didn’t.

Today, they have lowered their required holding temperature by only 10 degrees.

4. Compensatory and Punitive Damages

In order to know the full story of this case, you need to understand these terms. Liebeck and her counsel asked for $200,000 to fully compensate the losses she suffered because of her injury–these were the compensatory damages. So why, you might be asking, was she awarded $2.5 million more than what she required compensation for? The answer is, because that $2.5 million was never about what Liebeck deserved. It was about what McDonald’s deserved. That extra amount–what the fast food giant would have earned in about two days, on coffee sales alone–was in punitive damages, which are exactly what they sound like: they punish defendants for unacceptable behavior. The jury determined McDonald’s should pay that amount as a consequence for consistently disregarding the safety of their customers. Sometimes, this is the only way to get the attention of corporate wrong-doers.

5. She Didn’t Receive Three Million Dollars

The jury awarded Liebeck $2.7 million reduced from $2.86 million in combined compensatory and punitive damages, because Liebeck was found to be partially at fault for the spill. The Judge later reduced the full amount Liebeck would receive to $480,000, less than a quarter of what the jury awarded her, and the plaintiff and defendant later settled on an undisclosed amount which is still unknown. At the very beginning of her case proceedings, Liebeck asked for a measly $20,000, which is unlikely to have covered all of her medical expenses, let alone pain and suffering. McDonald’s never offered her more than $800, displaying what even the Judge called “reckless, callous, and willful” behavior.

6. The Reason You’ve Been Misinformed

The reason is obvious, once you know the facts: powerful corporations get angry when they are held responsible for their reckless behavior, and they don’t want something like this to happen to them again. They have widely publicized inaccurate information and unwarranted ridicule on this case, in order to precondition potential jurors in future cases all over the country. This is why big business seized on Liebeck vs. McDonald’s, making sure that Stella Liebeck herself was publicly demonized and personal injury as well as product liability cases branded as frivolous.

Whether or not you agree with the jury verdict in the Liebeck case, I urge you to learn the facts before your opinion on any civil case is set in stone. You never know when coverage has been distorted.

If you have questions about personal injury or product liability, or have a case of your own, please contact me on my website, or give me a call at (312) 258-8188.

Posted in Law Office of Steven A. Sigmond, Personal Injury, SigmondLaw Blog | Leave a comment

What You Should Know About the So-Called “Protecting Access to Care Act”

The Protecting Access to Care Act is a brazen misnomer; the only thing this bill, also known as H.R. 1215, would protect is wrongdoers’ immunity from the legal process.

I have dealt in dozens of medical malpractice cases. I know the justice system surrounding these cases, and I know what will damage and impede it. Let me go over what this bill does and why it is dangerous to everyone outside of the wealthy career politicians who created it and the special interest groups that support them.

The Bill

Depriving Malpractice Victims

Firstly, H.R. 1215 will cap payouts for noneconomic damages, or pain and suffering (including permanent disability, disfigurement, and post-traumatic mental symptoms) in any medical malpractice case at no higher than $250,000. In a painfully ironic twist, this is the same number of deaths caused every year by medical errors in the United States alone, as estimated by a recent study from Johns Hopkins University. It is the third most common cause of death in the U.S., and yet supporters of this bill are pushing to limit the consequences for those responsible.

You may be asking, as long as people are compensated for their financial losses, what’s the problem? But imagine for a moment that a doctor or pharmacist’s negligence caused (God forbid) the death of your child or the loss of all use of your right arm. You would have to live with those losses for the rest of your life. How can we possibly quantify the monetary value of those hardships? More to the point, how can we set a maximum on them?

Infringing on States’ Rights

Tort law, including laws surrounding medical malpractice suits, has always been the prerogative of individual states. Now, supporters of this bill in Congress are taking it upon themselves to override several state constitutions by replacing state malpractice laws with their own.

Supporters will defensively point out that the bill’s cap on noneconomic damages does not extend to states with conflicting laws, but the fact is, that cap is not the only change the bill proposes and it is not the only instance of it directly contradicting laws in several states. A forced repeal of state collateral force rules and a federally-mandated statute of limitations are only two examples of this bill’s multiple infringements on states’ rights. Conveniently (for some), the state laws H.R. 1215 leaves in place are only the ones favorable to defendants–in this case, negligent or irresponsible hospitals and nursing homes–rather than their injured and disadvantaged patients.

This is a blatant overstep by the federal government, championed by many of the same people who preach the importance of states’ rights the most loudly when beneficial for them.

Protecting Wrongdoers

Supporters of this bill ignore the fact that tort law is not only for the purpose of compensating those wronged by malpractice, but also for the purpose of dissuading powerful, for-profit companies from committing malpractice for the sake of their own gain.

For example, consider a scenario in which a for-profit nursing home is hiring employees with a history of elder abuse. The company is putting the safety of their residents at risk by not properly vetting their applicants, but they are also saving themselves some time and money by skipping that process, and so no changes are made. Often, the only way they will be convinced to stop this irresponsible practice is the reminder that they will lose more money in damages than they save, if they are sued by a victim whose safety they neglected.

H.R. 1215 includes several measures to limit the amount of money a corporation would lose in such a suit, eliminating accountability for corrupt companies and giving them the go-ahead to put patients’ safety on the line.

Incidentally, among the things this bill classifies as non-economic (and therefore, less compensable) damages is sexual assault in nursing homes and other medical facilities. It also bans plaintiffs from including hospitals, nursing homes, and healthcare providers in suits involving dangerous drugs, even if they prescribed or provided it.

To sum things up, H.R. 1215 not only severely limits the extent to which a wrongdoer can be held accountable for their malpractice, it also limits the wrongdoing for which they can actually be held accountable at all.

Threatening Access to Care

So, will this bill actually do what it claims to? The short answer is, predictably, no.

H.R. 1215 applies to anyone receiving health care coverage from a federal program, including the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid, and health care plans provided by the government to veterans and their families. These programs are provided for the express purpose of giving access to care to some of the most vulnerable members of society: the elderly, people with disabilities, and those living below the poverty line, to name just a few. It is members of these groups whose access to quality health care was most threatened in the first place, and this bill now aims to strip them of their ability to hold their abusers within the healthcare system responsible.

Even if you are not a member of any of the groups to whom this bill applies, let us not forget two things: that nearly 40 percent of the American population is covered by federal health care plans and that mistreated patients are also consumers. If and when Congress deprives them of their ability to seek sufficient financial restitution for medical malpractice, their ability to contribute to the economy will be severely damaged, and we will all suffer from the resulting financial strain.

Public Response

All evidence indicates that the creators of H.R. 1215 were counting on Americans not to be smart enough to realize that this bill would only disadvantage them. Fortunately, this has largely not been the case, and public derision for it has quickly traversed the political aisle.

Democrats in and outside of Washington D.C. have voiced strong opposition to the bill. In a highly averse statement on it, Representative John Conyers (D-MI) summed up the feelings of many Democrats, disparaging it as “legislation intended to deny victims of medical malpractice and defective medical products the ability to be made whole and to hold wrongdoers accountable” and adding, “This measure has repeatedly failed because of its many problems, including its trampling of states’ rights.”

Meanwhile, many prominent Conservatives, likely increasingly reluctant to align themselves with the Trump administration’s frequent demonstrations of lunacy, have decried the bill as well. Understandably, such a blatant flex of federal authority doesn’t sit well with a group of people known for pushing small government. The well-known Georgetown law professor and libertarian, Randy E. Barnett, said of Republicans who support the bill: “With friends like these, constitutional federalism does not need enemies. Can we coin a new pejorative, FINO: ‘Federalists in Name Only’?”

My Thoughts

On top of the moral bankruptcy of the Protecting Access to Care Act, there is another issue: this bill is unconstitutional, plain and simple. The idea of an enforced damages cap encroaches not only on the prerogative of states, but on that of the judiciary as well. Believe it or not, over the past few decades, similar bills have been thrown out as unenforceable in state after state–including multiple times in our own state, Illinois.

This first happened in 1995, when the Illinois government introduced Public Act 89-7, which imposed a noneconomic damages cap of $500,000. It was overturned in Best v. Taylor Machine Works, a case involving a product liability that resulted in a man fracturing both heels and suffering 2nd and 3rd degree burns covering nearly half of his body. When you consider the sheer amount of pain and future impairment, it is clear that $500,000 was nowhere near as much as the plaintiff needed or deserved, and the state supreme court thought so too. They struck down that act over 20 years ago, and now the Federal Government has taken it upon themselves to enforce the same defunct rule country-wide, but with available damages slashed in half? This is outrageous to me.

Bills like H.R. 1215 and Public Act 89-7 restrict the right to a jury trial, a right established by the founding fathers in the Sixth Amendment. The supreme courts of several states have already ruled damages caps like those proposed in these bills as an infringement on that basic right promised to all Americans. The only people who can constitutionally determine the amount awarded in a jury verdict are the jurors and, in rare cases, the judge.

This bill takes important legal decisions out of the hands of jurors–registered voters like you and me–and puts them into the hands of politicians who, whatever they name their bills, care nothing about our access to responsible medical practices. They urge strict and absolute following of the Constitution when it suits their own agendas, but seem to conveniently forget about when fellow Americans’ rights under the law do not benefit them. At the end of the day, regardless of political beliefs and affiliations, you must see how this bill would put patients at risk and disregard the rulings of state courts..

The House of Representatives passed H.R. 1215 by the incredibly slim margin of one vote. It is up to us, the voters, to make sure it does not pass the senate. I urge you to call your senators and to stay up to date on the progress of this bill.

If you have been the victim of medical malpractice, or any injury case involving extensive pain and suffering, and would like to speak with an attorney, please contact me here or at (312) 258-8188 for a free consultation.

 

Posted in Law Office of Steven A. Sigmond, Legal News, Personal Injury, Politics, SigmondLaw Blog | Leave a comment

Workers’ Comp: the Democratic Proposals to Help Business

If you live in Illinois, you are more than likely already aware of Governor Rauner’s continued to refusal to submit a state budget unless he gets his way on workers’ compensation “reform”, despite the fact that reforms were already enacted in 2011, at the expense of injured workers. But as new developments occur rapidly, it can be easy to lose track of the details.

With the Governor spending millions to advertise his point of view and public patience with him wearing thin, state Democrats have devised some proposed solutions, which I’d like to go over in this week’s post.

The Debate

The Governor has included significant changes to the Illinois Worker’s Compensation Act as one of his conditions for his approval of a state budget. His stubbornness in this matter is, in large part, the reason we have all been scraping by without a budget since 2015.

The Act outlines when and how much an employee injured at work is entitled to be compensated by their employer. In 2011, it was overhauled with the goal of cutting costs for businesses, slashing worker benefits in the process. Since then, state businesses have not seen much of the savings they were promised out of the 2011 changes, and Governor Rauner now wants to further cut worker benefits, evidently hoping that doing more of the same will somehow fix the problem this time.

The real problem, however, is one that will not be solved by depriving Illinois workers of benefits and representation. The only expense an employer must pay for worker’s compensation is their insurance premiums and consequently, insurance companies have taken advantage of the 2011 overhaul, securing soaring profits for themselves and leaving precious little for businesses and employees alike.

The Proposals

Illinois Democrats have put forth two proposed solutions to this system of profiteering:

Two bills known as HB 2525 and HB 2622 are currently in limbo within the state government. They offer two different ways of stopping insurance companies from sapping money off employers and causing them to further whittle down their workers’ benefits.

One Possible Solution

HB 2525 was pushed forward by State Representative Jay Hoffman and State Senator Kwame Raoul. It makes several changes to the Workers’ Compensation Act. Notably, it will (if enacted) require insurance companies to submit their workers’ comp rates to the Department of Insurance for approval, allowing them to be regulated.

By regulating insurance rates, we can prevent companies from charging absurdly high bills to employers and from further taking advantage of the system. As you can imagine, insurance companies are not happy about this, but the bill does present a neat solution to their habit of continuously creating unnecessarily high expenses for the rest of us.

And Another

HB 2622 is another proposed bill, this one sponsored by State Representative Laura Fine and State Senator Daniel Biss. If enacted, it will create the Illinois Employers Mutual Insurance Company. This is intended to be a government-funded non-profit that will provide workers’ comp insurance to businesses at a competitive rate. This would help businesses by giving employers an option outside of the exorbitant premiums of private insurance companies, allowing them to save money without stripping employees of access to compensation.

Both this bill and HB 2525 have been passed by the House and the Senate, but thus far the Governor has refused to sign.

My Thoughts

It just doesn’t make sense to me that we made significant cuts to worker benefits in the name of lowering employer costs in 2011, saw that it was ineffective in that goal, and yet we are still, in 2017, trying to force results with the same useless tactic, all the while throwing injured workers under the bus. It is astounding to me that Bruce Rauner can claim to fight for the average Illinoisan in one breath and systematically slice away at millions of Illinoisans’ coverage for work-related injuries in the next.

There is a misconception floating around that the majority of workers’ comp cases are scams, cooked up by self-entitled people hoping to get rich off a minor cut or bruise. Well, as someone who spends my days sifting through and learning every detail of dozens of workers’ comp cases each year, let me assure you: that is simply not reality. Any workers’ comp case is a long and rigorous process for all involved and legal professionals are, on the whole, very intelligent people.  Nobody goes around handing out checks to those without a legitimate case.

By cutting workers’ comp benefits, we are not only ignoring the root cause of the problem–greedy insurance corporations creating unduly high expenses for employers–we are punishing the wrong group, taking rights away from people who have already been afflicted.

HB 2525 and BH 2622 offer logical solutions to the problems in our workers’ compensation system that will effectively lower costs for businesses and prevent insurance companies from further taking advantage of injured Illinoisans. I encourage you reading this to support those bills, and to stay up to date on the workers’ comp debate. I sincerely hope you never suffer a work related injury, but if you do, I want you to get the compensation you deserve.

You can learn more about workers’ comp cases on my website here. If you have a case of you’re own, call me at (312) 258-8188 for a free consultation.

Posted in Illinois, Law Office of Steven A. Sigmond, Legal News, Politics, SigmondLaw Blog, Uncategorized, Workers' Compensation | Leave a comment

Distracted Driving: Why it’s Still an Issue

Illinois is one of 46 states in the U.S. that prohibits text messaging while driving, and one of 14 that prohibits the use of handheld cell phones for all drivers. evidence surrounding the issue of distracted driving and the necessity of cracking down on it are not new. One quarter of all car accidents in the United States are the result of texting while driving, which the state of Illinois officially banned at the beginning of  2010. So why is it that in Chicago, instances of distracted driving and resulting fatal crashes have only risen since then?

A recent article from the Chicago Tribune reported that traffic citations issued for distracted driving have sharply decreased over the past three years. The laws are still in place, but they are being enforced with only a fraction of the strictness with which they were enforced as recently as 2014. To give you an idea: there were 45,000 tickets issued to drivers using mobile devices at the wheel in all of 2014. As of April of this year (2017), there have been 24.

As a lifelong Chicagoan and frequenter of the expressway, I see instances of distracted driving every day. As a personal injury lawyer, I see its effects, and those are much worse.

Traffic gets rough in a city like this. It bothers me when I see one of the drivers around me jolting to a halt, an inch from the bumper in front of them because they were not watching the road, or when the car in front of them starts moving again and they remain stationary, oblivious to the line of furious drivers building up behind them. It bothers me because I know someday soon, that oblivious driver is going to seriously hurt someone.

I don’t see how such a significant threat to our public safety can go so unchecked, both by those who are violating the ban on texting while driving, and by those who are supposed to be enforcing it. How can you see the person in the car next to yours, or even in the driver’s seat beside you, looking down at their cell phone, eyes nowhere near the road–and not fear for yourself and the people around you?

I often see clients who were injured in car accidents, many of which involved distracted driving. It is always upsetting to see people who have been badly hurt, but especially so when the cause was something so avoidable. So I urge everyone reading this: do not text and drive. Your likelihood of receiving a traffic violation for it may have lowered, but your risk of causing a serious car accident has not. Nobody ever thinks it will happen to them until it does.

If you’ve been injured in a traffic accident and would like to discuss your situation with me, you can reach me at (312)-258-8188, chicagoaccidentlawyer.com, or siglaw.com.

Posted in Illinois, Law Office of Steven A. Sigmond, Personal Injury, Practicing Law in Chicago, SigmondLaw Blog | Leave a comment