Have you signed away your constitutional rights lately? If you bought a house, a car, or ordered anything online, you probably have signed away your 7th Amendment rights without knowing it. The Bill of Rights guarantees citizens many important rights including the right to a jury trial in a civil case. The ability to file suit an hold negligent corporations liable for harm that they have caused is an important right that should not be freely relinquished. How is this right being taken away from us? It is in the small print that accompanies many transactions these days. More and more, contracts include arbitration clauses that provide if you are injured or killed by the company’s product, an arbitrator of the company’s choosing will decide if you will be compensated for the harm caused. These contracts also contain provisions that may limit the amount of damages that you may recover. Often, this contract is presented to you after you have already negotiated a deal for the used car, or perhaps the new house. Sadly, arbitration clauses are used routinely used when admitting a loved one into a nursing home. In such cases, the resident isn’t even the one who signs the agreement and the nursing home does not explain the importance of this agreement. It is just one more piece of paper that requires a signature with the nursing home representative assuring you that this is just “standard legal stuff.” It is not until the nursing home causes serious harm to a loved one that this “standard legal” document rears its ugly head. Thankfully, an experienced nursing home litigation lawyer can have these one-sided, unfair agreements thrown out. Nevertheless, you should avoid these arbitration agreements whenever you can. Let the first question you ask when buying a house or a car, is whether their contracts have an arbitration clause. That should also be one of the first questions you ask when considering a nursing home. If a company is not willing to stand behind a product, or a nursing home tries to escape the rights guaranteed to you by the 7th Amendment by hiding an arbitration clause in a mound of paperwork, find another place to take your business. Don’t give up your right, or your loved one’s right, to hold corporations liable for their negligence and neglect.
Despite the advances made by the “me too” movement, sexual harassment continues in the workplace today almost as bad as it did 20 years ago. That is the bad news. The good news is that most employers now take it seriously when employees report sexual harassment. Today, it is much more likely that a supervisor or manager will get fired when employees speak out about workplace harassment. Gone are the days when such claims would be swept under the rug. In Illinois, there is more good news for employees. Recently enacted laws expand employer liability for harassment to even small employers that are exempt from liability under federal law. Illinois employers can also be held liable for harassment to independent contractors. However, many women, and sometimes men as well, are afraid to speak up and sometimes quit their jobs without making a complaint to human resources. Sometimes employees are made to feel that they are the problem, or they fear being judged. It can also just be embarrassing to discuss such matters with an attorney. When abusers go unpunished, the abuser only becomes more bold and entitled. Not reporting harassment, and not bringing your complaint to the EEOC or Illinois Department of Human Rights, allows the abuse to continue. If you have been a victim of sexual harassment, the statute of limitations is generally only 300 days. Do not delay speaking to a lawyer. It is best to speak to a lawyer to protect your rights and to protect you from retaliation. By taking action against workplace abusers, you protect other employees who will be harassed by this same abuser. If you have been a victim of sexual harassment, do not hesitate to call.
Where you seek medical treatment following an accident can have a significant impact on your recovery and your personal injury case. Sometimes, accident victims delay getting medical treatment following an accident because they don’t have insurance and they are concerned about the costs. Alternatively, accident victims sometimes may go to a clinic that holds itself out as specializing in auto accident cases. Sometimes accident victims are attracted to such places because they offer treatment without insurance and any upfront costs. Usually, such clinics are run by chiropractors rather than medical doctors, but the word “chiropractor” is oddly not included in the name of the practice. If you don’t have insurance this might seem like a good deal but like all things that seem too good to be true, this is too. Generally, it is best to see your family doctor following an accident. Of course, if the pain is significant enough, you should go right to the hospital, in an ambulance if necessary, and then follow up with your primary care doctor. If you don’ have health insurance, you may have medical payments coverage that will pay the cost of a doctor’s visit. This is standard coverage with many polices but the amount of coverage varies from as little as one thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. Sometimes, you can quality for health insurance through Medicaid and they will cover your bills even if you apply after the accident. The trouble with many of these injuries clinics is that they have run up significant bills that ordinarily would not be covered by health insurance. Some of these clinics will provide treatment 4 to 5 days a week and employ numerous modalities that health insurance companies would deem unnecessary. The liability carrier will have the bills examined by their professionals and will not pay unreasonable bills. I’ve had clients who have had bills of over $30,000 for chiropractic treatment and the clients never received one bill until after the treatment. Until the bill came, the client had no idea that every ice pack, heating pack and electrical stimulation was costing hundreds of dollars each. All of this treatment is provided without knowing how much insurance coverage the defendant has and whether the insurance company is going to accept responsibility for the accident. If the negligent party carries only the minimal coverage, the clinic may try to take the entire settlement. Some of these clinics actually have their patients sign agreements that essentially gives the clinic control over the case. There are some medical doctors who will work on what is known as a lien basis, but they can be hard to come by. This is one of the reasons why you need to consult with a lawyer soon after the accident to make sure you are not lead astray by unscrupulous practitioners who attempt to take advantage of you. A lawyer can require the insurance company to disclose its policy limits and also examine your auto policy to see whether you are entitled to have your bills paid by your own insurance company. A lawyer can also help you navigate a myriad of insurance issues that can arrise after an accident. If you have been injured, please call us discuss your legal rights.
Construction workers often work in dangerous conditions with many employees operating heavy equipment in a confined area. Serious injuries can and do happen all the time. When a construction worker is injured, often a worker’s compensation case may be filed. A question I am often asked is whether a third-party when the injury was caused by the negligence of another worker on the construction site. The answer is often yes. For example, if an employee of another subcontractor accidently runs over your foot, a claim may be brought against that negligent worker and the company that he works for. Or, if an employee is on an errand, going to pick up supplies for example, and is injured in a traffic accident. In such an accident, there may be a worker’s compensation claim in addition to claim against the other driver’s insurance company. Injuries that occur on the job site may also result in claims against the subcontractor who created a hazard or the contractor who was in control of the jobsite. Often, there is a general contractor who is responsible for overall safety on the job site. The controlling contractor may be responsible for holding safety meetings and advising workers of any hidden hazards on the worksite. Hazardous conditions may need to be eliminated and the contractor who creates a hazardous condition, for example, failing to lockout and tagout an electrical hazard, may be liable for injuries caused by failing to take appropriate action. Many workers’ compensation lawyers do not handle third-party cases and therefore, even if you have a workers’ compensation lawyer, you may still need to meet with a lawyer experienced in handling personal injury cases, and in particular, construction site injury cases. Often, such cases involve a thorough knowledge of OSHA safety regulations that apply to construction workers. Do not hesitate to call if you have been injured on a job site.
Teenagers and young children are frequently injured at amusement parks, particularly at temporary rides set up at festivals and fairs throughout Illinois in the summer months. There are many reasons for such accidents, including improperly trained personnel, inadequate supervision, faulty equipment, and improper maintenance. Go-Kart (aka go-carts) rides can be particularly dangerous as some involve high speeds with young inexperienced drivers and poorly trained teens “supervising” the rides. A question I am often asked is whether the fact that a sign was posted stating: “Ride at your own Risk,” or some similar language printed on a ticket, means that the parents cannot bring a claim to recovery for injuries to their children and for medical bills the parents have paid. The short answer is no, such signs and disclaimers do not absolve the ride operator from liability. It is important to contact a lawyer soon after the event before the ride is dismantled and moved on to another town. If you are able, get photos of the area where your child was injured. Take photos not only of the ride buy any signage around the ride. If your child has a ticket stub, put it somewhere safe. Try to find out if your child, or any of their friends, posted any photos or videos online of the accident. Be sure to try and find a manger and tell them where and when your child was injured. Get their name and contact info. If you are asked to make a report, make sure you take a photo of the completed report. If your child is injured at an amusement park, a fair, or even a playground, please call for a free consultation.
Sexual harassment continues to be as much a problem in the workplace in 2021 as it did 30 years ago. In 25 years of representing employees in all types of employment discrimination and harassment cases, I have not seen any significant improvement in the treatment of women in the workplace. Despite everything that has happened with the “Me too” movement, women are still afraid of retaliation for reporting sexual harassment. They have no confidence that human resources will do the right thing, particularly when the harasser is a member of senior management. Sexual harassment occurs in every type of work environment from blue collar workers to executive offices. I have even represented women who were sexually harassed in the one place you would think that all employees would feel safe—a police department.
Recently, Illinois passed laws provide employees, particularly victims of sexual harassment, with increased protection. Sexual harassment training is now mandatory for all Illinois employers, regardless of the size of the company. Many small employers, particularly those that do not employ a human resource professional, can be among the worst offenders because they lack accountability. Often, these small employers do not carry insurance for such claims and are surprised to learn not only will they by held liable for damages to the abused employee, but they can be required to pay the attorney fees for the employer in addition to their own attorneys’ fees. While some Title VII laws exempt employers with less than 15 employees, the Illinois Human Rights Act applies to all employers, regardless of the number of employees. Employees victimized by an employers with less than 15 employees can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR), which has offices in Chicago and Springfield. Currently, charges can be filed remotely with the help of an investigator. You do not need to have a lawyer to file a charge but it would be in your best interest to speak to a lawyer first. After the IDHR completes its investigation, you will have the option to have your case heard in front of an Administrative Judge with the Illinois Human Rights Commission or you can file a complaint in Circuit Court. You definitely will want an experienced lawyer on your side when you get to this stage.
Too often, I am not contacted until after the employee has quit their job because they simply could not take the harassment any longer. I am often shocked at how long some women have put up with harassment before they quit. With all employment law claims, there are statutes of limitation. Many people, however, are surprised to learn that the statute of limitations for many employment claims is only 300 days from the date that harassment or discrimination took place. If you wait too long to file a claim, your right to hold the employer liable can be forever lost. If you are being harassed in the workplace, don’t wait to speak to a lawyer. Call today. The harassment will not stop until you take the first step of reporting it. But don’t go it alone. Call today for a free consultation and know your rights.
Do you and your family have proper liability insurance coverage? Too often, I meet with seriously injured clients who didn’t understand the importance of having the right insurance company with the right amount of coverage. As we head into a new year, now is a good time to review your automobile policy. You want to have a solid national company with a high liability limit and underinsured/ uninsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM). Your auto policy not only protects you if you are sued, but also protects you and anyone riding in your car when the at fault driver has little or no insurance. Too often, clients tell me that their insurance agent never explained the importance of UM/UIM coverage. A trip to the ER can easily run $20,000. If you are admitted to the hospital, the costs can quickly reach over $100,000. If you are seriously injured in an accident, you may not be able to return to work for months, if ever. Without proper insurance, you could find yourself in serious debt. Or, if you cause an accident you could be held responsible for the other persons medical bills and injuries. You do not want to have less than $250,000 in coverage and if you have any assets, you will likely need higher limits and may want to consider an umbrella policy. If you must save money on insurance coverage, drop towing coverage and get a higher deductible. Shop all the well-known companies as policy costs can vary by hundreds of dollars. Just think, if you were riding with a car with your children and perhaps a couple of their friends, and there was an unfortunate accident that was caused by an uninsured driver, wouldn’t you want your children and their friends to have enough insurance to cover medical bills and pay for pain and suffering? If you were driving and accidently harmed someone, wouldn’t you want the person you hurt to be compensated. It does not pay to go cheap on liability coverage. Accidents happen more frequently than many people think.