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September 2013 Archives

Amusement Ride Injuries

As the summer winds down, the findings of a recent study on amusement park rides are interesting.A study published in Clinical Pediatrics concluded that of the nearly 93,000 children under 18 years of age who are injured on amusement park ridges and treated in U.S. emergency rooms between 1990-2010, 34 percent occurred at fixed sites.Dr. Gary Smith, senior author of the paper and director of the Center of Injury Research and Policy at nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, told USA Today that “injuries suggest the rides ‘may not have had restraints to [secure] the child and they may have been located over hard, unpadded surfaces.’” The Ohio State University of Medicine in Columbus, Ohio, issued a press release on the study that can be viewed here.Although 25 percent of the injuries couldn’t accurately be categorized, another 29 percent occurred at temporary locations and about 12 percent of the injuries occurred on rides in smaller locations such as malls, restaurants and arcades. The “mall rides” tended to involve young children who were more likely to suffer head/neck or facial injuries, concussions or cuts, according to the study.The full story can be viewed here.

Survivor's Benefits in a Workers' Compensation Case

Question: Who is entitled to a survivor's benefits in a workers' compensation case?Answer:  If the injury or disease results in the death of the employee, full benefits are paid to the spouse and/or children.  Benefits are paid to children until age 18, or until age 25 if the child is a full-time student.  If the child is physically or mentally incapacitated, benefits are paid for the duration of the incapacity.  If there is no eligible spouse or child, the benefits will be paid to a totally dependent parent or parents.  For more information about Illinois law, visit www.illinoislawyerfinder.com.  If you have a legal question, send it to illinoislawcolumn@isba.org.Illinois Law Now is a series of newspaper and internet posts prepared by the Illinois State Bar Association that address legal issues of interest to the public. For additional information about the law, visit http://www.illinoislawyerfinder.com/legal-faqs

Filing for Bankruptcy in Illinois -- the Illinois State Bar Offers Some Information

Question: If I decide to file for bankruptcy, which type of case should I file for?Answer: There are four types of bankruptcy cases provided under the law. Chapter 7, known as "straight" bankruptcy or "liquidation,” requires a debtor to give up property which exceeds certain limits called "exemptions,” so the property can be sold to pay creditors. Chapter 11, known as "reorganization,” is used by businesses and a few individual debtors whose debts are very large. Chapter 12 is reserved for family farmers. Chapter 13, called "debt adjustment,” requires a debtor to file a plan to pay debts (or parts of debts) from current income.Most people filing bankruptcy will want to file under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Either type of case may be filed individually or by a married couple filing jointly. Your lawyer can help you decide which case is right for your situation.  For more information about Illinois law, visit www.illinoislawyerfinder.com.  If you have a legal question, send it to illinoislawcolumn@isba.org.Illinois Law Now is a series of newspaper and internet posts prepared by the Illinois State Bar Association that address legal issues of interest to the public. For additional information about the law, visit http://www.illinoislawyerfinder.com/legal-faqs

Getting Back a Child Placed in Foster Care in Illinois

Question: My child has been removed from my home and put in foster care. What can I do to have him returned to my care?Answer: After losing a child to foster care, it can be a long, difficult process to have the child returned home. One of the most beneficial things you can do right now for yourself and your child is to be cooperative and honest with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), and the court.The law requires that DCFS make reasonable efforts to help you get your child back and that your and your child’s case be resolved within a certain period of time. To have your child returned, you must make changes to the conditions that caused him to be placed in foster care. Be cooperative with the case worker and the courts. Know that you have a right to a lawyer and that if you can’t afford one, the judge will appoint one.  For more information about Illinois law, visit www.illinoislawyerfinder.com.  If you have a legal question, send it to illinoislawcolumn@isba.org.Illinois Law Now is a series of newspaper and internet posts prepared by the Illinois State Bar Association that address legal issues of interest to the public. For additional information about the law, visit http://www.illinoislawyerfinder.com/legal-faqs

More Patient Information Exposed at Chicago-Area Hospitals

In the wake of the massive data breach of four million patients at Advocate Medical comes word of other patient files being compromised at Chicago-area medical facilities. A front-page story of the Chicago Tribune ("Patient files left exposed," Sept. 10, 2013) explain how records were found scattered at the now closed Edgewater hospital, which has been the site of many break-ins. Chicago Tribune reporters Ameet Sachdev and Nancy Loo reported that despite Edgewater Medical Center's closing 12 years ago, the door to the room housing medical records did not have a lock. "Medical files were scattered on tables elsewhere in the building. Boxes of files in water-filled rooms were covered with mold," the Tribune reported. Pictures of the condition of the records that were taken by the Illinois Department of Public Health were published in the Tribune. The entire story can be read here. It also was reported by the University of Chicago Physicians Group that a "potential incident" may have affected the protection of health information of up to 1,344 patient files. On Sept. 6, 2013, the University of Chicago Medicine reported that the potential breach occurred within the network of its collection agency, ICS, that the Physicians Group retained. After its contract with ICS reportedly was terminated, "ICS said it discovered an external person may have been able to view these files while on the ICS website," the release on its website stated. The Medical Group said letters were sent to patients who may have been affected. Clifford Law Offices filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of four million patients who had their privacy and medical information stolen from Advocate Medical when four computers were allegedly stolen from their Park Ridge administrative offices in July. To learn more about it, visit the law firm's website here.

Hundreds Call Clifford Law Offices Seeking Help on Advocate Data Breach

Clifford Law Offices has received hundreds of calls from patients who said they received letters from Advocate Medical regarding the compromise of their privacy and medical information in July. Advocate Medical reported that four computers were allegedly stolen from their Park Ridge offices. The computers contained important information regarding four million patients' dates of birth, Social Security numbers and medical diagnoses. Some people who called have experienced unauthorized credit cards being opened in their names, cell phone accounts, charges and other suspicious activity regarding their credit. Some have voiced concerns about the compromise of their Social Security checks, income tax returns and other personal issues. If you received a copy of the letter from Advocate Medical or you think you are affected, visit the law firm's website to fill out a form that will help to keep you informed on the legal action that Clifford Law Offices files in this matter. A copy of the class action complaint can be viewed here.

Child Support for Children Beyond the Age of 18 in Illinois?

Question: Are there ever circumstances when the court extends child support payments past the age of 18?Answer: Child support may continue through the age of 19 if the child still attends high school.  Sometimes, court-ordered support will continue if the child is attending college or suffers educational and learning disabilities.  For more information about Illinois law, visit www.illinoislawyerfinder.com.  If you have a legal question, send it to illinoislawcolumn@isba.org.Illinois Law Now is a series of newspaper and internet posts prepared by the Illinois State Bar Association that address legal issues of interest to the public. For additional information about the law, visit http://www.illinoislawyerfinder.com/legal-faqs

New State Law for Motorcyclists

Question: Can a motorcyclist be fined for doing “wheelies”?Answer: A new state law effective January 1, 2013, imposes a minimum fine of $1,000 for driving a motorcycle on one wheel while speeding. The new law also raises the height of a motorcycle’s handlebars to the height of the driver’s head. Previously, handlebars could not be higher than the operator’s shoulders.  For more information about Illinois law, visit www.illinoislawyerfinder.com.  If you have a legal question, send it to illinoislawcolumn@isba.org.Illinois Law Now is a series of newspaper and internet posts prepared by the Illinois State Bar Association that address legal issues of interest to the public. For additional information about the law, visit http://www.illinoislawyerfinder.com/legal-faqs

The Decision About Entering Hospice Care -- Who Decides?

Question: When should a decision about entering a hospice program be made, and may someone besides the patient make the decision?Answer: At any time during a terminal illness, it is appropriate for a patient and his or her family to discuss with the doctor all of a patient’s care options, including hospice care. By law, the decision belongs to the patient.  For more information about Illinois law, visit www.illinoislawyerfinder.com.  If you have a legal question, send it to illinoislawcolumn@isba.org.Illinois Law Now is a series of newspaper and internet posts prepared by the Illinois State Bar Association that address legal issues of interest to the public. For additional information about the law, visit http://www.illinoislawyerfinder.com/legal-faqs

Overreaching Caregivers -- what do you do?

Question: The caregiver whom we hired to take care of our mother ended up persuading her to change her estate plan that removed family members as beneficiaries. How could we have prevented her from unduly influencing our mother?Answer: It is important for adult children to communicate regularly with each other and their elderly parents, even if relations are strained or they live far apart. Children should be involved not only in the selection of a caregiver but also in the caregiver’s decisions. Financial decisions and financial accounts can be monitored electronically to help ensure there is no wrongdoing. For further information, contact a qualified elder law attorney.  For more information about Illinois law, visit www.illinoislawyerfinder.com.  If you have a legal question, send it to illinoislawcolumn@isba.org.Illinois Law Now is a series of newspaper and internet posts prepared by the Illinois State Bar Association that address legal issues of interest to the public. For additional information about the law, visit http://www.illinoislawyerfinder.com/legal-faqs

Panhandling conduct in Illinois -- is it illegal?

Question: Is panhandling considered illegal?Answer: While panhandling isn’t illegal, panhandlers’ actions in the process of asking for money could be. For example, panhandlers cannot threaten or block the sidewalk or a building entrance, or otherwise harass people. Also, if a panhandler asks for money for a specific purpose, such as a cup of coffee, and uses it to buy liquor or cigarettes, it could be considered theft because he or she took the money under false pretenses. Offenses may be classified as disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace or even battery, and legal penalties can range from a warning to jail time.  For more information about Illinois law, visit www.illinoislawyerfinder.com.  If you have a legal question, send it to illinoislawcolumn@isba.org.Illinois Law Now is a series of newspaper and internet posts prepared by the Illinois State Bar Association that address legal issues of interest to the public. For additional information about the law, visit http://www.illinoislawyerfinder.com/legal-faqs

Kim Halvorsen Chairs Lend-A-Hand to Help Disadvantaged Youth

Kimberly M. Halvorsen (left), lawyer at Clifford Law Offices and co-chair of the My Hero Lend-a-Hand Awards, is pictured with former WGN personality Merri Dee, mistress of ceremonies, at the recent awards luncheon.  The Judge Marovitz Lawyers Lend-A-Hand to Youth Program supports the legal community's resources to promote best practice mentoring and tutoring programs in disadvantaged communities.  Since its founding in 1995, more than $1.4 million in grants has been awarded by the organization.  Among this year's recipients was the Hon. Charles E. Freeman of the Illinois Supreme Court.

Prince William of England may not be dad who struggles with putting in the baby's car seat correctly; Some Interesting Statistics

7 in 10 Wrong:  While 96 percent of parents and caregivers believe their child safety seats are installed correctly, research shows that seven out of 10 children are improperly restrained. Source: Child Passenger Safety Overview, Seatcheck.org    71 & 54 Percent:  Correctly installed child safety seats reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers riding in passenger cars. Source: Traffic Safety Facts 2011 Data, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (download)    #1 Killer:  Car crashes are the number one killer of children ages 1 through 13 in the United States. Source: Car Seats, Parents Central, Safercar.gov 

Five Common Mistakes to Avoid with Child Safety Seats

Car seats are designed to save young lives. Unfortunately, most parents think they are installing the seats correctly, when inspections show seven in 10 are installed wrong! The consequences can be deadly given that motor vehicle accidents are the number one killer of kids in this country. And in fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than half of those deaths and serious injuries could be prevented by placing children in age- and size-appropriate car and booster seats. "Child safety seats save hundreds of young lives every year, but proper use is vital," said David Strickland, administrator at the National Highway Safety and Traffic Administration (NHSTA). "That's why we're urging everyone to make sure their kids are properly protected on every trip, every time." Avoid These Common Mistakes Mistake #1:  Seat too loose Test it: Grab the car seat at its base, near where the safety belt passes through. If you can move it more than one inch to the left, right or forward, it's too loose. The danger: In a collision, a child in a loose seat could crash into the front seat and suffer serious head and face injuries. Fast fix: Read the manual first (only 20 percent of parents do, according to a recent survey by the NHSTA). Add your weight and tighten the seat belt as much as possible. For forward-facing seats, also use the top tether to help lock the seat in place. Mistake #2:  Harness too loose Test it: Once the child is in the car seat, pinch the harness at the shoulder with the chest clip properly in place. If you're unable to pinch any excess webbing, it's tight enough. The danger: A child can easily slip out of a loose harness or even be ejected from the vehicle, suffering severe injuries. Fast fix: Always use the chest clip, and position it level with the armpit. Make sure the harness passes through the proper slots and is tightly buckled. There should be no slack. Mistake #3:  Infant turned face forward too soon Test it: According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, all children should remain rear facing at least until they turn 2 years old or have reached the maximum height or weight capacity of the infant car seat. Inspections show that 30 percent of infants are turned around too soon. The danger: An infant's bones and spinal cord are still forming. When a child is rear facing, the strongest part of her body - the back - can better absorb the immense forces of a crash. When facing forward, an infant's relatively heavy head can catapult, putting pressure on the undeveloped spine and risking paralysis or death. Fast fix: Read the seat label and follow age and height/weight limits. Mistake #4:  Rear-facing infant seat not at a 45-degree angle Test it: Many infant car seats have a built-in level that tells you when your seat is at the wrong angle. More often than not, seats are installed in a position that's too upright. The danger: An infant's airway is as narrow as the diameter of a soda straw. If a rear-facing seat leans too far forward, the baby's head can fall forward, cutting off her airway. Fast fix: If your safety seat is not equipped with an adjustable pedestal to ensure the correct angle, tightly rolled up towels or a section of a swimming-pool noodle can be placed under the area where a baby's feet rest. Mistake #5:  Not knowing the age stages Test it: Any child between 40 and 80 pounds and up to 4'9" tall (generally kids from 4 to 8 years old) needs a booster seat. And children under 13 should never sit in the front seat. The danger: An adult seat belt doesn't properly restrain a child because it crosses the body at the wrong position: too high on the belly and across the shoulder. Plus, children often move the shoulder belt behind them because it's uncomfortable. During a crash, a child who is too small for a seat belt can sustain internal, head or spinal injuries. Fast fix: Move older children to a booster seat when they reach the height or weight limit allowed by the car seat manufacturer. Here's a handy guide for choosing the right seat. For more details, download this safety checklist and keep it in your vehicle. If you have ANY doubt whatsoever about the proper selection or installation of your child or booster seat, find a child passenger safety technician or checkup station near you. A child's life is at stake!

Deceptive Lending Practices -- Students Beware; The Illinois State Bar Tells You Why

Question:  Our son may attend a for-profit college. How can we be sure that he avoids becoming a victim of deceptive lending practices?Answer:  One of the top consumer complaints in Illinois during 2012 was against schools, including for-profit colleges. The Illinois Attorney General’s office recorded more than 1,300 complaints about schools operating inIllinois, with nearly 95 percent of those complaints directed at unfair and misleading practices by for-profit colleges. Prospective students should thoroughly research any school they may attend, and seek out data on graduation rates, costs and job placement records from a third-party source rather than the school.  For more information about Illinois law, visit www.illinoislawyerfinder.com.  If you have a legal question, send it to illinoislawcolumn@isba.org.Illinois Law Now is a series of newspaper and internet posts prepared by the Illinois State Bar Association that address legal issues of interest to the public. For additional information about the law, visit http://www.illinoislawyerfinder.com/legal-faqs

Workers' Compensation Benefits -- How Long Do You Need to be Out of Work?

Question:  How long must I be out of work to begin collecting workers’ compensation?Answer:  In Illinois, you must be out of work for at least three days as a result of an injury in order to begin collecting your benefits. However, if you are out of work for two weeks, your benefits become retroactive, and you are paid for the entire time you were off, including the original three days. Additional rules apply depending on whether you are temporarily or permanently disabled. For more information, consult with a lawyer who is experienced in workers’ compensation matters.  For more information about Illinois law, visit www.illinoislawyerfinder.com.  If you have a legal question, send it to illinoislawcolumn@isba.org.Illinois Law Now is a series of newspaper and internet posts prepared by the Illinois State Bar Association that address legal issues of interest to the public. For additional information about the law, visit http://www.illinoislawyerfinder.com/legal-faqs

Property Tax Bills -- What the ISBA Wants You to Know

Question:  What should I know about paying real estate taxes on my new home?Answer:  There is no state law governing property taxes. Instead, property taxes are imposed by local government taxing districts. Homeowners must pay their real estate taxes on time to avoid tax penalties and ensure their property rights are protected. Some owners pay their taxes directly, while others have established an escrow for taxes with their lender. If you choose the latter method, it is a good idea to call the county twice a year to verify that your lender is paying your tax bill. Late tax payments usually accrue interest. Furthermore, if tax bills are not paid in a timely fashion, they can be “sold” by the county, meaning you would probably need to spend time and money to “redeem” the sold tax bills and avoid liens on your property.  For more information about Illinois law, visit www.illinoislawyerfinder.com.  If you have a legal question, send it to illinoislawcolumn@isba.org.Illinois Law Now is a series of newspaper and internet posts prepared by the Illinois State Bar Association that address legal issues of interest to the public. For additional information about the law, visit http://www.illinoislawyerfinder.com/legal-faqs

First Meeting with Lawyer to Create an Estate Plan: Some Things You Will Need

Question:  I’m getting ready to meet with a lawyer to create an estate plan for passing on my assets to family members. How should I prepare for the first meeting?Answer:  Typically, the initial meeting with a lawyer is educational. In this instance, you’ll want to come away with a clear idea of the next steps for creating an estate plan. However, ask your lawyer in advance about what to expect during the meeting and whether he or she charges for the first consultation.  For more information about Illinois law, visit www.illinoislawyerfinder.com.  If you have a legal question, send it to illinoislawcolumn@isba.org.Illinois Law Now is a series of newspaper and internet posts prepared by the Illinois State Bar Association that address legal issues of interest to the public. For additional information about the law, visit http://www.illinoislawyerfinder.com/legal-faqs

Business Owners: Secure a Proper Business License, the ISBA Warns

Question:  Can a business owner be arrested for failing to have the proper business licenses?Answer:  Under state law, a business owner who operates his or her business without the proper license can be charged with committing a felony and even arrested. Most violators, however, are ticketed and required to pay a fine.  For more information about Illinois law, visit www.illinoislawyerfinder.com.  If you have a legal question, send it to illinoislawcolumn@isba.org.Illinois Law Now is a series of newspaper and internet posts prepared by the Illinois State Bar Association that address legal issues of interest to the public. For additional information about the law, visit http://www.illinoislawyerfinder.com/legal-faqs

No More Cell Phone Use in Illinois After Jan. 1 Unless Hands-Free

Question:  Can I be fined for talking on my cell phone while driving?Answer:  A new state law goes into effect January 1, 2014 that makes use of hands-free technology mandatory while driving. Currently, numerous municipalities prohibit the use of cell phones unless drivers use a hands-free device, headset or speaker-phone. With the new law, violators will be fined $75 for the first offense and as much as $150 for a fourth offense. Second and subsequent convictions are considered moving violations for their driving record. Three of those violations within a year could mean the loss of a driver’s license. Drivers will still be able to make calls without hands-free devices in case of an emergency or when stopped in traffic jams, if the car is in park or neutral.  For more information about Illinois law, visit www.illinoislawyerfinder.com.  If you have a legal question, send it to illinoislawcolumn@isba.org.Illinois Law Now is a series of newspaper and internet posts prepared by the Illinois State Bar Association that address legal issues of interest to the public. For additional information about the law, visit http://www.illinoislawyerfinder.com/legal-faqs

High School Liable for Student Football Players' Serious Injuries Under New Law

Question:  My son wants to play football in high school this year. If he is injured, would the school district be liable for his medical expenses?Answer:  All high school districts in Illinois will soon have to purchase catastrophic injury insurance up to $3 million for each of its student athletes. A new law requires coverage for young people seriously hurt in school-sponsored sports to receive at least five years or $3 million in benefits, whichever comes first. Families are eligible after paying the first $50,000 in medical expenses. The law takes effect January 1, 2014.  For more information about Illinois law, visit www.illinoislawyerfinder.com.  If you have a legal question, send it to illinoislawcolumn@isba.org.Illinois Law Now is a series of newspaper and internet posts prepared by the Illinois State Bar Association that address legal issues of interest to the public. For additional information about the law, visit http://www.illinoislawyerfinder.com/legal-faqs

DUI for Bicyclist? The ISBA Weighs In

Question:  Can an intoxicated bicyclist be arrested?Answer:  Technically, no. Cycling under the influence is not against the law. However, a cyclist who has had too much to drink can be charged with disorderly conduct or reckless endangerment, similar to penalties for intoxicated pedestrians.  For more information about Illinois law, visit www.illinoislawyerfinder.com.  If you have a legal question, send it to illinoislawcolumn@isba.org.Illinois Law Now is a series of newspaper and internet posts prepared by the Illinois State Bar Association that address legal issues of interest to the public. For additional information about the law, visit http://www.illinoislawyerfinder.com/legal-faqs

New Law in State on Teen Dating Violence on School Property

Question:  Must my teen's school have a policy in place to report incidents of rape or violence that occur on school property?Answer:  Under a new Illinois law, effective immediately, school boards must adopt policies that establish how school employees respond to reported instances of teen dating violence on school grounds. The law also calls for incorporating education about teen dating violence into new or existing education programs for students in grades seven through 12 and also for school employees.  For more information about Illinois law, visit www.illinoislawyerfinder.com.  If you have a legal question, send it to illinoislawcolumn@isba.org.Illinois Law Now is a series of newspaper and internet posts prepared by the Illinois State Bar Association that address legal issues of interest to the public. For additional information about the law, visit http://www.illinoislawyerfinder.com/legal-faqs

New Illinois Law Cracking Down on Domestic Violence Offenders

Question:  What is the State of Illinois doing to crack down on domestic violence offenders?Answer:  A new state law, which goes into effect on January 1, 2014, will increase penalties for repeat offenders of domestic battery. An offender with two prior convictions may be charged with a Class 4 felony and sentenced to one to three years’ imprisonment. An offender with three prior convictions may be charged with a Class 3 felony and may be sentenced to two to five years’ imprisonment, and offenders with four or more prior convictions may be charged with a Class 2 felony and may be sentenced to three to seven years in prison.  For more information about Illinois law, visit www.illinoislawyerfinder.com.  If you have a legal question, send it to illinoislawcolumn@isba.org.Illinois Law Now is a series of newspaper and internet posts prepared by the Illinois State Bar Association that address legal issues of interest to the public. For additional information about the law, visit http://www.illinoislawyerfinder.com/legal-faqs

Clifford Symposium at DePaul Law School to Feature Special Address by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer

The 20th Annual Clifford Symposium will feature a special address by Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer of the Supreme Court of the United States at DePaul University College of Law. The two-day program, April 24-25, is entitled "Judge Jack Weinstein's Impact on Civil Justice in America."  Judge Weinstein is a federal judge in the Eastern District of New York.  He was appointed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967 and has authored numerous significant opinions on a broad range of topics in civil justice, from torts and civil procedure to the law of evidence.This program will examine his 45 years on the bench that has led him to be considered one of the most renowned judges in the history of the federal judiciary. Robert A. Clifford and Clifford Law Offices, a nationally recognized personal injury firm, established the symposium through a generous endowment two decades ago in the belief of providing a vehicle for exploring the civil justice system in an intellectually rigorous fashion.  To read about the 2014 faculty, please click here.

Teenager Using a False ID? There are Legal Penalties

Question:  My teenage son was caught using a false I.D. card to purchase alcohol.  What legal penalties does he face?Answer:  The Secretary of State suspends driver’s licenses of persons underage who possess alcohol.  The use of a false I.D. card to purchase alcohol is unlawful and can lead to a substantial fine and jail time, and can be prosecuted as a felony.  In addition to punishments for underage youths, parents and hotel/motel employees, who knowingly allow underage consumption of alcohol on their premises, are subject to fines of up to $2,500 and imprisonment for one year.  For more information about Illinois law, visit www.illinoislawyerfinder.com.  If you have a legal question, send it to illinoislawcolumn@isba.org.Illinois Law Now is a series of newspaper and internet posts prepared by the Illinois State Bar Association that address legal issues of interest to the public. For additional information about the law, visit http://www.illinoislawyerfinder.com/legal-faqs

Grounds for Annulment in Illinois -- the Illinois State Bar Tells You

Question:  What are the grounds for annulment in Illinois?Answer:  Grounds for annulment vary in different legal jurisdictions but are typically limited to fraud, bigamy and mental incompetence.  In Illinois, they may include the following circumstances:  A party lacked capacity to consent to the marriage at the time that the marriage was solemnized, either because of mental incapacity or infirmity or because of the influence of alcohol, drugs or other substances, or the party was forced into the marriage fraudulently;  a party lacked the physical capacity to consummate the marriage (within one year); a party was under age 18 and did not have the consent of his or her parents or guardian or judicial approval (the marriage can be declared invalid prior to the time that the person reaches age 18 when the party could have married legally).  For more information about Illinois law, visit www.illinoislawyerfinder.com.  If you have a legal question, send it to illinoislawcolumn@isba.org.Illinois Law Now is a series of newspaper and internet posts prepared by the Illinois State Bar Association that address legal issues of interest to the public. For additional information about the law, visit http://www.illinoislawyerfinder.com/legal-faqs

Home Damaged by Flood? What Happens to Mortgage Payments when House is Unlivable?

Question:  My house was damaged in a flood and I’m unable to live in it.  Do I have to make my mortgage payments?Answer:  Yes.  Most home loan documents require the homeowner to make mortgage payments even after a disaster – even if your house is destroyed and you cannot live in it. However, your lender may allow you to delay mortgage payments for several months after a disaster (although interest may continue to accrue).Some lenders will make loan modifications to allow the missed payments to be added to the loan, thereby lengthening the term of the mortgage.  You need to tell your lender about the disaster and your temporary inability to pay.  If your mortgage is FHA-financed or FHA-insured and you begin to fall behind in your payments because of circumstances beyond your control, you have special rights.  For more information about Illinois law, visit www.illinoislawyerfinder.com.  If you have a legal question, send it to illinoislawcolumn@isba.org.Illinois Law Now is a series of newspaper and internet posts prepared by the Illinois State Bar Association that address legal issues of interest to the public. For additional information about the law, visit http://www.illinoislawyerfinder.com/legal-faqs

Advocate Medical Class Action Lawsuit -- Have You Been Affected? Fill Out Form Here

Class Action Inquiry Form Clifford Law Offices filed a class action lawsuit against Advocate Medical Group for its negligence in the mishandling of important patient information and privacy issues on behalf of more than four million people.  The case was filed as a class action lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago. If you have been affected by this mishandling of your information and want to join the legal action, please click here to fill out a form and fax back, or scan and email it to Clifford Law Offices at AdvocateLawsuit@CliffordLaw.com. Please note the instructions on the PDF form that can be printed and filled out.

Are you on the Do Not Call Registry and You Still Get Solicitors’ Calls? Here’s What to do

Question:  I signed up with the National Do Not Call Registry, but I still receive telemarketing sales calls.  What recourse do I have?Answer:  In 2008, the federal government enacted The Do-Not-Call Improvement Act, which makes it against the law for a company to make a telemarketing call to a phone number which has been registered online at www.donotcall.gov. Solicitation phone calls should cease within 31 days of registration.  Furthermore, the registration never expires.If you’re still getting telemarketing sales calls, the Federal Trade Commission recommends that you check to see that your number is on the registry.  You can verify that your number is on the registry two ways: online at DONOTCALL.GOV (click on “Verify a Registration”), or by calling 1-888-382-1222 from the phone number you wish to verify.  However, you still may get calls from — or on behalf of — political organizations, charities and telephone surveyors, and calls from companies with whom you have an existing business relationship.If your number has been on the registry for at least 31 days, and a telemarketer calls, complain to the Federal Trade Commission via an email or by calling the number above. You’ll need to share the date of the call, and the phone number or name of the company that called you.  For more information about Illinois law, visit www.illinoislawyerfinder.com.  If you have a legal question, send it to illinoislawcolumn@isba.org.Illinois Law Now is a series of newspaper and internet posts prepared by the Illinois State Bar Association that address legal issues of interest to the public. For additional information about the law, visit http://www.illinoislawyerfinder.com/legal-faqs

Advocate Medical Class Action Lawsuit Filed

Clifford Law Offices filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of a mother and her daughter whose privacy and medical information, along with millions of others, was compromised as a result of Advocate Medical Group failing to take proper precautions to protect private data of its patients. Advocate Medical Group, based in Downers Grove, said that its administrative offices in Park Ridge were burglarized in July and four computers were taken containing patients' names, addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers and other important data including medical diagnoses and insurance information were taken.   The lawsuit alleges that Advocate was negligent in failing to use encryption and other basic security measures on behalf of its patients. Patients were informed in September of this alleged event that reportedly is under investigation by police. If you have been affected by this mishandling of your information and want to join the class action lawsuit, please click here to fill out a form and fax back or scan and email it to Clifford Law Offices at AdvocateForms@CliffordLaw.com. Please note the instructions on the PDF form can be printed and filled out. Click here to see the press release that was sent out by Clifford Law Offices when it filed the lawsuit.

When Do I Need a Lawyer After I Sell My House? The ISBA Offers Some Sound Advice

Question:  I put my house on the market and am about to accept a buyer’s offer.  Do I need to hire a lawyer at this stage of the sale?Answer:  Once you accept the offer, you and the buyer have a “binding contract,” which sets forth the rights of both the seller and buyer.  The contract should include all the terms of your sale, such as sales price, earnest money deposit, financing terms, closing date, possession date, personal property to be included in the sale, tax pro-rations, and rights of inspection and possession.  Since the contract is the most important document involved in the sale of a home, it is essential that you understand the terms of the offer.  Do not sign any offer with conditions you do not understand.  A real estate lawyer can assist you in reviewing your offer and making any counter-offers.  If you MUST accept an offer from a buyer prior to consulting with your lawyer, make sure your contract allows for a lawyer to review it and modify its provisions, if necessary.  For more information about Illinois law, visit www.illinoislawyerfinder.com.  If you have a legal question, send it to illinoislawcolumn@isba.org.Illinois Law Now is a series of newspaper and internet posts prepared by the Illinois State Bar Association that address legal issues of interest to the public. For additional information about the law, visit http://www.illinoislawyerfinder.com/legal-faqs

Recovery for Harm to Your Pet

Question:  What kind of recoveries are available to someone whose pet has been seriously harmed?Answer:  If someone seriously harms a pet animal, the law has traditionally been interpreted to limit recovery to its market price.  This means if $200 was paid at a store for the animal, that is the maximum amount the court would award.  Recent changes to state law, however, acknowledge that the animal may be worth more than the purchase price.  It is best to consult with a lawyer who concentrates in animal law.  For more information about Illinois law, visit www.illinoislawyerfinder.com.  If you have a legal question, send it to illinoislawcolumn@isba.org.Illinois Law Now is a series of newspaper and internet posts prepared by the Illinois State Bar Association that address legal issues of interest to the public. For additional information about the law, visit http://www.illinoislawyerfinder.com/legal-faqs

Child Neglect in Illinois -- a Brief Overview

Question:  How does Illinois law determine whether a parent is guilty of child neglect?Answer:  Child neglect is a punishable offense in the state of Illinois.  Under the state's Parental Responsibility Law, parents are required to provide proper care for children under age 18 by giving them food, clothing, shelter, supervision, and medical care.  If they do not, they can be found by the court to be guilty of neglect or abuse.The state has established a number of situations that are considered “neglect.”  Examples include, but are not limited to:~ Newborn infants whose blood or urine is found to contain any amount of a controlled substance;~ Observed or reported physical or sexual abuse, torture or excessive corporal punishment of a child.  (It is important to note that, while parents are free to discipline their children, the courts draw the line at actual abuse.);~ Permitting a child to do something blatantly dangerous or illegal, like drive a car without a license.  For more information about Illinois law, visit www.illinoislawyerfinder.com.  If you have a legal question, send it to illinoislawcolumn@isba.org.Illinois Law Now is a series of newspaper and internet posts prepared by the Illinois State Bar Association that address legal issues of interest to the public. For additional information about the law, visit http://www.illinoislawyerfinder.com/legal-faqs

Are Do-It-Yourself Wills a Good Idea?

Question:  How can I be sure that my do-it-yourself will is legal?Answer:  A will must be put in writing, include your signature and be witnessed by two people who are not beneficiaries.  While it may seem obvious, you’ll want to store it in a safe place, but make sure someone close to you knows its whereabouts.  Creating a will may seem to be the best choice, but other legal documents such as trusts or powers of attorney may be more appropriate for your situation.  If you want peace of mind, the cost to have a lawyer review your will could be money well-spent.  An experienced attorney can address potential problems that a “do-it-yourselfer” might miss.  For more information about Illinois law, visit www.illinoislawyerfinder.com.  If you have a legal question, send it to illinoislawcolumn@isba.org.Illinois Law Now is a series of newspaper and internet posts prepared by the Illinois State Bar Association that address legal issues of interest to the public. For additional information about the law, visit http://www.illinoislawyerfinder.com/legal-faqs

Credit Card Responsibility for Deceased Spouse

Question:  My wife has a credit card in her name only.  If she passes away, am I responsible for the debt?Answer:  No – as long as you did not sign any documents agreeing to be legally responsible for your wife’s credit card debt.  However, if the court appoints you as the executor of your wife's estate, and the credit card company properly makes a claim in the probate case, then you may be required to pay all or part of their claim.  That payment would come not from your own funds but instead from any money left in your wife's estate, after higher-priority claims (such as funeral expenses) have been paid. For more information about Illinois law, visit www.illinoislawyerfinder.com.  If you have a legal question, send it to illinoislawcolumn@isba.org.Illinois Law Now is a series of newspaper and internet posts prepared by the Illinois State Bar Association that address legal issues of interest to the public. For additional information about the law, visit http://www.illinoislawyerfinder.com/legal-faqs

How Bob Clifford changed a state law

By Andrew Maloney Law Bulletin staff writer Robert A. Clifford didn't set out to alter the Illinois legal landscape over dinner in Buffalo, N.Y., last year. That's just what happened. After a long day in court just before Thanksgiving, Clifford was dining at the upscale Buffalo Club with colleagues from his trial team, sharing notes and ideas in the crash case of Colgan Air Flight 3407, the Feb. 12, 2009, accident that killed 50 people just outside Buffalo. Clifford, the prominent trial attorney and a past president of The Chicago Bar Association, represents eight plaintiffs in the case.He said he doesn't remember what he ate that night. Nor does he remember exactly how many people were there -- about a half-dozen or so. What he does recall is that it was too late to fly back to Chicago. And at some point, the conversation at his table centered around paying settlements. "The business manager in me was lamenting the fact that it takes so darn long at times for these insurance companies to pay the settlements that they've agreed to pay to our clients," he said. "And we have to fight with 'em and tussle with 'em and prod 'em and make motions against 'em. And one of them says, 'Why do you have to do that? Don't you have a prompt-pay law?'" On that day, the answer to that question was "no." In four months, it will be "yes." Gov. Patrick J. Quinn on Monday signed Senate Bill 1912, a replica of the New York statute which sets a timetable for paying settlements. The new law's origins function as a case study in how ideas can become law in Springfield. Current Illinois law gives state courts discretion to enforce settlement payments in a timely manner. But the new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, will require a defendant to tender a release to the plaintiff within 14 days of written confirmation of the settlement. The defendant has 30 days to pay the settlement once the plaintiff has returned the release. As soon as Clifford saw a copy of the New York statute, the legislative grunt work began. "I remarked to myself, 'We need one of those,'" said Clifford, a partner at Clifford Law Offices. "So I got back to Chicago and I called (Illinois Trial Lawyers Association Executive Director) Jim Collins. I told him the story and said, 'Let's go to work.'" From there, Clifford and the trial lawyers group took the idea to the Legislative Reference Bureau, and in the course of enlisting sponsors, Clifford said, also took it to Senate President John J. Cullerton and House Speaker Michael J. Madigan. In the bill's earliest stages, the trial lawyers took a straw poll of sorts among members to determine if the problem was widespread enough to push for legislation. The group got feedback from opponents as well, including those who represent municipal governments. "We took into account all the points that they made," said Gregory L. Shevlin, a partner at Cook, Ysursa, Bartholomew, Brauer & Shevlin Ltd., who was ITLA president at the time. "We added in local government because there was concern that the original verbiage didn't make that clear enough, that local government entities are not subject to the bill. "There was a lot of back-and-forth." By the time the plan reached the House near the end of the General Assembly's spring session, the perception among many lawmakers, especially House Republicans, was just the opposite -- they saw the bill as hasty, poorly-vetted and a display of power by Democrats in concert with ITLA. "Oh yeah. I hated it," said Rep. Ronald L. Sandack, a Republican from Downers Grove and one of the House members who led the charge against the measure. Among a host of his objections is that the timetable is unrealistic, and opponents didn't have enough time to negotiate it. "I have no animus against the trial lawyers ... but it was just jammed down our throats," he said. Shevlin said the lawmaking process involved increasing the number of days to pay the settlement -- one of several compromises ITLA made while the bill was moving through the legislative process. "One section said 21 days. Now it's 30. There were compromises like that," he said. And Clifford said he disputes the perception that the bill is a power-grab. "What's so novel about you wanting to be paid?" he said. "When I became a plaintiff's lawyer, I learned there are the 3 Ds of defense -- defend, delay, and don't pay. ... And that's the truth. Every lawyer involved in tort litigation knows 'defend, delay and don't pay.' ... And (this) is an effort to prevent that from continuing."   Copyright 2013 Law Bulletin Publishing Co. Reprinted with permission.

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