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January 2014 Archives

2014 Webinar: The Ethics of Client Communications

The 7th annual Continuing Legal Education Series sponsored by Clifford Law Offices will be held on February 20th, 2014. The Chicago law firm will be hosting a complimentary webinar on "The Ethics of Client Communications" that focuses on the best communication practices to benefit people in the legal world. The event will also focus on the challenges of ethical communications, such as limitations on what can be said online, how to ethically handle online reviews, dealing with social media friend requests from clients, and more. To help attendees better understand the ethics of client communications, the panel will present a variety of actual and hypothetical cases. The webinar will have Clifford Law's Senior Partner, Robert A. Clifford as the moderator as well as a number of respected panelists, including:

"Dream Team" of Robert Clifford and Dan Webb Recognized in Chicago Legal Publication

On Jan. 29, 2014, the National Hellenic Museum held "The Trial of Orestes" with an all-star legal cast, including Robert Clifford, senior partner at Clifford Law Offices. He and his co-counsel, Dan Webb of Winston & Strawn LLP, successfully defended Orestes on the charge of matricide to a crowd of over a 1,000 spectators.  A 16-member special jury panel ended the evening as a hung jury, with an 8-8 tie.  Hon. Richard A. Posner acted as the presiding judge of the mock trial and was joined on the panel by the Hon. Charles P. Kocoras and the Hon. William J. Bauer.  To read more about this entertaining and insightful philanthropic event, click here: http://www.chicagolawbulletin.com/Articles/2014/01/30/In-The-News-1-30-14.aspx

Does Illinois Need to Reexamine Screening Process for Commercial Drivers’ Licenses (CDL)?

On January 27th, an Illinois Toll-way worker was killed and a state trooper was grievously injured in a collision involving a multi-axle vehicle. This tragic event reportedly has been linked to the fact that the operator of the truck had been on-the-job for 37 straight hours, far more than is allowed for operation of commercial vehicles according to federal limits. Of further concern, the operator of the big rig truck reportedly had multiple arrests, including felony drug convictions, on his record, yet he was still allowed to obtain a CDL in Illinois. Could this tragedy have been prevented?  Should there be more stringent methods of enforcing federal limits on consecutive hours of operation? Hopefully, as more facts are revealed, it will bring attention and concern to these often overlooked aspects of the commercial driving industry.  Instead, they require constant attention and oversight.For the rest of the Sun-Times article, click here: http://www.suntimes.com/25234693-761/trucker-charged-in-crash-that-killed-tollway-worker-injured-state-trooper.html

An Attorney's Biggest Case

In December 2006, Michael S. Krzak, a Chicago accident and aviation law attorney at Clifford Law Offices, had an alarming realization while he was feeding his 5 1/2 week year old daughter. He noticed a discolored hue in her eye. The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin retold Krzak's amazing story. The Bulletin said when Michael saw his daughter Emma's eye, there was more than an observation: "He knew that look...from a case he'd tried a few years prior. A girl died of retinoblastoma after doctors mishandled her surgery; Michael represented the girl's parents." Emma was diagnosed with retinoblastoma and underwent chemotherapy for six months to help treat the cancerous tumor. According to the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, after Emma's tumor started growing again, she was treated with laser surgery, which caused the tumor to shrink, but then grow again. "There were two options. The first was to remove the eye." The second option was enlisting help from a doctor they had heard of in New York named Dr. David Abramson, "an expert on retinoblastoma who was experimenting with a new form of treatment called intra-arterial chemotherapy."  Desperate for a miracle, Michael emailed Dr. Abramson.  That same evening the family flew to New York City where for the next 6 weeks, Emma had major surgical procedures, receiving intra-arterial chemotherapy. It worked. Today, Emma is cancer free. With all that the family has been through, they have learned that dreams do become a reality. They have also learned that funding for rare cancer research is highly limited, and sadly, not every story ends in a happy ending. This attorney's biggest case is to help fund this rare research to help more families. The Krzak's have made it their goal to do all that they can to find funding for rare cancer research.  They are dedicated to help raising money for cancer research through the help of an annual cycling event held by Cycle for Survival, an organization that dedicates raising money for rare cancer research. This year's Chicago Cycle for Survival event will be held Feb. 8 and 9 at Equinox Fitness, 200 W. Monroe St.. For more information about Cycle for Survival or to learn how to support Emma's cause, please visit: http://bit.ly/1f6wcaZ

Seeking Justice through an Order of Protection -- The ISBA Discusses

Question:  Is there a cost involved to obtain an Order of Protection?Answer:  In filing an Order of Protection, you are asking a judge to protect you and your family members from your abuser. No court fee is necessary. Furthermore, the local Sheriff’s office will not charge a fee to deliver a copy of your court papers to the respondent.  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

Bob Clifford on Dream Team that Secures Acquittal for Orestes in Mock Trial

Robert A. Clifford, senior partner at Clifford Law Offices, teamed up with Dan Web, of Winston & Strawn, in defending Orestes, the son of Agamemnon charged with killing his mother and later admitting it with no remorse, according to myth. In a packed crowd at the UIC Forum in Chicago, audience members got to vote by putting in white chips for innocence and a blue chip for guilty. The chips were collected and later put on a scale of justice, which overwhelmingly weighed in favor of acquittal. Counsel for the prosecution was Patrick J. Fitzgerald of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, and former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Patrick M. Collins of Perkins Coie and a former U.S. Assistant Attorney in Chicago. These are the same sides that were drawn in last year's popular Retrial of Socrates hosted by the National Hellenic Museum in Chicago. Judges Richard A. Posner and William J. Bauer of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and U.S. District Court Judge Charles P. Kocoras served on the judicial panel of this Greek tragedy based on the play by Aeschylus. Judge Posner served as the Presiding Judge.

Continued Reports of Data Breaches Cause Mounting Concerns of Identity Theft

If you shop at any of the retailers implicated in recent data breaches, such as Target, Neiman Marcus and now, possibly, Michael’s, you may wonder what you can do to protect your identity. One of the first steps that experts advise is to cancel your old debit or credit cards and obtain new ones. Also, a prudent step would be to change your PIN numbers and passwords for your accounts as soon as you are made aware of any possible threat or incursion to your identity. Daily monitoring of these same accounts and monthly examination of your statements is also a key part of identifying fraudulent activity. If you find any such activity, reach out to your card companies immediately, in person or over the phone, and in writing. Some retailers that have allowed unauthorized access to credit and debit cardholders’ personal information may offer “free” credit monitoring. Consumers should read carefully all terms and conditions associated with any credit monitoring offer, and make certain that when the “free” use period expires, they are not charged fees for continued monitoring. Also, be mindful that even consumers who have used the free credit monitoring, have still experienced subsequent identity theft incidents.

Target, Nieman Marcus and now Michaels

Now comes word that Michaels, the country’s largest arts and crafts store, apparently has experienced a credit card breach of its customers across its more than 1,200 stores.Michaels issued a statement that it “recently learned of possible fraudulent activity on some U.S. payment cards that had been used at Michaels, suggesting that the Company may have experienced a data security attack.”When will this ever come to an end?  Retailers are aware that hackers are out there, yet the retailers are more than happy to accept your credit card information and use it for their own marketing purposes.  Perhaps they should be more proactive in looking into the Smart Chip.That’s a credit card technology where cards are embedded with chips requiring the cardholder to put in a pin or sign for each transaction to be approved.  It also is more difficult for hackers to steal the information contained in a “Smart Chip” card, because the pin number is necessary.  Reportedly a more secure method, “Smart Chips” are already in use in Europe and other places around the world.  Why not the U.S.?  Too much money, too much trouble for the retailer?  It is now the legal system trying to get answers for the consumers on these technology issues when instead it should be the retailers who are out in front. If you have been the victim of the Target data breach, contact Clifford Law Offices to sign up for the class action lawsuit action.  312-899-9090

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Demanding Closer Inspection of 767s

Having been aware of a possible problem with a moving flap in the tail-section of Boeing 767 aircraft responsible for aiding in elevation shifts since 2000, the FAA issued a new order in Monday's Federal Register demanding increased inspection and safety tests for these crucial components. This order of inspection comes on the heels of past problems with the movable tailpiece and a desire for greater guarantees of safety, as the loss of control of this piece may result in pilots losing control of the aircraft. These new, more stringent, inspections include the mandate of replacing any parts even near the safety qualifications and mandatory replacement every six years.   The FAA is the federal agency charged with mandating changes in airline safety.   To read the rest of the NBC News report on the event, click here: http://www.nbcnews.com/business/faa-order-safety-checks-400-boeing-767-jets-wsj-2D11999556

Kevin Durkin and Colin Dunn Author Article for ABA Tips From the Trenches

Kevin P. Durkin and Colin H. Dunn, partners at Clifford Law Offices, authored an article entitled "Building Your Case for the Jury" for the American Bar Association Section of Litigation. The ABA Litigation News recently published the article online, adapting it from a longer piece the two wrote for the Spring 2010 Issue of Litigation magazine. The original publication is mailed to some 60,000 attorneys across the country. In their article, Durkin and Dunn write about the enormous importance of mock juries and their success in using them prior to trial. Putting together people from the community where the case will be tried can help a lawyer develop the proper theme and test arguments before one's peers. They also wrote about demonstrative exhibits and the need to be visual but not necessarily high tech. They also emphasize to keep it simple and to be yourself during trial. "Learn from others, but always be yourself" is one of their gems of wisdom.   To read their entire article, please go to: http://apps.americanbar.org/litigation/litigationnews/trial_skills/110210-tips-jury-trial.html

Robert Clifford Highlighted In Tribune and Sun-Times Coverage of Orestes Trial

In the past week, the Chicago's two major daily newspapers, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times, have reported on the upcoming mock trial of Orestes sponsored by the National Hellenic Museum. Robert Clifford is one of the attorneys for the defense in this unique, provocative and popular event based on Greek mythology.  Last year Clifford teamed up with Dan Webb os Winston & Strawn to defend Socrates and this year the "dream team" will defend Orestes from a charge of matricide. Reprising their roles as prosecutors are former U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald, now with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP; and Patrick M. Collins, Perkins Coie   Although these trials are ancient, they still resonate with modern issues and audiences. The program takes place at the UIC Forum, 725 Roosevelt Rd., Chicago, at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 29, and all proceeds go to benefit the National Hellenic Museum. To read the full Tribune article click here: http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/ct-museum-hellenic-20140122,0,46132.storyTo read what the Sun-Times had to say, click here: http://www.suntimes.com/news/steinberg/24953761-452/modern-trial-of-an-ancient-matricide.html

Minicars May Lighten the Financial Burden, But Still Looking for Better Safety Results

Only one out of 11 cars currently for sale in the American market passed the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) rigorous testing, specifically the small overlap frontal protection test. What this means, according to the IIHS, is that drivers and passengers, depending on which side the accident takes place, are more susceptible to injury and harm from some of the most statistically common types of crashes that only affect the right or left 25% of the front bumper of a car’s structure. Accidents that mirror this type of impact are colliding with trees, other cars while changing lanes on a highway and other types of diagonal contact. These results show that the minicar category has a long way to go before achieving satisfactory safety ratings across the industry, as this category underperformed all others for the second year in a row. To read more about the dangers of this kind of impact and the study performed, click here: http://www.iihs.org/iihs/news/desktopnews/minicars-fall-short-for-small-overlap-frontal-protection

The ISBA Talks Rules and Regulations for Foreign Drivers

Question:  May a person drive in Illinois while visiting from another country? Answer:  Yes, if the driver has a valid driver’s license from his or her own country. Note that an International Driving Permit is not considered valid in the State of Illinois.   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

Does Illinois Do Enough to Investigate Medical Malpractice and Error?

Last year, less than 30 medical professionals in Illinois were disciplined by the state’s regulatory agency according to a Chicago Tribune article. However, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), disciplined more than triple that number of physicians when responding to investigations beginning in other states. This leads to the unsettling conclusion that the IDFPR may not be allotting enough resources to the task of investigating and punishing doctors with a track record of error and harm. For a state agency devoted to protecting the public from negligence, this seems like a high priority, but data collected by the Tribune points to the reality that the agency is most effective when using the investigations and allegations brought forth from other states’ organizations. To read more by Karisa King, click to see the Chicago Tribune article here: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-01-07/news/ct-doctor-discipline-met-20140107_1_other-states-chicago-doctor-physicians

Robert A. Clifford Named Illinois’ Top Lawyer for Sixth Consecutive Year

Robert Clifford, senior and founding partner of Clifford Law Offices in downtown Chicago, was named the Number One attorney in the state of Illinois for the sixth year in a row by Illinois Super Lawyers. The annual list of Illinois’ Top Ten attorneys, as nominated by their peers, was first created and published by the third-party research group Super Lawyers in 2005. Mr. Clifford has been in the Top Ten, actually the Top Three, for all ten consecutive years the list has been released. As an Illinois native and avid philanthropist, Mr. Clifford is proud to be considered a leader within the legal community as well as throughout Chicago and beyond.

Will New Illinois Phone Ban Affect Employer Liability?

Illinois approved a ban on hand-held phones effective Jan. 1, which was already the law in many communities throughout the state including Chicago and Evanston.  That law reportedly could hinder the state’s “mobile workforce,” as reported by Mike Riopell in the Daily Herald Business Ledger.  Many companies already pay for and provide mobile communications devices for employees that regularly travel on the road for their job functions. With the new ban in place, it raises the question whether these companies should now also be obliged to pay for hands-free equipment. Furthermore, the question of possible liability for companies that don’t provide hands-free devices arises.  Perhaps the issue of corporate liability will be one that the state legislature must decide.  Making the roads safer certainly remains the priority. To read Riopell’s full article, click here: http://dhbusinessledger.com/Content/Current-News/4

Pamela Sakowicz Menaker Authors Article on Texting Case that May Hold Sender of Text Liable in New Jersey

Pamela Sakowicz Menaker, Communications Partner at Clifford Law Offices, recently authored an article for the American Bar Association (ABA) entitled "Text Message Sender May Face Liability for Driver's Accident" (Nov. 27, 2013). As a contributing editor for the ABA Litigation News, Menaker wrote about a recent New Jersey case which expanded the concept of duty for texters by identifying specific conditions under which the sender of the original message maybe held responsible along with the driver who causes an accident. The case is Kubert v. Best, which held that the sender of a text message has a qualified duty not to send a text to someone she knows is driving and knows the texting habits of the driver who will likely respond. Such conduct amounts to "aiding and abetting a driver's wrongful conduct," the court found. The decision generated quite a bit of conversation in the legal community. To view the entire article and read the case, go to: http://apps.americanbar.org/litigation/litigationnews/top_stories/112713-text-sender-driving-liability.html

Data Mining Reportedly Going on to Recruit the Sick

In the wake of NSA, Target data breaches, medical records compromised and other privacy invasions comes word that some health care companies are probing available information on patients in order to target them for telemarketing and direct mail pitches.The Wall Street Journal reported ("Data Mining to Recruit Sick People," Dec. 17, 2013) that companies specializing in patient recruitment for clinical trials are now turning to pharmaceutical records, data brokers and social networks to identify qualities about each person that may make them prime for what they’re selling. For example, the story by reporter Joseph Walker talks about how Blue Chip Marketing Worldwide, a drug industry contractor based in Northbrook, IL, who found patients for an obesity drug by targeting people with characteristics of a sedentary lifestyle – like subscribing to premium cable tv and frequent fast-food dining.Although HIPPA bars doctors, insurers and other health care providers from sharing, selling or disclosing personally identifiable information in patients’ medical records without the person’s permission, there are clues that are searchable outside of one’s records that the law doesn’t protect – such as credit card purchases and Internet searches that can be tracked.Privacy certainly is a frontier that has yet to be tackled.

After Wild Success of Re-Trial of Socrates, Bob Clifford Readies for Orestes Trial

In conjunction with the Hellenic Museum of Chicago, Bob Clifford participated in the retrying of the ancient case of Socrates.  The event so popular that it demanded a venue change to a larger forum.  The team of lawyers from the last trial was so well received that they have been invited back almost in their entirety for the second trial. Bringing light, not only to history and law, but also to deeper philosophical tenets that continue to affect society is just part of an ongoing emphasis on philanthropy, community and civic education for Mr. Clifford, senior partner at the firm.  

Medical Errors Rise to Third Place in American Leading Causes of Death

More than 210,000 patients die each year from preventable causes while in hospitals or under physicians’ care. This number actually indicates a larger issue of an “epidemic of patient harm”, according to a study by the Journal of Patient Safety. People go to hospitals when they are in dire need of medical care or have limited options, but patient trust may be wrongly placed in these institutions’ hands. Multiple causes began this trend of declining patient safety, but hopefully awareness can reverse the dangerous pattern. To read more on this worrying phenomenon click here: Letting America Know

Children Enjoy Their New Toys, But Are They Safe?

Children remind us of the innocence and joy of the holidays year-round, which is why it is so important for parents today to monitor the toys their children play with to keep the kids safe. Product recalls are down by almost 66% over the past five years, but it is stringent safety mandates, dangerous toys being seized upon their import and vigilant parents that are responsible for this laudable trend. Most toys are not meant to harm, but for any parent who has ever stepped on a hard piece of plastic, the reality of toys causing pain is an easy memory to recall. By monitoring what toys are given over the holidays, the choking hazards and possibly dangerous toys can be weeded out and returned: age labels and warnings are on some of these products for a reason! So, to make sure that holiday cheer lasts throughout the year, always be aware of what your kids are playing with and where they could get it stuck. To read 6 Key Safety Tips for peace of mind, click here:http://letamericaknow.com/view_newsletter_ysk.php?memberid=21957&orderid=619&newsletterid=205&issueid=1313&subscriberid=0

Clifford Law Attorney “Rides” Out to Aid in the Fight Against Cancer

Mike Krzak fights for justice in the courtroom for Clifford Law Offices, but his toughest battle came years ago in a hospital in New York. His daughter, Emma, was fighting a rare eye cancer with a new treatment, and all he and his wife could do was wait and hope. Fast forward to the present, and his daughter is fine and enjoys playing with her younger sister. But, he has never forgotten the fear and the battle and has thrown himself into charitable efforts to help fund the fight against rare cancers. One of his main ways of raising funds is by participating in indoor and outdoor bicycle riding events through Cycle for Survival, an organization open to the public that brings in thousands annually for Sloan-Kettering, a medical research group that focuses on rare forms of cancer. Everyone rides for different reasons, but all with one goal, because as Mike says, “Until we all beat cancer, no one beats cancer.” To read more about Emma’s triumph, Mike’s efforts and Cycle for Survival, click here: "His Daughter, His Hero" by CDLB

Clifford Law Offices' Part of Legal Team that Files Class Action Against Target for Breach of Privacy for Stolen Debit and Credit Card Info for 110 Million Consumers

Clifford Law Offices is part of the legal team that filed a class action lawsuit a week ago against Target for its negligent mishandling of its customers' credit and debit card information during the peak holiday shopping season.More than three weeks after Target discovered that the data had been mishandled, Target admitted that 40 million people had their credit card and encrypted debit card info stolen during the time between Black Friday and the second week of December. Target’s data security was allegedly breached by fraudsters, which resulted in the theft, according to statements made by Target officials to the press.  USA Today broke the story three weeks ago on Dec. 19th, detailing the dangers of identity theft and what exactly had been stolen from Target’s databases.  Several other class action lawsuits have been filed across the country in various jurisdictions.After initially reporting 40 million and then 70 million customers, Target yesterday revealed as many as 110 million customers are impacted by the recent hacking, which included name, address, credit/debit card number, phone number and email address. If you made a purchase at Target between those dates with a debit or credit card, your private information may be compromised.  Please contact Clifford Law Offices to find out more about what you should do to try to protect your financial information and your personal identity.To read more as reported in the Dec. 19 USA Today story, click here: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/12/18/secret-service-target-data-breach/4119337/

Outbreak of Super Bacteria Linked to Park Ridge hospital

Over the past year, 44 cases of bacterial infection have been reported in the Chicagoland area, effectively doubling the nationally reported number since 2009, according to the Sun Times . These bacterial infections are of a highly resistant strain that cannot be easily treated. Many physicians caution against overusing antibiotics, as this can cause bacteria to mutate into more and more resistant strains. Unfortunately, some of these kinds of bacteria exist, and an outbreak was recorded between September and January. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) got involved, and their investigation traced the origin of the outbreak to endoscopic procedures performed at Lutheran General in Park Ridge, Ill. The CDC noticed the spike and got involved to trace the outbreak back to the source, and study the case for preventative reasons. While the usual result of contact is a urinary tract infection, if left untreated and the infection spreads to the bloodstream, the infection can be deadly. To the full article by the Sun-Times click here: http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/24748492-418/largest-outbreak-of-dangerous-bacteria-in-us-tied-to-park-ridge-hospital.html

Investing in Yourself in 2014, Opening a Small Business -- The ISBA Discusses Business Structure

Question:  I am planning to open a small business in 2014. What is the simplest type of business structure? Answer:  A sole proprietorship is generally considered the easiest type of business structure. Unlike partnerships, limited liability corporations (LLC) and corporations, sole proprietorship does not require you to file annual reports or obtain and renew a state business license. A lawyer can provide other options and help you decide which alternative 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

Maintaining Safety After Big Snowfall -- The ISBA Confirms Homeowner Duties and Responsibilities

Question:  As a homeowner, am I legally responsible for removing snow and ice on my sidewalk? Answer:  Homeowners have a duty to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition. In general, a property owner is not obligated to remove a natural accumulation of snow and ice; voluntarily undertaking its removal can leave the owner subject to liability if the removal leads to a slip-and-fall accident. However, some towns do have an ordinance requiring landowners to remove ice and snow from public sidewalks in front of their property. Check with your local municipality about the laws in your area.   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 Your Security Deposit Back -- The ISBA Offers Options

Question:  My friend and I put a deposit down on an apartment that we rented for a year. When our lease expired, we were supposed to get our deposit back, but the owner did not return it and will not respond to our emails and calls. Our financial situation prevents us from hiring a lawyer. What recourse do we have? Answer:  Assuming that the amount owed is relatively small, you could file a lawsuit in small claims court. Defendants in small claims court often choose to pay up rather than spend time and money going through the process. Another option is to seek pro bono legal assistance from a local government or legal aid organization.   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

Seeking Approval -- The ISBA Responds to Mortgage Concerns and New Home Buyers

Question:  I’m planning to buy a new home in 2014. What steps can I take to help ensure that I qualify for a mortgage? Answer:  Some home buyers may find it harder to get loans because of new rules issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. To increase your probability of success, know in advance how much you can afford by getting pre-approved for a mortgage before you begin house hunting, and be willing to make a larger down payment, at least 20 percent if possible. Also, know your closing costs in advance to avoid any surprises on the day of the property transfer. Be sure to consult your lawyer prior to signing the agreement of purchase and sale, and for other matters related to the purchase.   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

Still Receiving Calls? -- The ISBA Talks Telemarketing Recourse

Question:  I still receive phone calls from telemarketers, even though I registered my phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry. What can I do?   Answer:  Both federal and state laws prohibit telemarketers from contacting you - permanently - if you have signed up on the Registry's Web site. Calls from political organizations, charities and phone surveyors are excluded. By law, all calls must be made after 8 a.m. and before 9 p.m. Telemarketers are required to identify themselves with their name, the company they represent and a phone number at which their company can be reached. For more information or to file a complaint, visit the Illinois Attorney General's Web site at www.illinoisattorneygeneral.com.       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

Medical Marijuana Laws Take Effect This Week

Question:  What should I know about Illinois’ new medical marijuana law? Answer:  The medical marijuana law, which takes effect on January 1, 2014, is a four-year pilot program that allows registered marijuana users age 18 and older to purchase up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana every 14 days from a registered, licensed dispensary. To qualify, a user must have been diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition. The patient must obtain a written confirmation from a doctor with whom he or she has a legitimate doctor-patient relationship. Persons with felony convictions or who work in certain positions such as law enforcement are prohibited from participating in the program.   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

Aiding Your Elder Loved Ones -- The ISBA on How to Help

Question:  If I have proof that my elderly uncle is being mistreated at his nursing home, is there anything I can do to help? Answer:  In addition to numerous Federal laws, the safety and rights of nursing home residents in Illinois are protected under the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act.  The Illinois Department of Public Health is in charge of enforcing the Nursing Home Care Act throughout the state.  The right to be free from abuse and neglect; restraints, unless ordered by a physician to protect a resident; and the ability to refuse medical treatment are among some of the resident’s rights. Alleged violations can be reported through the Nursing Home Ombudsman Program administered by the Illinois Department on Aging. An experienced lawyer may also be able to help.   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

Obtaining an Illinois Concealed Carry License -- The ISBA Discusses

Question:  How can I obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon? Answer:  On January 1, 2014, a new Illinois law went into effect requiring those who want to carry a concealed firearm to obtain an Illinois Concealed Carry License which is issued by the Illinois State Police. In general, Illinois residents who want to apply for the permit must be 21, have a valid Firearms Owner Identification (FOID) card, and have completed required concealed carry firearms training and registered their fingerprints. Persons who carry firearms without the license will be subject to arrest. Further information is available at http://www.isp.state.il.us/.   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 ISBA Defines Limits to Liability in Debit and Credit Fraud Cases

Question:  If a credit/debit card thief makes a purchase using the card, is the cardholder liable?Answer:  Federal law limits a consumer’s liability in credit card fraud to a maximum of $50. The ceiling for debit card fraud is $500. If someone makes unauthorized transactions with your debit card number, but your card is not lost, you are not liable for those transactions if you report them within 60 days of your statement being sent to 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

New Cell Phone Laws Carry Stiffer Penalty

Question:  What penalties do motorists face if they violate the new state law that bans the use of cellphones while driving? Answer:  Beginning on January 1, 2014, Illinois motorists may not use handheld cellphones for any purpose, including making or receiving phone calls or texting. If police see a driver pressing a phone to his or her ear, they can issue a ticket. Fines range from $75 for a first-time offense to $150 for each offense after the third violation. Drivers can make calls in case of emergency or if they are stopped in traffic and the vehicle 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

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