Frequently Asked Questions

I was injured and an insurance company representative wants to take my statement, can I just give a statement over the phone?

No. If you have an injury in any situation, never give a statement to anyone outside the presence of your lawyer about how you were injured, your medical care, or how you feel .

I have the minimum auto insurance of $20,000 per person, $40,000 per incident. Why should I get any more?

For two reasons, you are putting yourself in a dangerous position by carrying minimum insurance:

  1. A trip to the emergency room today will use up nearly half your coverage. Future medical care, lost earnings, disability, disfigurement, loss of a normal life and future damages can all add up. So if you are named as a defendant in a suit for damages, the low or minimum coverage you chose won't give you enough protection. A jury award for $50,000 or $100,000 can cause loss of possessions, garnishments of wages, or force you to file bankruptcy. Bankruptcy will affect your credit, and you will be paying far into the future. I would recommend no less than $300,000 in liability coverage.
  2. Many consumers don't understand that they are locked in for UNINSURED and UNDERINSURED coverage at the same limits they purchase for liability insurance. Uninsured and Underinsured coverage are for YOUR protection. If you are badly hurt, you will be limited by the same amount you purchased for liability protection.

If I use my insurance, won't my rates go up?

Probably. But this plays right into your insurance company's hand. Your rates are going up all the time whether you use your policy or not. Why should you pay for insurance and not use it when you need it? You and your insurance company do not have a friendship; it is a business relationship. The person who sells you insurance is usually NOT your agent, he or she is the INSURANCE COMPANY'S agent. If you can find a better deal, you should take it. If the insurance company can avoid paying a claim to you or for you, they will. Use your policy. How the insurance company is doing in the investment markets with the money from you and everyone else's premium determines the fluctuation of its rates; fluctuation is not determined wholly upon accident claims. When the investment markets are up and everyone with money is making money, insurance rates drop.

My teenager was in a fender-bender, and I just found out he does not have the same coverage as I do on the same policy. Can my insurance company do this?

Yes. This is the latest "give the customer less for the same money" trick from some insurance companies (like a candy bar that is two ounces less but costs the same). The insurance company may only have given you full coverage. When you get a new policy or renew, READ the paperwork the insurance company gives you. If you don't understand it, talk to the person who sold you the policy. If you bought it over the phone or on-line, good luck.

I believe I have been the victim of a medical error. What should I do first?

Go see another medical care provider. Most of my clients who have good malpractice cases wish they had a time machine to go back to the time when they could have been helped if they saw someone else. If in doubt about where to go, try a University teaching hospital.

How much time do I have to make a claim if I've been injured?

Generally, two years. However, there are many exceptions. For example, if you want to make a claim against a municipal entity such as Cook County Hospital or Metra, the time frame is one year in Illinois. If you are injured on the job in Illinois, the claim period is generally three years for a worker's compensation case. If you are a construction worker in Illinois and are injured while working on a new construction, the time limit is different. Children are usually given more opportunity to submit their claims than adults. These filing claim periods are called statutes of limitations. Never rely on scuttlebutt to learn about a statute of limitations. Always contact a lawyer who represents injured people.

If I have been injured, is there much difference in my rights between Indiana and Illinois law?

You should always contact a lawyer who does injury trial work in Indiana with Indiana questions and the same in Illinois. Some of the areas that are different.
• Medical Mal-Practice
• Injuries to children
• On the job injuries
• Claims against governmental bodies
• Time limits as to when a claim may be brought
• Every year some part of this changes
Always contact and expert never rely on those who are guessing about your rights. It could mean your future.

What is a contingent fee?

It is a percentage fee. A lawyer who works on a contingent fee receives payment only if you win your case, and the fee is a pre-agreed percentage of the recovery. So, if you agree to pay your lawyer 1/3 of the recovery as a fee, and you recover $10,000, the lawyers fee is $3,333. The lawyer is paid when the case is over just as you receive your recovery when the case is over. The contingent fee system is your "Key To The Courthouse." With the contingent fee system you can compete with great wealth in the courtroom.

What are case development costs?

These are the expenses your lawyer pays from his own pocket to develop your case, i.e. a filing fee or sheriff's fee, the court reporter's bill, a charge for your doctor's time in giving a statement about your treatment. These are expenses you would have to pay yourself if you conducted your own case. Within the contingent fee system your lawyer pays these costs as they are incurred and takes the expenses back from your portion of the award or settlement. In a sense, you are receiving an interest free loan from the attorney working on your case.

Can a lawyer pay my living expenses if I can't work?

No. It is unethical for a lawyer to pay any money to or for a client while a case is pending. A lawyer could lose his license to practice law for this offense. Some years ago this was allowed, and some unethical lawyers took control of their clients case forcing a settlement so that the lawyer could be paid back. A client should understand they are in control about whether to proceed with a case or settle. A lawyer should only advise.

My lawyer rarely returns my calls, and when he talks to me he is gruff and condescending. Do I have to stay with him?

Absolutely not. The agreement between a lawyer and a client is stacked in favor of the client. If a lawyer is fired or quits, he is entitled to a fee for the work done which is never more than the contract amount of usually 1/3. The best way to handle disagreements or personality conflicts between you and your lawyer is to have a face to face meeting and air your feelings. If you have such a meeting and still feel you don't want that lawyer's services, let him or her know. If a case isn't going well, it might be the case itself and not the actions of you or your lawyer. The best solution is to talk about your feelings.

I believe my lawyer is not handling my case properly. What should I do?

As was stated previously, a meeting is always a best start. If after that meeting you are still not satisfied, you should tell your lawyer that you are seeking a second opinion. Find another lawyer familiar with the area of law involved in your case and talk to him or her. Once you have spoken to another lawyer, you or that lawyer should inform your present lawyer about the meeting to reinforce that a second opinion was your idea.

I think my lawyer may be acting improperly or illegally. What should I do?

Both the states of Indiana and Illinois have commissions or organizations devoted to the licensing and discipline of lawyers. Both commissions are managed by the states' Supreme Courts.

NO OTHER PROFESSION disciplines and manages its members like the lawyers. The commissions are very strict. The commission invites members of the public to report a lawyer for misconduct of any sort. In most cases, an Illinois lawyer is duty bound to report another lawyer suspected of unethical conduct. (In re Himmel 125 Ill 2d 531 or 127 Ill Dec 708) In that case, a lawyer who failed to report another lawyer's misconduct, even though that misconduct benefited his client, was suspended for 1 year. In Illinois, teams of lawyers, whose only job is to investigate and ultimately prosecute claims by citizens against lawyers, work for this commission of the Supreme Court. In fact, a review from this board is one of the steps in disciplining a lawyer. Some of the members of this board are ordinary people, non-lawyers sitting in judgement. If a lawyer is disciplined, that fact is published and available for the news media to print or air. Every year the Supreme Courts of both states censure, suspend or disbar hundreds of lawyers. No other professional group is as demanding upon its members as lawyers. We take pride in that.

Can a lawyer be sued for malpractice?

Yes. In Illinois you can log on to the A.R.D.C. web site to see whether or not a lawyer has malpractice insurance or has ever been disciplined. Soon you will be able to search the court records on-line to see if a particular lawyer has been sued. You can check now in person at the court house. These are helpful ways to acquire information when making a choice as to whom you should hire as your lawyer.