The unfortunate and tragic events in American schools in recent years have been cause for concern to parents, teachers and students themselves. And while shootings have grabbed most of the headlines, there are other dangers that can befall our most vulnerable generation before graduation. But that’s not to say we are helpless. There are many steps parents can take to improve the odds that an attack, an accident or an illness will not happen. In Chicago, the obvious concerns are the problems of guns, gangs and bullying. No lawyer, judge or politician can unilaterally end these scourges to our educational system and our students. Just as important are strategies that parents, educators and school administrators can follow to make things safer. Here are a few: Develop incident reporting systems as well as a transparent means of reporting cumulative data for public consumption. This first step is to develop a solid understanding of the problem. Insist that districts and individual schools have crisis plans and drills. Provide literature, training and support to teachers on issues such as drugs, weapons, youth suicide, child abuse and school law. Observe and promote Safe Schools Week, which is in October. This provides a way to engage everyone in why it matters and the commitment of the school to provide a safe environment throughout the year. Other, unintentional safety issues exist in the school experience as well. On playgrounds, more than 200,000 children under age 14 are injured and require emergency treatment every year in the U.S. Preventive measures include ensuring that equipment is well maintained and that ground surfaces are soft. School staff, including and especially nurses, should be particularly attuned to symptoms of concussion. The journey to school also needs to be safe. A trend toward driving children in cars to their school may be an overzealous response and is attributed by some as a contributor to childhood obesity. If at all possible, parents can escort their children by bike or on foot and when the child is ready, allow them to walk alone if neighborhood conditions allow. Chicago’s Safe Passage program has largely been hailed a success (where it is available); Walking School Bus programs, led by a parent volunteer, are successful in many municipalities. In almost all instances, parental involvement is a fundamental component of ensuring safer schools. Attorneys might be able to lend assistance if laws are being broken, but a[READ MORE…]
Different people have varying priorities when looking for a new place to live and, more specifically, for a new home to buy. For some, it’s about the kitchen, including the newness and functionality of the appliances, countertops, cabinetry and storage. Other people need a specific number of bathrooms and bedrooms, an informal family room, a large-enough garage or an outdoor space that accommodates recreation and entertaining. People with school age children will almost always prioritize living in the district of a desirable school. But aside from features and amenities, new home shoppers should also consider the quality of the neighborhood. That should include immediately adjacent properties, as well as what’s nearby, such as a business that might produce a large volume of traffic. Some businesses, such as nightclubs, can cause noise problems for neighbors. Other factors to consider: Odor nuisances and dangers –Odors, such as those emanating from the exhaust fans of a nearby commercial establishment, might be a nuisance but not necessarily dangerous to human health. Smells from manufacturing facilities, farms and sewage treatment plants may be injurious to health and likely will depress property values. If there is or was a clandestine methamphetamine laboratory on or near the property in the past, there is a good chance toxic waste exists nearby. Sexual offenders in the vicinity – The Illinois State Police maintain the Illinois Sex Offender Information map, which can provide the names and addresses of sexual predators within five miles. Attorneys are sometimes successful at having old sex offense records expunged, but that is only after years without subsequent offenses. Environmental hazards – In most residential areas, the concerns about toxic substances in the neighborhood have to do with operating or shuttered dry cleaners, gas stations and auto shops, however landfills and superfund sites might also be in the vicinity. A home inspector is not required to know how to identify hazards off the property, however some are equipped to do so. Real estate brokers are not qualified to make this assessment but it helps to heed their warnings and seek an independent assessment by qualified technicians. Crime – A quick online search can find various crime statistic reporting sites, searchable by zip code and address, in Chicago and elsewhere. Traffic – While traffic and highway engineers can design roads for safety according to latest technologies, some neighborhoods still have higher rates of accidents. If you or[READ MORE…]
Justice Department considering investigation of Illinois residential centers over allegations of child abuse
In Illinois, disadvantaged juveniles who are in state care are often sent to a residential treatment center. The residential treatment is intended to provide help to these children who struggle with family issues, drug use, alcohol use, behavioral problems and mental health. However, an in-depth investigation into these centers by the Chicago Tribune revealed that instead of treatment, these youth are often victims of violent acts. Now the U.S. Justice Department is said to be considering an investigation into these centers over the allegations of child abuse. The months’ long investigation uncovered stories of youth who had been revictimized by those who were supposed to help them as well as by other patients. Over 1,000 reports were filed by treatment centers during 2011 and 2013 over physical assaults made on wards of the state. Additionally, the centers submitted 428 reports concerning a sexual assault on a state ward. Former residents of these facilities, now over the age of 18, recounted experiences that included physical restraints by staff, gang fighting, committing crimes, stabbings, bullying from other residents, engaging in prostitution, smoking marijuana and sexual assault including rape. The investigation also revealed that law enforcement and the Department of Child and Family Services often ignored state law concerning the age of sexual consent. As a result, many sexual abuse or assault claims were considered consensual and dismissed, exposing children to further abuse. In spite of high records of assaults, runaway youth and sexual abuse, the state continued sending juvenile wards to these facilities. To escape these violent environments hundreds of youth run away and find themselves on the streets where there are little options open to them. To support themselves, they often enter prosecution or commit crimes – anything to keep from going back to the centers. Adding to the problem is the lack of staffing and the inability of facilities to protect children. For some centers, there is a lack of concern over victims of violence and their reluctance to act encourages the abuse and assaults to continue. With the emergence of this information, the Justice Department is considering the allegations and may decide to step in. This is something that Senator Mark Kirk from Illinois is hoping for. He has already asked the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to take action and will be approaching Medicaid and asking them to cut those facilities from[READ MORE…]
While there are a few hardy souls who bike to work all winter long, spring weather brings out many more bicyclists riding along the lake front as well as in designated bike lanes on many of Chicago’s streets. Cyclists who use these lanes often tell tales of errant car divers who have failed to obey the rules. But bicyclists must also obey the rules and one that you may be unfamiliar with is, just like car drivers, it is against the law for bicyclists to use their cell phones to text or talk unless using a hands free device. The ordinance, which went into effect in this past March, fines violators $20 for their first offense, and $100 for three or more violations. Everyone agrees that automobile drivers endanger everyone around them when they talk or text while driving, but bicyclists also pose a very real threat to road safety when they clutch a cell phone while biking.
Here’s what other personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyers have been talking about over the past few weeks: Jury Instruction Social Networking (Day on Torts) North Carolina: Jail Time for Uninsured Employers (Workers’ Compensation Blog) Cell Phone Use Cited in 24% of Motor Vehicle Crashes (Personal Injury and Social Security Disability blog) NFL Concussion Website (Torts Prof Blog) Members of UNC Create App to Aid in the Diagnosis of Concussions (Brain Injury Lawyer blog) The Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. You can reach the firm by calling (312) 346-8780.
When someone slips and falls in a public place in Illinois such as a mall, in order to prevail in a personal injury lawsuit, the person who fell must establish that the owner of the property was somehow responsible for the fall. Sometimes this can be a difficult proposition, as the plaintiff in Ishoo v. General Growth Properties, Inc., 2012 WL 933383, recently learned. On the day of her fall, the plaintiff in Ishoo was working as a sales representative at the make up counter at Neiman Marcus. She took a break to purchase a cup of coffee from Starbucks, and as she was walking there, she slipped and fell on a wet substance on the floor. As a result of the fall, she injured her right shoulder. She later filed this personal injury lawsuit alleging that the owners of the mall were responsible for her injuries because they either knew or should have known that a wet substance had accumulated on the floor and posed a hazard to shoppers and others walking through the mall. The Appellate Court of Illinois, First District, explained what was required in order for the plaintiff to prove negligence on behalf of the defendants: To establish negligence on the part of the defendants, the plaintiff need only bring forth facts that her fall was caused by a liquid substance on the floor attributable to the defendants. Liabilityon the part of the defendants may arise if (1) one or more defendants is directly responsible for the liquid substance on the floor or (2) the defendants had actual or constructive notice of the liquid substance on the floor…(T)his appeals turns on whether there is any evidence that directly proves, or gives rise to a reasonable inference, that the presence of the liquid substance on the floor is tied to one or more of the defendants… Unfortunately for the injured plaintiff, after reviewing the facts and applying the relevant legal standards to the fact of the case, the court concluded that the plaintiff had failed to show that the defendants had actual or constructive notice of the wet substance on the floor: (U)nder the facts of this case, actual notice can only be established by a showing that the housekeeping staff “squeegeed” cleaning solution from the escalator on to the floor. As we have already concluded, no facts exist that the activities of housekeeping staff were responsible for the liquid[READ MORE…]
Head injuries sustained by football players are sometimes played down as simple concussions. However, repeated concussions over time can lead to serious head injuries. For that reason, as we reported last year, 75 ex-football players filed suit against the National Football League (NFL) alleging that the NFL knew of the harmful effects of multiple concussions as early as the 1920s but kept that information from players until 2010. While that lawsuit is still pending, another similar lawsuit in California was recently settled for $4.4 million dollars. In this tragic case, a young player sustained a serious brain injury while playing football for his high school team, as explained in a Yahoo article: The (settlement) comes as the problem of head injuries in football has gained prominence due to lawsuits brought against the National Football League by former players complaining of ongoing life struggles from concussions. Scott Eveland, now 22, was a senior and a linebacker with the Mission Hills High School Grizzlies in San Marcos, a town 30 miles north of San Diego. He collapsed on the sidelines after playing the first half of a game on September 14, 2007, and was rushed to the hospital where doctors were able to save his life by removing part of his skull. But the heavy bleeding inside his brain caused him extensive damage. This horrible accident resulted in Mr. Eveland’s confinement to a wheel chair and he remains unable to stand or speak as a result of his injuries. It’s a tragic case and is yet another example of the dangers of head injuries. As we’ve repeatedly said in the past, traumatic brain injuries are serious injuries that have been ignored for far too long. Hopefully, high profile personal injury lawsuits like this one will help to further raise public awareness regarding the dangers and long term effects of repeated concussions and other similar types of traumatic brain injury. The Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. You can reach the firm by calling (312) 346-8780.
Auto insurance protects some of the most important people in your life, “you and your passengers”. For most people their automobile is one of their most valuable assets, next to their home. Appropriately, having good insurance coverage should be taken very seriously. Some people drive with substandard insurance or low insurance coverage or even illegally drive with no insurance coverage at all. You don’t want to be in a situation where you are involved in an accident with someone that is inappropriately insured and find out there is not enough insurance money to cover your expenses. Most people find out when it is too late if they have improper insurance coverage. It’s critical to keep in mind that not all policies are alike; so it is essential that you understand the details of what you are protecting, and how coverage options apply (or don’t) to you and your family. I would recommend that you carry, at the very least, “Full Coverage” However you should look at getting “Complete Coverage”, as the price difference is not that much more and will give you additional services and peace of mind should you be in an accident. If you are concerned about costs it is important to understand your deductible as your rate is based on the deductible. The lower your deductible, the higher your rate; the higher your deductible, the lower your rate will be. For example, if you are have a $250 deductible you will pay more for your premium than if you have a $500 dollar deductible. Determine your deductible by considering what you can afford to pay if you are in an accident. “Full Coverage” Personal injury liability coverage Uninsured/Underinsured coverage Property damage liability coverage Collision Medical payment coverage or Med Pay Special coverage/Umbrella policies-if you own your home out right, have a lot of equity in your home or have a large net worth, then you want to make sure you carry enough coverage to assure that someone can’t sue you for everything that you worked hard to build. “Complete Coverage”All of the above plusEmergency Road Service Car Rental Death Benefits Loss of Earnings Medical payment coverage or Med Pay covers all members of your household. This is especially beneficial if you don’t have health insurance, though this coverage only kicks in if you are in an automobile accident. Most people carry $5000 for[READ MORE…]
One issue that frequently crops up during personal injury trials is the admissibility of photographs of the scene where the accident occurred. Sometimes, the photos sought to be admitted were taken immediately after the accident occurred, while other times the photos were taken sometime after the accident but are offered to show the layout of the location where the plaintiff was injured. Sometimes, a party will object to the admission of the photos on the grounds that they are somehow prejudicial and offer little value to the jury. The Appellate Court of Illinois, Fourth District, recently addressed that issue in Lambert v. Coonrod, No. 4–11–0518. In this case, the plaintiff was injured while helping the defendant with a project. While doing so, he stood on a coil spool and tried to reach for a light above him. As he did so, he fell and injured his left side and back, sustaining a lumbar fracture and broken rib. He later filed a personal injury lawsuit alleging that the plaintiff “failed to provide a safe and stable platform from which he could work and failed to warn him that the spool he stood upon was or could be unstable and easily tipped.” The case went to trial and at trial, the defendant sought to introduce photographs of the scene of the accident–the inside of the shed where the plaintiff fell–which were taken over a year after the accident occurred and included items, such as a ladder, that weren’t in the shed when the plaintiff fell. The plaintiff objected to the admission of the photos because they failed to accurately portray the scene of the incident at the time that it occurred. The Court disagreed: Coonrod testified to pictures of his shed that were taken approximately one year after the incident occurred. The pictures showed the interior of the shed, including the shelving area. Coonrod testified the photos fairly and accurately depicted the layout of the shed, although not the items therein, at the time of the accident. He also testified the ladder in the picture was purchased after the accident had occurred. Plaintiffs argue the photos were highly prejudicial because they showed a “ladder as being available and conveniently located in the shed.” The photos of the shed were relevant in this case. The pictures showed the interior of the shed where the accident took place, as well as the white-painted spool that Richard[READ MORE…]
Last year the Chicago Transportation Authority (CTA) introduced a shiny, brand new fleet of trains for the “L” track. This was the first time, in a number of decades, that the CTA had upgraded Chicago’s public transportation system and for many Chicagoans, the new cars were a welcome relief from the creaky, old trains they were used to. Unfortunately, the new trains apparently aren’t all they were cut out to be. It turns out that the new cars were constructed with defective parts manufactured in China. As explained by the Chicago Tribune in this article, the defective parts were found in the rail car truck assembly of the trains: Internally defective and potentially dangerous steel parts from China that could break and lead to a derailment were installed on the cars manufactured for the CTA by Bombardier Transportation, according to the transit agency’s internal investigation. The inferior craftsmanship found on the safety-sensitive parts in the rail car truck assembly, which supports much of a train’s weight, raises serious questions about Bombardier’s quality-control process on the new generation of CTA trains, the investigation found. The CTA is the first transit agency to purchase the cars, known as the 5000 Series. The contract for 706 of those cars totals more than $1 billion. The defective parts were discovered during an internal investigation conducted by the CTA. It was determined that if one or more of the defective parts were to break while a train was moving, the likelihood of derailment would be extremely high, which could in turn result in serious injuries to CTA passengers on the train. Because of the serious ramifications in the event that one of the defective parts failed, all defective cars have been recalled and the parts are in the process of being replaced. Once the repairs have been made, the cars will be returned to circulation. The expected date for this to occur is in May 2012. Hopefully, once the trains are fixed, Chicagoans will once again be able to enjoy the new trains safely and securely, without fear of derailment and the serious risk of injury that could follow. In the meantime, Chicagoans will have to make do with the old rickety cars from the 1960s that have been reintroduced into the transit system in the interim. Better safe, albeit in a creaky old car, than sorry. The Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles workers’ compensation and personal injury cases.[READ MORE…]
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