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  • Chicago disabled people helping disabled people through “Battle Buddies”

    Many people who have suffered from debilitating injuries or illnesses in Illinois have trouble adjusting to the associated changes in their lives. These individuals may feel isolated or overwhelmed as they struggle with challenges that people close to them have never faced. Peer support groups can play an important role in helping these disabled individuals connect with others, regain confidence and find inspiration. In Chicago, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk has recently started a group, informally called “Kirk’s Battle Buddies,” that seeks to offer members these same benefits.   The new group provides disabled people with a chance to share their experiences and support with other people who face similar struggles. Sen. Kirk became inspired to form the group after he suffered a stroke and corresponded with another stroke survivor, a 12-year-old named Jackson. Jackson encouraged Sen. Kirk to put forward his best effort during rehabilitation rather than giving up on making a full recovery. Since that time, the two “Battle Buddies” have given each other support throughout their recoveries.   It is Sen. Kirk’s hope that the new group will provide similar motivation to people who suffer from disabling conditions or have experienced serious health setbacks. Members can turn to each other for support as they heal, rehabilitate, set physical goals and work to accomplish those goals. The inspiration for the group’s name comes from the Battle Buddy Foundation, which helps veterans assist other veterans through groups and community events. The Chicago “Battle Buddies” group, however, is open to anyone who has suffered from a serious health problem and wishes to participate.   The first group meeting was held in February at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. The same month, members of the group participated in the Hustle Up the Hancock fundraiser. During the event, Sen. Kirk and two other “Battle Buddies” climbed the stairs at the John Hancock Center to raise awareness for lung disease research and education. The event gave group members a chance to achieve their physical goals or show support for other members.   Besides providing motivation, groups such as the “Battle Buddies” can offer various invaluable services for disabled individuals. These groups can help members discover resources they might otherwise overlook, from financial and medical support to counseling. Group members can benefit from the advice of others who have faced similar challenges in their relationships, careers or everyday lives. Group participation also allows members to[READ MORE…]

  • Cryptoware hackers targeting businesses for ransom

    Highly publicized cyber attacks have recently drawn attention to the threat cyber crime poses to organizations across the country, including those in Illinois. One way that hackers are increasingly attacking businesses and other organizations is through the use of a specialized type of malware referred to as ransomware. Ransomware locks up computers or encrypts the contents of every file stored on a targeted computer. Computer users then must pay to regain access to their files or secure the decryption key. Hackers may demand “ransoms” of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.   During the last year, attacks made with a ransomware virus called Cryptoware have been reported in various parts of the country. In Tennessee, Cryptoware hackers targeted a sheriff’s office and extorted a ransom. The city of Detroit also experienced a Cryptoware attack. Recently, hackers used Cryptoware to attack the Midlothian Police Department here in Illinois. The malware was downloaded when someone at the department opened an email containing the virus. The virus disabled the employee’s computer and produced a message demanding money in exchange for a code to restore system access. The department ultimately had to pay the hackers with bitcoins to regain access to the computer.   Attacks like these are reportedly becoming more common. The President of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police notes that ransomware attacks against government or law enforcement agencies has become more prevalent over the last two years. Other organizations, such as businesses, educational institutions and financial organizations, may also be vulnerable to ransomware attacks. These attacks may disrupt business operations, cause reputational damage and result in the loss of sensitive information.   Ransomware is known to infect computers and other electronic devices, such as smart phones, by a few different mechanisms. The malware can be downloaded when a person opens an email attachment containing a virus. People may also inadvertently expose their computers to ransomware by following links or pop-up windows to compromised websites. This second type of attack, which authorities call a “drive-by” attack, is becoming more common. Once the ransomware has been downloaded, hackers may demand untraceable payments in various forms, from prepaid cards to bitcoins.   Simple precautions may help businesses and other organizations mitigate the risk of ransomware attacks. It is advisable for computer users to choose passwords carefully and use only current antivirus software. People should also employ caution when downloading attachments or visiting new[READ MORE…]

  • Ban the Box

    Recently, Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act. Commonly referred to as “ban the box” legislation, it prohibits Illinois employment agencies and private employers, with 15 or more employees, from prescreening applicants over a criminal record or history. Under the new law, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2015, employers and employment agencies cannot ask applicants to disclose information as to whether they have been convicted of a crime, or conduct a background check on applicants, during the initial application process. Employers and employment agencies are further required to change their application forms to remove any questions or boxes that ask the applicant about a criminal background. Employers who are prohibited by state or federal law to hire an applicant with a specific type of conviction are allowed to ask whether an applicant has been convicted of that crime. If applicants would need to obtain a standard fidelity bond as part of their employment, the employer can ask them whether they have been convicted of crimes that would prevent their approval for such a bond. Additionally, Emergency Medical Services Systems Act employers are allowed to inquire about an applicant’s criminal history or conviction. Employers who fall under these conditions may inform applicants in writing that they are not eligible for employment due to policy or existing law. Once applicants have been invited in for an interview or a position is officially offered to them, employers do have the right to inquire about whether they have a criminal background or conviction. Employers should examine their hiring processes to ensure that they comply with the new law and will face civil penalties from the Illinois Department of Labor if they violate the act. These penalties include the following: First violation – written warning and 30 days to correct the violation Second violation or failure to comply with the law from a first violation – civil penalty up to $500. Third violation or failure to comply with the law from a first violation within 60 days – civil penalty up to $1,500 Additional violations or failure to comply with the law from a first violation within 90 days – additional civil penalties of $1,500 each 30 days that the employer fails to comply The Illinois Department of Labor also has the right to file a civil action against employers in order to collect these penalties. It[READ MORE…]

  • Target Data Breach Fuels Litigation

    Over the last year, retailers have experienced data breaches that compromised consumer’s private credit card and debit card information. The list includes CVS, Home Depot, Neiman Marcus, Shaws, Sears, Supervalu Inc., Target and Walgreens. When Target Corporation announced earlier this year that as many as 110 million customers’ credit and customer records had been hacked during the 2013 holiday season, retailers took immediate action to upgrade and protect their systems. Within days of the announcement, states filed would-be class action lawsuits on behalf of consumers, alleging that Target was negligent in protecting card information.   At the beginning of August the first consolidated class action was filed against the retail giant on behalf of thousands of financial institutions. The class action claims these institutions suffered losses of as much as $18 billion. The costs were incurred in reissuing cards, reimbursing customers and changing or canceling accounts. However, missing from the complaint were claims under the U.S. Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. An attorney, representing three financial institutions, has argued in favor of bringing RICO claims and sought the court’s permission to file individual lawsuits on behalf of his clients rather than join the class action. It is unknown whether he has been granted that request.   In September, the class-actions from consumers and banks were consolidated into one and filed in Minnesota – Target’s home state. Target responded with a motion to dismiss the claims from financial institutions, arguing that they had failed to state a claim for their allegations relating to violation of the Minnesota Plastic Card Security Act, negligent misrepresentation by omission and negligence. Target argues that it has a relationship with the payment processors, not the banks themselves, and therefore, cannot be held responsible for damages to a third-party under state law.   It may be more difficult for financial institutions to secure a verdict against Target, given outcomes in other cases. A data breach lawsuit against Michaels Stores Inc. was dismissed after the presiding judge ruled the plaintiffs couldn’t show that they suffered direct “economic damage” from a breach that compromised as many as 2.6 million customer credit and debit card numbers. Plaintiffs in data-breach actions against Barnes & Noble Inc., LinkedIn Corp., Sam’s Club and Aetna Inc. have also faced similar rulings.   Though Target’s hack may have been the impetus for the uproar over consumer data protection, underlying the conversation, now taking place,[READ MORE…]

  • Chicago Seeks to Restrict Gun Stores with New Ordinance

    Chicago has long been known as a city with a high violence rate. Decades ago, the city’s leaders created a ban on gun stores which has continued to the present time. Despite that ban, gun violence continues to be the city’s biggest problem. In 2013 guns were responsible for the deaths of 415 people. While this fatality rate is the lowest it’s been in over 40 years, it still remains three-times higher than gun violence in New York City.   Mayor Rahm Emanuel argues that banning gun stores makes it harder for criminals to buy guns and thereby, lowers the number of weapons on Chicago’s streets. However, one report states that the majority of guns used in criminal acts come from outside the state of Illinois and that a large number of the guns taken by law enforcement come from cities near Chicago. It is also reported that more guns are confiscated in Chicago than in New York City or Los Angeles over a single weekend.   Despite the city’s argument, a federal court ruled that banning gun stores from Chicago was a violation of the Second Amendment – the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense. The court issued an order that is forcing Mayor Emanuel to allow gun stores to open in the city. In response, the mayor introduced a new ordinance which opens the way for gun stores to operate, but restricts these businesses to less than 2 percent of the city’s limits.   In a city council meeting earlier this year, Mr. Emanuel pointed out that gun stores allowed to open in the city would be required to submit their records to law enforcement upon request. Gun stores would also have to conduct an inventory audit each quarter and make sure their employees were trained on how to identify gun traffickers as well as pass a background check. Additionally, all purchases of firearms would need to be videotaped and a person would be limited to buying one gun each month. People who buy handguns would need to wait 72 hours and people shopping for shotguns or rifles would have a delay of 24 hours to complete the transaction.   Supporters of the new ordinance say the strict restrictions are needed to combat the level of gun violence that besieges the city. Those opposed to the new ordinance allege that the mayor’s restrictions makes it nearly[READ MORE…]

  • “Arising Out Of” Employment

    The purpose of the Workers’ Compensation Act (Act) is to protect employees against risks and hazards which are particularly characteristics to the specific work they have been employed to do. An injury is compensable under the Act only if it “arises out of” and “in the course of” the employment. The phrase “in the course of” refers to the time, place and circumstances under which the accident occurred. The words “arising out of” refer to the origin or cause of the accident and assume that there is a causal connection between the employment and the injury. An injury “arises out of” the employment if it originates from a risk connected with, or incidental to, her /his job. Both of these elements must be present at the time of the accident or injury to justify compensation. Jane Brais worked for the Kankakee County Circuit Clerk’s Office as a child support coordinator. On the day of her accident, Brais was returning to her office at the courthouse from a work-related meeting at a nearby administrative building. Brais and other employees normally used the employee’s entrance at the rear of the courthouse. However, the entrance was locked, which meant she had to use the main entrance instead. As she neared the main entrance stairs, she caught the heel of her shoe in a sidewalk defect and fell;  the sidewalk where she fell had huge cracks and was broken up. Brais testified, “You could pretty much see the gravel that they put down underneath the concrete.” She further testified there was a one-half to a one inch difference in the level between the smooth concrete and the crumbled concrete. Brais filed her claim against Kankakee County, and the arbitrator denied it. According to the arbitrator, Brais’ accident “occurred when she was walking along a public pathway going in to the county courthouse.” He added, “In doing so, she was not subjected to a risk to which the general public is not exposed or that was peculiar to her work.” The arbitrator found that the risk to the claimant which caused her injuries was no greater to her than to the general public. The Brais case found that the employee’s presence on the sidewalk approaching the steps to the courthouse’s front door was based on the demands of her employment, which had required her to attend a meeting in the administration building two blocks from[READ MORE…]

  • E – cigarettes

    The State of Illinois continues in its efforts to protect nonsmokers, children and students from the dangers of smoking. In the past month, Governor Quinn has signed new laws regulating the way electronic cigarettes can be sold. The new law requires that all e-cigarettes must be sold from behind a counter, in a sealed case or in an age-restricted area. The law will also make it illegal to sell e-cigarettes from a self-service display. That law goes into effect on January 1st 2015. Another law that takes effect on the same day will prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under age 18. Quinn also signed legislation, which takes effect on July 1, 2015, banning indoors and outdoors smoking on all Illinois public college and university campuses including all state-supported schools. The bill was sponsored by state Sen. Terry Link of Waukegan and state Rep. Ann Williams of Chicago. Several Illinois college campuses, including the University of Illinois at its Champaign-Urbana and Chicago, already have smoke-free policies in place. Smoking would still be allowed inside of privately owned vehicles and during activities protected by the federal American Indian Religious Freedom Act. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, along with 28 other state attorneys general, recently submitted comments to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on its proposed e-cigarette rules. They urged the federal government to strengthen its proposed regulations for electronic cigarettes to include a ban on the sale of flavored products claiming that flavored e-cigarettes attract children and teenagers to the products. They also want the FDA to make e-cigarette advertising and marketing follow the same restrictions as tobacco products. Even Congress has become involved with 12 Senate Democrats proposing a law that would require child-proof bottles for the liquid nicotine used for e-cigarettes. The American Association of Poison Control Centers stated that toxic exposure to e-cigarette devices and liquid nicotine has risen from 271 in 2011 to more than 2,300 this year. Locally, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is being urged to extend his ban on smoking to include Chicago parks. While Chicago beaches and playgrounds are smoke-free, the parks do not have a similar ban. Chicago has earned a reputation for driving residents to quit, with the ban on e-cigarettes in any location that also bans smoking, disallowing sales to minors and banning all flavored tobacco product sales within 500 feet of schools. These and other measures such as one[READ MORE…]

  • Vehicular Homicide

    Several states have laws referred to as an assault by auto or vehicular homicide as it is considered in Illinois. As the driver of a truck, there is a lot of responsibility; the greatest concern is safety and keeping fatigued drivers off the highway and freeways. There are regulations for when and how long a driver may drive. You don’t know when an accident can occur; recently a tractor-trailer rammed into a limousine bus, because the driver dozed off, setting off a chain-reaction crash. The truck driver was charged with death by auto in the crash that killed a man; two people were seriously injured and flown from the accident scene to a local hospital, where they were left in critical condition. If a driver unintentionally kills an individual without lawful justification, they commit Involuntary Manslaughter; if their acts, whether lawful or unlawful, cause the death, are likely to cause death or great bodily harm to some individual, and it is performed recklessly, it is considered to be Reckless Homicide. A person commits Reckless Homicide if he or she unintentionally kills an individual while driving a vehicle and uses an incline in a roadway, such as a railroad crossing, bridge approach, or hill, to cause the vehicle to become airborne.  Involuntary Manslaughter and Reckless Homicide are each considered to be a Class 3 felony. In cases involving Reckless Homicide in which the defendant drove a vehicle and used an incline in a roadway, such as a railroad crossing, bridge approach, or hill, to cause the vehicle to become airborne and caused the deaths of 2 or more persons as part of a single course of conduct, the penalty is a Class 2 felony. In cases involving Involuntary Manslaughter or Reckless Homicide resulting in the death of a police officer being killed while on the job as an officer, the penalty is a Class 2 felony. Reckless Homicide includes cases in which the defendant unintentionally kills an individual while driving in a posted school zone, while children are present or in a construction or maintenance zone. According to the Illinois Vehicle Code, when construction or maintenance workers are present, that fact may infer that the defendant’s actions were performed recklessly especially where he or she was also either driving at a speed of more than 20 miles per hour in excess of the posted speed limit or violating Section 11-501 of[READ MORE…]

  • Home Kitchen / Chloe Stirling’s

    Twelve-year-old Chloe Stirling’s started a cupcake business, called “Hey Cupcake!” in her parent’s kitchen. On June 10th, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill in her family’s kitchen in downstate Troy, just east of St. Louis MO, that will allow home bakers to start a business in their home and be freed from some government health and business regulations. “Hey Cupcake!” was started by Chloe to sell cupcakes at fundraisers and to friends and family. When the Madison County Health Department got wind of the cottage industry, they shut it down because Chloe Stirling didn’t have the proper business license and the Stirling’s kitchen wasn’t commercially certified. Chloe and her mom went to Springfield where they lobbied for a bill to make it easier for small “home kitchen operators” to sell their goods without having to jump through so many government hoops. Lawmakers passed a bill that creates a new state business category for people who make less than $1,000 per month producing food in their own homes to sell by themselves or for a religious, charitable or nonprofit organization.  House Bill 5354 says home kitchen operators cannot be regulated or shut down by local governments or health departments unless there is a complaint or a health safety issue. The bill defines a “home kitchen operation” and authorizes the state or county health department to inspect a home kitchen operation only in the event of a complaint or disease outbreak. Chloe Stirling and her mother worked tirelessly to get the law passed so home cooks could do what they love, cook and bake. Quinn thanked Chloe for standing up for small entrepreneurs. Quinn has been quoted as saying “Democracy is for everyone and I salute Chloe Stirling for getting involved and making a difference for a cause she believes in.”    

  • Reproductive Medicine

    According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine In 2010, 61,000 babies were born through assisted reproductive technology; a few State higher courts have addressed what happens to the frozen embryos once a couple separates. The Illinois court has ruled on an embryo case but the ruling still allows many of the issues to remain unresolved because Justice Patrick J. Quinn wrote that the trial court judge should have sought arguments and rendered an opinion on the validity of the first and second contracts rather than ruling on the arguments about the parties’ rights to become a parent. The circumstances began in March 2010 when Karla Dunston was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and was told that treatment would likely leave her infertile. With her then boyfriend, Jacob Szafranski, they decided to attempt in vitro fertilization. Szafranski donated sperm samples and Dunston donated eggs on April 6, all of which were fertilized before the couple ended their relationship in May 2010. Both signed an agreement stating that, “[n]o use can be made of these embryos without the consent of both partners (if applicable).” A second agreement was drawn up several days later stating that Dunston would have sole control of the eggs and pre-embryos in case the two split up, and that Szafranski “agrees to undertake all legal, custodial, and other obligations to the [c]hild regardless of any change of circumstance between the [p]arties.” This second contract was never signed. In 2011, Szafranski tried to stop Dunston from using the pre-embryos, arguing that he had a constitutional right not to father a child against his will. Dunston argued that her ex-boyfriend was bound agreement terms because he had donated sperm, thereby performing his obligation and making her believe he was committed to the undertaking. She also argued that Szafranski had intended to sign the second contract giving her control of the pre-embryos but Szafranski disagreed with that, as well as the idea that his sperm donations made the agreement legitimate. A Cook County trial court awarded the rights to the embryos to Dunston but Szafranski appealed. A higher court sent the case back, explaining that the case focuses on prior agreements rather than the interests of either party. The case now concerns whether the pact occurred when Szafranski gave the sample or when they signed the medical consent form requiring joint consent for the use of the embryos. A New York[READ MORE…]

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