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  • How Truck Drivers’ Health Conditions Pose Risks to Others

    The sedentary nature of truck drivers’ jobs increases their incidence of health problems which, in turn, raises the probability of them causing a motor vehicle accident. Truck drivers are forced to sit for lengthy time periods, and the nature of their jobs also make them likelier to have poor sleeping and eating habits. The combination of these characteristics results in truck drivers developing medical problems at higher rates than others. A recent study showed that drivers who have three medical conditions are four times as likely to be involved in accidents than do healthier drivers. Accident lawyers represent victims who have been injured by truck drivers whose medical problems lead them to cause trucking accidents.

    The Problem

    Researchers at the University of Utah School of Medicine noted several medical conditions that cause drivers to have poorer driving performances. These conditions include low back problems, diabetes, heart disease and others. The researchers then reviewed the records of 50,000 commercial drivers. They found that 34 percent of the drivers suffered from at least one of the conditions with some suffering from more than one. When the researchers compared the drivers’ medical histories with their accident records, they found that drivers who suffered from three of the medical conditions had up to four times greater likelihood of crash involvement than did healthier drivers.

    Among drivers overall, the crash rate was 39 wrecks for every one hundred million miles traveled. Among truck drivers who suffered from three or more flagged medical conditions, the crash rate was 93 wrecks for every one hundred million miles traveled. The researchers controlled for other factors that may also lead to accidents in the study, including experience and age.

    What Can Be Done?

    Accident lawyers believe that more can be done to both help prevent work-related diseases in truck drivers as well as to prevent truck accidents caused by poor health. Truck drivers should have preventative medical care available to help them avoid developing these conditions. Regulations should be passed to encourage better sleep and to provide more frequent breaks. Carriers should provide opportunities to truck drivers to participate in regular exercise and should encourage healthy eating habits. Unfortunately, the current political climate is trending towards reducing the number of trucking regulations, meaning that the causes of these accidents are unlikely to be meaningfully addressed.

    The Ankin Law Office represents injured plaintiffs in workers’ compensation and personal injury cases.

     

  • When Pro-Athletes Become Injured

    Today’s professional athletes often spend their time performing extensive, physically demanding and dangerous activities anytime they train, practice or compete. Although their bodies are typically conditioned to withstand the demands of their sport, these athletes are not invincible. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that sports competitors and professional athletes suffer over 2,000 serious injuries per 10,000 workers each year. This places sports in the top five when it comes to occupations with the most injuries.

    Football: Injuries on the Field

    Football has long been recognized as a dangerous sport for amateurs and professional athletes alike, and despite numerous efforts to increase safety on the field, players continue to suffer catastrophic injuries every year. Official reports from the National Football League (NFL) state that within the first two weeks of the season, approximately 15 percent of professional football players have already suffered an injury. While some injuries are fairly minor and recovery is quick, others result in severe impairments, long term disabilities, and sometimes even death. Head, neck, and knee injuries are some of the most common serious injuries sustained by players, and these injuries can sometimes take victims out of the game for good. For a few, repetitive injuries sustained during years of participating in the sport can cost them their lives. A study released in 2015 revealed that out of 91 NLF players who were deceased, a disturbing 87 tested positive for a brain disease that has been linked to repetitive head trauma (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy).

    Baseball: Diamonds in the Dust

    Professional baseball players often suffer severe injuries that sideline them, and sometimes their careers, as well. According to studies published by the American Journal of Sports Medicine, about 51.4 percent of Major League Baseball injuries were to the upper extremities, while 30.6 percent were to the lower extremities. Pitchers were at the highest risk of injury, accounting for about 34 percent more injuries than fielders, and they suffered a significantly higher number of injuries to the upper extremity (67 percent). Fielders, however, were more likely to suffer injuries to the lower extremity, accounting for about 47.5 percent. While professional baseball players are much less likely than football players to lose their lives while participating in practice or a game, many times their injuries are so severe that they become unable to continue their careers.

    Basketball: Catastrophe on the Court

    With teams playing demanding, 82-game seasons, participating in off-season play and rigorous practices, injuries are common for players in the NBA. Serious lower extremity injuries account for about 72 percent of all injuries that result in games missed due to injury. While ankle injuries are the most common occurrence, injuries that affect the patella and the knee are responsible for the most time away from the court. Although some of these injuries are treated fairly quickly, others are so severe that players’ careers are cut short. Many are forced to endure long-term pain and extensive medical and rehabilitative treatments.

    Injured Pro-Athletes and Workers Compensation

    Workers compensation generally provides two types of benefits to victims of work injuries: medical benefits and wage replacement. In Illinois, wage replacement benefits are designed to provide wage differential for victims to compensate for lost income- even if the worker is capable of other, lower paying work. The workers compensation laws in Illinois are currently some of the most generous in the nation, with victims receiving wage differential payments until age 67. Additionally, injured workers are able to receive approximately two-thirds of the difference in lost wages. This amount is currently capped at $1,075 per week, or $55,900 each year.

    A recent proposal, if passed however, could limit the duration of wage replacement benefits for professional athletes in Illinois. Advocates of the proposal claim that since no pro-athlete plays sports until the age of 67 (except possibly golfers), the benefits should only be paid up to the age of 35, or five years from the date the incident occurred. They argue that this limit will more accurately reflect the term of a professional sports career.

    Is the Proposal Fair to Professional Athletes?

    Those who oppose this proposal have stated that although many pro-athletes end their careers at around age 35, $55,900 is a mere fraction of what these victims could have expected to earn each year had they not suffered serious injury. An injured running back, for instance, who is injured on the field could lose around 90 percent of his income each year- an amount that quickly adds up over the course of his lifetime. And by limiting benefits to age 35, the injured athlete will likely earn far less through age 67 than he would have earned in a more typical profession.

    If passed, the legislation will not limit wage replacement benefits for victims who are unable to any job due to their injuries.

     

  • Negligent Entrustment May Result in Rental Car Company Liability for Car Accidents

    In most Illinois accidents involving rental cars, the rental car companies themselves will not hold liability except in certain rare cases. Rental car companies may hold a share of the liability if the accidents resulted from the companies’ negligence in maintaining their vehicles. They may also hold some liability if they negligently entrust the vehicles to drivers that should not have been able to rent the cars, including those who are too young or those who do not have valid drivers licenses. When a rental car is involved in an accident, the analysis that may be performed by a car accident lawyer in Chicago may be more complex.

    Rental Car Company Negligent Entrustment

    Rental car companies are required by Illinois law to do certain things before renting vehicles to people. The companies are supposed to have minimum age requirements that they apply to all drivers. If a company rents a vehicle to a person who is younger than the established minimum driver age, then the company may hold liability if the driver then causes an accident.

    Rental car companies are also mandated under the law to check and verify the driver’s licenses of prospective renters. They are supposed to look at the photographs of the licenses to see if they look like the people who are renting the cars. They are likewise supposed to check the signatures on the rental applications against the signatures on the licenses. Finally, they are supposed to check the dates that are listed on the licenses to make certain that they are not expired.

    Vehicle Defects

    Rental car companies may also be liable in car accident cases when the vehicles that are involved have defects that the companies knew about but failed to repair if the defects caused the accidents. For example, if a rental car as threadbare tire treads that cause a tire to blow out and the car to wreck, the company may be named as a defendant in a resulting lawsuit.

    Even if a rental company is not liable for an accident, some drivers who rent cars purchase additional insurance from the companies for their rental vehicles. A car accident lawyer may be able to seek recovery from both the driver’s personal insurance company as well as the rental car insurance policy that the driver purchased. The Ankin Law Office represents injured victims in workers’ compensation and personal injury cases, including those involving car accidents.

     

  • Young Athletes and Sport Related Injuries

    Roughly 30 million children engage in sporting activities and each year these young athletes experience millions of injuries. Approximately 775,000 children under the age of 14 visit emergency rooms for sports-related injuries each year. A further 2 million injuries and 500,000 doctors visits are needed to assist children between the ages of 14-19 with recovering from their injuries. Nationwide, nearly 1/3 of all recorded childhood injuries are caused by participation in sporting events.

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    infographic_Sport Related Injuries

    Playing a Dangerous Game

    While every sport involves the risk of injury, some sports are inherently more dangerous than others. For example, contact sports such as football, wrestling, and hockey have higher rates of injury than sports such as baseball, golf, and tennis.

    Basketball – Children between the ages of 5-19 suffer more than 375,000 basketball-related injuries each year. That’s equivalent to about 15% of all players within the demographic. The most common injuries are strains and sprains of the lower extremities, followed by fractures and dislocations. Of considerable concern is the fact that the number of traumatic brain injuries is increasing. From 1997 to 2007, instances of TBI increased more than 70%.

    Baseball – Slightly more than 100,000 children between the ages of 5 to 14 are treated in emergency rooms for baseball-related injuries each year. Common injuries include strains, sprains, and broken arms/legs. Up to 25 of players between the ages of 5 to 14 are injured each year. Since 2000, rates of elbow and shoulder injuries have risen more than 500%.

    Moreover, many children experience traumatic brain injury when they are struck with either the bat or the ball. The sport has one of the highest fatality rates of all sports and each year 3 to 4 children under the age of 14 die while playing the game.

    Cycling – Each year, 200,000 children are treated for cycling related injuries. These injuries include strains, sprains, broken bones, and severe lacerations. Use of safety equipment such as helmets and pads has helped reduce fatality rates by 92% since 1975. However, it is still considered one of the most dangerous youth sports and roughly 13 per 100,000 children are hospitalized each year with cycling related injuries.

    Hockey – Roughly 20,000 children between the ages of 5 and 14 are injured in hockey-related accidents each year. Common injuries include broken bones, fractures, and traumatic brain injury.

    Football – Between 2005 and 2014, 92 teenagers died as a result of playing High School football. These players died because of indirect injuries such as exhaustion leading to heart attack or dehydration leading to organ failure.

    During that same period, 24 players died as the result of direct injuries caused by the crushing impacts that are the hallmark of the sport. These players suffered severe spinal injuries or traumatic brain injuries that claimed their lives. Nationwide, it is estimated that 28% of players ages 5 to 14 will be injured while playing football.

    Gymnastics – From 1990 to 2005, slightly less than 426,000 children between the ages of 6 and 17 suffered gymnastics-related injuries. It’s a statistic that represents an average of 5 injuries per 1,000 gymnasts. Common injuries include head/neck trauma, concussions, strains, sprains, and broken bones. Approximately 40% of these injuries occur in the course of school sanctioned events or gymnastics programs.

    Skiing/Snowboarding – Approximately 25,000 children between the ages of 5 and 14 are injured while skiing each year. Common injuries include broken bones, concussions, and exposure.

    Practice Makes Problems

    While many assume that gameplay is the most dangerous activity, the reality is that 62% of injuries occur during practice. The reason for this is because many players, parents, and coaches fail to take the same precautions and utilize the same required safety equipment during practices that are required during official gameplay.

    Pursuing Claims for Injuries

    A personal injury attorney for the parents or the injured players can pursue damages against players, coaches, school districts, and equipment manufacturers for the injuries caused by sports- related incidents. For example:

    • The school district could be liable for violating safety requirements included within the Youth Sports Concussion Act and failing to have qualified medical personnel present at the sporting event.
    • The coach could be held liable for overexerting a player recovering a known injury such as a concussion, sprain, or heart condition.
    • A player could be found liable for unsportsmanlike conduct that results in the injury or death of another player.
    • An equipment manufacturer could be held liable for producing safety equipment that fails within normal use specifications. For example, if a brake system on a bicycle is prone to failure or a football helmet fails to provide the necessary cushion to prevent TBI.
    • A hospital can be found liable for misdiagnosing a serious injury such as Traumatic Brain Injury or damage to the spinal column.

     

  • When to Call an Accident Lawyer

    Irrespective of whether an injury is compensable through a personal injury lawsuit or workers’ compensation claim, the sooner an injured victim contacts a lawyer, the greater the recovery will likely be. From auto accidents to workplace injuries, getting the best medical care is crucial. One problem accident victims face is that insurance companies try to minimize fault and reduce claim values. Seeking medical care and injury compensation is the right of injured people. Legal representation is often the best course of action.

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    infographic_When to Call an Accident Lawyer

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    Work Related Injuries

    People who were injured at work are entitled to workers’ compensation. The problem they face is that employer and insurance legal departments want to reduce costs associated with injuries. Workplace incidents can take many forms, and may happen at remote job sites. According to the Insurance Information Institute, traffic injuries are a major cause of workplace accidents. Sorting out the red tape demands the best accident lawyer available.

    Auto Accidents

    The fault in an auto accident may not be obvious. The fault may be shared, complicating insurance responsibility. Insurance companies try to minimize claims even if the fault is obvious. This can result in injured parties receiving inadequate medical attention, highlighting the need to have the best accident attorneys on the case. After an auto accident, a medical evaluation should be performed immediately. Injuries may not be visible, and may take medical attention to identify.

    Home and Property

    Negligence is the most common cause of household injuries. The negligent party may be a landlord, neighbor, or even a contractor. The pet or property of a neighbor can cause immediate, permanent injuries. Personal injury is well-defined in legal statutes, and can be resolved to benefit the injured. Common causes of personal injury include:

    • Animal Bites or Attacks
    • Loose or Damaged Flooring
    • Contractor Mistakes
    • Wet Flooring

    Slips and Falls

    Loose or improper flooring is the leading cause of slip and fall accidents. This type of accident can occur at home, in the workplace, or even while shopping. Slip and fall accidents can lead to serious injury, including Traumatic Brain Injury. When someone is hurt by a fall, it is important to seek medical and legal help as soon as possible.

    Accidents are a fact of life. Acquiring the best care and compensation is up to the individual. The best accident lawyers can help injured people get the help they deserve. Personal injury law is regulated at the state level, requiring local representation. In Chicago, Illinois, Ankin Law Office represents victims of auto accidents, personal injury and workers’ compensation.

  • Two Big Changes to Driving Laws in Illinois Now in Effect

    Nearly 200 new laws went into effect in Illinois on January 1 this year, making it important to know the most potentially relevant driving laws. This year, the state enhanced two existing laws regarding driving. While accident lawyers may help anyone affected by these laws, it is the responsibility of every Illinois driver to understand and comply with them in order to minimize driving risks.

    Expanding Scott’s Law

    The biggest change for Illinois drivers is to an already existing law called Scott’s Law, or the Move Over Law. The law was enacted to protect emergency personnel working on the side of the road. The law required that all drivers either slow down or move into a lane further from the shoulder when passing an emergency vehicle.

    As of January 1, drivers are now required to take these precautions for any car that is on the side of the road with its hazard lights on. Those who do not either slow down or move over may be fined up to $10,000 and may have their license suspended.

    Higher Fines for Risky Driving at Railroad Crossings

    Any driver who opts to either go around a lowered railroad crossing or rush through an arm that is in the process of lowering will be fined at least double the old fine. A first-time offender will be fined $500, and every subsequent offense will cost an additional $1,000. Some police departments are considering stationing officers at train crossings to enforce the law.

    Getting stuck at a railroad crossing is a frustration that some people are willing to avoid at all costs. Similar to distracted driving, drivers can be so focused on avoiding this inconvenience that they do not recognize how risky their driving has become.

    Driving can be a dangerous activity, but people become desensitized to those dangers. Modifying existing laws helps ensure that drivers are safer when on or to the side of the road. In the event of a collision, accident lawyers can help review options and compensation eligibility.

  • Is Your Child’s School Safe? Some Tips to Make That More Likely

    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 community cooperative of responsible people can accomplish very much in prevention.

  • What Are the Important Safety Features in Your Next Car?

    Once upon a time, Volvo took a risk and advertised its safety features. The campaign was derided at the time, when style, speed and price were the priority concerns to car shoppers. But over time the marketing strategy has worked and that is now a predominant identification with the Swedish carmaker’s brand.

    The company introduced three-point seat belts in 1958, decades before they were required of U.S. automakers. Volvo was also the first to make airbags a standard feature. Eventually, American consumers caught on and realized that the death rate on the highways – not to mention the even greater numbers of people living with permanent, life-changing injuries and disabilities as a result of auto accidents – called for safer vehicles.

    Another factor was the popularity of sport-utility vehicles (SUVs). Despite their tank-like appearance, earlier models were found to be vulnerable to rollovers, particularly when taking corners too quickly. In a recent year, 2011, more than 60 people died and 2,700 suffered serious injuries in overturned vehicle accidents in Illinois. But the essential problem, too high a center of gravity, has been corrected in newer vehicles. The power of lawsuits and attorneys can produce positive change where it comes to vehicle design.

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires the following in all new cars: airbags and passive restraint systems; inside trunk handles; tire-pressure monitors; and electronic stability control (ESC), which automatically brakes wheels that are slipping.

    What are not mandated are side airbags and anti-lock brakes, even though both are considered very good ways to minimize injuries from car accidents. Other features that aren’t mandated by the NHTSA are:

    Head restraints, back seat – While mandated in front, they are not required in the back seats of vehicles. Anyone who typically hauls passengers – hello soccer moms? – should consider this to be important.

    Traction control – This system adjust engine power output, primarily with four-wheel antilock brake systems, such that stability is improved when the driver applies excess power.

    Car weight – The basic physics of vehicles in collisions gives the advantage to larger, heavier vehicles. This means, for better or worse, that SUVs and semi-tractor trailers will always dominate subcompact vehicles. The five-star rating system on vehicle performance in crash test safety, developed by the NHTSA, is called into doubt because the tests do not account for vehicle weight.

    The ultimate safety device is the human brain, of course. If you’re driving in Chicago and texting while plowing your car into others waiting for a red light, you’ll need both doctors and lawyers to help you in the aftermath.

  • Look For Neighborhood Hazards When Shopping For a New Home

    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 your children are pedestrians, investigate the condition of sidewalks and crosswalks.

    No one wants to hire a lawyer to address a neighborhood problem, therefore it pays to be careful and methodical in one’s home search.

  • Railroad crossing deaths are rising in Illinois

    Illinois is home to one of the largest railroad networks in the U.S., and the country’s single largest rail hub is based in Chicago. Not surprisingly, Illinois has more railroad crossings than any other state save Texas. According to the Illinois Commerce Commission, the state has over 8,400 highway rail-grade crossings and almost 400 pedestrian grade crossings. This high number of crossings creates a significant risk of accidents, which may be worsening. As CBS News reports, last year, fatal railroad crossing accidents increased markedly in Illinois.

    The number of fatalities reported in 2014 made Illinois the state with the second-highest number of railroad crossing deaths. Tragically, 21 people lost their lives. This constituted a 61 percent rise over the number of fatal accidents recorded in 2013. Troublingly, this uptick represents the first time in decades that fatal railroad accidents in Illinois have increased. This shift also mirrors a national pattern, in which fatal railroad crossing accidents rose 8 percent from 2013 to 2014.

    Several factors might contribute to this troubling development. According to the Association of American Railroads, freight traffic increased from 2013 to 2014, reaching the highest number of freight carloads since 2008. As the economy improves, further growth is expected. This increase in traffic may raise the risk of accidents. The advocacy group Operation Lifesaver also notes that technology has become an increasingly prevalent distraction in recent years. This distraction may prevent drivers or pedestrians from noticing crossings, stopping far enough away or detecting approaching trains.

    While some accidents might involve mistakes on the part of motorists or pedestrians, others may occur because railroad crossings are poorly designed or maintained. For example, inadequate signage may prevent motorists from realizing they are entering a crossing. Overgrown vegetation can obscure the sight of a railroad crossing warning sign or an approaching train. Malfunctioning signals or gates may cause people to unwittingly enter crossings at unsafe times.

    Various improvements could help address these issues. Automated warning devices, such as gates or lights, can ensure drivers and pedestrians are alert to approaching trains. The installation of monitoring devices, which warn authorities of signal or gate malfunctions, could help prevent accidents. More widespread use of interconnected circuitry, which synchronizes traffic and railroad crossing signals at intersections, could also lower the risk of train-vehicle collisions.

    Grade-separated crossings, which let drivers or pedestrians cross railroads via underground tunnels or overhead bridges, can fully eliminate the risk of accidents. However, such crossings remain relatively uncommon here in Illinois. The state currently has over 2,700 bridge crossings for vehicles and just 85 pedestrian bridges. Therefore, at the majority of crossings, accidents remain a threat that people traveling by car or foot should stay alert to.

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    Our firm handles workers' compensation and personal injury claims in Chicago, Berwyn, Joliet, Cicero, Waukegan, Chicago Heights, Elgin, Aurora, Oak Park, Oak Lawn, Schaumburg, Bolingbrook, Glendale Heights, Aurora, Niles, Schaumburg, Arlington Heights, Naperville, Plainfield and all of Cook, DuPage, Lake, Will, McHenry, LaSalle, Kankakee, McLean and Peoria Counties.