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…]
Most people discover that they have improper insurance coverage when it is too late. You don’t want to be in a situation where you are involved in an accident with someone who is inappropriately insured and find out there is not enough insurance money to cover your expenses. 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. 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. Most insurance agents recommend that you carry, at the very least, “Full Coverage.” However, you should consider getting “Complete Coverage” as the price difference is not that much greater and it will give you additional services and peace of mind should you be in an accident. Accidents happen and that is what insurance is for. If you are concerned about costs, it is important to understand your deductible as that is what your rate is based upon. The lower your deductible, the higher your monthly insurance premium; the higher your deductible, the lower your rate will be. For example, if you have a $250 deductible, you will pay more for your premium than if you have a $500 dollar deductible. The best advice I was ever given for determining what my deductible should be was to consider what I could afford to pay if I was in an accident. Below is a table of what you get for Full and Complete Automobile Coverage: Full Coverage Personal injury liability coverage Uninsured/Underinsured coverage Property damage liability coverage Collision Medical payment coverage or Med Pay Complete Coverage All of the above plus Emergency Road Service Car Rental Death Benefits Loss of Earnings 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 should make sure that you carry enough coverage to assure that someone can’t sue you for everything that you worked hard to build. Medical payment coverage[READ MORE…]
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…]
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…]
Is the City of Chicago liable for every accident that occurs when a pedestrian trips and falls on a public sidewalk? Of course not. But under certain circumstances, the City can be held liable. The Appellate Court of Illinois, First District, considered just such a scenario in Waters v. City of Chicago, (No. 1–10–0759). In Waters, the plaintiff was injured when she tripped and fell over the metal base of a street barricade that jutted out into the sidewalk. She was stepping over the metal base when she was distracted by the sound of a jackhammer, at which point she tripped and fell, landing on her wrist. Her injury required surgery. She later filed a personal injury lawsuit against the City of Chicago, alleging, in part, that the City owed her a duty of care under the “distraction exception” to the open and obvious danger theory. In other words, she alleged that even though the existence of the barrier and the dangers presented by it were obvious, the City nevertheless owed her a duty of care because the City should have known that her attention might be distracted by the construction occurring nearby, thus resulting in her loss of concentration and subsequent injury. The Court concluded that although the issue was not clear cut, there were questions of fact for a jury to consider and thus granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant was improper: (D)espite the obviousness of the barricade and its base, plaintiff became distracted upon hearing the loud noise from the jackhammer. Defendant created the hazard but not the distraction. It is reasonable to expect that a defendant who places a barricade over a sidewalk and places a portion of their bases in an area of ingress and egress on a public sidewalk without signs warning people to avoid walking in the area could foresee that people could reasonably become injured and would likely become injured if they used the walkway. It can also be reasonably expected that people would walk on the sidewalk notwithstanding its partial barricade. For these reasons, we cannot say, as a matter of law, that defendant should not have reasonably anticipated the distraction and should not have foreseen the injury to plaintiff. It would have been easy for the defendant to have barricaded the entire walkway so that no one could use it until the construction was complete and the consequences of doing[READ MORE…]
While recent political discussions over fingerprinting as identification for public assistance programs have been in the headlines, there is one fingerprinting program that is universally welcome, that of fingerprinting children. Law enforcement, schools, religious institutions and community groups around the country have joined forces to fingerprint children as a means of identifying them should they go missing. The Ankin Law Office will be hosting several events this year to provide free fingerprinting kits to the community. If you are unable to attend one of our events, drop us an email and we will be happy to send you a kit. Nearly 800,000 children are reported missing each year, according to National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Missing children include those taken by a parent during a divorce or child custody fight and runaways, as well as the rare but real child kidnapping. The US Congress passed the Missing Children’s Assistance Act in 1984 which helps to establish the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. One way to protect children is to have their fingerprints on file. Fingerprints, comprised of a pattern of ridges and loops, are unique. In the eighty years of fingerprint classification, no identical sets have ever been found. Your fingerprints are present at birth and, though your hand and fingers continue to grow, the relative position of the loops and ridges remains the same throughout your life. Fingerprinting cannot prevent abduction or keep a child from running away but it does provide an opportunity to talk to them about personal safety. The basic rules you should instill in your child include; Checking with a parent or trusted adult before going anywhere, accepting anything or getting into a vehicle Always go with a friend when playing outside or walking to another location Telling a parent or guardian if anyone makes you feel scared or unhappy Saying no if someone tries to touch or hurt Law enforcement agencies also suggest having a current photo of your child. If possible, the photo should be a digital version in order to make it easy to distribute throughout the community and nationally. In addition, Illinois is a member of the AMBER Alert Plan which brings together local, state and federal law enforcement agencies with broadcasters and other media in order to assist in the search and safe recovery of a missing child. The Illinois Amber Alert site http://www.amberillinois.org offers links[READ MORE…]
Sometimes, car accidents occur when a police officer is responding to a call and in many cases, depending on the facts of the case, laws exist which provide immunity–for police officers and their employers–from liability in personal injury lawsuits. In determining whether immunity applies, the courts must first decide if officer was “was engaged in the execution or enforcement of the law when the collision occurred.” This is because police officers engaged in law enforcement activities are only liable for the accident if it is found that the officer was acting in a wilful and wanton manner thus showing “an utter indifference to or conscious disregard for the safety of others.” In Stehlik v. Village or Orland Park, 2012 WL 555970 (Ill.App. 1 Dist.), the Appellate Court of Illinois, First District, was faced with just such a determination. In this case, the plaintiffs were involved in an automobile accident when their vehicle was struck by an Orland Park Police Department police cruiser being driving by Officer Gerald Kelly. Following the accident, the plaintiffs filed a personal injury lawsuit alleging that at the time of the accident, Officer Kelly was not engaged in the enforcement or execution of the law, and even if he was, his actions were so negligent that they rose to the level of wilful and wanton conduct, thus precluding immunity and rendering him liable for the accident and their injuries. At trial, the trial court disagreed with the plaintiffs and granted the defendants’ motion for a directed verdict and dismissed the lawsuit. The plaintiffs appealed, alleging that there were issues of fact that should have been decided by a jury. The Appellate Court of Illinois disagreed with the plaintiffs. After examining the facts and concluding that the officer was in fact engaged in law enforcement activity at the time of the car accident, the Court then turned to ascertaining whether his conduct was wilful and wanton. The Court explained that “Wilful and wanton conduct is defined in section 1–210 of the Act as: ‘a course of action which shows an actual or deliberate intention to cause harm or which, if not intentional, shows an utter indifference or conscious disregard for the safety of others or their property. This definition shall apply in any case where a ‘willful and wanton’ exception is incorporated into any immunity under this Act.” 745 ILCS 10/1–210 (West 1998).’” The Court then examined the[READ MORE…]
The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled last November 2011 that the State of Minnesota could proceed with its claim against Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc., the California firm that designed the Minnesota bridge that collapsed in 2007, killing 13 and injuring 145 others.Â The Stateâ€™s claim against Jacobs Engineering Group (Jacobs) is based on the fact that the bridge was designed by a firm that Jacobs acquired in 1999.Â The bridge collapse was found to have been caused by a design error that led to inadequate load capacity. More than 100 lawsuits were filed in 2009 and, pursuant to the Minnesota Tort Claims Act, the State of Minnesota has paid more than $37 million to victims of the bridge collapse.Â The State has also sued URS Corporation, the firm hired to inspect the bridge in 2003, and Progressive Contractors Inc., the company who had performed repairs on the bridge.Â Both of these companies have also filed claims against Jacobs, the design firm, seeking contribution, indemnity and reimbursement for their liability under a Minnesota law that allows injured victims to make a statutory claim for reimbursement in the event of an accident.Â The court dismissed these claims, however, due to a ten-year Statute of Repose, which provides that a company is immune from liability ten years after construction of the bridge.Â Since the bridge was built in 1967, liability of Jacobs with respect to the claims of URS Corporation and Progressive Contractors expired in 1977. Despite the fact that the indemnity claims of URS and Progressive Contractors against Jacobs were dismissed, the State of Minnesotaâ€™s claims against Jacobs were not dismissed.Â The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the Stateâ€™s claims for reimbursement could continue due to a Minnesota statute that retroactively revived the Stateâ€™s claims despite the expiration of the State of Repose deadline.Â Specifically, Minnesota statute 3.7394 allows the state to recover from any responsible third parties any payments made from the emergency relief fund despite any statute to the contrary.Â Accordingly, the State is permitted to seek reimbursement for the payments made to victims of the bridge collapse despite the time limitations in the Statute of Repose. Impact of Courtâ€™s Decision The Minnesota Supreme Courtâ€™s ruling allowing the case to proceed against Jacobs Engineering could have far reaching effects.Â Despite a Homeland Security Report issued in April of 2011 revealing that nearly 12 percent of U.S. bridges are structurally deficient and[READ MORE…]
Litigation pending over BPA in plastic bottles has hit a major roadblock.Â Last month a Missouri federal court denied class certification for the plaintiffsâ€™ claims over the use of bisphenol A in baby bottles and sippy chips.Â The plaintiffsâ€™ claims were part of multidistrict litigation pending in a federal court in Missouri.Â Multidistrict litigation, or MDL, is a federal court procedure whereby civil actions with common issues of fact are combined for purposes of discovery procedures and pre-trial motions. Although the court initially refused to certify three proposed multistate classes in 2011 based on issues regarding choice of law, commonality, and damages, the court granted the plaintiffs an opportunity to show that a class of Missouri-only consumers is appropriate for class certification.Â The plaintiffs then filed a motion for class certification of claims brought by Missouri-only plaintiffs against three manufacturers of baby bottles and childrenâ€™s sippy cups â€“ Handi-Craft Company, Gerber Products Company, and Evenflo Company, Inc. In denying the plaintiffsâ€™ motion for class certification of Missouri-only plaintiffs, the court focused on the plaintiffsâ€™ lack of standing.Â A court may not certify a class if the proposed class includes members who lack standing to bring a lawsuit against the respective defendants.Â The plaintiffsâ€™ class in this case included individuals who had not suffered an injury, such as those individuals who knew about BPAâ€™s existence and the potential dangers associated with BPA but purchased the products despite possessing this information. The court also denied class certification based on issues of reliance.Â For instance, plaintiffs argued that knowledge includes only consumersâ€™ reliance on defendantsâ€™ alleged nondisclosure of the dangers associated with BPA.Â The court disagreed with plaintiffsâ€™ assessment, however, and explained that the issue of reliance presupposes that the consumer did not know the relevant information.Â Since many plaintiffs in this case did possess knowledge regarding the potential dangers of BPA prior to purchasing the products, reliance could not be asserted. Moreover, the court determined that the proposed class included individuals who may not have suffered an injury even if they were unaware of BPA when they purchased the products.Â The plaintiffs argued that the class members were injured through the lack of material information prior to making their purchases, but the court held that the consumers were purchasing baby products and not information. In addition, the court found that there were concerns regarding commonality of claims with respect to the proposed[READ MORE…]
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