Taking the Confusion Out of Common Injury and Estate Planning Worries: Answers to Your Frequent Questions
The most important job for any attorney is making sure that his client understands every aspect of her case. Although some lawyers are comfortable keeping their clients in the dark, we feel that you deserve more. You deserve to have all of your questions and concerns addressed in order to pursue your own case confidently and successfully. This is why we take the initiative to answer common questions that you may have even before you even step into our office. If you don't see your question answered below, please contact our office at 855-522-5291.
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Are there laws preventing commercial truckers from driving distracted?
Commercial truck drivers are not just expected to make their deliveries on time, they also have to complete a variety of non-driving activities to remain compliant with the law. Unfortunately, attempting to complete these actions while driving is a common form of distraction—especially if they involve cell phones or smartphones. Truckers may also attempt to pass the long hours behind the wheel by talking or texting, increasing the risk of an accident.
Laws Restricting Cell Phone Use for Commercial Truckers
Texting and talking on cell phones are a major source of distraction for drivers, including those hauling two-ton trailers. A truck driver who takes his eyes off the road for three seconds may not be able to stop to avoid a hazard, potentially leading to injuries and deaths to the passengers of smaller cars.
There are several laws in place that restrict cell phone use for truck drivers, including:
- Federal laws. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has banned texting and driving for operators of commercial motor vehicles (CMV). The law covers a variety of distracting behaviors that require “manually entering alphanumeric text into, or reading text from, an electronic device.” A trucker who is caught dialing a cell phone, entering text, reading messages, or even reaching for a phone can face a fine of up to $2,750 and suspension of his or her commercial driving license (CDL).
- Illinois laws. Illinois law prohibits drivers of both commercial and passenger vehicles from reading, writing, or sending text messages from behind the wheel when the vehicle is in motion. Commercial vehicle drivers are only permitted to talk on the phone if they are using an acceptable hands-free device. If commercial drivers are caught breaking this law, they may be ordered to pay a penalty fee of up to $2,750. If a distracted driving crash results in great bodily harm, disfigurement, or permanent disability, then the driver can be convicted of a Class A misdemeanor. However, if the accident results in the death of one or more victims, a driver can be convicted of a Class 4 felony and face a fine of up to $25,000 and between one and three years in prison.
- Missouri laws. Using a cell phone while driving is only illegal for Missouri bus drivers and drivers under the age of 21. However, commercial truckers are still bound by FMCSA laws restricting cell phone use even in states where electronic devices are permitted.
Even if the trucker’s specific actions were not illegal under state or federal laws, there are many driver distractions that can be seen as negligence. If the trucker was reading a paper map, typing directions into a navigation system, or watching a video on a portable device while driving, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and loss of income. Simply fill out the short contact form on this page to schedule an appointment for a free consultation, or download your FREE copy of one of our books, When the Rules of the Road Get Broken: A Guide to Illinois Car Wreck Cases, or The Missouri Car Crash Guide: Don't Wreck Your Car Crash Case!
What is an Illinois premises liability case?
The term premises liability refers to the body of law that governs who is responsible for the costs of injuries on a property. Although the most common types of injuries in these cases are slips, trips, or falls, injuries can occur any number of ways—such as dog bites, swimming pool accidents, fires, entrapment (such as falling down a hole or suffering ground collapse), and exposure to toxic gases or chemicals.
Injuries and Owner Responsibilities in an Illinois Premises Liability Case
Each state creates and enforces its own premises liability laws, which are used to determine whose negligence caused the injury. The negligent party can then be held responsible for paying the injured party’s medical bills, rehabilitation costs, lost income, out-of-pocket expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages.
In Illinois, you may have a valid premises liability case if you were visiting a property as:
- An invitee. A property owner is responsible for providing a safe environment to customers, builders, concert-goers, repairmen, and anyone else who enters the property for business purposes. Since invitees are usually paid to attend or are performing a service, the property owner may be held liable for the cost of these victims’ injuries. For example, if someone is attacked or injured due to negligent security outside a nightclub, the nightclub owner may be ordered to cover the costs since he or she should have installed proper lighting and surveillance equipment.
- A licensee. Licensees are social guests, or those who have been invited onto a property for a single event or for a short period of time (such as a party). In Illinois, the law makes no distinction between invitees and licensees, and requires that owners provide the same high standard of care to all invited guests. This includes fixing any known problems or warning guests about unsafe conditions that could cause injury.
- A trespasser. While people who enter the land without permission are not owed the same duty of care as invited guests, landowners still have some responsibility to prevent injury to trespassers. In Illinois, owners are prohibited from injuring trespassers through “willful and wanton” conduct, such as setting traps or intentionally making the land unsafe to others.
The premises liability laws that apply in your case will depend on where the accident occurred. Our attorneys have offices in Illinois and Missouri, giving victims greater access to our injury expertise at no upfront cost. Simply fill out the short contact form on this page to schedule an appointment for your free consultation.
How long do I have to be employed to be eligible for workers’ comp?
While there are many things that can affect eligibility for Illinois workers’ compensation benefits, the length of employment generally isn’t one of them. Coverage is guaranteed on whether you are a non-exempt employee, so if you are covered, you qualify for benefits whether you have worked for an employer for 10 years or 10 days. However, there are some instances where workers’ compensation coverage can exist in a gray area—and insurers may wrongfully deny payment if employees don’t know their rights.
Non-Work Situations in Which Workers’ Compensation May Apply
If you are injured on your employer’s premises while performing your regular job duties, filing a workers’ compensation claim is usually straightforward. Unfortunately, those injured before or after a shift or away from the work environment may be required to prove the validity of their claims—and may be denied medical and wage loss benefits if they are unable to do so.
Some cases where it may be more difficult to get workers’ compensation benefits include injuries that occur:
- Off the clock. If you are attending an orientation or training session before your workday begins, or are injured on work premises before or after clocking out, you are likely still covered by workers’ compensation.
- Traveling to or from work. In most cases, daily commutes are not covered by workers’ compensation. However, if the employee was performing a work-related task as part of the commute (such as making a pickup or delivery), workers’ compensation covers the journey.
- Away from the main working environment. Injuries suffered outside the office, job site, or regular work location may be covered if they are in any way associated with the duties and performance of your job. This can include mandatory meetings as well as sponsored events like company picnics.
- Under coverage of multiple benefit providers. Some employees may be covered by more than one work injury compensation program, especially if they work in an occupation that involves the overlap of federal and state injury laws.
The important thing to remember is that workers’ compensation coverage applies to any injury that is work-related—no matter when or where it occurs. If you have been injured on the job, contact the experienced workers' compensation attorneys at Tapella & Eberspacher today at (855) 522-5291 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.
What if my employer is retaliating against me for filing a workers’ compensation claim?
Workers' compensation laws do not only guarantee medical and lost wage payments to injured employees, they also prevent employees from being discriminated against for collecting benefits. If an employer is found guilty of discrimination, the employer can lose the “exclusive remedy” protection of workers' compensation, allowing the employee to directly sue the employer for damages.
Common Forms of Employer Retaliation in a Workers’ Compensation Case
The Illinois workers’ compensation system protects employees from many adverse actions in the workplace as a result of filing a benefits claim. The law protects injured employees from discrimination immediately after the injury occurs, covering them from adverse employment actions even before the formal workers' compensation claim is filed.
Common ways an employer may punish an employee for filing a claim include:
- Discharge. Terminating or laying off employees who exercise their rights under workers' compensation laws is expressly forbidden. This is known as "retaliatory discharge,” and is grounds for an employee to bring a civil action against his or her employer.
- Disciplinary action. Employees cannot be placed on leave or denied wages as a result of filing a benefits claim.
- Demotion. An employee who is forced out of his role or into another position may have a valid discrimination claim.
- Harassment. Employers may be guilty of retaliation if they discourage an employee from filing a claim, threaten termination, or otherwise harass the employee.
- Salary reduction. Employers may retaliate by forcing the employee to sacrifice sick hours, paid time off, pension benefits, and other earnings.
If you believe that your employer has unjustly terminated or discriminated against you for filing a workers' compensation claim, you may be able to sue your employer for lost wages, pain and suffering, and punitive damages. In many cases, employers will often attempt to claim that the reason for the retaliation is unrelated to the filing of the claim. However, the law states that employees still have a valid claim if collecting workers’ compensation benefits was not the sole reason for the discharge.
Our experienced workers' compensation attorneys can evaluate your case and advise you on your next steps at no cost to you. Contact Tapella & Eberspacher today at (855) 522-5291 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.
What does it mean when a lawyer offers a free consultation?
Attorneys usually want to schedule an initial consultation with a plaintiff before deciding whether or not to take a particular case. Many injury attorneys who take contingency fees offer free consultations to victims, since their goal is to lighten the victim’s financial burden. No matter what kind of case you have, the purpose of the first consultation is the same: to determine whether you and the attorney can work together.
What to Look for in a Free Consultation With an Attorney
Free consultations offer many benefits to injury victims, such as allowing the victim to learn more about the case without paying out of pocket and without the obligation of hiring the lawyer at the end of the meeting. In essence, the consultation is like a job interview—you ask questions to see if he or she is a good fit for the job.
Here are a few things to expect during your injury consultation:
- Undivided attention. An attorney should listen to your problems and concerns without distractions, such as answering calls or reading emails.
- Courtesy. An attorney and his or her staff should treat you with respect, no matter if you are visiting the office in person or speaking over the phone.
- Honesty. Even if the answers you get may not be what you wanted to hear, a good lawyer will be honest rather than give you false expectations.
- A brief overview. The consult is an opportunity to get some initial thoughts about your case, not a complete legal strategy. The attorney will be able to give more definitive answers once he or she has been hired and can dig into the specifics of the case.
- Next steps. At the end of the meeting, the attorney should lay out your options for what to do next, whether or not you hire the firm. If you decide to hire the lawyer, he or she should explain any fees and conditions before you sign an agreement.
- Referral options. In some cases, an attorney will decide that he or she cannot help you with your problem. If this happens, the attorney should be prepared to refer you to a lawyer who may be able to help.
If you have been injured due to someone else's negligence, our attorneys can provide perspective on your case at no cost to you. Simply fill out the short contact form on this page to schedule an appointment, or download your FREE copy of one of our books: When the Rules of the Road Get Broken: A Guide to Illinois Car Wreck Cases or The Missouri Car Crash Guide: Don't Wreck Your Car Crash Case!.
When should I consider hiring an injury attorney?
Some people will know right from the start that their case requires an attorney, but many attempt to cope with the aftermath of an injury on their own, only seeking out a lawyer when it becomes clear that an insurer will not pay their claim. If you have been involved in an accident, there are a few factors you can use to determine whether you should hire a personal injury attorney.
How Victims Can Tell When an Injury Case Requires a Lawyer
In general, it is best to consult a lawyer as soon as possible after an injury. A fast response allows important evidence to be preserved and ensures that the victim can file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires. Involving a lawyer early on also allows the attorney to protect you at each phase of the claim.
You may benefit from an attorney’s representation if:
- Your injury has changed how you live your life. If your injury required hospitalization, surgery, time away from work, or resulted in permanent scarring or disability, you will likely need an attorney to get you the full value of your claim. You should also seek an attorney’s advice if the accident resulted in someone’s death or involved extensive property damage.
- Someone else could be responsible for your injury. If someone’s actions directly led to your injury, a personal injury attorney can walk you through the legal steps to establish negligence in an injury case.
- An insurance company is refusing to pay. If your insurer is denying payment for your injury costs, has offered a low settlement, or is unreasonably delaying payment of your claim, an attorney can act on your behalf throughout the claims process.
- An insurance representative has requested more information. Insurance companies often use underhanded tactics to deny or undervalue injury claims, including getting victims to supply evidence that can be used against them. If your insurer has requested access to your medical records or asked you to give a recorded statement, it is likely that you have a valid injury claim—and you should speak to a lawyer before responding to an insurer’s requests.
- You are not comfortable representing yourself. Victims who represent themselves may be asked to supply evidence, calculate the value of their losses, negotiate their own settlement amounts, and perform other legally-binding duties to resolve their claims. An attorney can ensure that this is done correctly, getting you the compensation you need now as well as in the future.
Our lawyers take injury cases on a contingency basis and offer free consultations to victims—so there really is no downside to getting an attorney’s advice soon after an accident. Simply fill out the short contact form on this page to schedule an appointment, or download your FREE copy of our book, When the Rules of the Road Get Broken: A Guide to Illinois Car Wreck Cases.
How can I verify that my employer has workers’ compensation insurance?
Employees, contractors, and all other parties can easily verify if an employer has workers’ compensation in Illinois. The Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission (IWCC) has provided a searchable online database of employers and their workers' compensation insurance policies. If your employer and insurer are not listed, you may be able to take action.
Why an Illinois Employer May Be Missing From the IWCC Database
While the IWCC database allows free access to workers’ compensation information for each company, some employers may not be listed in the database. For example, a company may not be listed if it is:
- Based in another state. Out-of-state employers may not be listed on the statewide database, but that does not mean they are exempt from providing workers’ compensation insurance. Even if an employer’s headquarters is in another state, the company is required to secure workers’ compensation for employees who live and work in Illinois.
- Self-insured. Illinois employers are allowed to provide self-insured coverage, meaning that payment for work injuries is provided directly from the company rather than a third-party insurer. Although employees in these cases must pursue a work injury claim internally, the employer is required to provide coverage similar to the benefits included in state workers’ compensation laws. If employees are having trouble securing injury payments from a self-insured employer, they can file a complaint with the Illinois Division of Insurance and may have grounds to file a lawsuit.
- Committing fraud. Some employers knowingly violate the workers' compensation insurance requirement by failing to secure coverage or lying about the policy information. The IWCC has the ability to investigate and report companies who do not have coverage according to law, so employees should communicate any coverage concerns to the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission.
Work injury claims in Illinois can quickly become complicated, especially for employees who are still struggling to overcome the effects of an injury. Our experienced workers' compensation attorneys can explain your options and advise you on your next steps at no cost to you. Contact Tapella & Eberspacher today at (855) 522-5291 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.
Is workers’ compensation state or federal law?
Most Illinois employees are covered under state workers' compensation statutes. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act requires all public or private employers, state agencies, firms, school districts, and cities and villages that have any person in service to provide workers’ compensation coverage—even those with only one employee. However, there are a few exceptions depending on the job description and the work performed.
Exemptions to Illinois State Workers Compensation Laws
Illinois workers who are not covered under state workers' compensation may qualify for benefits through a federal law. On the other hand, some residents may be exempt from both forms of workers’ compensation, and may have to file a lawsuit to receive payment for a work-related injury.
For example, state workers’ compensation benefits do not apply to:
- Federal employees. Postal workers and other U.S. government employees can collect medical costs, wage replacement, vocational retraining, and disability benefits through the Federal Employees' Compensation Act.
- Chicago police officers. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act covers all police officers and firefighters in cities with fewer than 500,000 people. As a result, Chicago firefighters and police officers will have to seek payment under the Illinois Pension Code, the Public Safety Employee Benefits Act (PSEBA), and other legislation.
- Real estate brokers. State law specifically bars real estate brokers, salesman, or any person performing real estate services who is paid by commission only from collecting workers’ compensation.
- Independent contractors. Independent contractors are not considered employees under state law, and are therefore ineligible for workers’ compensation. However, just because your employer has classified you as an independent contractor does not mean you are exempt from benefits.
- Farm workers. Many farm workers are exempt from workers’ compensation benefits, but some may be eligible for payments depending on the nature of their employment.
If you have been injured on the job, we can examine the facts of your case and advise you on your next steps at no cost to you. Contact the Illinois workers' compensation attorneys at Tapella & Eberspacher today at (855) 522-5291 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.
What are my options if the car accident settlement offered by my insurer isn’t enough?
Many victims are tempted to accept low settlement offers in order to get payment for their crash expenses as soon as possible. However, you should be careful about accepting a settlement if your injury has not yet stabilized or you are unable to go back to work. Once you accept a settlement payment from an insurer, you cannot ask for more money later—even if you are unable to earn a living or are permanently disabled.
What to Do If Your Car Accident Settlement Is Too Low
The important thing to remember is that you only have one chance to collect payment. You will have to sign paperwork when you accept a lump-sum settlement stating that you will not seek any future damages stemming from the accident. With this in mind, if you have been offered too little, you have the following options:
- Reject the offer. Insurance companies will rarely provide everything you need in their initial settlement offer. You can choose not to accept in order to begin negotiations, or until you know the full extent of your injuries.
- Negotiate. Insurers have years of experience reducing the amount of claims, while victims will have to gather medical records, repair bills, pay stubs for lost income, and other evidence to prove their losses. If you plan on making a counteroffer to an insurer, it is best to have an attorney perform negotiations on your behalf for the best possible chance to get what you need.
- File a lawsuit. If the insurer refuses to provide adequate payment, you may have to take the matter to court. You can continue to negotiate with the insurer as your lawsuit progresses, and may even seek additional compensation for pain and suffering or emotional distress.
Our car accident lawyers have offices in Illinois and Missouri, helping victims understand the injury laws that apply to their case and maximizing the amount of available compensation. Contact the Tapella & Eberspacher Law Firm via our online contact form to schedule an appointment.
What does an attorney do for me?
Most victims are overwhelmed by questions after an accident, and many wonder where they can turn for reliable advice. Some have even considered asking a lawyer for help, but are afraid of incurring additional costs. In order to help injury victims, we want to explain a little about the role of an attorney in an accident case.
An Attorney’s Responsibilities in a Personal Injury Case
The majority of attorneys who represent injury clients take cases on a contingency-fee basis and offer free initial consultations. Since you will not have to pay anything up front and will walk away with many questions answered, it is virtually risk-free to speak to a lawyer after an injury.
Attorneys can also benefit your case by:
- Protecting your rights. Injury laws are complicated, and people without any legal training are at a disadvantage after an accident. Victims who share blame for an accident may not know that they can still collect payment for an injury, denying them the compensation they need. Your attorney can examine your position and tell you what to expect given your circumstances, and can protect your rights against the defendant or the defendant’s lawyers.
- Using their experience and connections. Attorneys have years of experience gathering evidence, ensuring that all evidence and statements are legally obtained, and hiring experts to testify on their clients’ behalf.
- Taking over the legal battle so you can heal. Victims not only need to prove the extent of their losses by gathering evidence and contacting witnesses, they also need to meet filing deadlines and follow court procedures. Your attorney can ensure that all legal documents have been filled out and filed correctly, maintain correspondence with third parties, and meet deadlines while you are incapacitated by your injury.
- Negotiating on your behalf. An experienced lawyer is likely to have seen cases similar to yours, and knows how they will play out if they go to court. This can be invaluable in settlement negotiations, determining whether the amount offered is fair, or knowing when to take your case to trial.
Our injury lawyers have offices in Illinois and Missouri to help victims who have suffered a variety of accidents. We can help you gather the necessary evidence to support your claim, maximize the amount of available compensation, and we don’t collect a dime from you unless we win your case. Contact the Tapella & Eberspacher Law Firm via our online contact form to schedule an appointment.