Warner & Zimmerle Teams Up to Feed Illinois

This is a slightly different blog post today. It’s not legal news or trial tips. It’s a call to action.

Warner & Zimmerle has teamed up with the Illinois State Bar Association to fight hunger in our state through a fundraiser called Lawyers Feeding Illinois. 

An estimated 1.9 million (!!) people are going hungry in the state of Illinois. A $1 donation will provide 5 meals.

The statewide goal is 1 million meals – and we’re trying to do our part.

Click here to donate – even $1 helps!

(Warner & Zimmerle is a law firm in Rock Island, Illinois, helping injured people in Iowa and Illinois. They can be reached at 309-794-1660).

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New Illinois Medical Malpractice Law

Governor Quinn recently signed Public Act 97-1145 into law, changing one big thing and clarifying another big issue in Illinois medical malpractice cases.

First, attorneys fees on medical malpractice cases are now capped at 33 1/3% of the total recovery. There had previously been lower caps as case values increased. This is important for all attorneys to pay attention to for new or future cases. I think it’s a good thing, as med mal cases tend to be the toughest, longest, and most expensive cases personal injury lawyers handle.

The act finally codifies the current version of the 2-622 expert certification requirement:

(735 ILCS 5/2-622)  (from Ch. 110, par. 2-622)
    Sec. 2-622. Healing art malpractice.
    (a) In any action, whether in tort, contract or otherwise,
in which the plaintiff seeks damages for injuries or death by
reason of medical, hospital, or other healing art malpractice,
the plaintiff's attorney or the plaintiff, if the plaintiff is
proceeding pro se, shall file an affidavit, attached to the
original and all copies of the complaint, declaring one of the
following:
        1. That the affiant has consulted and reviewed the
    facts of the case with a health professional who the
    affiant reasonably believes: (i) is knowledgeable in the
    relevant issues involved in the particular action; (ii)
    practices or has practiced within the last 6 years or
    teaches or has taught within the last 6 years in the same
    area of health care or medicine that is at issue in the
    particular action; and (iii) is qualified by experience or
    demonstrated competence in the subject of the case; that
    the reviewing health professional has determined in a
    written report, after a review of the medical record and
    other relevant material involved in the particular action
    that there is a reasonable and meritorious cause for the
    filing of such action; and that the affiant has concluded
    on the basis of the reviewing health professional's review
    and consultation that there is a reasonable and meritorious
    cause for filing of such action. If the affidavit is filed
    as to a defendant who is a physician licensed to treat
    human ailments without the use of drugs or medicines and
    without operative surgery, a dentist, a podiatrist, a
    psychologist, or a naprapath, the written report must be
    from a health professional licensed in the same profession,
    with the same class of license, as the defendant. For
    affidavits filed as to all other defendants, the written
    report must be from a physician licensed to practice
    medicine in all its branches. In either event, the
    affidavit must identify the profession of the reviewing
    health professional. A copy of the written report, clearly
    identifying the plaintiff and the reasons for the reviewing
    health professional's determination that a reasonable and
    meritorious cause for the filing of the action exists, must
    be attached to the affidavit, but information which would
    identify the reviewing health professional may be deleted
    from the copy so attached.

(Howard Zimmerle is a medical malpractice lawyer in the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa. He can be reached at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com)

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Illinois Health Care Services Lien Act – New Case

One of the great tools in a plaintiff lawyer’s arsenal in Illinois is the Health Care Services Lien Act, which reduces the amount of certain medical liens in some cases. It can really help increase the total amount your client ends up with in a settlement.

A new case from the 5th District, Stanton v. Rea, notes that the 40% of the settlement that goes to the medical lienholders should not be calculated until after costs have been subtracted from the settlement. In other words, the Act doesn’t mean 40% of the pie, it means 40% of the pie after costs. In some cases, that can make a big difference.

My partner, Mike Warner, just spoke on some new aspects of the Lien Act at the recent Rock Island County Bar Association Seminar. I think a thorough “how to” post is forthcoming.

(Howard Zimmerle is a personal injury lawyer in the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois, helping people who have been injured due to someone else’s fault. He can be reached at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com).

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Quick Tip – Make Sure Your Opponent Shows Up for Trial

Interesting Iowa Supreme Court decision today. The essential holding is that a party to a civil action does not necessarily have to show up for trial if they can prove their case otherwise. Of course, in most cases, I’d strongly recommend that your client show up. 

The real takehome lesson for lawyers here is to make sure to subpoena the opposing party for trial if you need/want any of their testimony. In Illinois, one would do something similar with a Rule 237 notice. 

(Howard Zimmerle is a trial lawyer practicing in Iowa and Illinois. He represents people who have been injured in car accidents, by medical malpractice, or in many other ways. He can be reached at hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com or 309-794-1660).

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New Case – Plaintiff Can Testify that She Did Not Seek Medical Care Because She Did Not Have Health Insurance

This is big. 

We’ve all had cases where either gaps in medical treatment or the type of medical treatment sought wasn’t quite what it could have been because the plaintiff didn’t have health insurance. 

Of course, the general rule is that either party’s financial status – and whether or not they have insurance – are inadmissible.

There is some potential unfairness whichever way this goes. If the plaintiff can’t testify that she hasn’t returned to the doctor because she can’t afford it, it might sway a jury to find in her favor. If she can’t explain why she didn’t go back to the doctor, it raises an inference that she was no longer in much pain.

A Fifth District case, Vanoosting v. Sellars, addresses these concerns, holding that the trial court erred in excluding testimony about Plaintiff’s health insurance. I think this is the right decision.

(Howard Zimmerle is a personal injury and medical malpractice attorney in Rock Island, Illinois. He can be reached at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com)

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How 1950s Housewives can Make You a Better Lawyer

ImageWe all want our clients to be happy and satisfied with our work and the process of their case, right? Obviously. 

The problem is that much of what we do goes on behind closed doors, in the comfy confines of our office, in depositions, and in minor court hearings that the client would be bored with (ie Motions to Compel, status calls, etc). 

So how do you keep your client happy with the process? Especially in the personal injury area where cases can easily take 2-3 years or more to resolve…

The answer may come from what is known as the Betty Crocker Egg theory. Legend has it that sales of instant cake mixes were slow when they were first developed. After studies and analysis, a guy named Ernest Dichter suggested that the mixes (put it in a bowl, add water, throw it in the oven) were too simple for the 1950s housewives that were baking them. The housewives felt guilty and not involved. The recipes were changed to require the addition of a fresh egg – and boom, sales grew like crazy. 

Why? Because that was just enough to make the housewives (or whoever was doing the baking) feel like they participated and were a real part of the process. 

(Snopes tries to debunk the theory, but their explanation – that new marketing sold the cake decorating process as creative and participatory – still supports the basic premise here.)

So the key to a happy client is to make your client an active participant in the process. But an egg/decoration participant, not a whole cake from scratch participant. If they have to do too much, they will wonder why they pay you so much and wonder if they needed you at all. If they do too little, they won’t feel invested.

Some suggestions:

1. Send clients a copy of correspondence and/or motions filed in their case, along with an explanation of them. 

2. Invite clients to court hearings – even minor ones. Explain beforehand what they are and that the client’s presence is not mandatory (ie no need to take time off of work for a routine motion, but you’re welcome to be there). 

3. Invite clients to sit in on other depositions. This sometimes helps beyond your own client’s feeling of participation. For example, treating doctors are often more charitable with their opinions if the client is present. Defendant drivers are often more honest about what happened when the other driver is present, and plaintiff drivers soften their settlement stances after seeing a Defendant who admits responsibility and is truly sorry for what happened. 

4. Make clients an active part of settlement/trial discussions. It is the client’s choice when/if to settle and for how much. They need to understand that, and you need to help them understand the pros/cons, etc.

5. Have clients help with some of the basics. For example, the client might be better off asking their boss to write them a letter confirming lost wages. One caution – don’t ask a client to get their own medical records. I’ve never seen a medical provider – especially a hospital or nursing home – provide the entire record that way. 

The moral, I guess, is that you have to break a few eggs to have a happy client. 

(Howard Zimmerle is a trial lawyer from Rock Island, Illinois. He practices personal injury, medical malpractice and workers compensation across Iowa and Illinois. He can be reached at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com)

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RIP Philip Corboy, one of the Best Lawyers of All Time

Phil Corboy of Corboy and Demetrio died yesterday.

I never knew him.

I’ve known some lawyers at his firm, and others by reputation, and have been impressed with all of them.

But Phil was the key. I don’t know if I would be in this line of work if not for Mr. Corboy. He was a pioneer. He fought the courts and fought the system to remove caps on damages and to make courts more fair. He tried cases in ways that hadn’t been done before, and won amazing verdicts that hadn’t been won before. He paved the way for every personal injury lawyer who came after him. (Here’s a fascinating article about how he did it).

He was an easy guy to look up to – not just for his results, or the street named after him in Chicago or for any of that – but for how far he came from with his background. In a profession where it feels like most lawyers came from upper middle class backgrounds and higher, Corboy was a scrapper who worked his way up from a lower middle class environment. I always admired other lawyers who grew up that way – and I believe it’s a common theme in the plaintiff’s bar.

I never knew him, so I’m not even close to the best person to eulogize him. I’m sure there will be great articles in many blogs and publications in the next few weeks, and I look forward to reading them. He was truly a pioneer and very well-respected. I just wanted to say thanks.

(Howard Zimmerle is a trial lawyer in the Quad Cities in Iowa and Illinois. He can be reached at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com). 

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