Tag Archives: Illinois Law

So William Shatner is doing ads for a “local” law firm – what does that mean?

A certain firm (I won’t link to them) has been flooding the Iowa airwaves with TV ads featuring William Shatner. We all love Shatner, right? He’s Captain Kirk! He’s Denny Crane! He was on that episode of the Twilight Zone where the Gremlin attacks the plane!

So if this firm could get William Shatner’s support, they must be pretty good, right?

Well, here is William Shatner shilling for some other law firms:

Some firm in Bakersfield California

This one in Virginia

This one in Detroit

You get the idea. There’s a company that cranks these ads out for law firms all over the country. Sometimes they claim to be “local” and say the name of your community when they are in, say, Wisconsin. 

That’s not to say that firms who use these ads are bad lawyers. Or good lawyers. I’m sure some are good, some are bad – all have a good advertising budget.

Just know what’s going on. Do your research when picking a lawyer. 

(Howard Zimmerle is an attorney with Warner & Zimmerle. We have offices in Rock Island Illinois and Davenport Iowa. We don’t claim to have other offices. William Shatner has never said our name, to the best of our knowledge. You can reach us at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com). 

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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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Filed under Illinois law, Legal News, Medical Malpractice, Tort Reform, Uncategorized

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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New Illinois Rule 243 – Jurors Can Ask Questions!

Big news today – the Illinois Supreme Court adopted Rule 243, which allows jurors in civil cases to ask questions in certain circumstances. The rule reads as follows:

New Rule 243
Rule 243. Written Juror Questions Directed to Witnesses
(a) Questions Permitted. The court may permit jurors in civil cases to submit
to the court written questions directed to witnesses.
(b) Procedure. Following the conclusion of questioning by counsel, the court
shall determine whether the jury will be afforded the opportunity to question the
witness. Regarding each witness for whom the court determines questions by jurors
are appropriate, the jury shall be asked to submit any question they have for the
witness in writing. No discussion regarding the questions shall be allowed between
jurors at this time; neither shall jurors be limited to posing a single question nor shall
jurors be required to submit questions. The bailiff will then collect any questions and
present the questions to the judge. Questions will be marked as exhibits and made a
part of the record.
(c) Objections. Out of the presence of the jury, the judge will read the question
to all counsel, allow counsel to see the written question, and give counsel an
opportunity to object to the question. If any objections are made, the court will rule
upon them at that time and the question will be either admitted, modified, or
excluded accordingly.
(d) Questioning of the Witness. The court shall instruct the witness to answer
only the question presented, and not exceed the scope of the question. The court will
ask each question; the court will then provide all counsel with an opportunity to ask
follow-up questions limited to the scope of the new testimony.
(e) Admonishment to Jurors. At times before or during the trial that it deems
appropriate, the court shall advise the jurors that they shall not concern themselves
with the reason for the exclusion or modification of any question submitted and that
such measures are taken by the court in accordance with the rules of evidence that
govern the case.

The rule can also be found here.

So what does it all mean, practically speaking? A few thoughts:

  1. Judges do not have to let jurors ask questions. I suspect many older judges won’t do this at all. I’ve spoken to some local judges who are excited about this possibility.
  2. There is room to object and/or edit the question away from the jury. This is important, as I sure don’t want to object to a juror’s question in front of them.
  3. No discussion between the jurors. This is good too – it prevents preliminary deliberation.
  4. This does not need to happen for every witness. Hopefully this doesn’t slow down trials too much, although in a way it reminds me of letting fans suggest pitches to a pitcher – slowing down an already molasses-slow process.
  5. I’m a little scared of this. I like control. I usually know what the defense lawyers are going to ask, and they probably know what I’m going to ask.
  6. I also like the idea that jurors might feel more involved and more “into” a trial. This is a much better option than having jurors who are asleep by 1pm the first day of trial (or even in closing arguments… I had a juror sleep through my closing arguments once, and guess what… she became the foreperson, and I lost. GRRR…)

What do others think?

A recent article in the Illinois Bar Journal notes that other states and federal courts have tried it, and that the reaction of juries, judges and even attorneys has been largely positive.An example of this would be a pilot program in New Jersey, with similar results.

Will it change case outcomes? We’ll see. This may be the biggest change in trial practice since I became a lawyer – or it might be nothing.

(Howard Zimmerle is a plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer practicing in Illinois and Iowa. He can be reached at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com)

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Filed under Illinois law, Juries, Legal News, Trial Practice

Illinois Workers Compensation Commission Says “Impairment Ratings? We Don’t Need Your Stinkin Impairment Ratings”

One of the key features of the new workers compensation act in Illinois is that arbitrators are directed to use the AMA Guides (6th Edition) as a factor when awarding permanent partial disability. Specifically, Section 8.1b(b) requires the arbitrator to consider (a) the reported impairment rating, (b) the occupation of the employee, (c) the age of the employee at time of injury, (d) the employee’s future earning capacity, and (e) evidence of disability corroborated by the treating medical records. Additionally, the arbitrator must explain the relevance and weight of each factor he/she used “in addition to the level of impairment as reported by the physician.”

So does a physician NEED to report a level of impairment? Likewise, does the arbitrator NEED an impairment rating to approve contracts or enter a finding of disability?

According to the Commissioner’s office, the answers are No, and No.

I’m speaking at a seminar in Fairview Heights in February in detail about the effect of the new rule and the application of the AMA Guides. For now, there may not be as much of a shockwave as we thought.

(Howard Zimmerle is a personal injury and workers compensation attorney in Rock Island, Illinois, practicing in all of Western Illinois. He can be reached at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com)

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Blagojevich Jurors, the “Fist to Five” Vote and Three Other Important Deliberation Notes

Rod Blagojevich was found guilty. Bo-ring! My question, of course, is what did the jury think?

The Chicago Tribune has that covered. The neat thing to come out of the article was how the jurors took preliminary votes. Rather than using a straight up “guilty/not guilty” vote, they used the “fist to five” method, which I had never heard of before.

As the Tribune puts it:

Instead of private ballot, they did a “fist to five” vote, a consensus-building technique Karin Wilson suggested. If a juror raised a hand with all five fingers, that meant they were leaning strongly toward guilty. A fist was innocent. If the juror was somewhere in between, the number of fingers held up gave an indication of which way she or he was leaning.

Brilliant!

After doing a little research, this is apparently a common decisionmaking tool in corporate meeting settings, or at least in those corporate “six-sigma”-type retreats where people discuss management, leadership skills, how to run a business, etc.

Frankly, it sounds like one of the neat ideas you get after a seminar but never really put into play. I’m glad to see it worked!

Another thing that stuck out was that the jury considered the impact that the verdict would have on Blagojevich’s family. As the Tribune reported:

The panel discussed how the verdict would impact the lives of his two children, daughters Amy, 14, and Annie, 8. Ultimately, they said, they pushed those feelings aside and concentrated on the evidence.

“Everyone brought up that he had a family and young daughters,” the forewoman said. “This is a real human being, and it makes you kind of nervous. But we knew we had a job to do and stuck to the evidence.”

Sometimes we like to pretend that the jury won’t think of these things. Of course they will. We’re all human. A good lawyer will consider this and maybe even address it a little bit if the judge allows.

The third thing I noticed will give strength to the “reptile” attorneys reading this – the jurors hoped their verdict would “send a message” to other politicians. That’s really how all attorneys hope a jury will think. Examples would be hoping a medical malpractice verdict would send a message to other doctors/hospitals/nursing homes that sloppy practice won’t be tolerated, or that a car accident verdict would send a message that safe roads are important, or even that a defense verdict would send a message that bad lawsuits would not be rewarded. Of course, it is reversible error to directly tell a jury to “send a message”.

Finally, the article linked above mentions several times how well the jury got along. This contrasts with the last Blago jury, where the deliberations were far more tense and the jurors really didn’t get along well. I think the trial tip from that is to try to pick jurors who will work well with others. Stay away from jerks.

Hopefully we all learned something from this. Illinois – we have more imprisoned former governors than you do!

(Howard Zimmerle is a trial lawyer in Rock Island Illinois, practicing in much of Western Illinois and Eastern Iowa. He can be reached at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com)

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Filed under Juries, Legal News, Trial Practice

Become an Instant Expert on the New Illinois Workers Compensation Law in 5 Minutes

By reading my post at the Rock Island Workers Compensation Attorney Blog. Like an expensive hairdo, it hits the highlights. The big points to us lawyer-folk are the changes to compensation for carpal tunnel and other hand injuries, wage differential awards, and use of the AMA guides. For unionized construction workers, you could be in trouble. For stoners, you could be in trouble. For doctors, you just took a pay cut.

It’s all at the other blog. Read up and become instant experts.

(Howard Zimmerle is a workers compensation attorney practicing in Rock Island, Moline, Henry County, Knox County and surrounding areas. He can be reached at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com)

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Filed under Illinois law, Workers Compensation