Monthly Archives: March 2010

9 Tips – Prepare Your Plaintiff for a Personal Injury Deposition

Hopefully your deposition will go better than this one

In today’s world, the deposition may be the only time a personal injury plaintiff gets to tell his/her story. Many cases settle shortly after depositions, and a good one can show attorneys and insurance adjusters just how good your case is.

The flip side is that a bad deposition can turn a great case into a loser, or at least into an uphill battle.

Here are some tips to avoid screwing up this process. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it should get your mind on the right track. If there are other tips or suggestions, let me know in the comments.

9. Explain the deposition process. Do not assume your client has any idea what a “deposition” is. I didn’t before law school. Explain that the defense attorney will ask him/her questions about the case, past medical history, work history, etc. Explain that you’ll be there with him. Explain that it will be in a conference room – possibly the same one you’re sitting in right now, and that there will be a court reporter taking everything down. You can be as detailed as you want, but try to make it a brief overview. 

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Filed under Negotiations, Settlements, Trial Practice

6 Points on the Illinois Nursing Home Safety Task Force Report

It’s true here in the Quad Cities and across the nation – nursing homes are often understaffed, overfilled, and the workers often abuse and/or neglect their residents. One of my goals as a lawyer is to do my part to reduce nursing home abuse and neglect by holding the nursing homes responsible in court.

The State of Illinois is doing its part (or at least something). Governor Quinn appointed a task force to learn what causes substandard care to elderly nursing home residents. The full report is here – but some of my notes are below the fold:

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Filed under Medical Information, Medical Malpractice, Tort Reform

Interesting New Illinois Case on Hospital Liens and the Common Fund Doctrine

EDIT: The Illinois Supreme Court has reversed this case. Ignore everything I wrote below, and remember that you’re stuck with the Lien Act as the only means to reduce hospital and physician’s liens. – HZ 3/24/11


Ever wonder how you can tell you’re lame? When you write a blog post about how a case on “hospital liens and the common fund doctrine” is “interesting.” This is a far cry from the old me, who was only interested in baseball and playing guitar.

Anyway, the case (which you can find here) is from the 5th District Appellate Court. It holds that the common fund doctrine is applicable to hospital liens, and can be used to reduce the amount hospitals recover from a personal injury verdict or settlement.

Yet in a way, it’s broader than that. In a more accurate way, it’s far narrower.

By its language, the case seemingly applies Bishop v. Burgard, 198 Ill.2d 495, 509 (2009) not just to hospitals, but also to any health care provider asserting a lien against an injured party. How does this work? Here:

  1. Hospital bills patient $10,000.
  2. Case settles for, say, $100,000.
  3. Client pays $33,333.33 (or so) in attorneys fees out of the settlement proceeds.
  4. Hosptial would normally be entitled to its entire $10,000. Yet this case notes that the Hospital is only getting repaid by virtue of the attorney’s work, and would reduce the Hospital’s recovery to $6,666.66 (representing 2/3 of the total).

Ah, but it’s not that simple.

The last paragraph of the opinion is important, so hopefully trial lawyers stopped jumping up and down for a minute to read the whole case. The case takes no opinion on whether the hospital is entitled to the remaining 1/3 of its billed amount or not. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!

Just like the Health Care Lien Act, this looks like it would reduce a lien but not reduce the amount of the bill. The key to handling a case like this, as a plaintiff’s lawyer, is to negotiate a final settlement of the provider’s bill rather than taking your 1/3 and going home. If you don’t, your client could be billed for the remainder, sometimes weeks or months later after all of the settlement money has been spent.

(Howard Zimmerle is a car accident lawyer in Rock Island and Moline, Illinois – with a new office in Davenport Iowa.)


Filed under Illinois Case Law, Illinois law, Medical Information, Negotiations, Settlements, Traps, Trial Practice