Frequently Asked Questions

(click a question to see its answer)



General Questions

How do I know if I need to hire a lawyer?

To some people, the answer to this question seems easy. I need a lawyer if I get arrested, divorced or want a will. However, there are countless other situations when you may need the assistance of a lawyer, such as when you enter into any kind of contract, when you have an accident, when starting your own business, when you are in financial trouble, when you buy or sell a house, or when you feel you have been unjustly wronged or harmed. Because every case is different, it is not possible to give you a quick test to determine if you need a lawyer. An initial consultation with our firm costs nothing. We believe that in order to tell you whether, in our opinion, you will benefit from having us work on your case, you need to talk to us about the specifics of your case.

Do I have a claim? Do I have a good case?

We can't tell you that until we talk to you. While we may decide that your case is not one we can help you with, we think it is necessary to talk to you in order to make that decision. If in doubt, call. It costs you nothing. ALL CONSULTATIONS ARE FREE.

Can I afford an attorney? How do you charge?

1. FREE CONSULTATIONS: We offer free consultations about your case. Call us. We like to consider the circumstances of all possible cases and can present options to you to aid you in making the best decision possible. 2. NO OBLIGATION. When you call us about your case, you are not committed or obligated in any way. Of course, anything you tell us is strictly confidential even if you never hire us. 3. UPFRONT TERMS. This is how we charge. The full terms will be in our fee agreement of which we will give you a copy and discuss with to you.

What are Attorney's fees?

There are three different ways that an attorney can charge you, depending on the type of case involved and each party's preference. The three methods are flat fee, contingency fee and hourly. Flat fees are where you and your attorney agree at the onset what the total charge will be for the specific service to be rendered. Most traffic defense and estate planning cases are based on flat fees. Contingency fees are most often used in personal injury, workers' compensation, and some employment discrimination cases. Generally speaking, contingency fees may not be used in family law cases. With this type of fee, the attorney keeps an agreed upon percentage of the overall recovery in the case. While it is true that, if there is no recovery, you will not owe your attorney any fees, you may still have to reimburse him/her for any costs expended on your behalf. Hourly fees are generated by multiplying the time spent on your case by the attorney's hourly fee. Typically, the client is also liable for any costs incurred on their behalf. With this type of arrangement, the client is charged for all time spent on the case, including in court, the office, for appointments, research, phone calls, letters, etc. Family law cases (e.g., divorce) typically use hourly fees. The important thing to remember is that, when you hire an attorney, make sure that you fully understand what method will dictate the fee arrangement in your case. In complex litigation, our fees are generally on an hourly basis.

What is a retainer?

Generally speaking, a retainer is the amount of money that a client must deposit with the attorney before the attorney will commence representation and start working for the client.

What are court costs and other fees?

Court costs are the fees charged by the District (Federal) or Circuit (State) Clerk's Office to file a document, or by the Sheriff's Office, or private process server, to serve a person or entity with a pleading, subpoena or other legal document, or as are required by law to be charged in connection with the payment of fines or other matters. Court costs are NOT charged for multiple hearings before the Court. Court costs are in addition to attorney's fees. Other fees may be charged in specific cases. A witness is entitled to a witness fee set by statute in the event he or she is subpoenaed to appear and testify in court. A person who has been sentenced in a criminal case will often be required to pay a fine and court costs, which are set by statute and involve many different elements.

Are there time limits on when I have to act? What time limits do I have?
 
 

There is always a deadline for actually filing a lawsuit. This deadline is called a "statute of limitation". The deadline or statute of limitation, usually, begins to run from the date of the accident or incident. The only way we can tell you accurately what your time limits are is to speak with you and learn about your case.

 
Employment Discrimination

What is discrimination?

It is illegal to discriminate in hiring, promotions, termination (known as wrongful termination) or other aspects of employment on the basis of a person's race, gender, national origin, religion, disability, or age. In some matters, it may be illegal to discriminate based on marital status, military status/service, parental status, etc. It is also illegal for an organization to retaliate against an individual for opposing such practices, or consulting an attorney or the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or equivalent state entity (in Illinois, the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) in Chicago or Springfield). Employment discrimination and wrongful termination claims can be difficult because the employee has to prove that the reason he was fired (wrongful termination), not hired, not promoted, or otherwise harassed is because of his (or her) "protected classification". By protected classification, we mean a person's gender (male or female), race (black or white), national origin (Hispanic, Asian, African, or having parents or grandparents from anywhere outside of the United States), age (over 40), or disability. In this sense, the employee has to prove why the company did it. In the case of religious discrimination, and disability discrimination, it may also be illegal for an employer to deny reasonable accommodations to an employee. For example, absent extenuating circumstances, an employer cannot require a person to violate his or her religious beliefs such as working on the Sabbath, eating a forbidden food, or using alcohol if doing so is against the person's religious principles. Instead, the employer must make an accommodation enabling the employee to do his job without violating his religion. Similarly, an employer must accommodate the disabilities of its employees if those disabilities meet certain standards. If a company terminates an employee without considering an accommodation, this too can be wrongful termination. Discrimination in the workplace occurs anytime your employer treats you differently than the other employees because of some "protected characteristic." These characteristics include your race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, marital status, gender, age, military status, and disability or perceived disability. If you are fired, disciplined, passed over for promotion or assignment, or otherwise treated differently by your employer because of these characteristics, you may have a discrimination claim.

Besides hiring, what other aspects of the employment relationship are regulated by the anti-discrimination laws?

The laws regulate all aspects of work, including hiring, firing, promotions, assignment of job duties, wages, benefits, and performance reviews. Generally speaking, the laws do not require an employer to provide specific benefits or to institute job review procedures or to draw up job descriptions. Rather, the employer is allowed to establish its own policies so long as they are applied to all employees in a non-discriminatory manner and so long as the policies do not have the effect of discriminating against a protected class.

What is Harassment?

Harassment in the workplace occurs when your employer severely mistreats or wrongs you while you are doing your job. The types of conduct recognized as harassment under the law are fairly broad and can include the following: yelling, screaming, using profanity, using racial epithets or slurs, staring, leering, sexual gestures, sexual innuendos, exceedingly difficult work assignments, unwanted touching, threats, offensive drawing or cartoons, and offensive jokes or comments. Conduct that occurs repeatedly and actions taken by a supervisor are more likely to be considered harassment under the law.

What is Retaliation?

You are legally protected when you complain to your employer that you believe you have been the victim of discrimination or harassment. You are also legally protected when you give testimony or otherwise support another employee when he or she has made a complaint of discrimination or harassment. Your employer may not legally fire you nor take adverse actions against you because you have made a complaint or harassment or discrimination or aided someone who has made these complaints. If your employer does fire or take action against you for these reasons, you may have a retaliation claim against your employer.

What should I do if I think I have been discriminated against in violation of the law?

It is usually a good idea to bring your complaint directly to the attention of the employer and attempt to resolve the problem on an informal basis. The employer may not be aware that there are individuals within its organization who are discriminating, or the employer may want to address your complaint and fix the problem. If, however, you want to pursue a legal remedy, you should get expert advice and act relatively quickly. Anti-discrimination laws have strict time limits (i.e., Statute of Limitations) for making a claim. Employees generally must file a complaint first with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Illinois Department for Human Rights (IDHR) before filing a lawsuit in court. Those agencies will investigate your claim and, if determined to be valid, will issue a "Right to Sue" letter. This opens the door for you to file a lawsuit in court. Lastly, if fired or not hired for discriminatory reasons, you should look for another job. Do so even if it seems that you are entitled to the former job. If you do not actively seek other work, it appears as though you are not seriously interested in employment. This can weaken your claim and may limit any award of back pay.

What is the Statute of Limitations for an Employment Discrimination Claim?

Any Illinois resident who believes he/she has experienced discrimination, harassment, or retaliation in the workplace may file a complaint with the EEOC and/or the IDHR. These two organizations work together to investigate and resolve employment discrimination complaints, so a person can file either a complaint with either or both organizations. Generally speaking, according to Illinois law, an individual must have his/her complaint "filed" with the IDHR or EEOC within 180 days of the alleged incident of discrimination.


The answer to this question varies from case to case. However, every case begins with a petition for divorce. Once the other party accepts service, the next step in many cases will include a temporary orders hearing where important interim issues will be decided. A case may also involve written discovery and depositions, the completion of a social study and/or a psychological and custody evaluation. Mediation may also be ordered. If the parties are unable to resolve the case through mediation or informal settlement negotiations, the Court will order the parties to trial. Trial may occur as a "bench trial" where the judge decides the case in its entirety or as a jury trial.


Wills and Estate Planning

What is a Will and why should I have one?

A Will is a legal document that allows you to determine how and to whom you want your property to pass. If you do not have a Will, your property will pass to your heirs according to Illinois law. A Will also allows you to nominate an executor to manage the assets of your estate, nominate a legal guardian to care for and provide for minor children, and allocate or apportion estate taxes.

What are the Consequences if I don't have a Will?

In the absence of a duly executed will, Illinois law controls who will receive your assets upon your death. These laws may not provide for the distribution of assets which you desire.

What assets can be passed using a Will?

Although a Will can pass most of your assets, assets such as life insurance proceeds, retirement benefits, joint accounts, jointly held real estate, assets held in a living trust, and your spouse's non-marital property cannot be passed using a Will.

Can I change my Will in the future?

Anyone can amend his or her Will by use of a Codicil (an amendment to a Will) or by destroying a previous Will and executing a new one. However, it is advisable to seek the advice of an attorney when changing a Will. A Will that is not correctly amended could cause confusion after death and, often, leads to contests by disgruntled heirs.

What is probate?

Probate is a court-supervised process that oversees the administration of a deceased person's estate. Its purpose is to assure that a deceased person's debts are paid, the beneficiaries described in the Will ascertained, the executor's or administrator's actions are monitored, income and estate taxes are paid, and the assets of the estate are distributed according to the deceased person's Will. Certain property will not have to pass through probate before it can be distributed. They include jointly held property (joint bank accounts, real estate held as joint tenants, etc.), life insurance proceeds (as long as they are not payable to the estate of a deceased person), IRA's, 401K's, retirement accounts, and property passing to a surviving spouse.

What Does a Will Cost?

The cost of having a will drawn up professionally usually depends on the size and complexity of your estate. More comprehensive estate planning and preparation of other documents are usually charged at an hourly rate. However, if you have a simple estate, the cost may be modest, and you will have the benefit of professional assistance to ensure that your will meets the standards for validity.

What are trusts?

A trust document is an agreement between three people dealing with assets. The Grantor is the creator of the arrangement who appoints a Trustee to hold the legal title to the assets for the benefit of the Beneficiary. Although there are certain legal limitations, it is possible for the Grantor and Beneficiary to be the same person and is even possible for the Grantor to serve as his own Trustee. In some situations, Grantors may wish a bank or other entity to serve as the Trustee.

What is a living trust?

A revocable living trust, also known as a revocable inter-vivos trust, is a legal document that allows you to direct how you want your assets to be distributed when you die while allowing you to maintain control of those assets during your lifetime. One of the biggest advantages of the living trust is that it can provide for the care of the settler (i.e., the maker of the trust) should he/she become disabled or incapacitated and unable to care for him/herself.

If I have a living trust, do I still need a Will?

Yes. A Will directs how a deceased person's assets are to be distributed. When a living trust is created, it must be funded. Funding occurs when assets are transferred into the trust at the time of creation. What could happen is that future assets acquired by an individual or couple are left out of the trust. Having a "pour over Will" directs that any assets held in your name be transferred at your death to your living trust. These assets will have to pass through probate, but distribution will be according to the terms of the trust. A Will also permits a deceased person to nominate a guardian to care for and provide for minor children.

What is a Living Will?

A living will is a document that allows for the withdrawal of life sustaining medical procedures in the event an individual suffers from an incurable injury, disease or illness with no reasonable chance of recovery. The living will allows for the withdrawal of the life sustaining procedures where they would serve only to prolong artificially the dying process, and the person is permitted to die naturally with only the administration of medication or medical procedures deemed necessary to provide comfort care.

What is a Durable Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney is a very important document and is intended to be an instrument whereby you bestow on an agent the power to act for you in certain circumstances. A Durable Power of Attorney allows that agent to act even if you later become incapacitated through an injury or become mentally incompetent, in that the agent can perform all actions on behalf of you, to the same extent that you could have done for yourself. A Durable Power of Attorney is extremely useful in that it avoids the necessity of formal court proceedings to have the person declared to be mentally incompetent, establish a custodian or guardian, and require annual court filings. Two types of Durable Power of Attorney are common: A Power of Attorney for Property allows your agent to act on your behalf for decisions regarding your property (both real property and personal property). A Power of Attorney for Health Care allows your agent to act on your behalf for decisions regarding your medical care, should you become incapacitated and unable to make your own decisions.

Do I need an Authorization for Release of Medical and Health Information?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 ("HIPAA") restricts the dissemination of your medical information without your written consent. An authorization for Release of Medical and Health Information in favor of your healthcare agent or other fiduciary is recommended so that they might make informed decisions for your care.


Contrary to popular belief, most cases settle. We make a good faith effort to settle cases, but if the other side isn't willing to reasonably settle on your claim, we will file suit. Even after suit is filed, most cases still settle. If your case has to be tried, we will work with you to make sure you are prepared for that process.


Special Education

What is "special education"?

Special education means specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parent, to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities. This instruction can include classroom instruction, home instruction, instruction in hospitals and institutions, instruction in other settings, and instruction in physical education. Special education also includes vocational education and speech-language pathology or any other related service if the service is considered special education under the State's standard. "Children with disabilities" means children between the ages of 3 and 21 for whom it is determined that special education services are needed. An eligible student who requires continued public school educational experience to facilitate his or her successful transition and integration into adult life is eligible for such services through age 21, inclusive. An individualized education program (IEP) must be written and agreed upon by appropriate school personnel and parents or their representatives for any child receiving special education. "At no cost" means that all specially-designed instruction is provided without charge, but does not preclude incidental fees that are normally charged to nondisabled students or their parents as a part of the regular education program. "Physical education" means the development of physical and motor fitness; fundamental motor skills and pattern; and skills in aquatics, dance, and individual and group games and sports (including intramural and lifetime sports). The term also includes special physical education, adapted physical education, movement education, and motor development. "Specially-designed instruction" means adapting, as appropriate to the needs of an eligible child...the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction to address the unique needs of the child that result from the child's disability and to ensure access of the child to the general curriculum, so that he or she can meet the educational standards within the jurisdiction of the public agency that apply to all children. "Vocational training" means organized educational programs that are directly related to the preparation of individuals for paid or unpaid employment, or additional preparation for a career requiring other than a baccalaureate or advanced degree. "Least Restrictive Environment". Your child is entitled to receive an education in the least restrictive environment (LRE). This usually means in the school setting with the most opportunity possible to be with students who do not have a disability. If your school has suspended your child for more than 10 school days without providing services, or is planning to change your child's placement in school to a more restrictive setting and you disagree with the proposed change, you can request an impartial due process hearing which should maintain services for your child in the current educational placement until the hearing is resolved.

What related services are available for my child?

Your school district must provide related services to your child if they are necessary to assist your child to benefit from special education. Related services include, but are not limited to:
a. transportation
b. attendants for personal health care needs
c. interpreters for children with hearing impairments
d. occupational therapy
e. physical therapy
f. speech therapy
g. readers for children with visual impairments
h. nursing services
i. psychology services
j. aide

 

Should the Parent sign and consent to the IEP at the IEP meeting?

a. We always advise our clients, no matter how well the IEP meeting went, to take the IEP home and to review it with us. We like to make sure you are comfortable with everything that has been said. You have a right to supplement the IEP.

b. It is important to read the narrative and make sure what was discussed at the IEP meeting was included.

 

How does the school district determine whether my child has a learning disability?

a. The school district will ask your permission to assess your child's eligibility for special education services; or
b. You may ask the school district to assess your child's eligibility for special education services.
NOTE: It is important that the assessment include all necessary tests and conditions to determine what special education services you child may require.

Who is eligible for specialized services or educational program modifications under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973?

A child who may have problems in learning may not be found eligible for special education services because she does not fit into one of the special education eligibility categories and/or because her learning problems are not severe enough for the student to qualify for special education. Such a child, however, may be eligible for special services and program modifications under a federal antidiscrimination law designed to ensure provision of regular or special education and related aids and services that are necessary to meet the needs of a student with a Section 504 disability as adequately as the needs of students without disabilities are met. The law is commonly known as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 [29 U.S.C. Sec. 794] and its implementing regulations are at 34 C.F.R. Sec. 104.1 and following. Section 504 eligibility is not based on a categorical analysis of disabilities. Rather, Section 504 protections are available to students who can be regarded in a functional sense as "handicapped," i.e., students who have a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits a major life activity (such as learning), have a record of such impairments, or are regarded as having such impairments. Whenever you make a referral for special education assessment, you should also request that your child be assessed for eligibility under Section 504. This way, if your child is not found eligible for special education, she may still be able to obtain necessary services or modifications under Section 504.

If you answer "yes" to any of the following questions, you should consider obtaining legal assistance:

Has the school district refused to provide specific services for your child?
Is your child significantly delayed in reading?
Does your child have behaviors that interfere with educational progress?
Has your child made minimal progress despite special education services?
Has the school district suspended or expelled your child?
Is it taking too long to determine whether your child is eligible for special education?
Has the school district failed in properly assessing your child?
Do you want an independent assessment of your child?
Are your child's "goals and objectives" the same from year to year?
Has the school district failed to implement your child's IEP?
Do you feel overwhelmed or ignored at Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings with teachers and school officials?