September 2018

Of Bears and Barristers

Friday, September 28th, 2018

The Endangered Species Act was enacted in 1973 for the purpose of protecting critically imperiled species from extinction. One of those species was, and continued to be until 2017, the North American grizzly bear, otherwise known by its Latin designation, Ursos arctos horribilis, of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem spans three states, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. In 2017, The Trump Administration targeted the bears when it sought to delist the Yellowstone grizzlies as an endangered species.

On September 24, 2018, Judge Dana Christensen, for the United States District Court for the District of Montana, Missoula Division, entered an order vacating the June 30, 2017 Final Rule of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service which had delisted the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem population of grizzly bears. Judge Christensen's order went on to state that it restored Endangered Species Act status to the Greater Yellowstone grizzly. This ruling served as a huge win for animal rights proponents and conservationists.

While this may seem like the Court taking an ethical or moral stance on hunting, Judge Christensen noted in his decision that his review of the issue was limited by the Constitution and the laws enacted by Congress and its inquiry was limited to answering the yes-or-no question of whether the United States Fish and Wildlife Service exceeded its legal authority when it delisted the Greater Yellowstone grizzly. Judge Christensen explained that his decision was made based on the facts that reduced Yellowstone grizzly populations would affect the genetic health and survival of other grizzly populations in the country and that the Fish and Wildlife Service erred in its use of scientific data in reaching its decision to remove grizzly protections. To put this in slightly more simple terms, the Court found that, whether delisting the grizzly was bad or good, the Fish and Wildlife Service went about making its decision in the wrong way and thus its actions were invalid.

Regardless of the Court's motivations in restoring protections for grizzlies, its analysis and conclusions are supported by real world data. A study conducted in 2018 by The Ohio State University found that a whopping 74% of scientists surveyed recommended continued Endangered Species Act protections for Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bears. In its decision, the Court detailed the dire situation in which grizzly populations across the country currently find themselves, noting that 37 separate grizzly populations were identified in the contiguous United States in 1922 and that only 6 populations remained in 1975. The Court followed this fact with reference to the United States Supreme Court's previous opinion that the objective in enacting the Endangered Species Act in the first place was to "halt and reverse the trend toward species extinction, whatever the cost."

Yellowstone grizzlies are safe for now, but the gray wolf population of the park is currently on the chopping block as legislation has been introduced in Congress which would delist the species as endangered. If Judge Christensen's recent decision is any indication of the future, both sides of the issue are in for a fight.

-Attorney Ryan Zaborowski


How Much Will Your Speeding Ticket Cost?

Monday, September 24th, 2018

In Illinois, moving violations - violations that are committed in a moving vehicle - are taken very seriously. Most people view speeding tickets as minor and trivial, however, they can lead to severe consequences - such as license suspension, massive fines, and even time in jail.

Most people do not realize the monetary consequence of a speeding ticket. Not only do you have to pay a fine for a speeding ticket, but also your insurance rate increases. Speeding tickets costs vary by county in Illinois. This is because county and city government systems control how much they charge for certain violations. Regardless, the typical cost of a speeding ticket for traveling between one and 20 miles per hour over the speed limit is $120.00. It may seem like a small amount, but the implications of a small offense like speeding can have significant impacts on other areas of your life. Those consequences appear after you have agreed to pay your ticket. After receiving a traffic ticket, the first thing you might realize is that your insurance premium has increased. In some cases, a speeding ticket can result in the cost of your insurance increasing by thousands of dollars each year. In addition, this increase is not temporary - it can stay for years and if you were to receive another one most companies would drop you.

Further, Illinois uses a point system to track moving violations. I've discussed this point system in a previous blog, but to reiterate - if you receive 15 points or more as a first-time offender, you could face a license suspension period of two months to one year. If you are a repeat offender - it can result in four to 12 months of license suspension. It is also possible to have your license suspended or revoked for receiving 3 or more violations over a 12-month period. For adults under the age of 21, the rule is two or more over a span of 2 years. In majority of cases, people are not properly notified of their suspension and they continue to go about their business and end up driving on a suspended or revoked license. What they don't realize is that driving on a suspended license is a Class A misdemeanor, which can lead to a $2,500 fine and up to 364 days in jail.

If you have been given a traffic ticket for speeding, it is important you seek legal representation. Our office is here to help. Appointments may be scheduled through our toll free number at 888-488-4LAW or through our website at https://www.peterferracuti.com

-Attorney Kendall Hodges


It's Not All in Your Head

Friday, September 14th, 2018

It should come as no surprise that our physical health can have an effect on our mental well-being. If you suffer a worker's compensation injury and then experience, for example, a diagnosis of depression during your time of disability or psychological side effects of treatment, you may be entitled to benefits connected to that mental injury as well. In worker's compensation in Illinois, these are called "physical-mental" injuries.

Things work differently if a work injury does not have an obvious physical component. These "mental-mental" claims are necessarily more difficult to connect to employment, and have special requirement in order to be compensable.

There are two types of compensable mental injuries. First, the injury can be the result of a sudden, severe emotional shock traceable to a definite time, place and cause. For example, a bus driver who, while working, fatally hit a pedestrian and was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder was found to have suffered an injury compensable in workers compensation. Conditions such as PTSD which are traceable back to specific occurrences and stressors are often the type which can be successfully connected to employment, under both types of mental injuries.

The second type of purely mental injury is one in which a series of work events, while not individually rising to the level of a sudden, severe emotional shock, nonetheless meet the following requirements: (1) The mental disorder arose in a situation of greater dimensions than the day-to-day emotional strain and tension which all employees must experience; (2) the conditions exist in reality, from an objective standpoint; and (3) the employment conditions, when compared with the nonemployment conditions, were the major contributory cause of the mental disorder.

One recent successful claim under this second type of mental injury was a bus driver who suffered a series of incidents involving aggressive passengers, culminating in an instance where a group of youths taunted the driver and threw a brick and a bottle at him. This, the court found, was stress and tension beyond which even a Chicago Transit Authority employee might normally experience. On the other hand, the circumstances must really be unusual in order to fall under worker's compensation. Arguments with co-workers, disciplinary actions by employers, and even being a witness to a violent altercation have been found to be insufficient in some cases, even if there was subsequent mental health treatment.

Psychological injuries in the workplace can be even more insidious than physical ones, because they aren't the type of thing you can diagnose with an x-ray or a quick physical with the company doctor. Nonetheless, under certain circumstances they can be just as valid a worker's comp claim as any other injury.

-Attorney Travis Dunn


The Doctor Will Skype You Now

Monday, September 10th, 2018

On August 22, 2018, Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law certain bills aimed at providing mental health services to those in underserved and rural communities. Ultimately, the bill will allow Medicaid beneficiaries to access "telemedicine" services with mental and behavioral specialists. But what is telemedicine? Medicaid states on its website that telemedicine "seeks to improve a patient's health by permitting two-way, real time interactive communication between the patient, and the physician or practitioner at the distant site." It goes on to say that "[t]his electronic communication means the use of interactive telecommunications equipment that includes, at a minimum, audio and video equipment."

From a practical standpoint, telemedicine is usually administered in one of a few ways. The first is "store and forward," a method by which patient and doctor do not even need to be present at the same time. This typically involves the transmission of electronic medical records and sometimes diagnostic imaging studies (like x-rays) for the purposes of diagnosis and care. In such case, the healthcare professional may be able to assess a patient's condition and recommend treatment without ever actually speaking to him or her. Another way in which telemedicine is practiced is through remote monitoring. This allows a healthcare professional to monitor a patient's condition through various technological implements, an example of which is home-based nocturnal dialysis. Finally, telemedicine may also be administered through real-time interactive treatment. This would include videoconferencing between the patient and doctor and has become increasingly more viable due to the ability of smart phones to facilitate such interactions through applications such as Skype or Apple's Facetime.

The advancement and increasing availability of telemedicine is impressive, but is it a good substitute for traditional face-to-face interactions with your doctor? One study sought to answer this question by focusing on care delivered remotely via telemedicine compared to in-person care for Parkinson's patients. The study found that the virtual visits saved patients considerable time and miles traveled versus typical face-to-face appointments and that their efficacy was more or less on par with traditional in-person care. Then again, another study conducted recently found that as many as one in four virtual visits would be considered "inaccurate or incomplete."

For some patients in rural and underserved areas, traditional doctor visits are either impractical or impossible and it is these patients that stand to benefit most from new laws allowing them access to necessary treatment such as those put in place in Illinois last month. For those individuals, at least, telemedicine is an indisputable boon.

- Attorney Ryan Zaborowski