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June 2018

Social Media and Your Case

Friday, June 15th, 2018

This week attorney Alexis Ferracuti handed us associates the latest Illinois Bar Journal and circled the article “Sleuthing on the ‘Net.” This article starts a discussion of how social media has changed the way attorneys handle their cases. In my years of being a practicing attorney, I have seen first hand how social media can impact a case which is why I have decided to blog about it this week.

Years ago, an attorney who wanted to find information on a case either about a witness, a litigant or a juror, they would have had to search public records. These public records would range from court proceedings, driving/police records, marriage and divorce documents and property ownership. If they wanted to find out more information than that, they would have to hire a private investigator. But thanks to the internet and social media, the investigative avenues have blown wide open. Between Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, Google search (to name a few), there are many different avenues of free investigative research. An attorney nowadays simply has to type the name of a witness, litigant, or juror in the Google search bar and there is a plethora of information on them.

Okay so great, someone can Google my name and figure out some information on me, but how does it impact my case? Specializing in worker’s compensation and personal injury, we see a lot of clients who have been injured. This injury results in a doctor informing our client that they have certain restrictions albeit they can’t lift more than a certain weight, or they can’t use the injured body part. This results in our client not being able to engage in certain activities i.e. can’t fish anymore, can’t garden, can’t go hunting, can’t ride their motorcycle. If this is the case, if our client is given restrictions -they should abide by those restrictions. Specifically, in worker’s compensation, defense attorneys always send out private investigators to watch our clients to see if they partake in the activity. We used to only warn clients of these private investigators, but now the times have changed. Defense attorneys in both worker’s compensation now use social media such as Facebook, to see if our client is partaking in an activity that they are unable to engage in. More and more people are providing the surveillance that a private investigator used to provide. They are posting pictures and videos of themselves on social media doing what they said they were unable to do. It happens all to frequently that we are in a deposition and the opposing attorney brings out a Facebook page which has pictures of our client doing what they said they could not do.

As a society, we need to be aware that everything we post online is available for people to see and can have implications. The information we post online can be used against us in discovery and in trial.

-Attorney Kendall Hodges

At what price?

Monday, June 11th, 2018

One of the most complicated and contentious aspects of any litigation is determining what a claim is worth. The importance of that number is obvious: often, the sum total of all the circumstances, the law, the history, the hope, and the heartbreak is encapsulated in a single, final monetary value. It is no surprise that the question of compensation is often an important part of an injured person’s interaction with the legal system.

Once things such as medical expenses and lost wages are accounted for, the determination of further financial recovery is a complex process. An attorney must draw on their experience as well as a detailed understanding of the facts to estimate the value of a case, and occasionally even the best lawyer is surprised by the outcome of a hearing or trial. This uncertainty is what makes the negotiation of a settlement one of the most difficult parts of a case.

In Illinois Worker’s Compensation cases, the closest thing to traditional court awards are Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) payments. They reflect the acknowledgment of the permanent effect that an injury has on a worker’s life. PPD rates for different parts of the body are laid out in the statute itself: a somewhat ghoulish list of limbs and their assigned value, subject to how much function is lost. In stark contrast to the kaleidoscope of factors which might affect personal injury awards, the statute lays out the factors for PPD in a stark fashion:

impairment rating; occupation; age; future earning capacity; and medical record of disability.

Of course, the relative importance of these factors leaves much room for disagreement.

It is challenging to get past that final number. Is that really what all the pain and stress and life interruption is worth?

No, certainly not. Financial recompense is a poor balm for the human cost of being injured in the course of your employment. It is, however, a small comfort in the shadow of difficult times. The workers of Illinois are entitled to such comfort, and we use every tool provided to ensure that they get it.

-Attorney Travis Dunn

We all have different paths

Tuesday, June 5th, 2018

Being an attorney is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. College, law school, and the exam to become a lawyer were worth it. Every single second of hard work that brought me here was worth it. I get to help people get their lives back. I get to help people find justice. What an incredible thing to say.

But honestly- college isn’t for everyone. Law school isn’t for everyone. I know a few lawyers who don’t love what they do. When I see someone who hates their job, or does it for the wrong reasons, I always stop and wonder whether they started doing it because they were told that was the path to follow. Many years ago, someone decided everyone needed college. Everyone needed some sort of college degree. Going into the trades right out of high school or working on a farm immediately after high school graduation became frowned upon, and I just can’t figure out how that gets us ahead as members of a society of people who are all genetically and socially different in almost every way.

If you handed me a tool box and told me to go fix a door, I could probably figure it out after an hour or two- maybe three if I’m being honest about my mechanical abilities. If you asked me to try to build a house or assemble an engine for a piece of machinery, my first instinct would be to read twenty books and then try to figure it out and compare it to the diagrams in the books. Problem solving and reasoning runs in my family, but as my father once said, “if they had made me a plumber, I’d be useless. It’s lucky I figured out how to get into law school.” Trust me, we don’t have time for people like me to be spending a year just putting together a plan to try and complete a project. We need minds that are mechanically inclined and hands that understand the work they are doing without books and manuals to do that work.

We’re all different and we’re all meant for different things. I’m proud to come from a family of farmers, ranchers, salesmen and women, nurses, teachers, butchers, school bus drivers, mechanics, factory workers, construction workers, union members, military veterans, and lawyers. Instead of forcing kids to rack up college debt, let’s encourage some of them who are clearly inclined to do so to enter the trades and train through the unions or find fulfilling work in an industry that they care about right out of high school. Let them prosper and decide for themselves rather than pushing them into a career path they don’t want. I dread the day that someone might tell me there is no laborer available to help me build a home because the trades are going extinct. Help me bring them back.

-Attorney Alexis Ferracuti