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Understanding the Discovery Process in Personal Injury Lawsuits

Web Admin - Thursday, February 07, 2019
Rolling Meadows personal injury lawyer discovery processIf you have suffered severe damages as a result of someone else’s negligence or malfeasance, you have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover compensation from the at-fault party. In order to win your case, however, your lawyer will have to develop a strong set of facts and arguments through a legal process known as discovery

For example, if you are injured in a collision involving your car, an SUV, and a large commercial truck, some of the questions that will have to be investigated and argued include:

- What percentage of the fault for the collision should be attributed to each party involved in the crash, including the company that owns the commercial truck and employs its driver? 

- Exactly what physical injuries did you suffer as a result of the collision? 

- What are your reasonable medical expenses to recover from those injuries?

- Did the accident leave you with any permanent disfigurement or disability? 

- What other damages did you suffer, such as emotional trauma requiring psychotherapy or lost income from being unable to work?


The legal process through which the parties to a lawsuit exchange information and answer questions such as these is called discovery. Discovery has two phases: sharing of written documents and oral interviews known as depositions.

Written discovery typically involves three types of documents:

- Interrogatories - These are essentially questionnaires submitted by one party in the lawsuit to be answered in writing by another party. The questions may be as simple as asking for names, contact information, and relevant insurance information for everyone involved in the accident.

- Requests for production of documents - The other side may request documents such as your medical records, medical bills, records pertaining to your vehicle, and any photographs you may have of the accident scene, your vehicle, and your injuries. Your lawyer may, in turn, request such information from other parties to the lawsuit.

- Requests for admission - This document spells out certain facts of the case and asks that the other party admit or confirm that these facts are

true, so that these facts do not have to be further investigated or proven in court. For example, in an auto accident case, the request might seek to confirm the details of a negligent party’s personal liability insurance coverage, obtain an admission that they were not carrying out duties for an employer at the time of the accident, and seek an admission that it was their negligence that caused the crash.

The purpose of the written discovery phase is to lock down all possible evidence related to your case, including any evidence that the opposing parties may use to support their position. For example, there is typically an insurance company involved, and their objective will be to minimize the scope of your damages and thereby minimize the compensation they have to pay you. 

Depositions


Once written discovery has been completed, your legal team will use that information to ascertain the questions they want to ask in the oral interrogation phase known as depositions. Depositions are expensive, so your legal team will want to prepare a very focused list of questions to ask in each interview. Depositions are made under oath and are generally video-recorded and transcribed. 

You may be surprised to learn that the discovery process in a personal injury case can take as long as six months to a year. While this may seem like a long time to wait for a settlement, a thorough discovery process is crucial to prove who was at fault and demonstrate the full extent of your damages. Most cases are won or lost in discovery, and most cases are settled based on the information that comes out of the discovery process, saving you the additional time and expense of a trial.

A Schaumburg Personal Injury Attorney

  
If you have been injured in a car crash or other accident that was not your fault (or at least less than 50% your fault), be sure to select a Palatine personal injury lawyer who has the skill and experience to handle the discovery process for your type of case and advocate vigorously on your behalf. Contact us at 847-934-6000 to schedule a free consultation.

Ken ApicellaAbout the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.



Sources:
http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/SupremeCourt/Rules/Art_II/ArtII.htm#206

3 Reasons Why a Living Trust Is More Beneficial Than Just a Will

Web Admin - Wednesday, January 23, 2019
Des Plaines living trust lawyerIf you wish to leave a legacy to your children or other beneficiaries after your death, it is imperative that you have an estate plan that will ensure prompt and accurate distribution of your assets. Many people think that writing a will is the best way to do this. However, while a will is important, putting your assets into a revocable living trust can provide several additional benefits.

Avoid the Illinois Probate Process 


In order to distribute assets according to the terms of a will, the will must go through the probate process. This involves filing various court documents required by law to establish the value of each asset and to re-title each asset from the deceased’s name to the recipient’s name. This can be a long, drawn-out process.

Secure Adult Heirs’ Immediate Access to the Estate


One of probate’s most serious drawbacks is the freezing of assets. Specifically, any assets that are held solely in the name of the deceased are frozen upon their death. Imagine a married couple who amassed several large investment and retirement accounts and multiple pieces of real estate during their lifetime. Upon the death of both spouses, their children cannot touch any of the assets until a probate court judge approves the will and appoints a Personal Representative to handle the estate. Leaving large investment accounts without active management can be risky.

By comparison, imagine that all of the couple’s assets had been placed in a living trust, meaning that the assets are titled in the name of the trust rather than in the name of any individual. Upon the death of the trust-maker, their designated successor has immediate access to the assets of the trust.

Secure Assets for the Long-Term Benefit of the Family


Imagine our married couple has three children and has a will. Upon the death of both spouses and probate action, the assets of the estate must be divided amongst the named heirs. Assuming the estate is to be divided equally among the three children, the inherited assets are now at risk to creditors, bankruptcy, a lawsuit, or a divorce. 

Creditors. If the married couple had all of their assets in a trust, ownership of those assets can remain titled in the name of the trust indefinitely. Because the assets are not titled in the individual children’s names, the assets are protected from creditors, even if one child files for bankruptcy or gets divorced. The beneficiaries named in the trust will have access to the assets in accordance with the directions specified in the trust documents. 

Heirs with disabilities. Upon the death of the spouses, one child (or an objective third party such as a bank) could be named as the successor trustee with directions to manage the trust in a certain way. This approach can be used to ensure that the use of the assets is prioritized in some way, such as to meet the basic needs of a child or grandchild with a disability. Keeping the assets in the trust can also serve to protect the right of a disabled heir to receive needs-based government benefits.

Underage heirs. Keeping the trust open with a successor trustee can also be beneficial for heirs who have not yet reached adulthood. When a will leaves assets to a minor, the probate court must appoint a conservator to manage the minor’s assets. Once our fictional married couple has died, there is no telling who that conservator might be and what decisions they might make. In contrast, assets left in a trust can be managed according to specific directions written into the trust. Thus, the maker of the trust can dictate when and for what purposes a youthful (or even as-yet unborn) heir can access their inheritance.

Consult a Palatine Revocable Living Trust Lawyer


A well-thought-out living trust can give you greater peace of mind and benefit your heirs in the long run. To discuss options for writing or updating a living trust, call an experienced Schaumburg living trust attorney at Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. We have prepared living trusts for many high-asset families with complex issues of inheritance. To set up a free initial consultation, call 847-934-6000.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.


Sources:
https://www.isba.org/public/guide/livingtrust

Recognizing Abuse or Neglect in a Nursing Home or Assisted Living Facility

Web Admin - Wednesday, January 16, 2019
Schaumburg nursing home negligence lawyerIf you have an elderly relative who lives in a nursing home or assisted living facility, or perhaps is staying temporarily in a rehab center, you could arrive for a visit one day and find that your loved one appears to be seriously ill or injured. There are certainly many ways this can happen through no fault of the facility or caregivers. However, if you see any signs that an illness or injury was the result of nursing home negligence, abuse, or neglect, you should consult a personal injury attorney to determine your legal options.

Examples of Nursing Home Neglect in Illinois


In one recent Illinois case, a nursing home resident died as a result of a head injury sustained during a fall. While being transferred from her bed to her wheelchair via a mechanical lift, the resident fell out of the lift, striking her head. A wrongful death lawsuit was subsequently filed seeking $100,000 in total damages based on two specific claims of negligence. First, the facility’s policy stated that transfers via a mechanical lift were to be performed by two trained staff members. However, in this case, it was alleged that only one staff member was present. The lawsuit also alleged that the facility failed to act with appropriate care in response to the resident’s documented status as “high risk for falling.”

Another recent lawsuit alleged that a nursing home neglected to give appropriate care to a bedridden resident. The resident entered the nursing home specifically to receive care for pressure sores. Rather than improving, the sores grew worse and became infected. The resident’s family members alleged that the facility was negligent in failing to take appropriate action to treat the bedsores. The resident wound up needing surgery and ongoing wound care treatment for two more years, with one small, open wound still remaining at the time of the lawsuit. This case went to trial, which is unusual, because most civil disputes are resolved via pretrial negotiations. The jury awarded the resident $1.25 million, which included $475,000 for past pain and suffering, $300,000 for future pain and suffering, and an additional $475,000 for the facility’s violation of state laws designed to protect nursing home residents.

Consult a Palatine Elder Abuse Attorney  


If you have an elderly relative who may have been abused or neglected by a caregiver, your first step should be to carefully document each specific incident with photographs, times, dates, and names of possible witnesses. Then, call an experienced Arlington Heights nursing home neglect lawyer. The law firm of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC has obtained compensation for our clients in numerous cases of personal injury, including cases involving negligence or malpractice in healthcare settings. Contact us at 847-934-6000 to schedule a free consultation.

Ken ApicellaAbout the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.



Sources:
https://www2.illinois.gov/aging/ProtectionAdvocacy/LTCOmbudsman/Pages/ombuds_reporting.aspx
https://www.mednetcompliance.com/residents-lawsuits-residents-deaths/

Nature or Negligence? Recovering Damages for Winter Injuries

Web Admin - Wednesday, January 09, 2019
Des Plaines personal injury lawyer snow iceThere are many ways you can be injured during the winter months in Illinois: skiing, ice skating, sledding, snowmobiling, being hit by ice falling off a roof, being in a car accident during a snowstorm, or simply slipping and falling on an icy walkway. In many cases, these are simply accidents. If you choose to participate in an activity like ice skating or skiing, you accept the risk that you could fall and get hurt. However, if your injury can be attributed to another party’s negligence, you could be entitled to compensation and should consult a personal injury attorney for advice.

Illinois Law on Hazardous Recreational Activities 


Under Illinois law, if you are injured while participating in or watching a “hazardous recreational activity” on public property, you cannot sue a “local public entity nor a public employee” for compensation (745 ILCS 10/3-109). For example, Cook County and DuPage County have numerous parks and forest preserves with hills and trails where you might go sledding, skiing, or even rock climbing in the wintertime. If you are injured while taking part in those types of activities, the park and park employees generally cannot be held liable. 

However, the law does make two exceptions, in which case you may be able to file a claim for damages. The first exception applies if your injury was caused by “an act of willful and wanton conduct” by a public entity or employee. For example, if you were cross-country skiing on a marked trail and were hit by a park employee driving a vehicle along that trail, you could have grounds for a lawsuit.  

The second exception applies if your injury was caused by the failure of a public entity or employee to provide warning about a known dangerous condition that a reasonable person would not anticipate. For example, suppose park employees dumped a pile of rocks on a sledding hill. The park knew that the snow-covered rocks were a hazard that created a substantial risk of injury and that a visitor could easily assume it was just a snow drift. If a sledder was injured by colliding with that rock pile, a court might rule that the park was negligent and should have posted signs or put up fences to warn people that the hill was not safe for sledding. However, if a sledder runs into the trees that line the edge of a sledding hill, the park would likely not be held liable for any resulting injuries, because the trees were readily visible to everyone as a hazard.

When You Can Claim Compensation for Snow/Ice Injuries


In addition to the law described above, there are several other Illinois laws that limit liability for injuries related to snow and ice removal, general maintenance of streets and sidewalks, and participation in hazardous recreational activities. Also, many recreational facilities require customers to sign liability waivers.

However, any injury that can be attributed to someone’s “willful and wanton conduct” can still be grounds for a lawsuit. Willful and wanton conduct is defined as “a course of action which shows an actual or deliberate intention to cause harm or which, if not intentional, shows an utter indifference to or conscious disregard for the safety of others or their property.” 

For example, numerous people have been injured or killed in Chicago by large chunks of ice falling off buildings. Many of these people have received compensation for their injuries from the building owners, who were deemed negligent for failing to warn pedestrians of a known danger. 

Similarly, if you are injured by faulty rental equipment or poorly maintained facilities while ice skating or skiing, you could have grounds for a lawsuit. 

Consult a Schaumburg Personal Injury Attorney 

 
If you have been injured in a winter accident that can be attributed to someone else’s negligence, see a doctor and then consult a knowledgeable Palatine personal injury lawyer. At Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC, you will receive the personal attention of a small firm with the comprehensive legal skill and sophistication of a large firm. Contact us at 847-934-6000 to schedule a free consultation.

Ken ApicellaAbout the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.



Sources:
http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/documents/074500100K3-109.htm
http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=2084&ChapterID=58
http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?DocName=074500100HArt%2E+III&ActID=2062&ChapterID=58&SeqStart=4700000&SeqEnd=5800000

How Trust, Emotions, and Facts Affect Personal Injury Verdicts

Web Admin - Monday, December 24, 2018
Inverness personal injury lawyer jury verdictSerious injuries, illnesses, and deaths happen every day. In many cases, these are unfortunate events that naturally occur in our imperfect world. However, there are times when a personal injury or wrongful death occurs as the result of another party’s negligence or misconduct. For example, a drunk driver may cause a collision that kills another person, or a business may fail to take reasonable precautions when manufacturing a product. In these situations, the party at fault has a civil responsibility to compensate the injured party for their damages. 

Juries Sometimes Award Huge Sums in Personal Injury Cases


Many, if not most, personal injury cases are resolved through an out-of-court settlement negotiated by lawyers. In some cases, however, the two sides cannot agree on the amount of damages that one party should pay to the other, so the case must go to trial. The verdicts in personal injury trials are often unpredictable, and they are sometimes dramatically large, as in these recent 2018 cases:

- An Indiana jury awarded $35 million to a man who was rendered a quadriplegic in a car crash caused by a drunk driver. 

- A Georgia jury awarded $1 billion to a young woman who was sexually assaulted by an armed security guard employed by her apartment complex.

- A San Francisco jury awarded $289 million, which was later reduced by a judge to $78 million, to a man whose cancer was caused, according to the court’s verdict, by Roundup weedkiller.


How Attorneys Build a Convincing Case for a Large Verdict 


What factors convince a jury to rule in favor of an injured person and to award large amounts of compensatory and punitive damages? This is a hard question to answer definitively, but there are several factors that play a role. An experienced personal injury lawyer knows how to leverage these factors and use them to construct a compelling combination of factual evidence and emotional arguments for a jury trial.

One factor is that jurors seem to be less offended today by plaintiff requests for multi-million dollar verdicts and more willing to award them. Court-watchers speculate that American citizens have been affected by the barrage of online stories highlighting exorbitant professional athlete contracts, lottery jackpots, and the huge gap that has developed between CEO compensation and worker wages. As a result, jurors tend to believe that a corporate defendant can easily afford a large payout and must be made to feel the pain of their mistakes through punitive damages, and that the injured party deserves the compensation. 

Another factor is more widespread feelings of anger and distrust against “the elite.” Part of this stems from the growing division between the highest-paid and the lowest-paid workers in America. This has caused more anger and distrust toward the leadership of large corporations, who are viewed as getting rich at the expense of their workers. Also, with so much “fake news” going around on social media, people are becoming more distrustful in general. In some cases, jurors even distrust the injured person’s attorney and increase their award to the injured person just to “make sure they are taken care of” after the plaintiff’s attorney takes their share of an award.

Short attention spans are a third variable that personal injury lawyers must increasingly take into account when developing their trial arguments. Younger generations do not have the patience to sit through days of oral testimony by technical experts. Attorneys need to use more graphics, videos, and even virtual reality recreations of an accident scene in order to make testimony more compelling and impactful to jurors. 

Attorneys must also be sensitive to the way the injured person is portrayed and the way their story is told. Juries who are emotionally touched by a well-told story can be swayed toward one side or the other. For example, when jurors see that the injured party is part of a likeable, hard-working family that they can relate to, they are more likely to favor the injured party. The injured person’s attorney may also encourage jurors to look at the injured person and think, “What if it were me?” When such feelings are strong enough, they can cause jurors to override arguments that the defendant acted according to reasonable standards of care.

Consult a Des Plaines Personal Injury Attorney  


If you have been injured through another person’s or corporation’s negligence or wrongdoing, you could have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit and be eligible to receive compensation for your injuries. The first step is to discuss your case with an experienced Barrington personal injury lawyer. The attorneys of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC have decades of experience obtaining due compensation for our clients in personal injury and wrongful death cases. Contact us at 847-934-6000 to schedule a free consultation.

Ken ApicellaAbout the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.



Sources:
http://riskandinsurance.com/5-reasons-why-juries-are-awarding-billion-dolla…
https://www.theindianalawyer.com/articles/45836-recent-35m-verdict-is-among-largest-indiana-jury-personal-injury-awards
https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/05/24/613964570/georgia-jury-awards-1-billion-in-lawsuit-over-girls-rape
https://www.wsj.com/articles/judge-reduces-jury-award-against-bayers-roundup-to-78-5-million-1540258899

Recovering Damages When Injured on Chicago Area Public Transportation

Web Admin - Friday, December 21, 2018
Inverness bus accident injury lawyerIf you regularly utilize the public transportation network in Chicago and its suburbs, there are a number of ways in which you could be injured and have grounds to file a personal injury lawsuit. Whether you ride buses or trains operated by Metra, CTA, or Pace, the potential causes of personal injuries are similar, including:

- A slip-and-fall that occurs at least in part due to the negligence of a bus or train operator. A fall attributable only to wet floors on a bus or train when it is raining outside is unlikely to qualify. On the other hand, CTA could be liable for a fall caused by an improperly trained driver who stopped their vehicle too quickly.

- Injuries attributed to faulty design or maintenance of a station platform or piece of equipment.

- Injuries sustained during a train derailment or a bus crash attributed to operator error. For example, Pace could be held liable if a bus driver causes a crash by running a red light, speeding, or being distracted by looking at their phone. However, if a collision is wholly the fault of another vehicle’s driver, Pace would generally not be liable.

- Wounds suffered by a pedestrian who is struck by a bus or train, or by parts flying off a bus or train, where it can be shown that the operator of the bus or train was at fault. If a person trespasses onto train tracks and is struck, they generally cannot hold the train operator responsible.

- Injuries inflicted by a public transit security officer who used excessive force or committed some other type of misconduct.


Time Is Critical in Chicago Public Transportation Injury Cases


If you believe you have a legitimate claim for damages against CTA, Metra, or PACE, you should contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. There are two reasons why Illinois personal injury cases involving public transportation are time sensitive. First, critical evidence must be protected, such as security video recordings that are typically only retained for a limited period of time before being erased or overwritten. An attorney must typically file an emergency protection order to preserve videos and other relevant evidence. Second, Illinois state law (745 ILCS 10/8-101) requires all claims against “local entities,” which includes local public transit authorities, to be filed within one year of the incident, versus a two-year timeframe for most other lawsuits. 

Recovery of Compensation from Transit Authorities is Possible


In 2017, a woman who was injured in a CTA train derailment was awarded more than $6 million in damages by a jury. She suffered injuries to her head, neck, and back when her head struck a metal pole and a door inside the train car. 

To compensate a man who was assaulted in a train station by Metra police officers, Metra agreed to an out-of-court settlement of $250,000 in 2017. The entire incident was captured on video.

Consult an Arlington Heights Public Transportation Accident Attorney 


If you have been injured on public transportation in the Chicago area, and you think you may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit, talk to a knowledgeable Rolling Meadows personal injury lawyer without delay. The attorneys of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC will review your case at no cost to you. Contact us at 847-934-6000 to schedule a consultation.

Ken ApicellaAbout the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.



Sources:
http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?ActID=2062&ChapterID=58&SeqStart=8900000&SeqEnd=9200000
https://chicago.suntimes.com/news/woman-who-sued-cta-over-2014-blue-line-derailment-gets-6-5m/
https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/metra-police-beating-video-lawsuit-463813893.html

Enjoy the Season of Giving Without Tax Implications

Web Admin - Monday, December 17, 2018
Schaumburg gift tax attorneyYou do not have to wait until you die to give a loved one enough money to pursue a big dream, such as starting a business or advancing their education. You can give that gift today without paying any extra federal taxes as long as you follow a few simple rules and have a sound estate plan. During the holiday season, it is important to understand how federal gift tax affects the high-value gifts given.

Why the Gift Tax Exists 


Gift taxes exist because of the federal estate tax. If your estate is large enough that federal estate taxes will be owed upon your death, the IRS wants to make sure it collects those taxes one way or another. The gift tax ensures that people cannot avoid the federal estate tax simply by giving away their assets prior to death.

Who Has to Pay Federal Gift Taxes? 


Gifts are always tax-free to the recipient. Federal gift tax rules only apply to the giver and only come into play if you exceed the annual gift limits. 

What Are the 2018 and 2019 Gift Limits?


The annual gift limit is $15,000 per individual recipient per calendar year for 2018 and 2019. You can give that amount to as many individuals as you wish without being required to pay gift tax. It does not matter if the individual is related to you or not.

In other words, a gift of $15,000 or less that is given to one person will not have any gift tax or estate tax implications. Separately, your spouse may also give $15,000 to anyone they want. 

Non-cash gifts are valued at their current fair market value. For example, if you originally paid $5,000 for a painting or 100 shares of stock, and the item is worth $15,000 at the time you transfer the gift, the IRS considers the value of the gift to be $15,000.

What Happens if I Exceed the Annual Gift Limits?


If the total value of your gifts to any one individual in one calendar year exceeds the annual limit, you must file a federal gift tax return using IRS Form 709. This is separate from your federal income tax return but is due at the same time. 

A separate Form 709 must be filed by each individual who gives an over-the-limit gift; spouses cannot file one joint Form 709 the way they file a joint income tax return.

However, just because you have to file a federal gift tax return does not mean you will actually have to pay any taxes at that time. You can choose to apply over-the-limit gift amounts to your federal estate tax exclusion. In essence, rather than paying the gift tax now, you defer the taxes until your death when the final estate tax return is filed.

If you opt to pay gift taxes at the time you file a gift tax return, the tax rate starts at 18% and goes as high as 40%. These rates are substantially lower than current estate tax rates, but again, the laws can change dramatically from year to year. 

Ultimately, most people will not owe any federal estate taxes upon their death, so it is often preferable to avoid paying gift taxes early.

What Happens at Death When My Estate is Settled?


A federal estate tax return must be filed only if the fair market value of your total assets at the time of your death plus the sum of all pre-death taxable gifts exceeds the IRS “basic exclusion” amount. The IRS basic exclusion amounts are $11.18 million for 2018 and $11.4 million for 2019. 

Of course, it is possible that the estate tax threshold could be reduced in future years. For example, if you had died in 2017, the estate tax exclusion was just $5.49 million. 

These complexities are a good reason to work with a highly skilled tax and estate planning attorney to develop a comprehensive estate plan.

Please note that the information in this article applies only to federal tax law. Consult your financial and legal advisors regarding applicable Illinois estate and gift tax laws.

Consult a Schaumburg Tax and Estate Planning Lawyer


Many people find great pleasure in giving generous gifts to their family members sooner rather than later. However, to avoid creating an unnecessary tax burden, talk to a knowledgeable Arlington Heights gift tax and estate plans attorney at Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. Call 847-934-6000 to schedule an appointment; there is no charge for an initial consultation.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.


Sources:
https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/whats-new-estate-and-gift-tax
https://www.thebalance.com/what-gifts-are-subject-to-the-gift-tax-3505680
https://www.hrblock.com/tax-center/income/other-income/do-i-have-to-pay-taxes-on-a-gift/

Treatment of Same-Sex Spouses and Civil Union Partners Under Illinois Probate Law

Web Admin - Wednesday, November 21, 2018
Rolling Meadows same sex couple estate planning lawyerThe state of Illinois has recognized civil unions of same-sex couples since 2011 and same-sex marriage since 2014. But it was not until 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, that all states were required to allow and recognize same-sex marriages. These changes over the past decade have had a major impact on estate planning for same-sex couples.

Differences Between Illinois’ Civil Union Act and Marriage Fairness Act


The 2011 Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act (750 ILCS 75) declares that a party to a civil union “is entitled to the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits” that the law of Illinois affords to spouses. This law did not, however, mention children of civil union partners or other family members.

The 2014 Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act (750 ILCS 80) more forcefully declares that its purpose is to provide same-sex and different-sex couples and their children “equal access to the status, benefits, protections, rights, and responsibilities of civil marriage.” It goes on to say that parties to a marriage and their children “shall have all the same benefits, protections, and responsibilities under law.”   

Conversion of a Civil Union to a Marriage in Illinois


Civil unions were not automatically converted to marriages when the 2014 law was passed. Rather, the Civil Union Act was modified in 2014 to allow the voluntary conversion of a civil union to a marriage at no cost. Through May 2015, a couple could have their civil union redesignated as a marriage just by applying to a county clerk. The effective date of the marriage would be the same as the effective date of the earlier civil union. 

As of June 2015, parties to a preexisting civil union must apply for a marriage certificate and have the marriage solemnized and registered as a marriage. The effective date of that marriage would be the date the marriage was solemnized.

Impact of a Civil Union vs. Marriage on Estate Planning


Spousal inheritance rights are the same in Illinois, whether you are legally in a same-sex civil union, same-sex marriage, or different-sex marriage. Still, if you entered into a civil union, you may want to convert that to a marriage, just to ensure that your relationship is recognized as a legal marriage nationwide and internationally. For example, when partners are citizens of different countries, an actual marriage certificate will generally be needed in order for the spousal relationship to be recognized for immigration purposes. In addition, the same-sex marriage law specifically references “children” and “family” of the couple.

Also, if you entered into a civil union at some point, and the relationship broke up, you should be sure that the civil union was legally dissolved; the process is the same as for the dissolution of a marriage in Illinois. If the civil union was not legally dissolved, or converted to a marriage followed by a divorce, one partner could still claim the right to inherit from the other.

Inheritance and Related Rights of Same-Sex Married Couples Recognized Nationally


Same-sex couples gained numerous inheritance-related benefits as a result of nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, such as:

- The couple no longer has to worry about moving from a state where same-sex marriage was recognized to a state where it was not.

- If one spouse dies without a written will or trust, the other will now automatically inherit under the laws of their state of residence.

- When one spouse dies, the other can claim the marital deduction for federal gift and estate tax purposes.

- When one spouse dies, leaving the other as beneficiary of a qualified retirement account, the surviving spouse can roll over those assets into their personal retirement account, allowing for optimal asset protection and income tax planning. 

- As a living individual in 2018, you can make inter vivos gifts of up to $15,000 per person per year with no tax implications. However, you can gift as much as you want to your spouse. 

- Spouses can make medical decisions for one another without requiring a power of attorney for health care.

Consult a Palatine Same-Sex Marriage Estate Planning Lawyer


Whether you are married to a same-sex or different-sex spouse, particularly if you have children, you should really have an estate plan, including basic documents such as advanced healthcare directives and powers of attorney. Talk to an experienced Schaumburg estate planning attorney at Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. We can help you develop a will, trust, and other legal plans that will provide emotional and financial security for you and your family for the long-term. Contact us at 847-934-6000 for a free consultation.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.


Sources:
http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=3294&ChapterID=59
http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=3525&ChapterID=59

How Much Is Pain and Suffering Worth in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Web Admin - Tuesday, November 20, 2018
Schaumburg personal injury attorney pain and sufferingWhen you or a family member has suffered a personal injury as the result of someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, you have probably suffered serious financial losses as well. Even if you had good health insurance, or the person who caused the accident had insurance that paid some or all of your medical bills, there are almost always uncovered costs.

Your uncovered losses may include: 

- Medical costs for treatment of the injury when it occurred.

- Costs to buy special equipment or even to modify your home to accommodate a disability.

- Costs for rehabilitation services which could be needed for months or even years.

- The cost of round-the-clock, long-term care provided in your home or at an assisted living facility.

- Costs for mental health treatment.

- Loss of income the person would have earned had they not been injured.

- Costs for your family to travel and visit the injured person.

- Non-economic costs, which are often lumped under the broad umbrella of “pain and suffering.”

Measuring the Non-Economic Costs of an Injury


An attorney can tally up the financial costs listed above, make future projections, and come up with an appropriate figure as compensation for those losses. However, the calculation of the value of non-economic losses is much more difficult. Some of the specific factors that need to be weighed include: 

- Is the person permanently disfigured or physically impaired, such as by an amputation or paralysis?

- Will they have to suffer through numerous surgeries over the years to try to restore their appearance and/or function?

- Is the injury such that it results in long-term pain to the victim? This is often the case in spinal cord injuries or when a part of the body, such as a leg, suffers multiple fractures or fragmentation.

- Has the person suffered severe emotional distress, perhaps from seeing friends or family killed in the same incident?

- Has the victim suffered from severe insomnia, nightmares, anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder?

- Are there beloved hobbies or activities that the person can no longer participate in as a result of the injury?

- Have family members of the victim suffered loss of consortium or companionship due to the victim’s injuries?

The more of these factors that you can prove, the more non-economic damages you may be able to recover. Documentation will be important to prove that these factors are real, including physician reports, medications prescribed, and your own personal documentation, such as a diary noting how the victim was feeling from day to day.

An attorney who has handled many personal injury cases will likely have developed their own formula, or chosen useful formulas developed by others, to translate these non-economic costs into a dollar figure to cite in the lawsuit. One common method is to apply a multiplier to the total financial damages. For example, if the victim and family’s financial losses totaled $500,000, you might triple that figure and claim an additional $1.5 million for non-economic losses. The multiplier, of course, would depend on the severity of the injury suffered and the extent of the non-economic losses. 

Is There a Legal Cap on “Pain and Suffering” Damages in Illinois?


The Illinois legislature passed a law in 2005 to limit awards for non-economic losses in medical malpractice cases to $500,000 for physicians and $1,000,000 for hospitals. However, in 2010, the Illinois Supreme Court subsequently ruled that law unconstitutional. Thus, Illinois currently places no limit on the amount of compensation that can be awarded for non-economic losses.  

Consult a Rolling Meadows Personal Injury Attorney 


If you are wondering whether you should file a personal injury lawsuit, consult an experienced Palatine personal injury lawyer. The attorneys of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC will determine the best legal strategy for your case and fight aggressively to see that you are compensated for your losses. Contact us at 847-934-6000 to schedule a no-cost, no obligation consultation.

Ken ApicellaAbout the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.



Sources:
https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2010-02-05-1002041182-story.html
https://centerjd.org/content/fact-sheet-caps-compensatory-damages-state-law-summary
https://centerjd.org/content/fact-sheet-understanding-non-economic-damages

Considering a Personal Injury Lawsuit? Follow These Helpful Tips

Web Admin - Tuesday, November 06, 2018
Rolling Meadows personal injury attorneyIf someone in your family has suffered severe injuries and financial hardship as a result of someone else’s negligence, you are probably wondering if you should file a personal injury lawsuit to recover compensation for your losses. 

Yet, like many people, you may hesitate to contact a personal injury lawyer about your situation for reasons such as:

- You believe the insurance company should handle everything.

- You feel intimidated by the legal system.

- You can see yourself in the other person’s shoes, and you do not want to cause problems for them.

- You do not have the energy to deal with a lawsuit while you are in the midst of dealing with serious medical and financial issues. 

If you find yourself in this situation, here are some helpful things to know: 

1. You Have to Act Quickly to Protect Your Family for the Long-Term


In the aftermath of a serious injury, you may feel like you have more important things to do than find a lawyer. However, there are two reasons why you might need to put a personal injury lawsuit at the top of your priority list right now. First, while insurance may cover your immediate medical costs, you have to consider both the long-term costs of caring for the injured person and the loss of income that will be suffered by both the injured person and any caregivers. 

Second, each state has a statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits. Your lawsuit usually must be filed in the state where the injury occurred, not the state where you live. For most personal injury cases in Illinois, you must file your lawsuit within two years of the incident that caused the injury (735 ILCS 5/13-202).

2. It Will Be Easier If You Prepare Before You Call 


Before you contact an attorney, write down a summary of your case, including:

- The cause of injury, such as a car crash or dog bite. Be prepared to provide additional details that demonstrate the other person’s negligence, such as police reports indicating the other person was drunk driving or that the dog had bitten people before.

- The date and location of the incident. 

- The type of injuries, such as cuts, broken bones, paralysis, brain damage, etc. 

- Whether full recovery is expected, or whether there is some type of permanent damage such as loss of mobility, mental or psychological damage, or chronic pain.

- How long the injured person was unable to work as a result of the incident, and whether they will have long-term income loss and/or incremental healthcare expenses as a result of their injuries.

Once you have these basic facts on paper, you will feel more confident and ready to make that first call to an attorney.
 

Consult a Rolling Meadows Personal Injury Attorney 


If you are wondering whether you should file a personal injury lawsuit, consult an experienced Palatine personal injury lawyer. The attorneys of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC will determine the best legal strategy for your case and fight aggressively to see that you are compensated for your loss. Contact us at 847-934-6000 to schedule a no-cost, no obligation consultation.

Ken ApicellaAbout the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.



Sources:
http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?ActID=2017&ChapterID=56&SeqStart=99900000&SeqEnd=103300000


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