COVID-19 Update: How We Are Serving and Protecting Our Clients
Justia Lawyer Rating for David M. Barish

Whether the semi-truck driver who hit your vehicle and caused your injuries was drowsy, intoxicated, distracted, or negligent for some other reason, if the police cited that trucker for some sort of infraction (like speeding, improper lane usage, or failure to reduce speed,) that citation can be an extremely important piece of your successful injury case, helping you get the compensation you need. That’s often because of a legal concept called negligence per se. Whether your injuries arose from a trucker’s ordinary negligence or negligence per se, be sure to seek out representation from an experienced Chicago truck accident lawyer to help you select the best pathway forward to get the compensation you need.

There are various scenarios in which a trucker can be cited by the police. Back in March, a 62-year-old semi-truck driver crashed downstate in Wayne County. The trucker fell asleep while traveling east on Interstate 64 and overturned in the median. The trucker’s passenger was injured in the crash. Police cited the trucker for “driving while fatigued and improper lane use,” according to 14news.com.

In late April, a trucker crashed on Interstate 57 in Franklin County after he veered to the right, overcorrected, and overturned his rig. In that crash, the driver received a citation for “failure to reduce speed to avoid a crash and improper lane usage,” KFVS 12 reported.

A change in the federal regulations could have a massive impact on the people who drive for Uber or Lyft, including the thousands of Uber and Lyft drivers in Illinois. The removal of a rule released under the Trump Administration means that it will now be harder for companies like Uber and Lyft to classify their drivers as independent contractors (as opposed to employees,) which means it will be relatively easier for those drivers to obtain benefits like workers’ compensation. If you were hurt while driving for Uber or Lyft, be sure to act without delay in contacting a knowledgeable Chicago workers’ compensation lawyer.

Back in early January, the U.S. Department of Labor released a new rule that clarified who did – and did not – qualify as employees as opposed to independent contractors under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Under the standard created by that rule, it was relatively easier for employers to classify workers as independent contractors and not run afoul of the law and federal regulators.

Under the Biden Administration, that rule is no more. In withdrawing the rule effective May 6, the current Labor Department said that the previous rule did not properly reflect the text of the FLSA and relevant judicial rulings.

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Recently, we have heard a great deal about the dangers that unsafe drivers driving for services like Uber and Lyft represent. While the threat posed by drivers who never should have been authorized by their rideshare services remains very real, the problem is bigger than just rideshare drivers. In addition to those drivers, there is also a similar danger posed by certain food delivery drivers (driving for services like Uber Eats, Door Dash and Grubhub,) as an incident from right here in Chicago illustrates. If you’ve been hurt by a food delivery driver who shouldn’t have been driving for that service, you may be able to bring a legal action and recover much-needed compensation. Reach out to a knowledgeable Chicago injury attorney to find out more.

In this Chicago case, the platform being brought to court was Grubhub. The victim was a Lake View East restaurant worker who was run over and drug for several feet by a man who was driving for Grubhub. The injured woman suffered several broken bones, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Those included a broken pelvis, two broken arms and fractures in both legs. She also suffered nerve damage to both arms and required surgery on both of them, according to her attorneys.

In her lawsuit against Grubhub, she asserted that it contributed to the very serious accident through its negligence. Grubhub’s app allegedly allowed the driver, who was not licensed to drive and (according to Grubhub) was not one of its authorized drivers, to access the platform through the account of another individual who was an authorized driver.

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Flight attendants encounter a wide spectrum of passengers on the job. Regrettably, those sometimes include troubled people, including people with substance issues and those with mental health issues. Either of these groups can be particularly prone to violent outbursts during a flight, especially longer-haul flights. If you’re a flight attendant who’s been hurt by an out-of-control passenger, then you may be entitled to take certain legal actions and recover compensation, so you should make sure you don’t delay in contacting a knowledgeable Chicago injury attorney to discuss your situation.

Recently, multiple news sources covered the story of a Newark-to-Miami United Airlines flight that diverted to Charleston, South Carolina due to a passenger’s violent outburst. The passenger allegedly became agitated and then attacked, biting one man’s ear, striking another in the nose (and possibly breaking it), and hitting a third person in the temple, according to USA Today.

Many flight attendants, including O’Hare-based United and American Airlines crews and Midway-based Southwest crews, likely read this story with a grim sense of familiarity, having their own “horror” stories of violent passengers. Injuries inflicted by violent passengers stand as the dark flip side to the glamorous life that many people often associate with being a flight attendant.

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This discussion is a continuation of our firm’s information regarding your rights for COVID related injuries. Please view Part 1 on the firm’s YouTube Channel at: https://youtu.be/dO7G6MBxNR4 for Richard Johnson’s discussion of COVID injuries being covered under The Illinois Occupational Disease Act and Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law.

As our nation is seeing a rapid rate of COVID vaccinations being administered, unfortunately some individuals will have adverse reactions that result in serious injury or death. In Illinois, it is well established that adverse reactions as a consequence of employer required vaccinations may be compensable and entitle the injured worker to workers’ compensation benefits.

Legal authority for this type of injury is set out in Section 11 of The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. The Statute provides as follows:

As the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccinations become increasingly available to the general public, many employees and unions may be questioning whether it is legal for employers to force their employees to receive vaccinations as a condition of employment. Interestingly enough, Katz, Friedman’s Senior Labor Partner, Stanley Eisenstein, was recently asked that very question in an appearance on Channel 7, ABC Chicago’s local news affiliate.

The short answer to the question is, “Yes.” Generally speaking, employers in the United States can require employees to receive vaccinations as a condition of continued employment. However, there may be some exceptions. For instance, if you are part of a union covered by a collective bargaining agreement, then your employer may have a duty to bargain with the union over any mandatory vaccination policies and procedures. There may also be exceptions or limitations on an employer’s ability to mandate vaccinations under certain federal employment statutes if, for instance, an employee requests an exemption based upon a disability or a sincerely held religious belief.

General Right of Employers to Require Vaccinations for At-Will Employees

Amazon is in the news again and it isn’t good news for some of the company’s warehouse workers in the Chicago area, according to groups that advocate on behalf of those workers. Recent reports say that many workers are being presented with a dismal choice: lose their jobs in the middle of this pandemic-fueled recession or else agree to work 10½-hour-long graveyard “megacycle” shifts at a new warehouse. This comes even as past research has shown that longer shifts often can lead to greater health and safety problems for workers. If you’ve been hurt at your warehouse job in or around Chicago, whether or not you were working exceptionally long shifts, you should take the time to contact a knowledgeable Illinois workplace injury attorney to get the legal advice you need.

According to a report from Motherboard, the aforementioned offer came on January 25 to the workers at Amazon’s McKinley Park warehouse known as DCH1. According to the reports, Amazon informed the workers that the company was closing down DCH1, which meant that those workers had two options: accept work at a new Chicago-area warehouse or else be terminated. The catch was, however, that the positions at the new warehouse involved megacycle work, which meant working four days per week, from 1:20 am to 11:50 am.

The situation facing DCH1 warehouse workers isn’t unique. According to the Motherboard report, Amazon “has been quietly transitioning warehouse workers at delivery stations nationwide to the ‘megacycle’ shift in recent months.”

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In early 2021, United Continental Holdings (commonly known as UAL) began offering its flight attendants a Voluntary Separation Leave package with additional benefits to encourage voluntary separation from the company. As a term of the separation agreement, the flight attendant must waive his or her right to pursue legal claims and release United from liability related to his or her employment with and/or separation from United. Flight attendants are understandably concerned that this may affect their right to file a workers’ compensation claim and collect benefits for work related injuries.

This agreement does carve out some exceptions, including the right of the flight attendant to claim workers’ compensation benefits. This means that accepting the VSL does not forfeit your right in a workers’ compensation claim! Remember that you have three years from the date of the accident or two years from the last payment of compensation to file any Illinois workers’ compensation claim. You may file the workers’ compensation claim even after accepting the VSL.

However, flight attendants considering accepting this agreement should note that by signing the VLS agreement, the flight attendant is certifying that he or she had “no unreported on-the-job injuries”. By signing this agreement, the flight attendant who suffered unreported injuries or Occupational disease exposures in the past may jeopardize his or her right to obtain workers’ compensation benefits in the future. Accordingly, if a flight attendant has an unfiled workers’ compensation claim, it will typically be in his or her best interest to report the injury and file the claim with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (not just Sedgwick) prior to signing the VSL agreement to protect his or her right to workers’ compensation benefits. However, every case is different and this blog is not intended to provide legal advice, simply guidance and things to consider.

Self-driving cars are back in the news again. Uber is reportedly in negotiations with a competitor, Aurora, in which Uber would sell its Advanced Technologies Group (which includes Uber’s self-driving vehicle unit) to Aurora. Also, Tesla is expanding what it calls “full self-driving beta.” Driverless Waymo vans are going public in Arizona. While this may all seem very exciting, there remains the issue of safety and the accidents caused by self-driving vehicles. When that happens, and someone’s hurt, who’s liable? For answers to this and other important questions, be sure you are getting the information you need from a knowledgeable Chicago car accident attorney.

In some circumstances, the law may dictate that the person in the car is the person who is liable for the injuries you suffered, even if the vehicle was equipped with self-driving technology. If, for example, the technology inside the vehicle was merely a “driver assist” program and the accident occurred because the human was paying no attention to the road, then that person is going to be the one who bears most or all of the legal liability.

There are, however, several situations in which an accident caused by a technology-equipped vehicle may offer more legal opportunities to you beyond just suing the person behind the wheel. For example, the self-driving Waymo vans in the East Valley area of Phoenix will be completely driverless. There will no human behind the wheel whose job it is to assist the vehicle. In a scenario where a Waymo van causes a crash, then there could obviously be an opportunity for legal action against Waymo and/or Alphabet, Inc., of which Waymo is a division. (Alphabet’s divisions also include Google.) Back in October, Venture Beat reported that driverless Waymo cars were involved in 18 accidents in 20 months.

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As the world continues to slog through the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, it is impossible to escape the phrase “essential worker.” We hear the phrase peppered into news reports and conversations so frequently that it has become a received truth – that is, something we largely accept without stopping and thinking critically about its meaning. But what precisely does “essential worker” mean, and to whom does it apply?

A Google search for “essential worker” retrieves results in the millions, so there is no quick and easy way to definitively navigate the boggy question of who an essential worker is. Fortunately for Illinoisans, Governor J.B. Pritzker’s Executive Order 2020-10, issued in March 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic, helps provide some clarity. Section 12 of the Executive Order defines “Essential Businesses and Operations” as healthcare and public health operations, human services operations, essential government functions, essential infrastructure, and a swathe of other businesses, including – but not limited to – grocery stores, pharmacies, food and beverage production, animal shelters, charities and social services, newspapers, radio stations, gas stations, financial institutions, hardware stores, building and construction trades, mail and delivery services, laundry services, restaurants, transportation, day cares, residential facilities, and a litany of other entities – the full list is available here.

Defining what an essential worker is more than just an academic exercise – it has real-life consequences for those workers and their families. This is most especially evident with the advent of the “COVID presumption” the General Assembly added to the Illinois Occupational Diseases Act last year and updated last week. This creates a rebuttable presumption that those essential workers covered in the Executive Order who contract COVID-19 did so in the workplace – provided that their work requires them to encounter members of the general public or to work in locations of more than 15 employees 1. For fuller context, in 2020 Governor Pritzker signed into law HB2455, which created this rebuttable presumption; however, this presumption was only applicable to cases in which a diagnosis of COVID-19 was made on or after March 9, 2020 and on or before December 31, 20202. On January 13, 2021, the Illinois General Assembly passed HB4276, which extends this “COVID presumption” to diagnoses through June 30, 2021.

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