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

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.

In December 2019, Uber released a fairly lengthy report about the safety of its rides. Now, Uber’s failure to answer follow-up questions posed by the State of California has triggered a massive fine and the potential loss of its license to operate in the Golden State. The report detailed a two-year period where roughly eight sexual assaults or rapes occurred daily on Uber rides. In too many situations, attacks occur because rideshare giants like Uber and Lyft don’t do enough to vet the people who apply to drive for the services, which means unsafe drivers carrying unsuspecting riders. When that happens to you, you may be able to take legal action. You should contact a knowledgeable Chicago rideshare injury attorney to find out more.

The action by California comes after that state’s Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued an order in January 2020. The order required disclosure of the “date, time and location of each reported assault, [and] a description of the circumstances surrounding the incident,” according to the Washington Post.

Eleven months later, Uber still hadn’t complied, citing what it described as concerns about the privacy and anonymity of the survivors of the attacks listed in the report. CPUC handed down a $59 million fine and ordered Uber to complete its disclosures within 30 days or face the loss of its license to operate in California, the report indicated.

Continue reading

Recently, more and more reports have been published pointing out the high risk of injury that the men and women who deliver Amazon packages face. Now, the Denver Post has shined a light on yet another wrinkle in this story: the particularly high risk of harm faced by new Amazon delivery drivers, including from slip-and-fall injuries, dog-bite injuries and muscle strain injuries. If you are (or were) an Amazon delivery driver and got hurt on (or as a result of) the job, you should waste no time in contacting an experienced Chicago injury attorney about your legal options.

New employees in any field tend to be the most likely to suffer on-the-job injuries. One workers’ compensation insurer reported to the Post that, generally, 41% of the claims it receives involve a worker in his/her first year at that job. For delivery drivers generally, that number is higher, at 58%. For the contractors who deliver Amazon packages, that number was much, much higher… standing at 93%!

Those workers’ compensation claims reflected that Amazon package deliverers were most likely to injure their ankles, followed by knees, lower backs, heads and then feet, according to the Post.

Normally, if you are hurt on the job in Illinois, you are limited to receiving only workers’ compensation benefits. If, however, your employer didn’t have valid workers’ compensation insurance at the time of your injury, then the range of outcomes is very different. In that circumstance, your employer isn’t shielded by the protections of the Workers’ Compensation Act, which means that you are no longer prohibited from suing your employer in civil court and getting a damages award in the full amount of the harm you suffered. This may help because a civil court damages award could be massively bigger than the award of workers’ comp benefits you otherwise would have received. To do that requires clearing many legal procedural hurdles that are often technically intricate and complicated, so it pays to have a knowledgeable Chicago workers’ compensation attorney on your side.

As an example, there’s the appellate court judgement regarding the case of J.G., a worker for a food manufacturer in the Chicago area. When he was hurt at work in early 2018, J.G. hired legal counsel to handle his workers’ compensation case. His attorney began investigating the case and discovered that J.G.’s employer did not have workers’ compensation insurance at the time of J.G.’s accident.

To be able to bypass the workers’ comp process and instead take your employer to civil court based on your employer’s lack of valid insurance coverage, you have to jump through several hoops in terms of proof.

Continue reading

Here in Illinois, the state has strong laws regarding using cell phones while driving. This summer, the penalties for causing an injury accident (or fatal accident) due to distracted driving are going up – to a potential maximum of a $1,000 fine and a one-year driver’s license suspension, according to the Chicago Tribune. One of the groups of people who depend heavily on their phones, and are at a high risk of driving distracted, are Uber and Lyft drivers. Their job involves lots of driving and their access to new riders involves lots of interfacing with a cell phone app, so the potential for danger is clear. If you’ve been injured by a distracted Uber driver, then you may be entitled to compensation through a civil court action. By reaching out to an experienced Chicago car accident attorney, you can get the information you need about your legal options.

Dealing with the need to use a cell phone app frequently while also driving frequently is something that all Uber drivers must deal with. Regrettably, some do it better than others. Posts on Uber message boards contain multiple “horror” stories like one Chicago-area rider who stated in 2019 that “I took an Uber ride a couple years ago in River North where the driver was holding his phone on his lap. I didn’t feel a strong sense of safety during that ride.”

It sounds like that rider got home safely, but not all riders are similarly fortunate. In Toronto, Canada, a man’s Uber ride to the airport was his last. According to a report by The Star, the Uber driver transporting the man and his girlfriend first went the wrong way on the expressway, managed to navigate onto the correct expressway going the correct way, but then lost control of his cell phone. The driver pulled over to retrieve the phone from the floor of the car, but did not get his vehicle completely outside the far-right travel lane before stopping. Another driver crashed into the Uber driver’s car, fatally injuring the passenger and severely injuring his girlfriend.

Continue reading

When you are seeking SSI and disability insurance benefits, you need to persuade the judge of several things. One of those things is that you have limitations and those limitations prevent you from holding a job. A recent case from nearby northern Indiana is an important reminder that, even if you are able to engage in certain basic activities around your home, you may still be too limited to work and still be entitled to benefits. Getting those critical benefits requires various forms of proof, and it pays to have an experienced Chicago Social Security disability attorney on your side, who knows how to present the evidence you need for success.

The applicant in that recent case, B.T., was a woman with multiple health issues, including diabetes, obesity, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety. Despite these limitations she cared for her daughter with disabilities, as well as for her father. She also volunteered at her church. The administrative law judge who first heard B.T.’s case ruled against her, concluding that the evidence indicated that B.T.’s limitations would not prevent her from working.

A federal District Court judge, however, revived the case. That opinion is very instructive. As the judge explained in his opinion, just because you are capable of doing some activities, that doesn’t automatically mean that you are capable of doing work for an employer. The administrative law judge ruled against B.T., in part, because the evidence indicated that she could cook, manage her personal hygiene, clean and do laundry. However, the way B.T. was performing at home contained some critical differences from how she would be expected to perform at any workplace.

Continue reading

If you’ve been injured in a slip-and-fall accident, there are several things that you need to prove and several types of evidence that can help you meet those requirements. You need proof of an injury. You need proof of causation. You also need proof of notice, among other things. You can get that proof with document evidence or lay witness evidence or expert evidence (among other types). It is, however, essential to be sure you have the evidence you need lined up and ready to present to the court in order to take your claim to trial. To be sure you have what you need for success, talk to a skilled Chicago injury attorney about your case.

L.C. was a woman who was injured in a slip-and-fall accident in a Chicago stairwell. She allegedly suffered significant injures and, as a result, decided to sue. In L.C.’s case, she asserted that she fell due to ice on the stairwell that accumulated as a result of faulty gutters.

When you’re suing a property owner in a premises liability case (which can mean a slip-and-fall or a trip-and-fall, among other scenarios), there are several things that you have to show. One of those things is what’s called “notice.” Notice means that the property owner knew, or reasonably should have known, about the hazard that caused your injuries.

When your application for Social Security disability benefits goes to a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ), it’s important to recognize in advance what you’ll be up against. You very likely will face an expert witness who will give testimony that you can still work and are not entitled to benefits. Part of succeeding in a scenario like that, then, is being ready to break down the credibility of that expert witness. Doing that is one of the many areas where skilled counsel can be invaluable, so be sure you’ve retained an experienced Chicago Social Security attorney when it comes time to pursue your Social Security disability case.

There are lots of ways in which an expert witness’s opinions can be flawed, providing you with potential avenues of attack. As an example, we can look at the case of A.B., a 40-year-old man with back pain, neck pain and many other conditions that prevented him from performing the health service, construction and food service jobs he used to do. Based on those multiple medical maladies, A.B. applied for Social Security disability benefits.

At the benefits hearing, a vocational expert testified that A.B., even with his significant medical limitations, could still handle three jobs: “callout operator, semiconductor bonder, or registration clerk.” Additionally, according to the expert, A.B. could be a counter clerk if certain lifting, standing and walking restrictions were in place. In total, there were roughly 140,000 jobs available that A.B. could do, according to the vocational expert.

Continue reading

When you apply for Social Security benefits based on your disability, expect the government to fight back aggressively. They will have lawyers well-versed in Social Security law. They may have medical experts with impressive resumes. However, if you come to your Social Security hearing armed with the right legal representation and the right medical experts supporting your position, then you can overcome all that, succeed and get the award of benefits you need. Before you go, though, make sure you have a skilled Chicago Social Security attorney on your side.

In a disability case, medical evidence will, of course, most likely be center-stage. One of the most powerful forms of medical evidence that you can place on your side is the testimony of treating physicians stating that you are, in fact, disabled.

The testimony of treating physicians generally carries a great deal of weight. Additionally, as a recent Social Security case from here in Chicago shows, the administrative law judge (ALJ) hearing your case must either given those doctors’ opinions weight, or give very specific reasons why she didn’t.

Continue reading

As an Amazon warehouse worker, there are certain risks that come with the job. One thing that you, as an Amazon worker, should not have to accept as “just part of the job” is being placed at an unreasonable risk of exposure to coronavirus. If there is any slight degree of good news, it is that, if you’re placed in that kind of situation, the law may provide you with a remedy though civil action. If that sounds like your workplace circumstances, be sure to act without delay by contacting an experienced Chicago workplace injury attorney.

Reports have come in from Amazon warehouses around the county about workers at risk, and even some who have died. D.G. was an Amazon warehouse worker in Sacramento who had been injured at work. D.G.’s doctor’s orders following the injury stated he was required to remain seated at work at all times. Rather than allow D.G. to remain home during the height of the pandemic and governmental stay-at-home orders, Amazon continued to require D.G. to be present at the warehouse, according to a CNet report.

While at work, he asserted that he had his employer’s blessing to use the internet on his phone, text his wife and chat with other employees stationed nearby. He said he was given no work to do and received no supervision, but he was required to be at the Amazon warehouse’s breakroom 10 hours a day, every day. According to the report, his employer instructed to “sit there watching Netflix if I wanted to,” as long as he was sitting in that room.

Continue reading

Contact Information