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Proving Proximate Cause in a Personal Injury LawsuitTwo factors determine whether a defendant can be held liable in a personal injury lawsuit: actual cause and proximate cause. Actual cause, also known as cause-in-fact, is when the defendant’s actions directly lead to the injury. Proximate cause is determining whether the defendant could have reasonably foreseen that his or her actions would cause injury. Proving proximate cause can be straightforward with a defendant whose actions directly resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries. A reckless driver can reasonably foresee that his or her actions would put other drivers and pedestrians in danger. However, proximate cause can be more difficult to prove with a third party involved in the incident.

Recent Case

In Kramer v. Szczepaniak, the plaintiffs have filed a lawsuit against multiple defendants whom they claim are liable for a vehicle-pedestrian accident. The plaintiffs were leaving a Chicago movie theater at 1:30 a.m. and used Uber to call a ride. The driver could not figure out the directions to get the passengers to their destination and kicked them out of the vehicle when one of them offered to help give directions. While walking home, the plaintiffs were hit in a pedestrian crossing by a driver who was speeding. The plaintiffs filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver of the vehicle that hit them, the Uber driver, Uber, and the person who let the Uber driver use his vehicle. Before hearing any arguments, a trial court dismissed the lawsuit against all defendants except for the driver who hit the plaintiffs, citing a lack of proximate cause.

Appeal

An Illinois appellate court reversed the trial court’s ruling, stating that there is a question of fact whether the Uber driver is liable for the injuries. The court said that the plaintiffs proved actual cause with the driver because they would not have been walking home if the driver had not forced them out of the vehicle before reaching their destination. As for proximate cause, the court said it is possible that the driver could have foreseen that he was putting the plaintiffs in danger because:

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Why You Should Not Testify in Your Criminal CaseWhen accused of a crime that you did not commit, it is human nature to want to tell everyone that you are innocent and explain why. However, it is almost always a bad idea to put a criminal defendant on the witness stand during his or her trial. There is too much potential for a jury to misconstrue your testimony, ultimately hurting your case. You are better served by making the prosecution prove the charge and letting the evidence speak for you.

Perception

Certain jurors may assume that your decision to not testify is a tacit admission of guilt, even though the court will instruct them to not make that assumption. However, testifying in court could do greater damage to your image. It is difficult to convincingly explain your innocence because your behavior will influence the jury more than your words:

  • Behaving nervously seems like you are trying to hide the truth;
  • Behaving emotionally makes you appear unstable, which is particularly bad if you are accused of a violent crime; and
  • Jurors could interpret a lack of emotion as you being cold and unfeeling.

Cross-Examination

You can practice how to answer questions that your defense attorney will ask you, but the cross-examination is the most dangerous part of testifying. Prosecutors will use the opportunity to ask you a series of tough questions in order to discredit your previous testimony or get you to unintentionally incriminate yourself. Their tactic is to wear you down with persistent and carefully worded questions until you:

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Posted on in Divorce

Updating Your Estate Plan After DivorceA divorce changes not only your life but plans you made in the event of your death. You likely named your former spouse as the primary beneficiary or caretaker in your estate planning documents. Once your divorce is final, Illinois law should assume that you no longer intend for your former spouse to receive most of your assets in a will or trust or be responsible for making decisions for you if you are incapacitated. However, you need to update these documents to make your intentions clear to your family:

  1. Wills: In a will, you name the beneficiaries who will receive your assets upon your death. After your divorce, the will treats any inclusion of your former spouse as though he or she has already died. However, your divorce can make your will essentially useless if your former spouse is the only beneficiary named. You should update your will to name new beneficiaries, such as your children, other relatives, or a charitable organization.
  2. Trusts: A trust differs from a will because you place assets in a trust while you are alive. The trustee will distribute those assets to your designated beneficiaries. One of the main benefits of a trust is that it allows your beneficiaries to receive those properties without having to go through probate. Assuming that you have a revocable trust, you can change who will receive the assets that would have gone to your former spouse or remove the assets from the trust.
  3. Power of Attorney: If you become incapacitated or unable to make your own decisions, a power of attorney allows someone else to make decisions on your behalf. A power of attorney for financial lets that person make monetary decisions, while a power of attorney for health care lets that person make decisions regarding your medical treatment. Though your former spouse will no longer have these powers, you need to update these documents to state who you want making these decisions for you.
  4. Child Guardianship: The normal presumption is that one parent will assume complete parental responsibilities for the children if the other parent dies. However, your former spouse may have limited or no parental rights if he or she is a danger to your children. In such a case, you need to name another adult who would be the legal guardian of your children upon your death.

Contact a McHenry County Divorce Attorney

Updating your estate planning documents can be a complicated process. A Crystal Lake, Illinois, divorce attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can help you examine your documents and decide which changes you want to make. Schedule a free consultation by calling 815-338-3838.

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Dangers of Electrical Work Go Beyond ElectrocutionElectricians are at greater risk of injury than many other professions because of the nature of their work. An accident with live electricity can cause severe injuries or even death. However, an electrical shock is not the most common workplace injury for electricians, and people in other professions can also be at risk of electricity-based injuries. Whether you are an electrician or work in another field, you will likely need workers’ compensation benefits to pay for your recovery after a workplace injury involving electricity.

Risks for Electricians

An electrician’s work is dangerous, and accidents can occur even when professionals are being cautious. Electricians are most likely to suffer an injury from:

  1. Falls: Electricians often work on wiring in high places, requiring them to use ladders or lay on high perches. They may lose their balance and fall while concentrating on precise and dangerous electrical work.
  2. Electric Shock: Coming into contact live electricity can result in an immediate electric shock. A severe shock can cause burns, limb paralysis, or death.
  3. Flash Burns: An electrical explosion creates extreme heat that burns anyone close to it and shoots off small pieces of metal shrapnel that can damage people’s skin and eyes.
  4. Chemical Inhalation: An electrician may be exposed to harmful substances such as asbestos when working in older buildings or construction sites.
  5. Repetitive Stress: The physical requirements of electrical work can gradually wear out someone’s body. Electricians regularly bend themselves in awkward positions and do intensive manual labor, which puts stress on their joints and hands.

Falls are the most common source of work injuries for electricians, and repetitive stress will likely develop into chronic pain for someone who stays with the career. However, electric shocks and explosions have the greatest potential to cause catastrophic or fatal injuries.

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Car Seat Safety Protects Children During AccidentsIllinois is enacting a child car seat law at the beginning of 2019 that will require children younger than 2 to be placed in rear-facing car seats. A front-end collision is dangerous to infants facing forwards because the forward momentum during a sudden stop can hurt their necks and heads. A rear-facing car seat absorbs the impact of a front-end collision and better secures a child’s head and neck. There are several other ways to protect your children in case of a vehicle accident, some of which are Illinois law requirements:

  1. Consider Child’s Size: Although the law creates an age cutoff, you should not assume that your child is ready for a front-facing car seat when he or she turns 2. Safety researchers recommend that children continue riding in rear-facing car seats until they weigh more than 40 pounds or are more than 40 inches tall.
  2. Dress in Thinner Layers: You should firmly strap your child into the car seat, but bulky clothing items can compress during a crash, causing the restraints to be looser. It is advised that you dress your child in a thinner layer of clothing and place a coat or blanket on top of the seat.
  3. Car Seats Required Until 8: Illinois law states that any child younger than 8 must be secured in a child safety seat, such as a front-facing car seat or a booster seat. For children in booster seats, the lap belt should go across the child’s thighs, and the shoulder belt should go across his or her chest and shoulder. Your child should not use a booster seat if there is not a shoulder belt.
  4. Keep Children in Back: Researchers recommend that children sit in the back seat of a car until they are 12. The front row of seats is a layer of protection for them in case of a front-end collision. The force of the airbag being deployed can also be dangerous for your children.

Contact a McHenry County Personal Injury Attorney

You may receive a fine if you fail to secure your child in a car seat as mandated by Illinois law. However, violating a car seat law does not affect your ability to receive personal injury compensation if someone else was at fault for the vehicle accident that injured your child. A Crystal Lake, Illinois, personal injury attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can help you file a lawsuit to collect damages for your child’s injury. Schedule a free consultation by calling 815-338-3838.

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Illinois State Bar Association State Bar of Wisconsin Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce Illinois Trial Lawyers Association McHenry County Bar Association
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