June 1, 2012

New cases of Legionnaire’s disease in NY State

A popular hotel chain has voluntarily closed one of its locations in Albany, New York after two guests were diagnosed with Legionnaire's disease. This was after six other cases were confirmed cases earlier this year.

Legionnaire's disease is a potentially fatal bacterial illness. It is most commonly transmitted when when a person comes in contact with evaporated water containing Legionella bacteria. This often occurs in poorly ventilated areas and can be spread through air conditioners.

Symptoms of the disease are similar to the flu and include fever, chills and coughing. Diarrhea and vomiting can occur in some cases as well as confusion and difficulty with cognition.

Legionnaire's disease is often caused by negligent companies that fail to keep their water systems free from bacterial. An experienced lawyer can be essential in helping recover damages caused by this preventable illness. Attorney, Joseph Klest is a trial lawyer with 30 years of experience representing people who have been injured through no fault of there own. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Legionnaire's disease, dial 866-264-7639 to schedule a free consultation.

© Joseph G. Klest, 2012.

January 24, 2012

Slip and fall on ice. Who is liable in Illinois when someone slips and falls on an icy sidewalk?

Some people think that it's better, from a legal perspective, not to shovel snow from their sidewalk. This belief stems from the idea that not shoveling snow will somehow protect a property owner from getting slapped with a lawsuit.

This issue is directly addressed by the Illinois Snow and Ice Removal Act. The Act is meant to protect property owners who clear ice and snow from their sidewalk. In general, so long as a resident makes an effort to remove snow and ice from their sidewalks, he or she won't be held liable for injuries resulting from a slip and fall on their sidewalk, except in cases of clear wrongdoing as defined by the Act.So what does this mean for slip and fall victims?

According to recent Illinois court rulings, property owners and snow removal contractors are immune from liability for injuries resulting from unnatural accumulations of snow and ice created or aggravated by the owner or snow removal contractor, unless their conduct was willful or wanton. What this means for slip and fall victims is that it is important to consult with an experienced injury lawyer who can give careful consideration to the specifics of an individual case in order to inform that person of his or her legal rights.

A slip and fall on an icy sidewalk can sometimes result in serious injuries. If you or someone you know have been the victim of a slip and fall on an icy sidewalk, dial 866-264-7639 for a free consultation with an experienced attorney from the Klest Injury Law Firm.

© Joseph G. Klest, 2012.

November 4, 2011

Fall on ice in parking lot. Know your rights.

This year’s winter weather predictions for the Midwest are gloomy. According to media weather reports, the Great Lakes Region should expect a especially cold winter combined with above average snowfall. That should make even the seasoned Midwesterner want pack up and move to a sunnier place. For the City of Chicago, this means snow shovel sales are sure to go through the roof.

Despite these predictions, some Chicago residents believe they are better off not shoveling their sidewalks because doing so will open them up to the possibility of getting sued if someone slips on the ice in front of their house. This begs the question; “Am I better protected from liability if I don’t shovel my show?” A review of Illinois law should convince even the most stubborn Chicagoan that this is not the case.

To begin with, property owners in Illinois are generally not liable if someone is injured by falling on a natural accumulation of snow and ice on the sidewalk. But, they can be held liable if someone is injured due to an unnatural accumulation.

What does this mean for the homeowner? You may be surprised to find that Illinois courts have ruled that icy ridges and ruts caused by ordinary vehicle traffic in a business parking lot constitute a natural accumulation of snow and ice. This might not be the case for ice ruts caused by foot traffic. Therefore, you may want to consult with an experienced Chicago injury lawyer when dealing with a specific occurrence.

As for the Chicagoan who doesn’t want to shovel the walk, the Illinois legislature has tried to answer that question. The Illinois Snow and Ice Removal Act states, “that it is undesirable for any person to be held liable for damages due to his or her efforts in the removal of snow or ice” from sidewalks. However, there are also Illinois court cases which state that this Act doesn’t apply to driveways. Here is yet another reason to consider consulting with an injury lawyer.

In addition to the Illinois Snow and Ice Removal Act, the City of Chicago has an ordinance that requires residents to shovel the snow in front of their homes or they could get a ticket. In 2010, then Mayor Daley announced the city wouldn’t enforce the ordinance, but he still encouraged property owners to clear their sidewalks.

© Joseph G. Klest, 2011.

January 30, 2011

Toddler Suffers Serious Injuries after Falling down Hotel Elevator Shaft in Joliet, IL

A two year old boy suffered very serious injuries including severe head trauma after he fell down an elevator shaft in Joliet, IL, on Monday. The incident occurred at the Plaza Hotel in Joliet, IL, around 3:30 p.m. According to published reports, the boy was unattended in the elevator when he started playing with the elevator buttons. The boy reportedly hit an emergency stop button at which point the doors opened exposing a 10 inch gap between the elevator and the walls. The toddler fell through this gap all the way to the hotel basement floor. The boy was reportedly first taken to Silver Cross Hospital in Joliet before being airlifted to Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. He was in a coma on Monday but has reportedly improved as he is now able to open his eyes and move his hands.

In the wake of the tragic elevator accident, two elevator inspectors were suspended by the State of Illinois. A spokesperson for the Illinois State fire marshal, the entity that oversees elevator inspections, has indicated that disciplinary measures could be forthcoming once an investigation is complete. The elevator reportedly passed inspection on October 26th. It had reportedly failed an inspection earlier that month due to a incomplete pressure test. The elevator is now out of service. The State has reportedly required that the hotel make upgrades to its elevators.

UPDATE: The Joliet chief building inspector has determined that a building code violation may have played a role in the elevator accident. The switch panel that the child used to stop the elevator between floors should have required a key for operation and should have also been stored behind a locked panel.

November 16, 2006

Proving Fault in Slip and Fall Accidents

These guidelines will help you determine who is responsible if you slip or trip and fall on someone else's property.

Many thousands of people are injured each year -- some very seriously -- when they slip or trip and fall on a dangerous floor, a flight of stairs, or a rough patch of ground. Sometimes the owner of the property where the accident occurred is responsible for the accident, sometimes not.

If you have been injured in this way, first consider that it is a normal part of living for things to fall on or to drip onto a floor or the ground, and for smooth surfaces to become uneven. Also, some things put in the ground -- drainage grates, for example -- serve a useful purpose there. Therefore, someone who owns or occupies property cannot always be held responsible for immediately picking up or cleaning every slippery substance on a floor. Nor is a property owner always responsible for someone slipping or tripping on something that an ordinary person should expect to find there or should see and avoid. We all have an obligation to watch where we're going.

However, property owners do need to be careful in keeping up their property. While there is no precise way to determine when someone else is legally responsible for something on which you slip or trip, cases turn on whether the property owner acted carefully so that slipping or tripping was not likely to happen -- and whether you were careless in not seeing or avoiding the thing you fell on. Here are some general rules to help you decide whether someone else was at fault for your slip or trip and fall injury.
Determining Liability

To be legally responsible for the injuries you suffered from slipping or tripping and falling on someone else's property, one of the following must be true:

* The owner of the premises or an employee must have caused the spill, worn, or torn spot, or other slippery or dangerous surface or item, to be underfoot.
* The owner of the premises or an employee must have known of the dangerous surface but done nothing about it.
* The owner of the premises or an employee should have known of the dangerous surface because a "reasonable" person taking care of the property would have discovered and removed or repaired it.

The third situation is the most common, but is also less clear-cut than the first two because of those pesky words "should have known." Liability in these cases is often decided by common sense. Judges and juries determine whether the owner or occupier of property was careful by deciding if the steps the owner or occupier took to keep the property safe were reasonable.
What Is "Reasonable"?

In determining a property owner's "reasonableness," the law concentrates on whether the owner makes regular and thorough efforts to keep the property safe and clean. Here are some initial questions you can ask to determine whether a property or business owner may be liable for your slip or trip and fall injuries:

* If you tripped over a torn, broken, or bulging area of carpet, floor, or ground, or slipped on a wet or loose area, was the dangerous spot been there long enough so that the owner should have known about it?
* Does the property owner have a regular procedure for examining and cleaning or repairing the premises? If so, what proof does the owner have of this regular maintenance?
* If you tripped over or slipped on an object someone had placed or left on or in the floor or ground, was there a legitimate reason for the object to be there?

* If there once had been a good reason for the object to be there but that reason no longer exists, could the object have been removed or covered or otherwise made safe?
* Was there a safer place the object could have been located, or could it have been placed in a safer manner, without much greater inconvenience or expense to the property owner or operator?
* Could a simple barrier have been created or a warning been given to prevent people from slipping or tripping?
* Did poor or broken lighting contribute to the accident?

If the answers to one or more of these questions come out in your favor, you may have a good claim for compensation. However, you must still think about whether your own carelessness contributed in any significant way to your accident.
Your Own Carelessness

In almost every slip or trip and fall case, you must decide whether your carelessness contributed to the accident. The rules of "comparative negligence" help measure your own reasonableness in going where you did, in the way you did, just before the accident happened. There are some questions you should ask yourself about your own conduct -- an insurance adjuster will almost certainly ask them after you file your claim.

* Did you have a legitimate reason -- a reason the owner should have anticipated -- for being where the dangerous area was?
* Would a careful person have noticed the dangerous spot and avoided it, or walked carefully enough not to slip or trip?
* Were there any warnings that the spot might be dangerous?
* Were you doing anything that distracted you from paying attention to where you were going, or were you running, jumping, or fooling around in a way that made falling more likely?

You don't have to "prove" to an insurance adjuster that you were careful. But think about what you were doing and describe it clearly so that an insurance adjuster will understand that you were not careless.

To learn more about how your carelessness will affect the outcome of your claim, see "How Your Own Carelessness Affects Your Claim" in General Rules for Proving Fault in Accidents.

October 9, 2006

Tenant Injuries: Landlord Liability and Insurance FAQ

Protect yourself from liability from tenant injuries.

What's Below:

When is a landlord liable for an injury to a tenant or visitor to the rental property?

How can landlords minimize financial losses related to repairs and maintenance?

How can insurance help protect a rental property business?

When is a landlord liable for an injury to a tenant or visitor to the rental property?

To be held responsible for an injury on the premises, the landlord or property manager must have been negligent in maintaining the property, and that negligence must have caused the injury. All of the following must be proven for a landlord to be held liable:

  • It was the landlord's responsibility to maintain the portion of premises that caused the accident.

  • The landlord failed to take reasonable steps to avert the accident.

  • Fixing the problem (or at least giving adequate warnings) would not have been unreasonably expensive or difficult.

  • A serious injury was the probable consequence of not fixing the problem (the accident was foreseeable).

  • The landlord's failure -- his negligence -- caused the tenant's accident.

  • The tenant was genuinely hurt.

For example, if a tenant falls and breaks his ankle on a broken front door step, the landlord will be liable if the tenant can show all of the following:

  • It was the landlord's responsibility to maintain the steps (this would usually be the case, because the steps are part of the common area, which is the landlord's responsibility).

  • The landlord failed to take reasonable measures to maintain the steps (for days or weeks, not if it had only been broken for minutes).

  • A repair would have been easy or inexpensive (fixing a broken step is a minor job).

  • The probable result of a broken step is a serious injury, and it was foreseeable (falling on a broken step is highly likely).

  • The broken step caused the injury (the tenant must be able to prove that he fell on the step and that the step is where he broke his ankle).

  • The tenant is really hurt (the tenant isn't faking it).

A tenant can file a personal injury lawsuit or claim against the landlord's insurance company for medical bills, lost earnings, pain and other physical suffering, permanent physical disability and disfigurement, and emotional distress. A tenant can also sue for damage to personal property, such as a stereo or car, that results from faulty maintenance or unsafe conditions.

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How can landlords minimize financial losses related to repairs and maintenance?

You can avoid many problems by maintaining the property in excellent condition. Here's how:

  • Use a written checklist to inspect the premises and fix any problems before new tenants move in.

  • Encourage tenants to immediately report safety or security problems such as plumbing, heating, broken doors or steps -- whether in the tenant's unit or in common areas such as hallways and parking garages.

  • Keep a written log of all tenant complaints and repair requests with details as to how and when problems were fixed.

  • Handle urgent repairs as soon as possible -- take care of any safety issues within 24 hours. Keep tenants informed as to when and how the repairs will be made.

  • Twice a year, give tenants a checklist on which to report potential safety hazards or maintenance problems that might have been overlooked. Use the same checklist to personally inspect all rental units once a year.

Also, your commitment to repair and maintenance procedures should be clearly set out in the lease or rental agreement.

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How can insurance help protect a rental property business?

A well-designed property insurance policy can protect a landlord's rental property from losses caused by many perils, including fire, storms, burglary, and vandalism. (Earthquake and flood insurance are typically insured under separate policies.)

A comprehensive general liability ("CGL") policy provides liability insurance, covering injuries or losses suffered by others as the result of defective conditions on the property. Equally important, liability insurance covers the cost (mostly lawyers' bills) of defending personal injury lawsuits.

Here are some tips on choosing insurance:

  • Purchase enough coverage to protect the value of the property and assets.

  • Be sure the policy covers not only physical injury but also libel, slander, discrimination, unlawful and retaliatory eviction, and invasion of privacy suffered by tenants and guests.

  • Carry liability insurance on all vehicles used for business purposes, including the manager's car or truck if it's used on the job.

If you need more information,

The Legal Guide for Starting & Running a Small Business, by Fred S. Steingold (Nolo), contains a detailed discussion of small business law, including how to insure your rental property.

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October 3, 2006

How Dog Owners Can Avoid Being Bitten by a Lawsuit

If you've got a dog, take some simple steps to prevent injuries -- and legal headaches.

The numbers are up, and it's not good news: Dogs bite 4.7 million people every year.

The explanations are nearly as numerous as the pet dogs, now counted at more than 62 million. Some speculate that Americans, frightened of crime, are favoring fiercer breeds. And busy owners too often leave their pets home alone, untrained and unsocialized. Dogs that spend a lot of time by themselves (especially if they're tied up), aren't used to being around strangers and haven't received basic obedience training, are prime candidates to bite.
Who's Liable?

Those injured usually have the law on their side. In the old days, the law gave dog owners what was called "one free bite." Put simply, an owner wasn't liable for injuries unless the dog had already shown it was likely to hurt someone. The dog didn't actually have to have bitten someone -- for example, if your dog lunged at the neighbor, teeth bared, you were considered to be on notice that the dog might bite.

But most states now make owners liable for any harm their dog causes, whether or not the owner had reason to suspect that the dog was dangerous. Dog owners can find themselves on the hook for an injured person's medical expenses and lost wages, or even the therapy bills of a traumatized child. The dog owner may not be liable if the dog was provoked, or if the injured person was trespassing, but claims like these are often very hard to prove after the fact.

It's far better, of course, to avoid injuries rather than fight about legal liability after they happen. And the truth is that dog owners could prevent most bites.
Teach Your Dog

It's your job, as an owner, to train and socialize your dog. Humane societies everywhere offer low-cost basic obedience classes, which are a good way to teach your dog to behave around other dogs and people. And plenty of good tips are available in books such as How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend and The Art of Raising a Puppy, by the Monks of New Skete.

It's also up to you, as a responsible pet owner, to spay or neuter your dog. It will cut down not only on the number of unwanted dogs, but also on injuries to people. Unsterilized dogs are three times more likely to bite, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Sterilization will also make it easier to keep your dog from straying.

Here are some other simple steps to take.

Never let a dog run at large. In some states, you're automatically liable for any injury your dog causes while at large.

Keep your dog's vaccinations current. Rabies vaccinations are required by law. If your dog bites someone, the authorities, not to mention the victim, will view it a lot more seriously if the dog hasn't had a recent rabies shot.

Keep the dog out of strangers' paths. Lots of people -- mail carriers, salespeople, poll-takers, girl scouts -- routinely come to your front door. Keep the dog away from it. A fenced front yard isn't good enough; most people will open a gate and walk on up to the door.

Post warning signs. If you have any reason to think that your dog might injure someone coming onto your property, post "Beware of Dog" signs prominently. But remember that young children can't read. If you think children might still be at risk, put a lock on the gate.
Teach Your Children

Children are much more likely to be bitten than are adults, and boys are more likely to be bitten than girls. In large part, these injuries occur because the children have never been taught how to behave around dogs. All kids should know these basic rules:

* Don't pet a dog without letting the dog sniff you first.
* Never disturb a dog that's eating, sleeping or caring for puppies.
* Don't run from a dog.
* Try not to make eye contact with a dog; it can be threatening to a dog.

Finally, don't assume that familiarity breeds safety. Many children are bitten by dogs they are familiar with, on the dog's home turf. Children may take more chances with a dog they know, and a dog is more protective in its own home.

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