The Tomczak Law Group - Blog


Steps to Take After an Auto Accident to Build a Legal Case

Posted on by Jeff Tomczak

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Most of the time, troubles do not warn you of their arrival. Motor vehicle accidents occur in a sudden, transient, bewildering moment that can leave you injured and/or in a state of panic.

Many a time, victims of car accidents get so flabbergasted by the situation that they’re unable to figure out what to do next. Knowing the first steps to take after an accident, however, can be crucial to availing the necessary medical and legal assistance, and safeguarding your right to compensation and justice.

It is all the more important to seek legal counsel if another driver was responsible for you becoming a victim of an accident.

A few simple steps immediately after the accident can not only protect your rights as the victim, it can also ensure that you have a strong basis for filing a lawsuit. These steps can help you and/or injured passengers claim and recover compensation for the damages suffered due to another person’s negligence.

Mentioned ahead are the few speedy steps that you should take to protect your right to compensation in the aftermath of an auto accident.

1. Check for Injuries

You’re bound to be in pain after a car accident. Figure out if you’re injured too. If you had passengers with you in the car, ask them if they are hurt. If you feel fine, approach the other vehicle and inquire if its occupants are okay. If you or the people involved in the accident have been injured, call 911 and seek urgent medical help.

Irrespective of how you feel, you should make it a point to visit your doctor. At times, the injuries aren’t immediately apparent, especially internal ones, and the symptoms appear only after a few days. Do watch out for those.

It is also important to maintain records of all the medical treatments received as that will be helpful in making a legal claim later.

2. Capture the Accident Scene

Take ample pictures of the accident site with the help of your cell phone or a camera. Click pictures of the vehicles involved and their impact points (the point where they hit each other), the damage to the exterior and the interior parts, broken glass, skid marks, scratches, and so on.

Also try and get several pictures of any damage caused to other objects on the site such as lamp posts, signal poles, signage, lane dividers, and so on.

Capture all the visible injuries that you and/or your passengers have sustained on camera. Get names and contact details of other people involved in the accident, as well as of those who witnessed it. If the circumstances surrounding your accident were unique or complicated in nature, write or record notes about it while the incident is still fresh and clear in your memory.

The pictures can work as evidence and go a long way in strengthening your case. They can prove your claim about where the fault lies, and determine the extent of damage and injuries incurred from the accident.

As your case progresses, continue retaining all the documents pertaining to your accident, particularly your medical records, bills for prescription drugs and treatment procedures, and receipts of other expenses incurred due to the accident.

3. Call the Police

Call the police immediately after the collision, report the accident and wait for them to arrive at the accident site. This is an important step as the police need to carry out their own investigations and collect evidence which will ultimately lead to the issuance of an official report of the accident.

These reports contain crucial information about the possible witnesses to the accident. Further, they may also help in determining which motorist was responsible for the accident.

4. Get the Other Driver’s Information

In the case of other driver(s) being involved in the car accident, you will be required to make a note of their names and contact information as well. Moreover, be sure to jot down their driver’s license number, vehicle details (model, make, license plate number), name of their insurance carrier and their insurance policy number.

5. Call Your Insurance Company

Make sure you call your insurance company as soon as you can to report the car accident. The insurers will want to know every detail of the accident, including the exact place and time the accident occurred. They will also want to know if anyone else was involved in the accident.

When speaking to your insurance company, ensure that you do not accept any blame for the accident. Only report the facts of the episode. Admitting even partial blame for causing the accident could work against you in acquiring your claim.

6. Talk to a Car Accident Lawyer

Being in a car accident can be extremely hard on you both, physically and mentally. Your first priority after that should be to recuperate and get back to your former fit self. The last thing you need is the stress of having to fight an accident lawsuit and running from pillar to post gathering evidence in your sensitive health condition.

You will do well to engage the services of a car accident lawyer from same area where the accident occurred as such a lawyer will not only have specialized in auto accident laws, but will also be well-versed with the complex laws and the latest amendments in this field. For instance, if the accident took place in Joliet, you will have to look for a car accident lawyer in Joliet.

An experienced attorney will be able to help you receive the rightful settlement from your insurance provider, and assist you in seeking compensation from the other driver’s insurance carrier. Do consult one to find out how he can protect your rights.

Conclusion

The first few immediate steps you take after being hit by a moving vehicle can go a long way in supporting your auto accident lawsuit. Contacting an experienced attorney is also crucial as he can guide you and take your case in the right direction, and get you the compensation you deserve. The above points should help you understand what you need to do right after being in an auto accident to help strengthen your case.


How to Pick a Top Personal Injury Lawyer

Posted on by Jeff Tomczak

Personal Injury Lawyer(Image credit: www.flickr.com)

Being a victim of personal injury is not only stressful but also emotionally devastating. In a distressing situation like this, there’s one person who can fight for your rights and help you claim the compensation that you are entitled to- a personal injury lawyer.

Choosing the right personal injury lawyer plays a very crucial role. Although this can be a daunting task, as there are several well-known lawyers to choose from. Moreover, personal injury law can be quite complex to comprehend. You need a lawyer who has expertise in this niche and is fully qualified to handle your claim.

Here are four essential tips for choosing the right personal injury lawyer.

1. Thorough Research Is a Must

Research, research and research.

It’s only through research that you will be able to know about the reputation that various lawyers hold in the legal community. On the basis of this research, you will be able to whittle down your list of lawyers to two or three prospective ones.

There are a lot of ways to find the most reputable lawyer- one who will know how to exactly deal with your case.

Referrals are an excellent way to get the right personal injury lawyer.  You can ask your friends, colleagues or relatives. Another way to find a good lawyer in your area is to look it up online. Let’s say you are searching for a personal injury attorney in Joliet. You could search online for personal injury lawyers Joliet. This can fetch you a lot of relevant results.

Once you have shortlisted a few, you could check where they stand through their online rating. This will provide you with a clearer picture and help you in making your final decision.

Some of the most reliable rating programs are:

2. Choose an Expert

Once you are done with your research, you need to see to it that the lawyer that you have chosen is an expert in the field of personal injury. This is one of the most pivotal steps.

When choosing an expert, you must bear two things in mind:

  • One of the worst and unethical forms of practicing law is ambulance chasing. Wikipedia equates ‘ambulance chasing’ with barratry. One of the oldest references to ambulance chasers has been made by J.E. McDonald, President of the South Carolina Bar Association in 1905. You need to be aware and ensure that you avoid a lawyer that engages in such practice.
  • Have you come across the phrase- “Jack of all trades, master of none?”

Avoid going for someone who doesn’t specialize or have considerable experience in the field of personal injury. Not taking care of this aspect will increase your chances of losing your case.

  • What percentage of his/her practice is devoted to personal injury cases?
  • How many years of experience he/she has in handling such cases?
  • How much of your case will be handled by him/her?
  • Can you talk to some of his/her representative clients?

These questions will help you in clearing two of the most important doubts you may have – How much of an expert he/she is and whether or not he/she is trustworthy.

Moreover, you must know that a majority of the personal injury lawsuits get settled before trial i.e. out of court, so your lawyer must know how to negotiate a fair and a reasonable settlement. This is very important.

3. Check the Lawyer’s Resources

When it comes to dealing with a personal injury lawsuit, two resources are immensely important – manpower and money.

There’s nothing worse than being pressured into taking an inadequate settlement. This can be a likely scenario if your lawyer lacks the resources to fund your case properly. Then the situation can get arduous for you.

Therefore, it’s important that a lawyer is not only skilled, but also has the resources necessary to deal with your case. When hiring him, study the attorney’s office meticulously. Where is it located? Is it large, comfortable and furnished appropriately? Does the attorney have supportive staff? Does he/she have sufficient monetary reserves?

If the answer to any of this is in the negative, then think twice before hiring him/her.

4. Choose a Lawyer Who Is Clear About the Expenses

How would you feel if your lawyer charges a ridiculously high amount at the end of the case?

To eliminate this likely situation, you need to ensure that the lawyer is being clear about his/her fees and expenses from the very beginning.

You need to know the answers to all the following questions beforehand.

  • What is his/her fee structure?
  • What out-of-expenses will you have to deal with?”
  • What is a typical settlement range for cases similar to yours?
  • Is he/she going to provide you with a retainer agreement that lists the expenses of the case?

If he/she is trying to dodge any of these questions or something seems even a least bit twisted, then you need to be careful.

There are various factors that can affect the cost of hiring a personal injury attorney such as:

  • The complexity of the case.
  • The time it takes for the case to settle.
  • Whether the attorney must pursue litigation.
  • The size of your settlement.

The point to bear in mind is that you need to be very sure about what and how much you will owe the attorney depending on the outcome of the case. By being absolutely clear about this beforehand, you will save yourself any hassle.

Conclusion

Choosing the right personal injury lawyer can be an uphill task. But by keeping in mind the tips mentioned above, you will surely be able to find the right one and seek justice for the wrong that has been done to you or your close ones. Just make sure that you don’t compromise on any of the qualities that a personal injury attorney must have; neither should you rush into the hiring process. Take your time and choose the lawyer who makes you feel understood and represented.


How to Avoid a DUI Arrest

Posted on by Jeff Tomczak

How to Avoid a DUI ArrestDrinking and driving do not mix. This implies that if you’ve been drinking, refrain from driving. Drunken driving can result in injuries and loss of lives – yours and/or others. Why would anyone want to drive under influence and end up smashing their own car or damaging someone else’s property?

The worst thing about drunken driving is that it can lead to you getting arrested, losing your license, paying hefty fines and insurance amounts, and generally lose the kind of life you’ve been living all along.

However, you need not necessarily have to be drunk and drive to get arrested/found guilty of drunk driving in Joliet.  In fact, any person with any amount of alcohol in their blood stream can be charged with DUI and be held responsible for an accident which may take place, irrespective of who was actually at fault.

So if you’re under the impression that because you drink and drive responsibly, you’re safe from the drunk-driving charge and its consequences, you’ve got something else coming at you.

In this post, we look at a few measures you can take to avoid a DUI arrest.

Adherence to Traffic Norms

A police officer needs probable cause (or a valid reason to stop your vehicle) to be able to take action against you. Don’t make his job easy by committing traffic violations. It is always a good idea of refrain from driving a vehicle with an expired plate, defunct brake lights/turn indicators/head lights.

When you get into your car, make sure you fasten your seat belt as many states have made wearing seat belts when driving mandatory, failing which an officer is liable to stop your vehicle.

Adhering to speed limits, keeping off your cell phone, turning down the radio, showing indicators and making complete stops will do you good. The less the distractions, the better you will drive.

Breath Control

One of the first things that the officer will look for as evidence against you will be the stench of alcohol on your breath. Do remember that you’ll be dealing with a trained law enforcer here, so merely chewing gum will not mask the stench. You need to be smart about this.

Before you even get into your car, eat something, chew gum, gargle with mouthwash, re-apply your cologne/perfume, or (as a last resort) light up a cigarette. These may work in camouflaging the smell of alcohol originating from your breath.

Keep the windows of the vehicle open to get some fresh air in, and for the alcohol stench to escape.

Keep Alcohol Away

If you get pulled over on a suspicion of DUI and get caught with alcohol in your possession, you could be heading for big trouble. Do not ever make the mistake of transporting alcohol in your car after you’ve been drinking.

If you do have anything stashed up in your vehicle after a night of partying, make sure you discard the liquor bottles/containers from your vehicle, else it may get difficult to convince the court that you were sober when the prosecutor presents pictures of an open beer bottle resting in your car’s cup holder.

Do Not Tell the Officer You’ve Been Drinking

When asked whether you’ve been drinking, use your right to remain silent. A lack of response to the officer’s questions cannot be held against you, so says the Fifth Amendment.

Becoming unresponsive to his questions will prevent the possibility of you having to lie to him, which can be held against you. So make sure you do not lie.

And while this sort of behavior may make you look suspicious, know that you don’t have to provide any answers before consulting your DUI lawyer in Joliet.

Skip the Sobriety and the Breathalyzer Tests

Even if the officer does not smell alcohol on your breath, he may say that he does (he’s allowed to lie to you). He may then ask you perform certain field sobriety tests, which differ from state to state. Remember, you are not under arrest and are not required to perform any of these tests. In fact, performing them might lead to you giving more ammunition in the hands of the officer, which means more trouble for you!

Additionally, say no to perform the portable breath test as well. The officer may say that he will let you go if you pass the test, but do not fall for that. Politely decline to submit to it. While several states now allow officers to carry portable breath units on them, they are undecided upon whether the results can be used as evidence.

In some jurisdictions, a refusal to submit to field sobriety tests may result in the suspension of your driver’s license. If you’ve really had too much to drink and are likely to fail the test, do not submit to them and settle for the license suspension in order to decrease the probability of a successful prosecution in the court.

On the other hand, if you know that you’ve not/barely had anything to drink, you could take the field sobriety tests as there is a high probability that you will pass them.

Stay Calm

If the officer places you under arrest and takes you in custody, try and stay calm and be quiet. While you may be panicking inside, refrain from letting it show, especially in violent ways. Focus on regaining your composure and remember not to utter a word.

The officer may start talking to you in a friendly tone to get you to admit to drinking. Again, do not fall for that. Simply respond by saying that you would rather not speak until your attorney is present.

Hire a DUI Defense Attorney

Engage the services of a qualified and an experienced DUI attorney without wasting any more time. Be aware of the fact that regardless of how weak the evidence against you is, the prosecution will seek a conviction against you.

You may not be able to defend yourself as well as an experienced attorney, who will study your case minutely and find technical defenses on your behalf.

Apart from that he will also be able to guide you with the paperwork involved as well as protect many of your procedural rights. A good lawyer comes at a price, but the costs associated with a conviction on your record for a lifetime are significantly higher. So decide well!

Conclusion

To avoid a DUI arrest, it is always best to not drink and not drive. However, if you do find yourself behind the wheel after a couple of drinks and are stopped by a police officer, you will have to be smart in dealing with the situation to avoid an arrest. The above points should keep you from getting in trouble until you can get in touch with an attorney.


Man sues Joliet police who fired shots at him

Posted on by Jeff Tomczak

A man who says he was shot several times last summer by Joliet police officers has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the officers and the City of Joliet.

The complaint, which will be pursued in federal court alleges excessive force and is seeking millions of dollars in damages.

James Pacheco shows the scars left behind by bullets that struck him in several places on his arm, shoulder and upper lip.

These are gunshot wounds he says he sustained when a Joliet police officer fired multiple shots at Pacheco during an incident last summer.

“I had no idea why their guns were drawn or why they were pulling me over,” Pacheco said.

Early in the morning of July 30, 2012, Pacheco was driving in the 900-block of East Washington Street when he was stopped by a train.

He made a u-turn and was stopped by Joliet officers investigating a report that implicated Pacheco in property damage nearby.

Pacheco says officers demanded he get out of the car, and before he could respond, opened fire.

The incident was caught on surveillance video.

Officers could be heard demanding that Pacheco get out of his car. Pacheco in turn asking why, saying he didn’t do anything.

Then, gunshots are heard.

Pacheco, saying he was fearing for his life, sped away and then crashed after a few miles.

“I don’t believe no matter what I did that night, I’m being accused of something that was minor, busting a window, I don’t think anybody deserves to be shot,” Pacheco said.

“You literally drive away to try to save your life. Pull over because you can’t go any further and what does the policeman do? Pull out a taser and tases you twice,” said Jeff Tomczak, Pacheco’s attorney.

Pacheco and his attorney, Jeff Tomczak, have filed a civil rights lawsuit against the City of Joliet and the officers involved in the incident. The complaint makes several allegations, including excessive force and battery.

“When they pull the trigger of that gun, there has to be no room for error. No room for overreaction. No chance that that’s an unjustified shooting,” said Tomczak.

Pacheco still faces charges following that incident, including dui, and attempted aggravated battery.

An attorney for the City of Joliet says the officer involved in the shooting was under internal investigation, and it was found that the use of force was justified. However, he could not comment on the pending litigation.