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Bankruptcy or Taxes: What To File First

Posted on: February 11, 2016 by in Bankruptcy, Blog
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If you are sinking in overwhelming debt, you may be considering bankruptcy, but you should know that no law that ever requires anyone to declare a personal bankruptcy. The first thing you need to do is to have an experienced bankruptcy lawyer evaluate your personal financial circumstances. For some, a bankruptcy is the only practical option, but for many consumers dealing with debt, an alternative to bankruptcy may be less expensive and equally helpful. Bankruptcy laws are slightly different in each state, so in the greater Chicago area, you should consult promptly with an experienced Chicago bankruptcy lawyer.

When your financial concerns are focused on important matters like debt and bankruptcy, something that seems less important – like your federal income tax returns – may get overlooked. If you file for bankruptcy during tax season, what will happen to any tax refund you receive before you file or while the bankruptcy procedure is pending? Is there any benefit to filing your income tax return first and then subsequently declaring bankruptcy? If you file for bankruptcy first, will you lose your income tax refund? Your bankruptcy “estate” is established when you file for bankruptcy, and any tax refund you acquire after declaring bankruptcy becomes part of that estate as long as your bankruptcy is in progress. Let a good bankruptcy lawyer help you plan your bankruptcy before you declare it, and by smartly taking advantage of bankruptcy exemptions, you may be able to keep some or all of your federal income tax refund.

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ILLINOIS BANKRUPTCY EXEMPTIONS

Exemptions allow you to keep a certain amount of property even if you owe money to others. Every state designates specific property that you may retain so that you can remain productive, keep paying your debts and improving your finances, and not become destitute. Bankruptcy exemptions vary from state to state. Although nineteen states let consumers choose between the federal and state bankruptcy exemptions, Illinois is not one of those states, and consumers filing bankruptcy in Illinois are permitted to exempt property using only the Illinois state exemptions. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the exemptions allow you to retain a particular amount of property, and the exemptions also help you calculate what must be paid to creditors under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Here are some of the bankruptcy exemptions allowed under Illinois bankruptcy laws; let a good bankruptcy lawyer help you determine how best to take advantage of these exemptions:

1. Income: Exempted income includes unemployment insurance, Social Security payments, veterans’ benefits, and any public assistance; illness, disability, or unemployment payments from an employer or an insurance company; and alimony, spousal maintenance, or spousal support payments.

2. Real Estate: The Illinois homestead bankruptcy exemption is $15,000 of equity in a house, mobile home, or condominium that is your primary residence (and $30,000 for a married couple).

3. Property: Pre-paid tuition trust funds, pre-paid cemetery sales or trust funds, clothes, healthcare aids and devices, certain property proceeds, and wrongful death awards are all exempt without regard to their value. You may also exempt $2,400 on the value of your personal vehicle, $15,000 of personal injury awards, and $1,500 of tools, books, and implements used in your work.

4. Wild Card: Illinois also allows a $4,000 “wild card” exemption on any personal property except wages. Many people will have a federal income tax refund which is less than $4,000, and they may use the wildcard exemption, or a portion of it, toward keeping the refund. The wildcard exemption isn’t limited to a particular type of property, so you can use it on any asset or combine it with other exemptions.

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WHAT TYPE OF BANKRUPTCY?

For some consumers in some circumstances, there may be situations where it’s preferable to file the federal income tax return first, spend the refund money, and then file the bankruptcy petition. You’ll want to discuss the best approach for you personally with an experienced bankruptcy lawyer. You’ll also want your lawyer’s advice and insights regarding the timing of your bankruptcy filing and the type of bankruptcy you that you qualify for – Chapter 13 or Chapter 7. You’ll have to pass a means test to qualify for Chapter 7. It’s for those without an income or with an income that’s insufficient to cover their debts. There’s no means test required for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If you file under Chapter 13, you and your bankruptcy lawyer will create a payment plan designed to pay your debts over a precise length of time, typically three years. The guidance and insights of an experienced bankruptcy lawyer will be critical throughout the process.

Whether your bankruptcy is filed under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, your private creditors – even if they have a judgment against you – may not directly seize a federal income tax refund; that “right” belongs exclusively to the federal or state government seeking payments for taxes, child support, student loans, and fines owed to civil or criminal courts. In Illinois, hospitals are the only private creditors that may seize a state income tax refund. A word of caution, however: after any income tax refund is placed in your personal checking or savings account, it becomes a target for your private creditors.

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WHY YOU NEED A BANKRUPTCY ATTORNEY

If you are fighting against overwhelming debt and the debt is defeating you, speak to an experienced bankruptcy lawyer as quickly as possible – before filing a tax return, a bankruptcy petition, or taking any other legal action. Why, you might ask, should you hire a bankruptcy lawyer if you are already in debt and if you are not required by the law to retain an lawyer? Because bankruptcy is complicated, and without the help of an lawyer who routinely handles a variety of bankruptcy cases, you could lose a great deal of money. Any mistakes, misstatements, or misunderstandings could delay your bankruptcy or cost you unexpectedly.

If you’re unable to satisfy any of the bankruptcy qualification requirements, you can still be targeted for repossession or foreclosure as well as those intimidating phone calls from creditors and their representatives. You’ll almost certainly require a bankruptcy lawyer’s advice and services during a bankruptcy procedure, so the wisest move is to make that call before taking any other step. In the greater Chicago area, speak with an experienced bankruptcy lawyer who will ensure that you obtain the legal protection you need.

Probably the most important protection that you acquire upon declaring bankruptcy is the “automatic stay,” a court order that stops creditors from harassing you or attempting to collect debts during the bankruptcy process. When you declare bankruptcy, your creditors are informed that they are now subject to an automatic stay. New claims may not be filed against you, pending cases are usually put on hold, and no bullying calls or letters are allowed. Creditors who violate the automatic stay violate the law, and if that happens, your bankruptcy lawyer will go to court on your behalf to enforce the stay.

BUT IS IT RIGHT FOR YOU?

Bankruptcy is not the single solution for every individual or family that struggles with mounting debts. If there’s an alternative to bankruptcy that’s more practical and effective in your own situation, a good bankruptcy lawyer will help you identify and pursue that alternative. A bankruptcy lawyer will evaluate your personal finances to decide if bankruptcy or another option is the alternative that’s best for you. If bankruptcy is the best option after considering the others, your lawyer can explain the means test and other requirements for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and then help you file under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Your bankruptcy lawyer will make sure that your bankruptcy petition is accurate and complete, without errors or misunderstandings, and your lawyer will also see to it that you enjoy the full protection of the law.

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Quite honestly, the way to keep your federal income tax refund is to file your tax return, cash the refund check, and spend the cash before you file a bankruptcy petition. It’s not only just that simple, but on the day you declare bankruptcy, you should have as little cash as possible sitting in the bank. The other alternative is almost just as simple – if you’re declaring bankruptcy next year. Don’t receive a tax refund. Have your employer withhold only the minimum amount from your paychecks this year and not a cent more. A federal income tax refund for wages earned before you file a bankruptcy petition will become the property of the bankruptcy estate, and you’ll lose it unless you use an exemption to protect it.

OBTAIN A FRESH START

Bankruptcy in the United States is designed so that honest, hard-working people who’ve made mistakes can put their finances in order and get a fresh financial start. Bankruptcy protects you from repossession, foreclosure, creditor lawsuits, and harassment. However, for a bankruptcy to accomplish its purpose, there are some simple rules that you’ll need to follow. Write out a budget, and stick to it. Save every cent that you can. And start slowly rebuilding your credit. An experienced bankruptcy lawyer can help you avoid most of the mistakes that can be made in a bankruptcy and can offer you recommendations for helping you rebuild your credit. If your debts are stacking up faster than you can pay them, talk with a good bankruptcy lawyer promptly, and in the Chicago area, with an experienced Chicago bankruptcy lawyer as quickly as possible.

Is Bankruptcy Right For You?

Posted on: January 13, 2016 by in Bankruptcy, Blog
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When your debts spiral out of control and your bills start to pile up – and especially if you start getting those rude phone calls from collection agencies – if you’re like most people, you might consider filing for bankruptcy. However, you may not need to take that step. For some individuals in some circumstances, bankruptcy may be the only practical option, but it may or may not be the best option for you. Your particular circumstances may or may not make bankruptcy your only realistic alternative. For most individuals who end up declaring bankruptcy, it usually turns out to have been their best option.

In most cases, a person who files for bankruptcy has fallen into debt by missing mortgage payments or car payments or by piling up credit card debt or medical debt. For many of the people who eventually declare bankruptcy, these debts are then accompanied by a sudden job loss, a divorce, or a serious illness or injury. Interest and penalties start adding up, and at some point, the debts simply cannot any longer be paid. Bankruptcy is usually the appropriate option for people in precisely this kind of situation – people who truly need a clean financial slate. Is bankruptcy right for you? Your answers to the seven questions listed below should tell you if bankruptcy is or is not right for you. If it is, consult with an experienced Chicago bankruptcy lawyer if you live in or near Chicago or with an experienced bankruptcy lawyer near you.

QUESTION #1: ARE YOU ALLOWED TO FILE FOR BANKRUPTCY?

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharges – that is, it wipes out – “unsecured” debt, but a Chapter 13 bankruptcy reorganizes your debts. Under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you’ll still have to pay your debts, but you’ll be given the time you need to pay them. In most states, most debtors will find no legal obstacles to filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, but if you have or earn enough money to pay some of your creditors, you probably will not be eligible to declare a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

How will the courts know how much money you have? Prior to filing any Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must submit to and pass the financial “means test” that was established by the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005. The means test is based on your average household income in the six months prior to the month you declare bankruptcy. It was created by Congress to identify those who genuinely need to file for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and to fight fraud and the abuse of bankruptcy laws by those who don’t. If you make less than the median income in Illinois (or in the state where you are filing), you’ll qualify to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If your income exceeds your state’s median income figure, and if you have cash remaining to cover some of your debts after you pay your essential monthly expenses, you can’t file for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, but you should still discuss a possible Chapter 13 bankruptcy with your bankruptcy lawyer.

QUESTION #2: WILL YOUR SITUATION IMPROVE IN THE NEAR FUTURE?

If you answered yes to the first question, now you’ll have to ask yourself about your future. You may be in dire financial straits today, but what about tomorrow or next year? Are you expecting to land a better job or to receive a financial bonus, gift, windfall, or inheritance? If your hardship situation is short-term, and if you believe that more money may soon be coming your way, it’s probably best to wait it out and avoid a bankruptcy. Bankruptcy offers some financial benefits and some legal protections to the people who genuinely need them, but candidly, there are also some negative consequences attached to filing for bankruptcy, and if you can avoid those consequences, you should. When your circumstances finally improve, be sure that taking care of your debts becomes your top priority.

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QUESTION #3: ARE MOST OF YOUR DEBTS UNSECURED DEBTS?

Many may not realize it, but for most people, a bankruptcy does not make all of your debts go away. A bankruptcy “discharges” or wipes out only what are called “unsecured” debts: credit and charge card balances, medical bills, and similar debts. Other types of debts are called secured debts, and these include student loans, local, state, and federal tax debt, and anything you may owe to a court: spousal or child support, a personal injury judgement, or a civil or criminal fine. Bankruptcy can temporarily protect you from foreclosure or vehicle repossession, but after a bankruptcy you’ll still have to pay what remains on your home or vehicle. Add up your debts. If most of them are unsecured debts, filing for bankruptcy may be the right option for you.

QUESTION #4: CAN YOU ACCEPT BANKRUPTCY’S NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES?

Before the formal bankruptcy process can begin, everyone who files is required by law to seek financial counseling and to enroll in a bankruptcy education course. These classes – whether you take them in person in a classroom setting or online – explain what can happen after you file for bankruptcy. You’ll learn about the damage that your credit rating will suffer and about the personal property you may have to surrender. The financial counseling should help you to avoid running up excessive debt in the future; it will also help you to determine whether or not you can be comfortable with a bankruptcy on your credit report for the next seven to ten years. If you fully understand the long-term ramifications of a bankruptcy filing, and if you’re okay with those consequences, bankruptcy might be just the option you need.

QUESTION #5: DO YOU HAVE A BETTER OPTION?

However, for many people in debt, bankruptcy may not be the only or the best escape from the debt nightmare. Contact your creditors – or have a reliable bankruptcy lawyer contact them on your behalf – and see if they are open to private debt negotiation. Just be honest, and many creditors will be willing to work with you. You should also look into independent credit counseling. Most nonprofit credit counseling organizations have arrangements with major creditors to reduce interest rates, and their debt management plans are designed to get you out of debt in fewer than five years. Homeowners facing foreclosure can obtain temporary protection through bankruptcy, but homeowners should also look into the several government assistance programs designed to help families facing foreclosure.

The Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) program helps families make the move to affordable housing when they can no longer afford their current mortgage, and HAFA even provides up to $3,000 toward a family’s relocation costs. The Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) also helps homeowners who cannot make their monthly mortgage payments. If a homeowner is not receiving unemployment compensation but is nevertheless struggling to make mortgage payments, HAMP may be able to offer critical relief by reducing the monthly payment amount, if the lender is agreeable. Both HAFA and HAMP help homeowners to avoid bankruptcy, but depending on a homeowner’s individual circumstances, a bankruptcy filing may nevertheless remain a homeowner’s best option.

QUESTION #6: HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW YOURSELF?

It’s an important question. Do not underestimate the power of the thoughts you may have or the emotions you may feel during and subsequent to a bankruptcy filing. Many people who file for bankruptcy experience tremendous relief when their bankruptcy is approved. Others, however, feel guilt, and some even suffer depression. Take plenty of time to work through your deepest feelings and convictions – and your prejudices – about debts and obligations. Bankruptcy is a legally-approved way to deal with your debts when you cannot afford to pay them, and sometimes it is the most responsible financial move that a person can make. If you know yourself well enough to know that you’re going to feel guilt after a bankruptcy, whether or not that feeling is rational or justifiable, bankruptcy may not be the alternative that’s best for you.

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QUESTION #7: WILL YOU BE IN A BETTER PLACE AFTER BANKRUPTCY?

Bankruptcy’s biggest advantage is that it allows conscientious people to “reboot” their financial lives and to make enduring, positive changes. It should teach those who file to be more cautious in the future and to alter their spending habits. The problem is that far too many people fail or refuse to learn the lessons that bankruptcy is designed to teach. Some people make the same mistakes and wind up right back in debt again quite quickly. If you file for bankruptcy, will you know what to do differently? Are you ready, willing, and able to make a commitment to change your spending habits? If your answer is yes, then bankruptcy might be the right way for you to deal with your debt troubles.

Those are the seven questions you should ask yourself – and answer for yourself – when considering bankruptcy. By this point, you should have a pretty good idea whether or not bankruptcy is right for you. You can file for bankruptcy without an lawyer’s help, but that is never a wise choice. You could lose even more money, and if you make any mistakes with the paperwork, your bankruptcy petition could possibly be delayed or possibly even denied. Consult first with a good bankruptcy lawyer. In the Chicago area, if you are considering a bankruptcy filing, or if you simply need to learn more about bankruptcy in Illinois, contact an experienced Chicago bankruptcy lawyer promptly.

Still Far From Over

Posted on: December 18, 2015 by in Blog, Real Estate
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RealtyTrac is a real estate information company and marketplace for foreclosed properties founded in 1993 and based in Irvine, California. RealtyTrac publishes a monthly U.S. Foreclosure Market Report which finds that despite improvements in employment and a rising economy, the foreclosure crisis in the United States is still far from over. If you are a homeowner in the Chicago area and your home is at risk for foreclosure – or if you believe it will be soon – speak as quickly as possible with an experienced Chicago foreclosure lawyer.

Foreclosures increased in 34 states in October and went up by 12 percent across the United States, representing the largest monthly jump in over four years. Housing lenders initiated foreclosures on more than 48,600 properties in the United States in October. In Illinois, new foreclosures increased by 20 percent over the previous month. That means a lot of homeowners are struggling with debt in the Chicago area and throughout the state. If you are a homeowner struggling with debt and you are at risk of having your home foreclosed, it is imperative to know your legal rights and options. Let an experienced Chicago foreclosure lawyer help.

Bankruptcy is one of several options for homeowners who face foreclosure. An automatic stay is issued immediately when you file for bankruptcy, and it legally blocks a mortgage lender from acting or continuing to take action against you. Let an experienced Chicago foreclosure lawyer discuss bankruptcy and your other legal options for protecting your family and your home. After evaluating your situation, a good foreclosure lawyer can suggest the most effective and practical solutions available to you. Whether you use bankruptcy or another strategy to protect your home from foreclosure, it’s imperative to have the insights and help that an experienced Chicago foreclosure lawyer can provide. When foreclosure becomes a real possibility, make the call immediately.

The Whole Truth And Nothing But

Posted on: December 16, 2015 by in Bankruptcy, Blog
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If you are struggling with debts that you can’t pay in the Chicago area, speak first with an experienced Chicago bankruptcy lawyer who can explain your legal rights and options. You must be entirely honest when filing for bankruptcy. You have to disclose everything. Otherwise, you could be accused of bankruptcy fraud, a quite serious criminal charge. Obviously, if you tell a lie to a mortgage lender or to another creditor to obtain a loan, it’s fraud, and when you declare bankruptcy, you cannot discharge a debt that you originally obtained through fraud. It must eventually be paid. But is an outright lie the only way that a creditor can be defrauded? It’s a question that the United States Supreme Court will decide – if fraud means only outright lying, or if other actions may also constitute fraud in the context of bankruptcy.

When Husky International Electronics sued a company called Chrysalis Manufacturing for the $164,000 it was owed, the owner of Chrysalis, Daniel Lee Ritz, had already transferred more than $1 million of Chrysalis’s funds to other businesses he controlled. When Husky sued Ritz personally for the Chrysalis debt, he filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy. Ritz never directly deceived Husky, and the Supreme Court will determine if putting funds beyond Husky’s reach constituted fraud. If it did, Ritz will have to pay what he owes Husky. If the nation’s highest court says that no fraud was committed, Ritz can discharge the debt as part of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Always be honest when you file for bankruptcy. For the protection of honest consumers who genuinely need bankruptcy protection, abuse of the system through bankruptcy fraud is aggressively prosecuted and punished. Let an experienced Chicago bankruptcy lawyer protect your rights and see to it that you receive the full bankruptcy protection that the law provides. If you believe that bankruptcy is your only option, make the call to an experienced Chicago bankruptcy lawyer immediately.

Defend Your Home From Foreclosure

Posted on: December 14, 2015 by in Blog, Real Estate
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If you are a homeowner in the Chicago area and you are struggling with overwhelming debt, your home may be or may become at risk for foreclosure. You won’t be alone. Foreclosure affects thousands of families in Illinois each year. If foreclosure becomes a possibility, get legal help and contact an experienced Chicago foreclosure lawyer without delay. One Montana man not only recovered his home, but in November, he also recovered $2 million with an lawyer’s help. However, his family lived through a nightmare first. Jason Norman and his wife purchased a home in Billings in 2010 from Deutsche Bank National Trust Company. They paid the full amount in cash.

In 2013, however, the Normans were told by the Montana Department of Revenue that Deutsche Bank had foreclosed on the house and sold it to a company named MOM Haven 6 LLP. A mistake had been made on a quitclaim deed for a different house. The Normans sued, and with good legal assistance, they eventually prevailed. In the greater Chicago area, if your home is at risk for foreclosure, it’s imperative to speak as quickly as possible with an experienced Chicago foreclosure lawyer. Mistakes on quitclaim deeds and similar mistakes are more frequent than you might think, and an experienced foreclosure lawyer knows how to find those errors.

Some homeowners will find that bankruptcy is their only defense against foreclosure. Other homeowners may have other, more practical options. Deutsche Bank had no authority to foreclose on the home in Montana, and it’s rare, but “wrongful foreclosure” does sometimes happen. It’s vital for homeowners to know their rights regarding foreclosure. A good foreclosure lawyer can recommend the options that offer the most protection to your home and your family. If you own a home in the Chicago area and foreclosure becomes a concern, contact an experienced Chicago foreclosure lawyer as quickly as possible.

Repossession And Your Rights

Posted on: December 11, 2015 by in Bankruptcy, Blog
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If you default on an automobile loan in Illinois – even if you simply fail to make a payment – the lender may act to repossess your vehicle. After a vehicle repossession in Illinois, the lender must provide you with a “Notice of Redemption” that indicates whether or not the lender intends to sell your vehicle and informs you of your right to buy back the vehicle. In the Chicago area, if your vehicle has been repossessed – or if repossession is imminent – arrange immediately to speak with an experienced Chicago bankruptcy lawyer. If your vehicle has been illegally repossessed, or if it was repossessed because you are struggling with massive personal debt, an experienced Chicago bankruptcy lawyer can help.

Under Illinois law, when creditors and their agents repossess a vehicle, they may not breach the peace; they may not use force, threats, intimidation, or violence; and they may not break into a locked garage or other locked storage facility. If the lender has accepted late payments from you in the past, or if you were not specifically informed that repossession would be the consequence of a late payment, speak with an lawyer at once; it’s possible that your rights have been violated. A lender must give you fair notice before repossessing your vehicle, and the lender must also provide a 21-day window for you to buy back the vehicle.

A Chapter 13 bankruptcy immediately stops any effort to repossess or seize your property. An lawyer can also explain a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and you may qualify, but a Chapter 7 bankruptcy might mean liquidating your vehicle and other possessions to pay your creditors. A good bankruptcy lawyer will recommend the legal option that’s in your best long-term interests. If you need to keep your vehicle, in many cases a bankruptcy lawyer can help you do that. In the Chicago area, let an experienced Chicago bankruptcy lawyer explain your bankruptcy options and the alternatives to bankruptcy. If your vehicle is being repossessed, make the call immediately.

Mesothelioma, Your Rights, And The Law

Posted on: December 9, 2015 by in Blog, Personal Injury
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Malignant mesothelioma is an incurable cancer caused exclusively by exposure to asbestos, asbestos particles, or asbestos dust. If you’ve been exposed to asbestos or diagnosed with mesothelioma in the Chicago area, speak at once about your legal options with an experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer. You may be able – with an lawyer’s help – to receive compensation for your medical treatment and more. Sadly, the federal law requiring employers to protect employees and others from the risks associated with asbestos – the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 – hasn’t been as effective as it should be. However, victims of mesothelioma can pursue compensation for their medical care and related expenses by filing a personal injury lawsuit with an lawyer’s help. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, speak to a good personal injury lawyer immediately.

If you file a mesothelioma lawsuit, your lawyer will handle the actual filing and all other legal aspects of your case. Should your lawsuit prevail, you’ll be awarded compensation to cover your mesothelioma treatments and all related expenses. However, mesothelioma claims seldom go to trial. Most claims are settled through out-of-court negotiations, so your lawyer must have proven negotiating skills as well as substantial courtroom experience. Every mesothelioma case is unique, so it’s imperative to be represented by an lawyer who understands mesothelioma and routinely advocates on behalf of its victims.

If you or someone in your family has been diagnosed with mesothelioma in or near the Chicago area, and if you need to know more about your legal options, speak to a trustworthy and experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer about your mesothelioma case as quickly as possible. Help is here for mesothelioma patients and their families, but you must take the first step and make the call. Don’t wait – when you are diagnosed with mesothelioma, put an experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer to work for you as quickly as possible.

After Ten Years, Mixed Results

Posted on: December 7, 2015 by in Bankruptcy, Blog
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Although the economy has been improving and employment numbers are up, thousands of people in the Chicago area and across the state continue to struggle with massive personal debt. If your debts are bigger than your ability to pay them, discuss your situation as quickly as possible with an experienced Chicago bankruptcy lawyer. Back in the 1990s, when the number of personal bankruptcies skyrocketed, Congress responded by passing the Bankruptcy Abuse and Consumer Protection Act, a statute designed to reduce the numbers of those abusing the bankruptcy system. Has the law achieved its goal?

Ten years after the Bankruptcy Abuse and Consumer Protection Act became law, the number of bankruptcy filings in the U.S. has declined significantly, from almost 1.7 million in 2005 to 920,000 in 2014. That decline happened despite the recession of 2007-2008. The law established a “means test” so that bankruptcy filers with higher incomes repay rather than discharge most of their debts. Mandatory credit counseling prior to bankruptcy is another requirement established by the Bankruptcy Abuse and Consumer Protection Act. In the decade since the act became law, the number of personal bankruptcies has declined dramatically. The single negative impact of the Bankruptcy Abuse and Consumer Protection Act is that while bankruptcies have declined, bankruptcy fraud has increased. In 2014, over 2,000 bankruptcy cases were referred for criminal prosecution.

For those with no other realistic legal option, bankruptcy is a responsible way to obtain a financial “clean slate” and a fresh financial start. However, bankruptcy is not the best solution for everyone facing a debt crisis. An experienced bankruptcy lawyer can review your personal financial condition and suggest the course of action that’s best for you and your family in your unique situation. If you’re struggling with debt in the Chicago area, make the call right away and schedule a personal consultation with an experienced Chicago bankruptcy lawyer.

The Protection Bankruptcy Offers

Posted on: December 4, 2015 by in Bankruptcy, Blog
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Individuals and married couples – as well as businesses – may file a petition for bankruptcy with a United States bankruptcy court. There are three bankruptcy courts and districts in Illinois, and you must file in the district where you live. A listing of all of your debts and assets – and any other pertinent financial information – must be included in a bankruptcy petition. Bankruptcy is a complicated legal procedure, and it may not be your best option for dealing with personal or marital debt. Before you take any legal action regarding bankruptcy, discuss your circumstances and options with an experienced Chicago bankruptcy lawyer. When you file for bankruptcy in this state, you receive immediate legal protections that include:

– Creditors and their agents must halt efforts to collect, including letters and phone calls.
– Creditors may not file new lawsuits against you. Pending cases are usually put on hold.
– Collection on existing liens usually stops.

In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, Illinois law specifies a number of exemptions – the property that you are allowed to keep. The remainder of your property is liquidated to pay creditors, and any remaining unpaid debts are discharged, except for student loans, tax debt, and any penalties or fines owed to a civil or criminal court. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you arrange a payment schedule so that most of your debts are paid off over a period of three to five years.

Bankruptcy is not only complicated, it can also be intimidating. A good bankruptcy lawyer can help by answering your questions, addressing your concerns, offering reassurance, and guiding you step-by-step through the bankruptcy process. If you’re in or near the Chicago area, and if you feel like you are fighting a losing battle with your debts, obtain the help you need and the legal protection that bankruptcy provides. Arrange to speak as quickly as possible with an experienced Chicago bankruptcy lawyer.

New Jersey Town Offers Free Rides

Posted on: December 2, 2015 by in Blog, DUI
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More than 10,000 people died suddenly and tragically in 2012 in alcohol-related traffic collisions in the United States. Tens of thousands also sustain serious injuries every year in these accidents. That’s the reason DUI is treated so seriously by the state of Illinois. If you are accused of DUI in or near Chicago, you’ll need reliable legal representation, and you’ll need it quickly. Get the help you need if you are charged with driving under the influence and contact an experienced Chicago DUI lawyer immediately.

Of course, the way to avoid DUI problems entirely is simple – don’t drink and drive. Still, if you make a mistake in your judgment – or if you’re arrested for DUI but you’re innocent – an experienced Chicago DUI lawyer can help. One city in New Jersey is effectively battling impaired driving with a new approach. Evesham Township is the first community in the U.S. to join with the ride-sharing service Uber to keep intoxicated drivers from getting behind the wheel. In the village of 45,000, nineteen bars and restaurants are providing intoxicated customers a free ride home with Uber. With an app called BeMyDD, drinkers in the New Jersey community can also hire a designated driver to get their car home. With no fare to pay and no worries about retrieving a car the next day, the program is succeeding.

Of course, no ride is truly free, but the program in Evesham Township is operated on donations from local businesses and non-profit groups. Before implementing the program in September, Evesham Township reported an average of 23 DUI arrests a month in January through August. The free ride offer began in September, and DUI arrests immediately dropped by almost two-thirds – only eight were reported in September. The rides are now available at participating bars and restaurants every night from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Chicago has no comparable, year-round free ride program, but that’s no excuse for driving under the influence. A taxi ride or an Uber ride still costs far, far less than a ride to the jail, the E.R., or the morgue. If you’re charged with driving under the influence anywhere in the Chicago area, put your case at once in the hands of an experienced Chicago DUI lawyer.