ISBA answers law questions through 'IllinoisLawNow'

The Madison County Record Nov. 7, 2010, 5:00am

Question: How long do I have before I can file a lawsuit?

Answer: Illinois law establishes a statute of limitations, which places a specific time limit within which a lawsuit must be filed. If you fail to file your suit within this time limit, your case will be dismissed and no additional action can be taken on the matter.

There is not one fixed statute of limitation; rather, there are many that depend upon the type of lawsuit and/or the facts and circumstances of the case in question. A statute of limitations may be as little as six months or it may be several years. To be sure you have a claim that is not nearing a statutory deadline, it is important to seek legal advice from a lawyer.

Question: I was laid off and have been out of work for a year. It's reached a point where I can't pay my bills, and I'm considering filing for bankruptcy. What should I know before making a decision?

Answer: If you file, you'll not only face higher interest rates on loans and find loans harder to get, but you'll also have the bankruptcy on your credit score for 10 years. Talk to a lawyer who can explain your options. Don't run up your credit card debt since charges made within 90 days of filing typically cannot be forgiven.

If you do file, let all your creditors know and provide them with the contact information of your attorney. The good news: most people who make the decision to file do find that within two or three years, their credit is much better than before.

Question: Can employers monitor or access employee e-mails, phone calls or computer sites visited on workplace computers?

Answer: The easy answer is yes, in most instances. While many businesses disclose employee monitoring practices to their employees, some do not and there is no legal requirement for them to do so.

If you are using a workplace telephone, computer and/or internet connection, then the employer has the right, unless other legal restrictions are contained in employment or union contracts, to monitor or access employee e-mails and/or computer sites visited during web searches. The employer may also monitor phone usage if workplace phone lines are used.

Question: My mother, who's getting on in years, lives alone, and I worry that she may fall prey to some of the scams I read about. How can I help protect her?

Answer: Thousands of older citizens fall for scams every day, and some are in the five figures or higher. Common stranger-to-stranger scams involve Medicare claims, magazine orders or other attempts to get people to send money for questionable reasons. The unwary victim also writes checks or wires money, or has his/her identity stolen if he/she gives over their Social Security number and birth date. Family members and care-givers may also misuse the money.

Warn your mother about the typical con artists and their crimes. If she is victimized, contact an attorney or the Illinois attorney general's office senior fraud hotline at 800-243-5377. If you believe your mother is being mistreated or financially exploited, call the Illinois Department of Aging hotline at 800-252-8966.

Question: If I'm texting while driving, can I be ticketed if stopped by the police?

Answer: Illinois became the 17th state to ban texting while driving. The law took effect on Jan. 1, 2010, and penalties start with fines of $75. Illinois motorists can still send mobile messages, if traffic is stopped and the car is parked or in neutral, the motorist has pulled over to the shoulder, or to report an emergency.

Texting while driving is a safety worry that even caught the attention of the federal government. President Obama recently issued an Executive Order, prohibiting federal employees from texting while driving.

For more information about Illinois law, visit If you have a legal question, send it to

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