Timothy J. Cavanagh is a nationally recognized trial attorney with more than three decades of experience representing victims in personal injury cases. Since founding Cavanagh Law Group in 1997, he has obtained more than 60 verdicts and settlements exceeding $1 million for clients in Chicago and across the United States. Cavanagh’s cases have broken Illinois records, strengthened safety standards and prompted policy change within city and law enforcement agencies. He has expertise in every area of plaintiff’s law and has obtained more than $500 million in verdicts and settlements throughout his career.
In 2002, Cavanagh’s record-breaking $55 million verdict against the Canadian National Railroad was recognized by The National Law Journal as one of the top 100 verdicts in the nation. In 2018, his landmark $20 million settlement with the City of Chicago successfully compelled the Chicago Police Department to acknowledge its long-entrenched “code of silence.” And in 2014, Cavanagh secured a $6.65 million verdict for the family of a man killed in Kuwait in one of the only overseas wrongful death cases ever to be litigated in an American courtroom.
Cavanagh has established himself as an unwavering advocate for victims and their families following catastrophic events. He tackles challenging cases in trying times and has obtained for his clients some of the largest verdicts and settlements in Illinois history. Among them is a record-breaking $9.75 million settlement for a triathlete who was hit by a truck and severely injured while riding her bike in downtown Chicago. The 2014 settlement was the largest in state history involving a vehicular collision with a bicycle.
Cavanagh is well versed in every facet of personal injury law — from medical malpractice and wrongful death cases to semi-truck and railroad crashes. In 2017, he obtained $5.9 million on behalf of Mary Kriete-Green, whose husband was struck and killed by a semi-truck while working in an Elmhurst construction zone. In a separate trucking incident, Cavanagh obtained a confidential $10 million settlement. And in 2019, he secured a $1.5 million settlement in a fatal Illinois interstate crash caused by a semi-truck driver who was texting and driving in a construction zone.
Cavanagh has advocated nationally for Positive Train Control (PTC), a high-tech safety system that alerts train operators to danger and can even override a train’s system to slow down or stop the train if personnel fails to act. He has litigated a number of high-profile railroad cases, including the Canadian National Railroad lawsuit that broke an Illinois record in 2002 with a $55 million verdict. In that case, an eight-million-pound train traveling 50 mph rammed into a family’s car, severely and permanently injuring everyone inside the vehicle. The crossing gates and lights were malfunctioning at the time, and a dispatcher erroneously told train operators the crossing was clear.
In 2000, Cavanagh obtained a $9.1 million settlement for a woman who suffered nerve and brain damage after a train collided with her car at a broken crossing gate. He secured a $1.8 million settlement in 2012 for Metra passengers who were seriously injured in a train derailment caused by an engineer who didn’t stop at a red light. And in 2017, Cavanagh obtained a $7.5 million settlement for a woman who sustained a massive brain injury after being struck by a Metra commuter train in Chicago.
A number of Cavanagh’s cases have propelled public policy change. The Chicago Police Department revised its police chase procedures after Cavanagh in 2003 obtained a $2 million verdict for the family of a woman who was killed by a speeding motorist being chased by Chicago police officers.
In 2018, Cavanagh obtained a landmark $20 million settlement in a “code of silence” case against the city of Chicago. Joseph Frugoli, an off-duty Chicago police detective, killed two men while driving drunk on an interstate in 2009. The detective had a long history of alcohol-related offenses, including two prior car crashes, but never faced serious consequences. During a federal trial, Cavanagh uncovered crucial and damaging evidence the city failed to disclose during discovery. He compelled the city to acknowledge its long-entrenched “code of silence.” The case encapsulates a sea change in how liability cases involving law enforcement are handled.
Other major legal victories include a $14 million settlement for a 5-year-old boy who sustained a severe brain injury during birth after hospital staff confused his heart rate with his mother’s pulse. A seven-minute lapse without oxygen caused the boy to suffer cerebral palsy, ultimately leaving his arms and legs paralyzed. Cavanagh also previously secured a $5.75 million settlement for a Mundelein police officer whose squad car was rear-ended by a limousine. Her right leg was amputated above the knee. She suffered multiple leg fractures and lost her unborn child a few weeks later. The award was the highest reported uninsured motorist settlement in Illinois history.
Cavanagh has been selected by his peers for inclusion in Best Lawyers in America© every year since 2015 in the field of personal injury litigation – plaintiffs. He was named a Lawdragon 500 Leading Plaintiff Consumer Lawyer both times the exclusive list was published (2007, 2019). Cavanagh has been named an Illinois Leading Lawyer by the Leading Lawyers Network every year since 2003; the list is reserved for the top five percent of attorneys in the state. Thomson Reuters has named Cavanagh a Super Lawyer every year since 2005. He also has been included on the annual Irish Legal 100 list since 2010.
Cavanagh Law Group was given a “Tier 1” ranking by U.S. News & World Report and has been included in the publication’s annual Best Law Firms list since 2016.
Cavanagh earned a bachelor’s degree from John Carroll University and a Juris Doctor degree from IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. In 2019, he was sworn into the U.S. Supreme Court Bar by Chief Justice John Roberts. Cavanagh is a sought-after lecturer and guest speaker. He frequently discusses his cases and provides legal insight and commentary for Chicago and national media outlets, including The Today Show, the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Post.
He holds leadership roles in a number of educational, professional and philanthropic organizations. Cavanagh serves on the Board of Directors at John Carroll University, the Board of Ambassadors at Mercy Home for Boys & Girls and the Advisory Board for Leading Lawyers Illinois. He is on both the Board of Managers and the Executive Committee of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association. Cavanagh also serves as vice president of the Irish Fellowship Club of Chicago, where he is a member of the Board of Directors. He is a volunteer director of the Western Golf Association Evans Scholars Foundation.
Cavanagh lives in Chicago with his wife Stacey, a partner at Cavanagh Law Group, and their six children.
Honors for Cavanagh and his law firm include:
- Best Lawyers in America-Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice Litigation – 2015 to present
- Best Lawyers: Cavanagh Law Group, Best Law Firms – 2016 to present
- Cavanagh was selected one of the top 500 leading plaintiff lawyers in America by Lawdragon Magazine
- Selected to Super Lawyers by Thomas Reuters every year since 2005
- Named a Leading Lawyer by Law Bulletin Media every year since 2003 (The list honors the top 5 percent of lawyers in Illinois.)
- Listed in the Irish Legal 100 by The Irish Voice Newspaper as one of the top Irish lawyers in America from 2010 to present
- Cited as one of the top 100 consumer lawyers in Illinois
- The recipient of two Trial Lawyers Excellence Awards by the Jury Verdict Reporter (one was awarded for a record setting settlement and another for a record-setting verdict)
- Included by the Law Bulletin Publishing Company on the “40 Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch” list in 2001
- John Carroll University – “Community Service Award;” December 12, 1999