Articles Posted in Current Issues

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Our attorneys have emphasized many times not only how dangerous truck accidents are, but also the high costs of these accidents that burden innocent injured victims and families. After a collision, many times victims are drowning with costs of initial medical bills for hospitalization, vehicle repair, prolonged medical treatment and physical therapy for healing, and lost wages for inability to work. Now, proposed federal legislation may make the costs and recovery of a truck accident even harder to bear for innocent victims by placing the high costs on their shoulders.

According to news from the American Association of Justice through their Take Justice Back campaign, U.S. Senators have proposed legislation that would eliminate accountability for trucks and buses when victims are injured or killed. Currently there is law on the books from the 1980’s that only requires truck companies to hold minimum insurance policies for $750,000 to cover an entire crash. This is the same cost no matter how many people are injured or killed in the crash. When there is a higher cost than what the company can cover, the motorists and taxpayers have to pay the rest. Even though policies may be for $750,000, what many do not realize is that fatal trucking accidents often cost over $4.3 million.

Furthermore, nearly 4,000 people die every year in truck crashes. Yet, next week the U.S. Senate vote on a transportation spending bill that may include an amendment that will delete the necessary resources that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration needs to increase insurance minimums to cover the costs of crashes.

Illinoisans could particularly suffer from such legislation. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, as of today, there have been 335 fatal crashes in our state in 2014. Of these crashes, 361 people have died. From this data, it is clear that fatal accidents are frequently occurring on our state’s roads, streets and highways And therefore, it is important that lawmakers protect the victims of negligence.
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We cannot stress enough that when getting behind the wheel of a vehicle, drivers have the legal duty to not be the cause of injury to others on the road. This may be even truer for truck drivers, because on top of this normal duty to be safe drivers, they have the additional duty as employees for a company to act as agents for their employer. Truck drivers are agents of their parent company because the employer has authorized or ordered the truck driver to complete various tasks while on duty. That means that the company is also often liable for injuries that truck drivers cause to others. To avoid causing injury to others in truck accidents, truck drivers need to devote their full focus and attention to the roads. Avoiding negligence and reckless behavior means never driving a truck after consuming alcohol or drugs.

Studies show that alcohol and drug use by truck drivers is common, yet according to an article in Science Daily, and originally published in the British Medical Journal, alcohol and drug use among truck drivers poses great risks for road safety. Drug and alcohol use on the job appears to be correlated to younger age, long trips, night driving, fewer hours of rest, and lower pay. Truck drivers often use alcohol and drugs to cope with their long hours and fatigue. Employers financially benefit from drivers working long hours, but as a legal and ethical obligation to keep others free from injury, employers need to avoid causing truck drivers to engage in negligent driving by not assigning overly long shifts and allowing break periods.

This study presented that substances used most commonly by truck drivers while on the road are alcohol, cocaine, cannabis, and amphetamines. However, such analyses can only detect substances that have been used hours or a few days before, so the true extent of drug and alcohol use may very well be underestimated. Furthermore, even though some drugs may be stimulants, unlike alcohol which slows reaction times, the study shows that use of stimulants can incite drivers to take more risks and increase reckless driving behavior. Additionally, after one “crashes” from such drugs, they are prone to fall asleep at the wheel and cause a collision and increase risks of personal injuries and deaths.

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Last week’s fatal crash on I-88 in Aurora Illinois had everyone in shock, and the troubling collision still has citizens, media, and lawmakers trying to grasp what could have been done differently. Our attorneys deeply empathize with the families of the victims involved and advocate for the law to compensate those who have suffered and for the law to deter and prevent future truck accidents. This includes a change in the law if it means protecting citizens and preventing future accidents.

The collision, which claimed the life of a Illinois Tollway worker and critically injured an Illinois police officer, has Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin calling for a closer oversight of truckers. The emergency responders were assisting a motorist when they were struck by an oncoming semi-truck. According to an article from rrstar.com, Senator Durbin has urged regulators to not stop investigations and to delve deeper into the cause of the I-88 crash.

According to the same article, the semi-truck driver who struck the two victims was behind the wheel of his truck for more than 35 hours and had only rested for four hours prior to the accident. Upon analyzing this case, the driver’s lack of sleep and driving time violates the federal rules for truck drivers. This is why Senator Durbin has sent a letter to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for their help in investigating this crash and has requested that the agency be stricter in upholding rules on maximum work hours.

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In our previous article, we discussed the unfortunate death and injury of two Illinois emergency responders. However, while our firm empathizes with these grieving families, to be the most experienced and educated Chicago accident attorneys, we fully believe in looking at all sides of the legal equation. By doing so, we can observe and analyze the underlying problems which lead to these tragic accidents and how we can shape the law as attorneys through precedent to prevent future accidents and save victims’ lives.

That is why we feel it is important to address an additional article that has brought forth new facts surrounding that tragic Interstate 88 accident in Aurora. According to an article by the Chicago Tribune, the truck driver who struck the Illinois Tollway Employee and Illinois State Police Officer had been working for over 36 hours with only 3 ½ hours of sleep. In that day alone, the driver had been in Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois on assignments. Even though the emergency responders had their flashers on, this driver reported that he did not see the vehicles stopped at the side of the interstate.

As we have discussed before, distracted driving, such as driving when tired, does not allow drivers to employ the caution they are legally required to use to keep others on the road safe. When workers are sleep-deprived and not provided with enough rest breaks from their employers, they cannot devote the focus and attention to safety that is legally required of them on the road. Here, the individual had allegedly worked for over 36 hours straight. That is over a day without a break. With so little sleep and such a great amount of work, this person may have not had the ability to focus on his driving as needed.

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Traffic accidents involving pedestrians are extremely dangerous and pose a strong likelihood for serious and life-altering personal injuries because a person is being hit by a vehicle and receives direct bodily injury, rather than being inside a vehicle. These types of collisions may cause pedestrians to suffer injuries to their limbs, head and neck, or nerve damage to the spinal cord. As many of our readers know, Chicago has a heavy amount of car, truck and pedestrian traffic, and as a result of this mix, every year we hear or read about a number of pedestrian accidents claiming the lives of people in and around the City. As more and more drivers become distracted by cell-phone calls, navigation technology and text messaging, the problem will only get worse unless City official look for ways to crack down on these reckless behaviors.

According to City-Data.com, 41 pedestrians were killed in traffic collisions in 2010 (out of 127 fatal accidents total in the city), and 50 people who were walking were killed in traffic collisions in 2011 (out of 109 total fatal accidents in the city). These numbers show that pedestrian fatalities make up a large number in the total fatal accidents in our city.

Local Chicago elected officials and police have become concerned about the increasing number of accidents involving pedestrians, according to DNAinfo Chicago. This report notes that some officials have announced plans to reduce the incidence of distracted driving on Devon Avenue in West Rogers Park, known for being abundant in pedestrians and fast drivers. This effort was announced this month after a couple and child were struck and seriously injured by a hit-and-run driver. Last year, in the same location, an 81-year-old woman was hit by a vehicle and killed. The city aims to begin a $15 million project in the fall that would make Devon Avenue safer for pedestrians, which would include extended curbs to make crosswalk distances shorter.

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As many are aware, Chicago has been known for its long and trying winters, with months of brisk winds and horizontal sleet that seem to last forever. Who doesn’t recall the “Snowmageddon” of 2011, and all of the cars stuck and stranded in their evening commute on Lake Shore Drive? Even though Illinois may not be as far north as our neighboring states, winter tires are often a consideration for those who do a lot of driving in the greater Chicago area during these winter months.

Many people, understandably, may question winter tires’ worth. Are they worth the extra cost? Are they worth the hassle of changing your vehicle’s tires for the season? Do they really help you be that much safer, or are winter hazards simply unavoidable? Weighing the opinions and testimony of northerly and at-home neighbors may help.

Having the right tires could prevent fatal rollover crashes. Areas that are more consistently snowy and slippery on the roads have done more research on snow and winter tires. For instance, after a fatal rollover accident, the coroner’s report concluded that the Jeep had the wrong tires, which contributed to the driver’s death. Losing control on a slippery curve caused the vehicle to hit a concrete barrier, flip over it, and roll into the nearby lake upside-down.

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This year’s unusually warm autumn season in Illinois has caused a larger amount of people to travel on roadways throughout the state, resulting in the number of traffic deaths spiking by 9% as compared to this time last year. Our personal injury attorneys learned that according to a report by Chicago CBS Local, 923 people have been killed in car, motorcycle, bicycle, and pedestrian accidents as of this week. This is a significant increase from last years total of fatalities recorded through December. Although state officials have not linked the economy to the increase in accidents, many believe lower fuel prices are contributing to more drivers on the road, and thus, more opportunities for accidents.

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) Secretary states that roughly 10% of the state’s traffic fatalities this year are tentatively tied to distracted driving, including texting or talking on the phone while driving, despite many public awareness campaigns in place. “Distracted driving is playing a role,” the Secretary said. “We also have noticed that we’ve seen a 70% increase in motorcycle related fatalities . . . [The spike in fatalities] is part of a national trend and part of it could be that we saw increase in travel…” The report says that State Police have also dealt with an increase in DUI and wrong-way driving accidents in Chicago and its surrounding suburbs, causing a significant amount of personal injury and fatalities.

Our law firm read that 54 electronic billboards on and near Chicago area expressways are used to feature a running tally of deaths due to motor vehicle accidents, updated in real time. “The billboard campaign that we have going on is to use our ‘dynamic message signs’ to let people know the current fatality count. I know there might be some controversial questions about that,” the IDOT Secretary said. “The idea is to really grab attention so that drivers can see what they do on the road really can make a difference.”

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As we are amidst one of the most active periods of the year for wildlife activity in the Midwest, motorists can expect to see more wildlife animals crossing roadways than usual; specifically, deer make up the majority of these animals. While our attorneys continue to warn drivers of the potential dangers associated with an increase in wildlife, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) recently announced that serious accidents, injuries, and fatalities in accidents involving deer actually declined last year.

Accidents involving deer were responsible for six fatalities in 2012, a decrease from 10 fatalities in 2011. Injuries due to an accident involving a deer decreased from 634 in 2011 to 613 in 2012 as well. Though the number of deer-vehicle accidents slightly increased from 2011 to 2012, an overall decrease is represented since 2009. Statistics from IDOT show that out of the ten worst states for animal collisions, Illinois ranks third. Illinois’ top three counties for collisions involving deer in 2011 were Cook, Madison, and Peoria, ranging from about 400-500 collisions throughout the year. About three in every four crashes occurred on rural roadways and 71% occurred at twilight or nighttime.

Steps that you can take to avoid a collision with a deer include being cautious at dusk and dawn when deer are most active, keeping track of locations where deer have been spotted, reducing speed and being prepared to stop in areas with high levels of wildlife activity, avoiding swerving into traffic or off the road if you encounter a deer, and flashing your headlights and honking your car horn to encourage deer to move off the road.

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A male driver from Arlington Heights was recently charged with driving under the influence in a two-vehicle accident that killed one last month. ABC News states that the accident occurred in an eastbound lane of Interstate 290 when the 25-year old driver rear-ended a pickup truck. The truck driver, a 29-year old woman of Granite City, was ejected from the truck after it flipped over in the middle of the road; her passenger was killed upon impact.

Prosecutors released that multiple tests found the man’s blood alcohol level to have been nearly twice the legal limit. Illinois police say he was charged with aggravated driving while under the influence of alcohol and was also ticketed for improper lane usage. The driver was held at a local county jail in lieu of a $60,000 cash bail, according to the report.

Though the number of deadly drunk driving accidents has been steadily declining over the last few years, organizers such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the Alliance Against Intoxicated Driving (AAID) say one accident is still too many. ABC Local recently released that both organizations have launched awareness campaigns with the goal of keeping roads safer this season. A vigil was held last week where dozens of people came together to share the pain of losing a loved one to drunk driving, including a 35-year old husband and father who was killed on Interstate 57 when a drunk driver rear-ended his vehicle. Organizers hope that similar events will help families cope with their losses, while also raising awareness.

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The dangers associated with large trucks, including semis, tractor-trailers, and other commercial vehicles are immense. These trucks sometimes weigh up to 80,000 pounds and account for a great number of traffic injury and death each year. Could you image increasing the size and weight of these trucks? Neither could we. Our attorneys recently read and support the ideas behind a Saferoads report regarding the need to freeze the maximum size and weight of trucks in order to increase the safety of all individuals traveling on Illinois interstates and highways.

Freezing the size and weight of large trucks is necessary because in simple terms, bigger trucks compromise safety. The heavier a truck is, the more the chances of a truck accident occurring and resulting in serious injuries or fatalities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that large trucks are involved in 11% of all crash fatalities. In 2009, nearly one-quarter of occupant fatalities in passenger vehicles that had multi-vehicle collisions were the result of accidents involving large trucks. In two-vehicle crashes involving passenger vehicles and large trucks, 98% of the fatalities were occupants of the passenger vehicle.

In addition to injuries and fatalities, the issue of cost is at hand. Truck related accidents cost up to $19 billion each year, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Fatal truck accidents create the highest costs, with an average of $3 million spent per accident. These costs include medical bills, lost wages, road damage, and other projected costs. Specifically, road damage has become a serious issue in that one legal 80,000-pound tractor-trailer truck does as much damage to road pavement as 9,600 cars. By damaging roads, large trucks further degrade highway safety and continue to add to the costs caused by trucks. With even heavier trucks, interstate highways would simply be unable to accommodate them.