Fatal Traffic Crashes in Chicago

Fatal Traffic Crashes in ChicagoAll traffic accidents can be devastating, however, crashes that result in fatalities are particularly tragic events. The Illinois Department of Transportation reports that 1090 people died in traffic crashes in our state in a single year. Chicago news sources are constantly reporting fatal traffic crashes in Chicago:

These are only a few of the many tragic accidents that happen on a regular basis throughout the Chicago area on a regular basis. For each fatality, there are often family members who are left with a loss that permanently changes their lives in numerous ways.

Illinois law recognizes that family members in this situation should have important legal rights if someone else caused the fatal accident. If the accident victim had survived, they would have the right to file a personal injury action and seek damages from a negligent party. Since the deceased person cannot file a lawsuit, the law gives that opportunity to certain surviving family members who can file a wrongful death claim.

Wrongful Death Laws in Illinois

Each state has its own unique laws regarding wrongful death claims. In Illinois, a wrongful death is one that occurs due to another party’s neglect, default, or wrongful act. According to the law, if an injured person would have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit after an accident, the law allows surviving family members to file a wrongful death claim if the injuries were fatal.

In many states, family members file the lawsuit themselves, though Illinois requires that the lawsuit be filed by the personal representative of the deceased’s estate. Often, the personal representative happens to be a close family member, such as a spouse or an adult child, though this is not always the case. If the deceased did not designate someone in their will or died without having a will, the court will appoint a personal representative.

Though the family members do not directly file the claim, certain damages paid are meant for the benefit of a surviving spouse, children, or other next of kin of the deceased, such as damages for mental suffering, grief, and loss of care and companionship. The damages will be distributed to a surviving spouse and other qualifying family members based on the proportions of their losses. Damages for monetary losses including medical and funeral expenses will go to the estate to ultimately be distributed to beneficiaries.

Liability for Fatal Accidents

While any type of traffic accidents can result in fatalities, certain types can have a particular risk of causing fatalities, including:

  • Head-on collisions
  • Rollover crashes
  • Accidents involving large commercial trucks
  • Accidents involving motorcycles, bicycles, or pedestrians

In many cases, fatal traffic crashes in Chicago happen because someone else acted in a negligent manner. When someone owes another person a duty of care and breaches that duty, causing injuries, they are deemed to be negligent under the law. In order to prevail in a wrongful death claim, the personal representative must sufficiently prove negligence on the part of another party.

Other drivers are commonly the at-fault party for fatal traffic accidents. Other drivers have the duty to operate their vehicles in a reasonably safe manner to prevent accidents and injuries. They can breach this duty and cause fatal crashes in many ways, including:

  • Aggressive driving, including tailgating, cutting off other drivers, and excessive speeding
  • Texting, talking on a phone, or other forms of distracted driving
  • Driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol
  • Fatigued driving that can lead to a lack of focus or falling asleep at the wheel
  • Violating any Illinois traffic safety laws

It is important to know that another driver is not always liable for wrongful death on the roads. In some cases, a company such as an auto manufacturer may be negligent. Such companies have the legal duty to ensure they sell safe vehicles and auto parts. If an auto part is defective and malfunctions while someone is driving, the malfunction can cause them to lose control and crash.

Auto parts that have caused fatalities include brakes, tires, steering systems, and even airbags. Manufacturing company Takata notoriously produced millions of defective airbags that shot metal shards toward vehicle occupants upon deployment, causing several unnecessary fatalities. In this situation, the wrongful death claims were against the companies involved in producing and selling the airbags.

Negligent parties can also be government entities or construction crews that fail to properly inspect, maintain, or repair roads. Chicago roads can have many dangerous hazards, including potholes, cracks, inadequate guardrails or shoulders, and more. Taking on companies or government agencies can be particularly difficult, though families still deserve to recover from these liable parties.

Civil v. Criminal Claims

As mentioned above, a Cook County sheriff’s deputy recently died in a drunk driving crash. The driver who caused the accident has been criminally charged with driving under the influence (DUI) and reckless homicide, among other offenses. While a criminal conviction and sentence may bring a sense of justice to the family, it does very little to provide surviving family members with the financial recovery they deserve under the law.

A wrongful death claim is filed in civil court, separate from any criminal proceedings. These claims seek money damages instead of criminal penalties such as jail time. The burden of proof is also lower in civil claims than criminal cases, so it may be possible for family members to prevail in a wrongful death lawsuit even if a prosecutor cannot prove a crime beyond of reasonable doubt. It is always worth it to discuss a possible wrongful death claim if you lose someone in a tragic accident.

Contact a Glenview, IL Car Accident Lawyer to Learn About Your Rights

While a wrongful death case can provide compensation for your family, it can also be difficult to discuss what happened. You should not wait to contact an experienced Chicago wrongful death attorney at the Chicago Legal Group for help. We will handle your claim while you focus on your emotional recovery after a tragic loss. Call 847-305-4105 or fill out our online contact form to request a free case evaluation.

The Odds of Dying from an Opioid Overdose now Greater than Dying in a Car Accident

dying from an opioid overdoseFor the first time in history, the odds of dying in a motor vehicle accident are now lower than the odds of dying from an opioid overdose. This according to a new report published this week by The National Safety Council.

And yet, despite the increasing awareness of the opioid epidemic, the public’s perception of opioid addiction remains inconsistent with reality.  The majority of the public refuses to accept the medical industry’s general consensus that opioid addiction is a disease.

It is true that a large portion of opioid abuse stems from experimental use.  Often overlooked, however, are those whose addictions arise involuntarily.  The most common example of this are addictions that develop involuntarily through prescription painkillers prescribed to patients following an injury.

Consider that in 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers in 2012, enough for every American adult to have his or her own bottle of pills.

Think about that for a second. 259 million opioid/pain killer prescriptions.

Often, these injuries are the result of being involved in an automobile accident.  A study conducted in Australia found that among chronic pain patients in a pain management program, those being treated for pain following a car accident injury were the most likely of all patients to abuse opioids.

The authors attribute the higher rate of opioid addiction among car accident victims to two key factors.  First, those that suffer injuries are commonly treated with prescription pain medication.  Second, post-traumatic stress disorder is common among car accident victims.  The trauma leads to depression which fuels the use of opioids as a form of self-medication.

Fortunately, politicians are beginning to take notice of the widespread prescription drug problem in this country.  Illinois has been one of the more active states in enacting legislation to curtail the opioid epidemic.

In 2017, Illinois released its State Opioid Action Plan along with Executive Order 2017-05.  The Order created the Governor’s Opioid Prevention and Intervention Task Force in September of 2017.  And just his past year, the Senate passed Senate Bill 2777 amending the Illinois Controlled Substance Act.  The most significant provision of the Bill requires medical professionals to take 3 hours of continuing education to learn how to safely prescribe opioid medications.

The legislation seeks to reduce the number of opioid prescriptions being written by health care providers.  The belief is that the health care industry serves a “gate-keeper” function.  By exposing less patients to opioids, many involuntary addictions can be eliminated.  This in turn will help to reduce the record number of accidental opioid overdose cases in the United States.

A large number of our auto accident clients have taken opioids after being injured in an accident. The opioid use may have started with a prescription for back pain shortly after the accident or the medication could have been prescribed later like after a surgical procedure.

In 2017, I personally had surgery to repair an injury to my right elbow. I was on pain medication for 7 days – just 7 days. When I tried to get off the medication, I felt ill. I was shaky and agitated. It took 2 to 3 days for me to feel myself mentally. I can only imagine how hard it is to get off opioid pain killers after taking them for an extended period.

If you have been involved in a car accident, make sure you understand the risks associated with prescription opioid use.  A short-term solution can turn into a long-term problem that can have life-threatening consequences.  Be sure to discuss your safety concerns and alternative treatment options with your healthcare provider.

To speak with an attorney about this issue, contact me at 847-305-4105.

Who is at fault for a parking lot accident?

I recently received a call from a woman who was injured when she was reversing Fault for a car accident in a parking lotout of a parking spot. She asked us whether who is at fault for a parking lot accident? The answer to that question is that it depends on the series of events that took place. If you were injured in a parking lot accident, call today for a free consultation at 847-305-4105.

The Situation

The woman who called, was driving in a parking lot in Normal, Illinois. She was reversing the car out of the parking spot when a car “came out of nowhere” and crashed into the back of her vehicle. She was thrust side to side in her vehicle, suffering significant sprains and strains to her back and neck.

She filed a claim against the defendant’s insurance but her claim was denied. She alleged that the other party was at fault for the parking lot accident. She called us asking whether we would represent her for the injuries that she suffered in the accident.

The Rule

Generally speaking, accidents in parking lots in Illinois generally follow the same rules as all other automobile accidents in Illinois. You can recover for your injuries even if you are partially at fault for the accident under the concept of comparative negligence. Specifically, a party can recover for his or her damages if they are not more than fifty percent responsible for the accident.

However, parking lot accidents are unique because unlike most of the accidents I see, one of the parties involved in a parking lot accident are usually backing out of a parking space when the accident occurs.

When a party is backing out of a parking spot, again generally speaking, they have to be extremely careful and cede the right of way to the other driver. As a result, in most parking lot cases I’ve seen, the party backing out of the parking spot is primarily responsible for the accident.

And in fact, the case referenced above, this individual was at fault for the accident and as a result we were unable to represent her.

The Exceptions

There are exceptions of course. If you can demonstrate that the other party was speeding or driving recklessly, you could argue that the other party was at least comparatively negligent for the accident.

I was involved in a case where a client was backing out of a parking spot and a driver literally came out of nowhere and hit the client. Our client couldn’t have seen this other driver because the other driver was not driving in the lot’s driving lanes. Rather he was cutting across the lanes unlawfully.

Other factors could come into play as well. For example, if the other party was on their phone or otherwise distracted, they could be determined to be partially at fault for the accident.

How do you prove fault?

How do you prove fault for a parking lot accident? The same Illinois Rules of Evidence apply to parking lot accidents as to any car accident. The direct testimony of the participants to the accident, the testimony of eye witnesses and the physical evidence are all helpful in establishing the accused for the accident.

Parking lot accidents often involve another piece of evidence not available to other auto accidents and that is the existence of videotape of the accident. If your accident occurred in a Walmart parking lot for example, there may very well be a videotape proof on Walmart’s security cameras.

The problem is that in most cases, Walmart or Target etc. will not provide you access to the videotape without a subpoena. A subpoena is basically a legal and binding request that the store needs to cooperate and turn over the video. And you cannot serve a subpoena without having filed a lawsuit first. Most people don’t want to file a lawsuit especially if there are minor damages. So what do you do?

If the police arrives at the scene of the parking lot accident, they enter the store and personally review the videotape to assist in making a determination of fault for the accident.

A police officer’s determination of fault is not dispositive at trial but it does serve as an instruction for an insurance company to decide whether to “accept liability” for an accident or not.

Police on private property

On a few occasions, I’ve received calls from people involved in accidents that occur in parking lots or on other “private property”. They’ve told stories of how the police either refused to come to the scene of the accident or refused to write a ticket to the responsible party because the accident occurred on private property.

To be honest, I don’t know the answer to this. I’ve seen situations where police have written tickets for violations on private property. Whether the tickets hold up in the court is another topic of discussion.

If the accident does occur on a private property and the damage is moderate, at the very least call 911. That way, the existence of the accident is “on the record.” I’ve written before, about how stories seem to change over time. And the driver who was so helpful at the time of the accident will lie to their insurance company about the accident later. If you get the facts of the accident on the record, that is another piece of evidence you can get in front of the insurance adjuster to help him or her make a decision.

The future of parking lot accidents

Most cars today are sold with rear-view cameras. In addition, cars have all types of sensors and other safety features built into them. As a result, I have proposed that in the future there may not be a need for personal injury lawyers.

Perhaps the most important safety feature to prevent parking lot accidents is having a rear view camera. Many years ago Congress passed legislation requiring that all cars should have them. However, just recently the Department of Transportation dictated that starting this year, all new cars were required to be built with a rear view camera.

Bottom line is, if you are involved in an auto accident and wondering who is at fault, contact your insurance company or feel free to contact our office for a free consultation at 847-305-4105.