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Every vehicle has experienced the occasional rock or road debris striking their windshield. While the resulting damage is usually minor and covered by auto insurance, what happens when you encounter a dangerous road hazard such as fallen semi-truck cargo? If the cargo in a commercial truck is not properly loaded or secured, the cargo can shift in transit, causing the driver to lose control and tip over. Falling cargo can act as a projectile and penetrate the windshield of a trailing vehicle resulting in serious bodily injury or even death.

According to AAA, over a period of three years, more than 200,000 accidents were caused by falling debris. Approximately 25,000 crashes and 80-90 deaths occur in the United States each year. Traveling at a high rate of speed increases the risk of cargo falling from vehicles but decreases other drivers’ ability to react to hazards created by the airborne debris or debris on the roadway. More than one-third of all deaths reported in the study occurred when a driver swerved to avoid the falling debris. Overcorrecting at the last minute to avoid debris also increased a driver’s risk of losing control of their vehicle and making a bad situation even worse.

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While leaving a Christmas party in Orland Park, Illinois in December 2019, school teachers Rone Leja and Elizabeth Kosteck were struck by a 2016 Buick Regal in a parking lot. The high-impact collision caused Ms. Leja to suffer fatal injuries, and Ms. Kosteck to suffer serious injuries. The driver of the 2016 Buick Regal was a 73-year-old retired priest named Paul Burak. Mr. Burak was also a guest at the Christmas party. Mr. Burak had consumed alcohol that night, but he told partygoers he was ‘fine’ to drive. According to a prosecutor subsequent trial, Mr. Burak thought he backed into a curb when he struck the two women, before he drove away down a service road. A witness followed him in his car and requested that Mr. Burak return to the scene. Paul Burak is due in court again this month to face his punishment for striking and killing Rone Leja with his vehicle. The attorney for the Leja family spoke with the Chicago Sun Times, calling what happened to Leja a ‘senseless death’ that could have been easily prevented. Continue reading

We all know the dangers of drinking and driving. But what about getting behind the wheel the morning after a night of heavy drinking? The average person can break down a single unit of alcohol — a 12-ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine or a 1.5-ounce shot — in about an hour. (Bear in mind that bars and restaurants may serve you more than a single unit of alcohol per drink.)

One hour to break down one standard drink is an estimate for the average person, but not everyone breaks down alcohol at the same rate. There are several factors which affect how quickly your body breaks down alcohol, including your height, weight, gender, age and metabolism, whether you were eating, and whether you take medications that affect the absorption of alcohol. Ultimately, the only thing that can actually reduce your blood alcohol content is time. Late nights and excessive drinking lead to painful mornings and the dreaded effects of a hangover.

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In November of 2019, Alexandra Mansonet was on her way to work at a New Jersey non-profit at around 8:30 a.m., when she smashed into the back of a parked Toyota Corolla. The Corolla subsequently shot forward and struck a pedestrian, Yuwen Wang, which sent her flying into the air. Ms. Wang had just said goodbye to her husband for the day as she went out for her morning walk. Following the collision, she was transported to the hospital and died several days later. Ms. Mansonet told police that she looked up to see the Corolla right in front of her as she was driving. She admitted that she was texting and driving at the time of the collision.

The prosecution equated the crime of her distracted driving with that of someone who had been drinking and driving. People seemingly check their phones and send text messages while driving all the time, but according to Cambridge Mobile Telematics, distracted driving can actually be more dangerous than drunk driving. Drunk drivers need about four more feet added to their stopping reaction time than non-distracted sober drivers. However, a distracted sober driver (for example, someone who is texting) needs about 70 more feet to look up and realize what is going on. Continue reading

Last month, 10-year-old Srijan Panthi and his mother, Mina Panthi, were hit by a city garbage truck in Corona, Queens, New York at around 7 a.m. on their way to school. The garbage truck was pulling out of a commercial driveway and making a right turn when it struck Mina and Srijan. According to a local resident, there was a stoplight at the intersection where the truck turned, but there was no dedicated crosswalk sign for pedestrians. Because there was no crosswalk sign, authorities had difficulty determining who had the right-of-way.

After the accident, the truck driver stayed at the scene, but no charges were filed against him. However, he was suspended from work immediately following the fatal events of the morning. Mina and Srijan were taken to a nearby emergency room. Mina survived, with serious injuries, but Srijan was pronounced dead four hours later. Continue reading

What is the De Minimis Rule?

cracked-concrete-1496622-300x225There are several nuances to premises cases, especially trip and fall cases caused by defective pavements. One of the nuances to a premises case is the de minimis rule. Under the de minimis rule, liability for the defendant generally attaches for sidewalk defects approaching two inches in height. Birch v. City of Quincy, 241 Ill. App. 3d 119, 121 (1993), Harris v. Old Kent Bank, 315 Ill. App. 3d 894, 900 (2000). Courts are hesitant to find a defendant liable for sidewalk or pavement deviations less than two inches in height because the de minimis rule was originally intended to protect [defendants] from the burden of having to monitor and maintain great lengths of sidewalk in perfect condition. Id.

“Whether a height variance between two sidewalk slabs is de minimis depends on all of the pertinent facts, and there is no simple standard to separate de minimis defects from actionable ones. St. Martin v. First Hospitality Group, Inc., 2014 IL App (2d) 130505 ¶14 (quoting Arvidson v. City of Elmhurst, 11 Ill. 2d 601, 604 (1957)). Illinois has held that, although a displacement of two inches in a residential area is actionable, a variation of only 1 1/8 inches is de minimis. Id. However, the de minimis rule’s application depends upon multiple factors, such as heavy foot traffic, distractions, and congestion. Id. at ¶ 19. Continue reading

Last week, a self-driving vehicle operated by Uber struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona. Uber’s car, which was utilizing an autonomous mode, similar to Tesla’s autopilot feature, struck and killed the pedestrian, Elaine Herzberg, around 10 p.m. At the time of the incident, there was a driver at the wheel, but the Uber car did not have any passengers. Even though the car was a self-driving car, a driver was at the wheel to take over in case the car’s autonomous system failed.

The fatal accident occurred as Ms. Herzberg was walking her bicycle across the street. The street she was crossing did not have a crosswalk and the speed limit was 45 miles-per-hour. At the time of impact, Uber’s car was going about 40 miles-per-hour. Initially, the driver of the Uber vehicle, stated that Ms. Herzberg “darted” out in front of the Uber vehicle and as a result, the driver was not able to stop the vehicle in time to avoid hitting her. However, video from the accident, which contains both interior and exterior views, shows that Ms. Herzberg was more than halfway across the road at the time of impact and that driver at the wheel of the Uber was looking down and not looking at the road at the time of the accident. Continue reading

Truck Accident

Every year, thousands of people across the country are injured in car accidents with semi-trucks. In 2014, famed comedian and actor Tracy Morgan was severely injured, and his friend was killed, when a semi-truck rear-ended the limousine they were passengers in. The truck driver stated that he had been awake for more than 28 hours straight when his semi-truck rear-ended the limousine. The truck driver told officials that he had spent 12 hours driving his own vehicle from his home in Georgia to pick up his semi-truck in at a Walmart facility in Delaware. A spokesperson for Walmart stated that the company did not believe the semi-truck driver violated any federal safety regulations. The semi-truck driver later pled guilty to vehicular homicide and four counts of aggravated assault. The estate of the friend that was killed, James “Jimmy Mack” McNair, received a $10 million settlement with Walmart. Tracy Morgan also received an undisclosed amount in a settlement with Walmart. Continue reading

Last night, a Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) bus struck and killed a pedestrian in the West Chatham neighborhood in Chicago. The pedestrian was walking in the crosswalk in the first block of West 79th Street at around 7:30 p.m., when she was struck by the CTA bus. The pedestrian was pronounced dead at the scene. The CTA bus driver was later cited for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. A similar accident occurred last month, when another CTA bus struck a pedestrian in the Old Town neighborhood in Chicago. According to the Chicago Police Department, the pedestrian was walking in the crosswalk in the 100 block of West Division at around 4:30 a.m., when she was struck by the CTA bus. The pedestrian was taken to the emergency room and was treated for swelling and contusions.

Last summer, a CTA bus struck a mother and her three children as they were crossing the street in the Lakeview neighborhood. According to police, the mother and her children were crossing at the intersection of Halsted Street and Waveland Avenue around 10:15 a.m., when the CTA bus struck them. A witness to the collision told reporters that the infant being held by the mother flew out of the mother’s hands and violently struck the concrete. The children were taken to the emergency room at Lurie Children’s Hospital and the CTA bus driver was taken to the emergency room at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center. The driver was later given a citation for failure to yield to pedestrians.

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If you or a loved one has suffered a personal injury, it is important to know how the insurance company is going to evaluate your claim. Long gone are the days of a skilled insurance adjuster pouring through your records. Nowadays, most insurance companies use a software program, called Colossus, to evaluate your claim. Colossus takes the pressure off the insurance adjuster to evaluate your claim and allows the adjuster to input certain data into its system to arrive at what it thinks is an appropriate settlement number for your claim. Continue reading

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