Last week, a Tesla Model S smashed into the back of a firetruck at a high rate of speed on a highway near Culver City, California. The firetruck was stopped for an accident on the highway. The driver of the Tesla reported that he had been using Tesla’s autopilot driver assistance system at the time of the crash and the autopilot system did not apply the vehicle’s brakes. Luckily, no one was injured as a result of the crash. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is currently investigating the crash.
As a car accident lawyer, I am always looking at what makes us less safe on the road. At the top of this list is distracted driving. In Illinois, drivers are generally allowed to use cell phones, but are prohibited from using cell phones, hand held or otherwise, when driving in a school zone or when driving in a highway construction zone. Recently, Illinois tightened these restrictions and prohibited all hand held cell phone use while driving.
Texting – the most dangerous form of distracted driving – has long been prohibited in Illinois. Exceptions to the prohibition from texting while driving are quite limited: reporting an emergency situation and continued communication with emergency personnel during the emergency situation; using a device in hands-free or voice-activated mode; if the driver is parked on the shoulder of a roadway; or when the vehicle is stopped due to normal traffic being obstructed and the driver has the motor vehicle transmission in neutral or park. Absent an exception, texting is prohibited.
Transit is an alternative form of transportation, in addition to walking and biking, which the City of Naperville continues to explore and develop as part of its Comprehensive Transportation Plan. A well-developed transit system makes the City of Naperville and the surrounding DuPage Country and Will County area increasingly accessible to local residents. A transit system is desirable because it reduces traffic congestion, a problem which plagues Naperville’s growing population, which is predicted to increase to 155,000 by the year 2020 (approximately 100,000 Napervillians live in DuPage County, while about 45,000 reside in Will County) and has the potential to reduce automobile trips and thus reduce congestion, air pollution, wear and tear on roads and injury-producing car accidents.
For many in Naperville, public transit is a safe and an essential part of day-to-day life, carrying people from schools, to jobs, and to grocery stores. Such transportation services available to the public typically fall within two categories: generalized and specialized. Generalized transit, for example, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and Metra, is available to the public and may include rail and bus services. Specialized transit on the other hand often includes car pools, school buses, and shuttles, and may have eligibility requirements.
Illinois motorists may not fully know the dangers of distracted driving. 71% of teenagers and young adults admit to writing or sending text messages while driving, and 78% of teenagers and young adults admit to reading a text message while driving. With the advances of cell phone technology and its growing popularity, the use of cell phones while driving has increased exponentially in the last few years, and so has the risk posed by distracted drivers.
In fact, increased cell phone usage in Illinois has made the problem of distracted driving much worse, leading to more motor vehicle accidents. The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that approximately 24 percent of all traffic crashes (about 1.2 million) each year are linked to drivers texting or talking on their cell phones while driving. The NSC also reports that the number of car accidents caused by distracted drivers using cell phones is grossly underreported, so there are actually more car accidents caused by distracted driving than current data shows. Illinois is no exception.
What is SR-22 Insurance? SR-22 insurance is a vehicle liability insurance document used by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to provide proof that a high-risk driver has minimum liability insurance coverage. SR-22 is a high-risk insurance that carries specific conditions not found in other auto insurance policies. People often mistakenly believe that SR-22 is an insurance policy because the form is purchased through insurance companies. However, SR-22 is merely a form that shows a driver carries a liability insurance policy that satisfies the minimum amount mandated by the law. Under the conditions of the insurance, the insurance company must certify coverage to the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) of the state and must notify the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) if the policy is cancelled, terminated, or lapses. Except for Delaware, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, New York, and North Carolina, all other states have SR-22 insurance requirements.
Why does Illinois require some drivers to have SR-22 insurance? Illinois requires a SR-22 document from a driver prior to reinstating driving privileges, oftentimes after the driver has been involved in an uninsured car accident. From the date of reinstatement, SR-22 must be carried for 3 years. During that time, the law requires the insurance company to notify IDOT of late payments, lapses, and the switching of providers. If the insurance company provides IDOT with any such notification, an individual’s license will be suspended immediately due to failure to comply with SR-22 requirements. Upon suspension, the SR-22 will have to be renewed again to reinstate driving privileges, and the three-year period will begin again.
Every day, Illinois drivers are injured in motor vehicle accidents with hit-and-run drivers or drivers who are uninsured or underinsured. In 2012, over 13% of Illinois drivers were uninsured, and the increasing number of uninsured and underinsured drivers nationwide only underscores the importance of having uninsured motorist coverage for the rest of us. In Illinois, it is the right of every policyholder who carries Uninsured Motorist coverage, or “UM” coverage, to have his or her injury claim seeking UM coverage heard at arbitration, to decide how much compensation or “damages” will be paid.
An UM arbitration is a legal proceeding held before a panel of arbitrators. The arbitration hearing is set up much like a trial, where parties represented by lawyers call witnesses and present evidence to the arbitration panel. After the hearing, the arbitrators render a decision, referred to as an arbitration “award.” The decision of the arbitrators determines whether the injured person has a right to receive any damages under the insurance policy and how much.
Route 53 has notoriously been a dangerous highway for motor vehicle drivers, but the construction being completed there may soon alleviate the number of serious accidents. Last week marked the expected half-way point for the Illinois Department of Transportations (IDOT) Route 53 construction project, which began on August 29, 2011, and has an anticipated end date of October 17, 2013. Originally slated to end sooner, the project has been plagued with various setbacks, including several heat waves (effecting the ability to pour concrete) and a brief hiatus for the Labor Day holiday. Of course, drivers’ safety, however invaluable, does not come cheaply: this project will cost roughly $45 million.
The portion of Route 53, also known as Rohlwing Road, subject to construction consists of 4.1 miles running from Army Trail Road to the Elgin O’Hare Expressway. IDOT hopes that the project will reduce the congestion, which has plagued this stretch of road in recent years, leading to multiple car accidents and fatalities. Similarly aimed construction commenced on Butterfield Road (Route 56) in DuPage on June 1, 2011. The Rohlwing Road construction will include a second lane added in both directions and the intersections at Army Trail Road, Lake Street, and Irving Park Road will be improved to include additional through lanes, left turn lanes, barrier medians, and modernized traffic signals. As part of the project, part of Army Trail Road will also be reconstructed. A report released by the Addison Police Department showed that car accidents at the intersection of Route 53 and Army Trail Road had increased by 28% from the year 2009 to 2010; the intersection of Route 53 and Lake Street had increased by a remarkable 58%. These troubling statistics no doubt reinforced IDOT’s decision to commence construction.
Reckless driving in Illinois carries stiff criminal and civil penalties. Reckless driving poses a danger to drivers, pedestrians, and innocent passengers on Naperville Roads. Too often, reckless driving causes significant injuries. Recently, a Macon County Sheriff’s Deputy was arrested by Decatur, Illinois police for reckless driving that resulted in serious and permanent injuries to an innocent driver. To deter reckless driving, a criminal court may impose a variety of severe penalties. In 2007, a then Illinois State Trooper had his license revoked after killing two young women when he was traveling over 120 miles per hour while sending email and talking on his cell phone.
A study conducted by the AAA Foundation, which examined the cause of fatal accidents from 2003-2007, found that reckless and erratic driving was a factor in 7.4% of fatal accidents. According to Illinois law, reckless driving occurs when a person drives a vehicle with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others or property, or who knowingly drives a vehicle and uses an incline in the road, like a bridge, railroad crossing, or hill, to cause the vehicle to become airborne. 625 ILCS 5/11-503.
When a plaintiff pursues a personal injury lawsuit as a result of a motor vehicle accident in Illinois, it is imperative to properly serve the defendant with a complaint and summons. Failure to properly serve a defendant may be fatal to a plaintiff’s case. Under Supreme Court Rule 103(b), a plaintiff is required to exercise due diligence in their attempts to serve the defendant, and failure to do so may result in the dismissal of the case. To determine the proper method of service, or the act of physically giving the complaint and summons to the defendant, a plaintiff must evaluate the amount of their damages and ascertain the location of the defendant.
To determine the proper method of service upon an individual, the plaintiff must first evaluate and determine the approximate amount of their damages.
Rental car insurance is confusing. Before you rent, it is important to know if your insurance provides coverage for the rented vehicle, and under what circumstances that coverage may be limited. The answers to these questions may depend on the language of your own automobile insurance policy concerning “substitute vehicles.” To trigger a “substitute vehicle” clause, an important fact to consider is whether your car is “disabled” and “withdrawn from use,” rather than when you simply are concerned that it may be on the brink of becoming disabled or possibly in need of repair. If your rented car is involved in a car accident, questions may arise as to whether your own insurance policy will still cover you for a bodily injury liability claim (if you cause an accident, injuring someone), an uninsured motorist claim (if you become injured due to the fault of an uninsured driver) or an underinsured motorist claim (if the at-fault driver carries an insufficient amount of liability coverage to adequately cover your injury claim).
Your automobile insurance policy likely has a “Substitute Vehicle” clause, which provides coverage for a “temporary substitute vehicle” when the insured vehicle is not in “normal use” or has been “withdrawn from normal use.” When your rented vehicle meets the requirements of a “Substitute Vehicle,” the rented vehicle is covered to the same extent as your own vehicle. The public policy behind enforcement of substitute vehicle clauses is to prevent an insurance company from being liable for two vehicles while the insured has paid only one premium.