Articles Posted in Insurance Claims

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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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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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

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

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.
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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.
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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.
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Motor vehicle accidents raise many complicated issues of fault and proof. One way to prove a defendant’s liability is by using an admission of guilt (“guilty plea”) in the underlying traffic court proceeding, which is ordinarily conducted soon after an accident is reported. Often, a potential defendant will plead guilty to a traffic citation. The guilty plea may be used in the civil case to demonstrate the fault of the motorist. “[G]uilty pleas to traffic offenses have been admitted in subsequent civil proceedings as admissions.” Young v. Forgas, 308 Ill.App.3d 553, 565 (4th Dist. 1999). A defendant’s claim he did not appreciate the effect of a guilty plea in a traffic case is irrelevant. As stated in Young, a “person must realize that civil litigation is a very real possibility and that the guilty plea to the traffic charge could reflect adversely upon him in a subsequent proceeding.” Id.

A guilty plea is an exception to the hearsay rule. “A guilty plea to a traffic violation is admissible as an admission against interest in a later civil action on the same facts.” Mivatovich v. Chicago Transit Authority, 112 Ill.App.2d 437, 442 (1st Dist. 1969). Courts reason that “a judicial admission is a deliberate, clear, unequivocal statement of a party about a concrete fact within that party’s peculiar knowledge.” Sohaey v. Van Cura, 240 Ill.App.3d 266, 280 (2nd Dist. 1992). “[A] judicial admission is conclusive upon the party who made it, and the party may not controvert the admission at trial or on appeal, so the effect of a judicial admission is to withdraw a fact from contention. Id., at 280-81. Additionally, “a party cannot create a question of fact for purposes of a summary judgment motion by attempting to contradict a previous judicial admission.” Id.
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Naperville truck accidents cause serious injuries each year, including: broken bones, back and neck injuries, and in some cases even fatalities (wrongful death). The City of Naperville, recognizing the dangers posed by truck traffic, has designated specific routes for trucks. Naperville’s truck route plan has many advantages, including: reducing congestion; decreasing air pollution; and perhaps most important, providing safer neighborhood travel. By allowing trucks to “use” neighborhood streets, but forbidding travel “through” neighborhoods, Naperville’s plan recognizes the need for goods and services to be delivered to homes, businesses and facilities. The program also recognizes that limiting large truck travel (semi trailers, 18 wheelers) to specific routes is an excellent way to prevent pedestrian and motorist accidents. Statistics show that limiting the opportunities for large commercial trucks to interact with other motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists lowers the likelihood that a truck accident will occur.

Specific Initiatives

Truck traffic patterns from the area’s main highway–Route 88–place burdens on many local roads. Interstate 88 (Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway) runs through the north part of Naperville carrying millions of tons of cargo every year. Much of that cargo must find its way to the residents and businesses that call Naperville home. In order to efficiently serve the City of Naperville, a truck permit plan has been implemented. Commercial trucks that travel upon Naperville streets pay permit fees. The City of Naperville’s Truck Route Plan provides a Designated Truck Route System and implements a Road Damage Overweight/Over-dimension Truck Permit Program. Trucks carrying heavy loads that exceed 73,280 pounds pay a fee for the privilege of using Naperville roads. The funds from the program go into the Road and Bridge Fund, which is used to repair, maintain, and construct the roads and streets in Naperville. The program represents a compromise between the need for goods to be delivered with the need to safely maintain Naperville streets. The truck permit plan promotes the following best practices and methods:

– Integrate truck route planning with land use planning.
– Coordinate the location of truck routes with roadway design and land uses.
– Consider regional implications of truck route locations.
– Enforce truck route policies.
– Reevaluate existing truck routes periodically.
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The City of Naperville is situated in a diverse area of DuPage County. Naperville contains residential areas, commercial areas, schools, churches, parks, and rivers. In addition, unincorporated areas surround Naperville. Naperville’s recent growth and development have presented challenges for city officials, who are charged with providing and maintaining safe transportation. In order to prevent car accidents, truck accidents, and motorcycle accidents, the City of Naperville has developed a comprehensive Traffic Safety Plan (the “Plan”). A goal of the Naperville Comprehensive Transportation Safety Plan is intended to save lives and reduce injuries by lowering the number and frequency of crashes. Like the Truck Route Plan, Pedestrian Plan, and Bicycle Plan, the Traffic Safety Plan sets forth policies and practices designed to achieve the plan’s goal to reduce car accidents in Naperville.

Some of the policies include:

– Requiring developers to provide dedicated sidewalks for pedestrians and bicycles.
– Lobbying state and federal governments for additional traffic safety funds.
– Considering car crash rates or truck accident frequency when prioritizing capital
improvement projects that may impact vehicle crash rates.
– Promoting and enforcing seat belt usage to reduce injuries and save lives.

Some of the practices include:

– Considering traffic safety when reviewing new development plans.
– Developing and implementing driving education programs, especially for younger, less
experienced drivers.
– Identifying and examining locations with a high frequency of car accidents.
– Evaluating school access in terms of motor vehicle safety issues.
– Encouraging alternative forms of transportation, such as bicycles and walking paths.
– Minimizing conflicts between motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists in all future
development plans.
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