Articles Posted in Negligence

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.
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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.
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When filing a dog bite complaint, the plaintiff may pursue multiple theories of liability against the dog owner. The Animal Control Act holds dog owners strictly liable for bites and attacks by their dog. E.g. 510 ILCS 5. Prior to the passage of the Animal Control Act, a plaintiff was forced to bring a negligence cause of action. In such cases, a dog owner could plead an affirmative defense that he or she lacked knowledge that the dog would attack or bite–commonly referred to as the “one-bite” or “scienter” rule. Klatz v. Pfeffer, 333 Ill. 90, 94-95 (1928).

The Illinois legislatures adopted the “dog bite” statute, which eliminated the scienter rule. The modern “dog bite” statute states, in part: “If a dog or other animal without provocation attacks or injures any person who is peaceably conducting himself . . . the owner of such dog or other animal is liable in damages to such person for the full amount of the injury sustained.” 510 ILCS 5/16. The Illinois Supreme Court in Beckert v. Risberg held that the elements necessary to sustain an action under this section are: (1) proof of injury by the dog; (2) lack of provocation; (3) peaceable conduct; and (4) presence of the plaintiff in a place where he or she had a right to be. 33 Ill. 2d 44, 46 (1965); See Accordingly, a dog owner may only defend an action under the statute by proving that the victim was creating a disturbance, trespassing, or tormenting the dog in a way that provoked the attack.
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The Illinois Animal Control Act provides a basis for dog bite victims to recover if they have been the victim of a dog bite. However, an animal attack, on its own, is not necessarily an automatic basis for liability. There are rare situations that may prevent the plaintiff from proving her claim because the plaintiff was actually in control of the animal at the time of the attack, or when a defendant has given proper warnings to the victim about the presence of a dangerous dog. Although rare, these two exceptions to liability are worthy of consideration.

Exception 1: There May Be No Liability When the Victim Assumes Complete Control of the Animal.

In rare situations, a plaintiff may be barred. Van Plew v. Riccio, 317 Ill.App.3d 179 (2nd Dist. 2000). In Van Plew, a pet sitter who the dog owner hired to feed and provide water for the dog was bitten during the course of her care for the dog. The court denied recovery and stated that “where a person voluntarily accepts responsibility for controlling or caring for a dog … that person is an ‘owner’ within the meaning of the Act and is precluded from recovery under the Act.” Id. at 182. The Fourth District of the Illinois Appellate Court reached a similar decision in Docherty v. Sadler, 293 Ill.App.3d 892 (4th Dist. 1997), where it denied relief to a ten-year-old-child who had agreed to take care of a neighbor’s dog. However, these situations are rare and what constitutes “control” is a high bar for the defendant to meet. More often, the defendant will have retained at least partial control of the animal, thereby exposing them to potential liability. A proper investigation can often defeat this defense.
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Most Kane County residents are aware of the dangers of using cell phones while driving, but many still answer the phone while driving or even text while driving. Significantly, statistics show that a driver who is texting has the same impaired response time as an intoxicated driver. If you must use your cell phone while driving, some helpful safety tips are:

– utilize a hands free device – avoid using your phone in bad weather, stressful situations, or heavy traffic – make phone calls when you aren’t moving – avoid looking up numbers or trying to take notes while driving and
– keep your conversations short
The risks are more pronounced when drivers text. While texting, the driver’s gaze constantly shifts between his phone and the road. Experienced drivers, including truck drivers, fare no better when texting. A study showed that truck drivers who text and drive are approximately 20 times more likely to get into an accident.
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The aftermath of a motor vehicle accident can be legally complex. Often times, a person other than the driver to the striking vehicle, may be additionally responsible for the damages caused by a motor vehicle collision. Under Illinois law, two common scenarios in which a person or entity may be found legally responsible for damages caused by a negligent driver arise in (1) the parent-child relationship, and (2) the employer-employee relationship. Whether a parent or an employer is legally responsible for the at-fault driver will a careful analysis of the facts surrounding the accident and the relationships of the parties.

Parent-Child Relationship

If a child gets into an accident while driving his or her parents’ car, the injured plaintiff may be able to sue the parents in certain, but not all, situations. Parents are not liable for the injuries caused by their children merely because their child causes an accident. In Illinois, parents may be held liable under an “agency” theory for their child’s negligent driving if the child was engaged in running an errand for or doing the parents’ business at the time of the accident. Stellmach v. Olson, 242 Ill.App.3d 61, 64 (2nd Dist. 1993). However, the Stellmach Court explained that a parent is not liable for damages caused by a child who drove the parent’s car for the child’s own purposes, even if the parent consented to that use. Stellmach, 242 Ill.App.3d at 65. If, instead, the child was using the car to run a family errand, then the parent will be liable. Stellmach, 242 Ill.App.3d at 64. The question of whether an action is a family errand will be a question of fact for the jury to consider during the trial. Id.
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In March 2011, the Village of Downers Grove released its Neighborhood Traffic Study (the “Study”). The Study investigated Downers Grove’s traffic issues by studying a specific section of the community– the neighborhood bounded by Main Street, Fairview Avenue, Maple Avenue, and 55th Street. Incredibly detailed and comprehensive, the Study analyzed many different issues, including: pedestrian and bicycle facilities, intersection traffic controls, parking restrictions, and daily traffic volumes. Perhaps the most important part of the meticulous study was the evaluation of the intersection at 55th Street and Washington Street.

Intersection at 55th Street and Washington Street

One of the Study’s goals was to investigate the conditions at the intersection of 55th Street and Washington Street in Downer Grove, which may be causing vehicle accidents, car accidents, truck accidents, and motorcycle accidents and to provide recommendations for limiting the number of future accidents.
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On November 23, 2011, the U.S. Department of Transportation (“USDOT”) announced the final rule that prohibits interstate truck and bus drivers from using hand-hand cell phones while operating vehicles. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (“PHMSA”) finalized the rule with the power of the USDOT . The FMCSA and PHMSA determined that the prohibition was necessary to prevent injuries and deaths caused by truck accidents. In 2009, there were 5,474 deaths and nearly 500,000 injuries caused by distracted drivers.

The final rule provides for federal civil penalties of up to $2,5750 each time a commercial truck driver is caught using a hand-held cell phone while driving. Companies that are found to be permissive in allowing their drivers to use hand-held cell phones face stiff fines up to $11,000. These penalties are in addition to state sanctions, including potential suspension of commercial driver’s license (“CDL”).
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Rear-end collisions occur every day in DuPage County. Some accidents are relatively minor and occur at slow speeds; other times, severe accidents occur as a result of a high speed, heavy impact collision. Regardless of the severity of the car accident, injuries often result. Common symptoms include pain in the head, neck, and back. Injuries may range from broken arms or legs, shoulder injuries, knee injuries, head injuries, whiplash and herniated or bulging discs.

In Illinois, the individual who rear-ends another driver is often found to be at fault in causing the accident, absent certain defenses. The rear-end driver or striking motorist who causes a rear end collision may have been following the car in front of him too closely or “tailgating.” There are exceptions to this general assumption, such as a sudden stop by the victim’s car, or in rare circumstances in which the striking motorist is confronted with a hazardous situation or sudden emergency.
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As a part of the City of Naperville’s Comprehensive Transportation Plan, the Naperville Pedestrian Plan (“Plan”) was created to design and implement policies, practices, and programs that promote a safe pedestrian experience and limit pedestrian accidents. The Plan also recognizes that there are many different pedestrian experiences and paths of travel. For instance, the Naperville Riverwalk is located west of Naperville City Hall in Riverwalk Park. The Riverwalk is pedestrian friendly and has very little interference from motorists or other uses. In a different section of Naperville, the Naperville Historic District is located north of North Central College. The Historic District is a highly mixed-use neighborhood with motorists, crosswalks, stop lights, Ellsworth Elementary School, First Congressional Church, Community United Methodist Church, many local business, etc. These areas represent different and unique pedestrian needs and desires.

Policies and Practices

In order to effectively develop and coordinate Naperville’s varying pedestrian needs, Naperville has developed a rubric of policies and practices to be considered when undertaking a pedestrian project.
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