Over our decades in practice, the Chicago Personal Injury attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. have taken note of many unwarranted, and often peculiar defenses asserted by defendants, both in the criminal and civil setting. While our firm’s primary focus resides in providing representation to clients in civil proceedings, it is not uncommon for a civil matter to be closely connected to a criminal matter. Consider an auto accidents involving an impaired driver; nursing home abuse involving a sexual offender; or an attack by a dog that was trained or known to be vicious, to name a few.

Here, we limit our discussion to the topic of hit-and-run collisions, in which a driver flees the scene, but then later claims that they didn’t know they hit someone. The possibility that a law-abiding motorist could collide with an individual, and not be aware, seems highly improbable. Although unawareness of striking a victim is conceivable, these incidents are far and few between, and limited to exceptional circumstances. Let’s explore the ‘I didn’t know,’ or ‘ignorance of incident’ defense in regards to both criminal culpability and civil liability.

In criminal proceedings extending from a hit-and-run crash, the defendant’s assertion of ‘unawareness’ as a defense is, more often than not, an attempt to evade responsibility for their actions. Faced with the prospect of criminal conviction, morality often takes a backseat to the need for an accused to avoid prosecution or, in the alternative, limit punishment. Whether through a web search, the ‘suggestion’ of an attorney, or one’s own thought-process, hit-and-run motorists often develop the ‘ignorance of incident’ defense post-accident. Seldom does this approach, when provided as the defendant’s sole defense, result in complete evasion of criminal liability; however it has limited criminal penalties imposed in some.

Fortunately, the standard of proof in criminal trials and civil trials vary greatly from one another. In understanding this, consider where criminal defendant is found not-guilty in a vehicular manslaughter case, and the family later pursues civil damages for wrongful death. In the criminal setting, the standard is whether the defendant is guilty ‘beyond a reasonable doubt,’ however, in the civil setting, the standard is based upon the ‘preponderance of evidence.’ Hence, in civil trials, the standard is much lower, in that it only requires the plaintiff to provide evidence sufficient to show that it was ‘more probable than not’ that the defendant caused the harm complained of.

Now, let’s explore the ‘I didn’t know,’ or ‘ignorance of incident’ defense in personal injury actions involving a defendant that fled the scene of the accident. Consider the nonsensical approach of a hit-and-run motorist that asserted ‘unawareness’ as a defense, and then later tries to defend civil liability based upon contributory fault. In Illinois, a plaintiff is not barred from recovering damages, so long as they were not more than 50% at fault. However, proving that that a victim contributed to his or her own injuries or damages requires evidence. Consequently, absent witness testimony to show otherwise (the credibility of which is an issue for the jury to examine), the defendant’s ability to show that they were both unware of the collision AND that the plaintiff contributed to the accident is doubtful.

In the cases where a hit-and-run driver is located, and was insured at the time of the incident, the defendant-tortfeasor then typically becomes synonymous with the defendant-insurance company. Insurance companies have a duty to act in good faith in resolving valid claims. However, often time the defense efforts of an insurance company does little more than hinder/delay the judicial process, and in some cases, amounts to bad faith—a violation of insurance code which is compensable in and of itself.

The ‘ignorance of incident defense’ can also play a role in hit-and-run cases in which an injured victim is requesting punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages. In Illinois, obtaining an award for punitive damages requires proving that the defendant’s actions were ‘intentional’; ‘willful and wanton’; or ‘fraudulent.’ Here, the defendant may attempt to negate liability through asserting that they could not have intentionally or willfully caused harm because they were unaware of the accident (‘ignorance of incident’). Consequently, having an attorney with actual trial experience to effectively advocate on your behalf can profoundly impact the plaintiff’s ability to prove entitlement to punitive damages.

In sum, as Personal Injury Attorneys, we find the assertion of ‘ignorance of incident’ following a hit-and-run crash, is generally a defendant’s attempt to avoid criminal culpability or limit civil liability through deception, as opposed to a factual account of the incident. Regardless of this contention, it is important for victims of hit and run crashes to understand that establishing a defendant’s guilt in a criminal proceeding, is NOT a prerequisite to establishing liability and obtaining financial compensation in a civil action.

With more than three decades of experience, our Chicago Auto Accident Attorneys have attained justice on behalf of numerous victims involved in hit and run incidents, and would like to do the same for you. Contact Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. at 773-516-4100, and allow us to evaluate your case, during a no-cost/no-obligation consultation.

The Personal Injury Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. take note of the alarming number of accidents involving pedestrians that have taken place throughout the Chicago Metropolitan area this month. Nearly every one of the victims in these incidents suffered fatal injuries, demonstrating the high risk of death for a victim that is struck by a vehicle in a pedestrian accident. Even more disturbing, is that many of these crashes involved motorists that made the callous and heartless decision to flee the scene, and leave their victim to die, rather than stopping to render assistance.

Below are just a few of the motor vehicle-versus-pedestrian collisions that have occurred in and around the Chicago area since the first of the year:

  • On January 1st, a 56- year-old man, James C. Marlowe, was struck and killed by a Ford Escort while attempting to cross Illinois Route 59 in Warrenville. According to reports, the victim was not in a crosswalk at the time of the collision.
  • On January 2nd, a 53-year-old Chicago Heights man, Albert Valdez, was struck while crossing 26th Street near Ash Street, in South Suburban Park Forest. The victim died two days later as a result of his injuries.
  • On January 7th, a 19-year-old woman, Anna Mkreja, was struck by a Cadillac while crossing a busy street in Oak Lawn, just north of a crosswalk. The victim was died a short time later.
  • On January 12th, an 86-year-old Morton Grove man, Richard A. Mikulec, was struck in a hit-and-run crash, while walking near Shermer Road, north of Harlem Avenue, in Morton Grove. He was transported in serious condition, where he later died.
  • Also on January 12th, a 27-year-old woman was struck by a hit-and-run driver while performing her duties as a school crossing guard in an intersection on the Far South Side. The victim survived, but was taken to the hospital in serious condition.
  • On January 14th, a 12-year-old Elgin boy, Gerardo Simental, was struck by a motorist while crossing Route 20, apparently on the way to visit his grandmother’s. Tragically, the boy died a short time later. An account has been set up to help the family with funeral and other expenses.
  • On January 15th, a 95-year-old, Lilah DePaul, was walking with her 88-year-old brother in the Des Plaines Market Place Shopping Center, when she was struck by a dump truck that was traveling westbound through the parking lot.
  • On January 16th, a 58-year-old woman, Maria Hernandez, was struck while crossing in a crosswalk on West Addison Street on the Northwest Side. The victim was transported to the hospital in critical condition, but sadly was pronounced dead the following morning.
  • On January 17th, two men, Ramon Cruz and Pablo Esquivel-Vega, were struck and killed while crossing North Avenue at Kildare in Chicago’s Northwest Side. The 24-year-old woman responsible for the crash fled the scene, but was later taken into custody after she collided with three parked vehicles.

The Pedestrian Accident Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. send our sincerest condolences to the family members and friends of each victim. While death is never an easy thing to deal with, losing a loved one in such a tragic and unexpected way, can be all the more difficult to handle. Particularly unsettling, are those incidents in which a motorist, after striking the victim, simply fled the scene of the accident. We find the actions of hit-and-run drivers to be purely inexcusable, and hope that these individuals will be criminally prosecuted to the fullest extent possible.

In addition, we hope that justice for the victims of pedestrian accidents, can be found through civil proceedings as well. While our attorneys recognize that the thought of commencing an action for wrongful death may be hard to consider following a loss, we also know that if your loved one was here to seek justice on their own behalf, they probably would.

If you were injured, or a family was killed by the negligent, reckless, and/or unlawful actions of a motorist, it is important to understand your options, rights, and entitlement to financial compensation. The attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer have 35+ years of practice experience in representing victims in injury and death proceedings extending from pedestrian accidents. Contact us at 773-516-4100 to schedule your no-cost, no-obligation, comprehensive case evaluation today.

The Chicago Trucking Accident attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. take note of a recent incident between a semi-tractor trailer and a passenger vehicle. According to reports, a minivan became embedded behind a semi-truck, and was subsequently dragged for miles, apparently due to the trucker’s complete and utter obliviousness of the fact that a collision had occurred.

As depicted in a highly disturbing 911 call, a minivan struck the rear-end of a semi-truck, as both vehicles northbound in white-out conditions, along I-75 in Michigan. In the van was a family of four—the husband-driver, his wife, and their two small children. In calls to 911, the wife states “We ran into the back of a semi-truck and he’s not stoppin’, and our car is embedded underneath of it,” followed by the husband stating “If the van breaks out from underneath him, I don’t have any control of this thing.”

Fortunately police located the interlocked vehicles, and were able to get the semi to pull into a rest area. However, this was after the minivan was dragged a shocking 16 miles, unbeknownst to the truck driver. Although no one was injured, this incident certainly could have resulted in disaster.

From the perspective of skilled legal professionals, this close-call event, brings forth several concerns. First, as truck collision attorneys, we are inclined to take into consideration each driver’s potential culpability in causing this horrific incident. In example, was the truck driver fatigued, distracted, or impaired? Did the van not stop in time—or—did the truck stop too quickly—or—was it a combination of both given the weather conditions?

Second, this incident shows how accidents involving a truck can vary greatly from others. Regardless of weather conditions, the visibility area around a semi is much more limited than with a passenger car, and while this incident was certainly unusual, this sort of event could perceivably occur in normal conditions as well. In addition, consider the truck’s massive size, and the driver’s (purported) unawareness that a vehicle had struck him. Again, depending in the size/type of passenger car, one could perceive how this type of incident could potentially occur again in the future.

Third, this event demonstrates how harm can be inflicted upon a victim despite actual bodily injury. Imagine how frightening this incident must have been for the couple and their family. Consider being dragged for 16 miles by a tractor trailer—and with your children in the car. It is not difficult to imagine the mental, emotional, and/or psychological distress that an experience of this nature could cause.

The Trucking Accident attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. hope that motorists will keep this incident in mind when traveling along roadways shared with large trucks, particularly during periods of inclement weather.

If you or a family member were involved in an accident with a large truck or semi, contact the Chicago Personal Injury Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. at 773-516-4100 to discuss your legal rights and entitlement to financial compensation.

As Dog Bite Attorneys, Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. recognizes that breed-specific legislation has been a highly debated topic in the Illinois, specifically in regards to pit bull and rottweilers. However, the state has continued to reject the necessity, effectiveness and constitutionality of statewide breed-specific legislation (BSL) for more than a decade, stating “it’s the deed, not the breed.” While local municipalities have the authority, granted through ‘home rules,’ to enact ordinances to regulate the residents within the boundaries of their jurisdiction, there are currently only a handful of cities and villages in Illinois that have BSL in place. While this may change in the future, questions remain regarding the benefit of polices that completely restrict a particular breed, which many equate to the efficacy that gun-control and drug laws have had on thwarting the actions of persons that engage in unlawful drug or gun related activities.

Some argue that the more worthwhile focus is to focus on responsible pet ownership, as opposed to public policy changes based largely upon breed-related fatality data. Some remain adamant in their stance that outright breed-based bans or restrictions will aide in the prevention of injuries and fatalities. Others say that dog-specific behavioral-based ordinances (i.e. restricting dogs deemed as dangerous or vicious) are the best approach in preventing fatal attacks. Many have views that fall somewhere in between, as do ours.

From the personal injury perspective, banning certain breeds will prevent at least some attacks, however, this is wholly dependent on the dog owner’s compliance with the law. Further, banning certain breeds will not eliminate the presence of thousands of dogs, owned prior to enactment of ban laws. Therefore, if the legislative goal is the prevention of dog-bite related injuries and fatalities, the immediate impact of outright restrictions would be minimal at best. Perhaps more practical is a less-restrictive approach, such as legislation that imposes liability insurance; increased licensing fees; and/or enclosure, signage, restraint or muzzle requirements, whether breed-based or dog-specific, as opposed to outright bans on specific breeds.

In particular, an insurance based legislative approach seems to offer more benefits. Firstly, in terms of practicality (i.e. affordability), requiring liability insurance does not place an undue burden on pet owners, given that most renter’s and home owner’s policies offer the inclusion of pet liability coverage for a nominal fee. Further, imposing insurance requirements seems to be the more humane approach, as opposed to requiring otherwise non-aggressive dogs to be muzzled, restrained by a short or leash, or confined to the boundaries of their owner’s property. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, liability coverage offers a means of legal recourse, by providing dog bite attack victims a source from which to obtain compensation directly from an insured dog owner, and in some cases even from landlords that knowingly permit an uninsured dog/dog owner to remain on the property they control.

Although we do recognize that not every dog owner required to carry liability insurance will adhere to the law, BSL that is centered on insurance may be the most pragmatic solution, in comparison to alternatives that completely ban or excessively restrict certain breeds. In short, some dog owners will break the law and dog bite attacks will continue to occur—regardless of what restrictions or bans are in place. Consequently, while incident prevention is certainly important in terms of public safety, at the same time we must also consider the value of legislative efforts in providing victims with compensation sources as well.

Additional considerations include which breeds would banned, the data/research/manner that might be used to determine banned breeds, as well as classification methods for cross and mix breed dogs. In ‘Dogs with a Fatal Bite,’ we discussed a CDC study which summarized human dog-bite related fatalities in the U.S over a 20-year period. We find this report especially compelling, given its recognition of the complexities involved in enacting BSL, stating that:

“Although fatal attacks on humans appear to be a breed-specific problem (pit bull-type dogs and Rottweilers), other breeds may bite and cause fatalities at higher rates. Because of difficulties inherent in determining a dog’s breed with certainty, enforcement of breed-specific ordinances raises constitutional and practical issues. Fatal attacks represent a small proportion of dog bite injuries to humans and, therefore, should not be the primary factor driving public policy concerning dangerous dogs. Many practical alternatives to breed-specific ordinances exist and hold promise for prevention of dog bites.”

Provided with the foregoing, it would seem unfair to impose a ban on dogs based solely upon breed, which essentially places a restriction on where the owners of specific breeds can lawfully reside with their dog, and offers little in terms of both long-term and short-term benefits.

Consider the immediate impact that newly implemented breed-specific legislation would have on preventing injuries and fatalities, given the sheer quantity of Chicago residents that already own breeds most likely to be restricted (pit bulls and rottweilers)—at best, it provides means of compensation only to victims that were attacked by the type of breed required to carry insurance, and the dog’s owner adheres to the law and actually secures a liability policy.

Further, the long-term effect of breed bans may actually serve to limit compensatory sources that were previously available to dog bite attack victims, given that restricted breeds that are ‘grandfathered’ in will eventually die, thereby essentially limiting the availability for victim to obtain compensation through pet liability insurance to (1) owners of dogs that have been previously deemed to be aggressive, dangerous and/or vicious through formal proceedings, and who actually obtain the required insurance; and (2) dog owners that voluntarily choose to carry pet liability insurance.

As a final contention, and stated from the position as both attorneys and animal-lovers—the prevention of dog bite fatalities does not seem to reside within an outright ban. Despite Pit-bull, Rottweiler, German Shepard (and mixed breeds of each) accounting for a significant portion of dog bite injuries and fatalities—would a full-ban on such breeds really be fair to responsible dog owners, and to what extent would such policy implications provide legal recourse to victims in the long run?

If you were bitten or attacked by a dog or other animal, contact the Chicago Dog Bite Injury Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. at 773-516-4100, to discuss your legal rights and options, as well as entitlement to compensation.

The potential for an auto accident during the winter season is concerning no matter where you live. However, the Automobile Collision Attorneys, of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C., feel that the large quantity of streets, roads, and highways, as well as sheer volume of traffic in the Chicagoland area, present unique concerns over the risk for collision associated with winter weather conditions. By taking the proper safety precautions, we can all aide in the reduction and prevention of injuries and fatalities caused in weather-related motor vehicle crashes this winter.

 Recently addressed by our Chicago Injury team were the issues of a motorist’s traveling speed in weather-related crashes, as well as winter season tire safety, and the impact that each can have on the prevention of auto collisions. And while speed and tire-related issues are certainly necessary considerations when driving in any type of inclement weather, there are a number of additional factors, which motorists should be aware of when dealing with snow, ice, sleet, and/or slush.

First and foremost, drivers should check weather reports and roadway conditions prior to ever attempting to operate a motor vehicle in inclement winter weather. In Illinois, there are several online sources that provide motorists with up-to-date information regarding roadway conditions in specific areas. For example, ‘Getting Around Illinois,’ is an IDOT-affiliated source, which “is a web-based interactive mapping site that provides the ability to search and display several sources of transportation data. You can find information on winter road conditions, annual average daily traffic, road construction, trucking routes, and planned road projects.”

In addition to common-sense driving tips, such as accelerating and decelerating slowly, avoiding over-steering and/or quick maneuvering, as well as maintaining a safe distance between vehicle, drivers should also be aware of some often over-looked safety tips. For example, cruise-control should not be used when operating a vehicle on slippery surfaces. Further, consider the benefit of maintaining a staggered position between vehicles traveling in the same direction in nearby lanes—doing so can allow a motorist sufficient time to react in the event another driver loses control.

Knowing the braking system that your vehicle is equipped with is critical, because if you find your vehicle is skidding, the manner of braking will depend on whether you have anti-lock brakes (ABS) or non anti-lock brakes. If your vehicle has ABS, drivers should step on the brake pedal, stay on it, and steer around any obstacles. For non-ABS vehicles, drivers should pump the brakes, while keeping their heel on the floor; failure to keep your heel to the floor can cause the brakes to lock up. Most vehicles equipped with ABS will identify this equipment directly on the dashboard of the car, but if you’re unsure check your owner’s manual, or with the vehicle manufacturer.

Newly licensed teen drivers should avoid driving in inclement weather, unless absolutely necessary. Studies have identified several factors linked to winter-weather auto accidents involving novice drivers, such as (1) driver distraction; (2) risk-taking/overconfidence; (3) poor hazard detection/inability to identify potential hazard; (4) low risk perception/underestimation of degree of potential hazard/failure to react properly when presented with hazardous situation; and (5) overall lack of skill/inexperience. Parents are encouraged to educate their teen driver on the dangers of driving in adverse conditions, including the effect of reduced visibility and traction; proper steering and braking habits; use of lights; and assessing traveling speed given the weather conditions. Cyber Drive Illinois offers a Parent-Teen Driving Guide to assist parents in instructing and observing their teen driver.

The combination of fatigued or impaired driving and winter weather can have deadly consequences as well. Illinois crash data shows the increase in car accidents over the holiday season. While many of these collisions are attributed to a motorist becoming fatigued after failing to stop when traveling a significant distance, in some cases, long-distance travel can result in a motorist encountering increasingly inclement weather. Even more concerning is the increase in alcohol-impaired driving collisions that occur in adverse weather conditions, particularly over the holiday season. Alcohol and driving is never a good mix, but impaired driving and bad roadway conditions is an equation for disaster.

The attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. encourage all drivers to practice safe driving habits, take necessary precautions, and when in doubt simply stay off the roadway if possible, this winter season. Doing so can save your life.

 If you were injured in an automobile crash, or a loved one was killed in a fatal accident, contact the Chicago Automobile Collision Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. at 773-516-4100, and allow us to evaluate your case to determine your entitlement to compensation.

As the season of gloom and doom starts, the Chicago Automobile Collision Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. remind motorists to use caution when traveling in inclement weather. According to the Federal Highway Administration, close to 6 million accidents occur each year, and of these, nearly a quarter are weather-related. NHTSA reports that more than 6,000 persons are killed, and close to half a million people sustain injury due to weather-related crashes, on average, each year. Although a large percentage such accidents are attributed to rainfall, many car wrecks also occur due to winter weather conditions (i.e. snow, sleet, ice, slush).

While seemingly obvious, speed is an important factor to take into consideration during inclement weather, and should be assessed in terms of both visibility reduction, as well as roadway/ pavement conditions. In inclement weather, a motorist’s ‘reasonableness’ is a far more significant factor than are posted speed restrictions. Pursuant to Sec. 11-601(a), of Illinois Vehicle Code, which pertains to general speed restrictions:

“No vehicle may be driven upon any highway of this State at a speed which is greater than is reasonable and proper with regard to traffic conditions and the use of the highway, or endangers the safety of any person or property. The fact that the speed of a vehicle does not exceed the applicable maximum speed limit does not relieve the driver from the duty to decrease speed when approaching and crossing an intersection, approaching and going around a curve, when approaching a hill crest, when traveling upon any narrow or winding roadway, or when special hazard exists with respect to pedestrians or other traffic or by reason of weather or highway conditions. Speed must be decreased as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person or vehicle on or entering the highway in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to use due care.” [Emphasis added]

Noting the emphasized portions of the statute, determining the reasonableness of one’s traveling speed requires an assessment of all attendant circumstances. Studies have shown that, depending on the conditions, a driver’s speed may need to be reduced by as much as 50% or more than the posted limit. However, what may be reasonable for one particular driver, may not be reasonable for another (i.e. a vehicle equipped with snow tires versus a small passenger vehicle or vehicle with worn tread on tires). Likewise, what may be reasonable for one weather-condition, may not be reasonable in another (i.e. heavy snow versus light snow versus ice-covered roadway surfaces; cleared roadways versus non-cleared roadways).

Often time, a driver’s speed can combine with other factors that cause or contribute to an accident. Just a few include, tire-related issues, improper vehicle maneuvering, as well as driver impairment, fatigue, inexperience, or distractions, such as texting while driving.

Given inclement weather related crash data, and with weather forecasts predicting snow in the coming weeks, we hope that motorists take the necessary precautions to ensure their own safety, as well as that of other motorists that share our roadways. Our Chicago personal injury team wholeheartedly believes that the prevention of accidents, injuries, and fatalities requires a concerted effort amongst all road-users to remain aware of incidental factors associated with the reasonable operation of a motor vehicle.

In the unfortunate event you or a loved one were involved in an automobile collision, protecting your legal rights should be the next step following emergency medical treatment. Our veteran attorneys are here to help. Contact Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. today, either online, or by calling us at 773-516-4100.

With the cold weather upon us, now is a good time for motorists to inspect their vehicles and ensure preparedness for the winter season, particular with regard to tires. The Chicago Automobile Collision Attorneys, of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C., discuss some Tire Safety Tips in hopes of promoting awareness, improving safety, as well as reducing injuries and fatalities associated with car accidents, for the residents of Chicagoland and surrounding communities.

Tire-related issues commonly cause or contribute to car wrecks during the winter season. However, through fully understanding tire safety in cold weather, and taking the proper precautions, many of these auto accidents can be prevented. In example, drivers should know the safety implications associated with the particular type of tire that their vehicle is equipped with, as well as the benefits of upgrading to a tire that is specifically designed for winter weather.

A common misconception shared by many motorists relates to the protection offered by all-season tires, which, despite their name, are not the same as winter tires. The problem with typical all-season tires is that when the temperature falls below 45-degrees, the tread compound gradually hardens, resulting in decreased traction. All-season tires are also more prone to collecting debris. Winter tires, on the other hand can increase traction by as much as 50 percent, and have a special tread design that more effectively expel snow and ice.

Further, when replacing tires, drivers should make sure that all four tires of the same size, speed rating, load index, and construction. Mixing radial and non-radial tires is not recommended for most typical passenger cars, particularly in inclement weather conditions. However, if tire mixing is unavoidable, then the general rule for most standard passenger vehicles is that the two radial tires should be installed in the rear-axle, with two non-radials on the front axle.

Regardless of which type of tire your vehicle is equipped with, it is important to consider the manners in which both tire pressure and tire treads can play a role in motorist safety. While tire pressure increases in warm weather, it typically decreases in cold weather. In fact, studies have shown that tire pressure can decrease by as much as 2 PSI for every 10 degree reduction in outdoor temperature. Motorists are encouraged to continuously monitor their tire pressure, to ensure proper inflation, particularly during winter months.

Tire tread is an equally important consideration during winter months. Given the expenses associated with tire replacement, motorist often attempt to stretch the life of their tires. However, doing so during the winter season, can have grave consequences to motorist traveling upon snow or ice covered roadways. There are several ways to check tire tread depth, including ‘coin tests,’ as well as checking the ‘treadwear indicator bars’ that are molded into your tires.

Common coin tests are the penny and quarter tests, which involves inserting a coin upside down in the tire’s groove tread, with the coin’s face side facing you. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head using a penny, the tread on your tires is worn, and if the tread partially covers Washington’s head using a quarter, your tire tread is likely good. Coin tests should be performed along multiple tread grooves across the tire. Tread depth can also be assessed by locating the tread indicator bars in the tread grooves-when the bars are flush with adjacent ribs, the tire should be replaced.

As a final note, while proper vehicle maintenance is certainly critical to preventing accidents, the unfortunate truth is that some collisions occur even where a motorist has fully adhered to all tire safety tip guidelines and recommendations, such as those involving faulty or defective tires. Consequently, it is vital for accidents to ensure that a full and proper investigation is undertaken immediately following a crash, to determine all potential causes.

If you sustained injury, or a loved one was killed, as a result of a motor vehicle accident, contact the Chicago Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. at 773-516-4100, to discuss your rights to financial compensation during a FREE, comprehensive, and no-obligation consultation.

The Bus and Train Injury Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. take note of the continued increase in Chicago Transit Authority employee firings, since 2011, when Forrest Claypool took over as president of the agency. According to reports, roughly 900 CTA employees have been dismissed under Claypool’s watch, a significant portion of which were related to violation of agency rules. As personal injury lawyers, we certainly welcome Claypool’s efforts to clean-up the transit authority. Yet, when considering both the reasons behind such dismissals, as well as the reinstatement of approximately a fifth of these workers, we remain concerned over the safety of public transportation passengers.

As reported by Chicago Tribune, during the 3 ½ year period between January 2011 and June 2014, CTA firings included:

• 293 for violations of agency rules • 289 for excessive absenteeism • 64 for “other reasons”
• 56 for unexcused absenteeism • 27 for insubordination/violation of authority’s rules • 24 for safety violations • 22 for falsification of authority records
Of the employees dismissed, approximately 94% were union workers, and backed by union support, many of these workers were ordered reinstated as a result of the arbitration process, with more workers expected to be reinstated in the future. According to union leaders, Claypool’s augmented disciplinary policy is flawed, because it allows for an employee to be fired after a single incident involving a rule violation, as opposed to a progressive approach that regulates employees through the use of warnings, mandatory restraining, and unpaid suspensions, followed by dismissal upon problem persistence.

While we do have sympathy for the employees that lost their jobs, as injury attorneys, we are compelled to side with the CTA, in that one incident is sufficient to warrant dismissal, particularly in regard to firings associated with safety violations and falsification of records. Further, while absenteeism cannot be said, in and of itself, to pose a risk to public safety, it does demonstrate a lack of commitment, not only to one’s employer, but to one’s position as a public transportation service provider, which some would say, in the very least, places in question a worker’s ability to ensure passenger safety while on duty.

As stated by CTA spokesman Brian Steel, “We are looking for the best-caliber employee,” and “we don’t apologize for setting a pretty high bar for meeting all safety requirements.” Although union leaders would disagree with our contentions, we simply must view the issue from the perspective of our own profession-legal representatives that serve and protect the interests of injured public transportation passengers.

In a series of statements, which we find highly contradictory, union president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, Robert Kelly, acknowledged clear safety concerns with regard to rail operator platform-berthing errors, yet maintains his position against Claypool’s one-strike approach. Kelly notes the CTA’s dismissal of a 25-year veteran rail-operator with a spotless record, due to the employee’s failure to stop the train at the proper spot, opening the doors, and then closing them again upon realization of his mistake.

Again, although we recognize that humans are imperfect beings, and often make mistakes, we must err on the side of public safety. Consider the incident in March, in which a CTA Blue Line Train jumped the platform as it was pulling in at O’Hare, causing the front-car to land on the escalator, resulting in the injury of more than 30 train passengers. This is the precise type of preventable accident that demonstrates are reasoning behind supporting Claypool’s efforts to improve safety.

Further, for those not persuaded by safety risk issues, perhaps the financial impact upon community members, associated with government liability claims brought forth by public transportation passengers, provides a more convincing argument. Shortly after the March incident, we discussed such claims in ‘Multiple Lawsuits Expected to be Filed Following CTA Derailment.’ Despite the presence of liability insurance held by public entities, it would be a falsity to believe that actions against governmental entities have no impact on the allocation of taxpayer dollars.

Rail Station customer service assistants (CSAs) is another issue addressed under Claypool’s watch. CSA employees are responsible, not only for general station maintenance, but also for responding to passenger inquiries, assisting disabled riders, as well as reporting problems associated with equipment and facilities. Certainly one could see how failing to instruct or properly instruct, both disabled and non-disabled passengers, as well as failures in identifying equipment or facility problems, can pose a safety risk to rail users.

In addition to train-operation service employees, bus drivers appear to be most problematic of all, both in terms of safety, as well as financial impact on the transit agency. Nearly 60% of CTA firings between 2011 and 2014 were bus drivers. According to reports, the CTA incurred $30 million in 2013 alone, due to bus operator absenteeism. Yet, union representatives of bus-related CTA workers continue to reject Claypool’s disciplinary initiatives, again, arguing that progressive measures are a more suitable solution to regulating CTA employees.

In conclusion, safety concerns provide us with sufficient reasoning to support both the CTA and Claypool-and the allocation of public funds serve to supplement our contentions. While injury or death caused by accidents involving a bus collision or train derailment are more common, many passengers fail to consider the potential for injuries in other types of incidents, such as slip & fall accidents that occur while aboard a public transportation vehicle or at a rail station facility.

Accidents come in many forms, and negligence can often be attributed to person or entities that victims may never even consider. By contacting an experienced professional, you can protect your legal rights to compensation. Contact Chicago attorneys, Zneimer & Zneimer P.C., either online, or by calling 773-516-4100.

Claims against governmental entities (i.e. state, county, school district) are highly unique in comparison to other types of actions brought forth to recover damages for a death, injury, harm or other loss. This is because most government-associated entities enjoy some form of immunity from such suits. Further, actions against the government are subject to distinctive procedural rules, standards, and guidelines, which vary greatly from the usual personal injury lawsuit involving non-government defendants. Here, the Chicago Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. discuss government liability in motor vehicle collisions involving roadway safety issues.

Our concerns over the need to address this topic extends from a string of accidents in Oregon involving median crossover collisions, purportedly caused due the Transportation Department’s failure to install proper barriers to separate opposing lanes of traffic. Although department officials have acknowledged concerns over roadway barrier issues along several hundreds of miles of highway in Oregon, certain portions have been identified as particularly problematic, due to their high rate of crossover collisions.

In particular, a the 5-mile stretch of I-5, between Keiser’s Chemawa Road NE and Salem’s Santiam Hgwy SE, has seen more than 22 crossover crashes since 2005, many of which were exacerbated by the state decision-making over the use of earthen-berm, as opposed to the use of cable barriers. As accident and injury attorneys, we find both the quantity and nature of these collisions highly concerning, given the government’s more than decade-long knowledge and awareness of this important safety issue.

Even more troubling is that concerns over median crossover crashes in this vicinity date back to the early 1990’s, which resulted in the state’s erection of 5-foot earthen berm barriers in 1994. However, many say the berms not only fail to protect motorist traveling in opposite directions along a highway separated by a narrow 30-foot median, but in some cases have also worsened accidents by causing vehicles to propel or ‘vault’ over the low-lying earthen barrier into the pathway of oncoming traffic.

Amongst recent accidents, was the September 24th collision that took the life of a vehicle passenger, 25-year-veteran State Mental Health therapist Cary Marie Fairchild, as well as the driver of the car she was carpooling in, being operated by Dr. Steve Fritz, when a vehicle crossed the median and struck the victims head-on. Less than 24-hour after this tragic incident, a third motorist was killed in another crossover collision-this time, the victim was the driver responsible for crossing the median. Yet these are just two of the numerous tragedies that continue to plague Oregon motorists, both along I-5, and other highways in the state as well.

Following these two recent collisions, the department announced its intention to immediately procure contractors to construct the cable-barrier system that it had been contemplating for years. In a statement prepared by Matt Garret, the Director for the Oregon DOT, “Extreme conditions call for extreme measures.” While the implementation of safety barrier improvements is certainly long-awaited and necessary, as injury attorneys, we can’t help but reflect on the numerous accidents, injuries, and especially deaths, which could have been prevented.

Our primary concerns reside in what it takes for a government to constitute a safety hazard as an emergency. With regard to Oregon, it seems that fatality related incidents have been more influential in promulgating safety improvements, than have decades of crash data evidencing a clear safety risk-which appears to be a more reactive approach, as opposed to a preventative one. In doing so, the government is, in a sense, blurring the lines between the duty that they owe persons who utilize public roadways, and motorists’ reasonable expectation that such roadways will be maintained in a manner that provides adequate safety.

To continue reading on this topic, see ‘Claims against Public Entities: Government Liability in Roadway Maintenance Safety Issues – Part II.’

While the median-barrier problems in Oregon serve as a perfect example of the complexities involved in defining the parameters of government responsibility in providing safe roadways, this particular issue applies to a number of highways located throughout the U.S., Illinois included. The law pertaining to the maintenance of roadways is fairly uniform in most states, in that a duty exists to provide reasonably safe roadways, which includes protecting the public from inherently dangerous conditions that pose safety risks or hazards to persons that the entity intended, permitted, and reasonably expected to make use of, in the manner for which it used (i.e. motorists and passengers of motor vehicles).

And although the government can shield themselves from liability-at least in some ways-however, the duty to exercise ‘due’ and ‘ordinary’ care remains, as it would for any property owner, whether the government or a private individual. So then, at what point can the government be held responsible for their failure to remedy a known hazardous roadway condition?

Well, the answer to this inquiry will depend on several factors, including (1) the specific circumstances of the incident involved; (2) precise statutory language provided under the applicable law; (3) prior case law; and (4) other factors, such as judicial discretion in ruling on evidentiary matters, as well as the effectiveness of the claimant’s legal representation.

With regard to Illinois law, 745 ILCS 10/3-102(a), provides that:

“Except as otherwise provided in this Article, a local public entity has the duty to exercise ordinary care to maintain its property in a reasonably safe condition for the use in the exercise of ordinary care of people whom the entity intended and permitted to use the property in a manner in which and at such times as it was reasonably foreseeable that it would be used, and shall not be liable for injury unless it is proven that it has actual or constructive notice of the existence of such a condition that is not reasonably safe in reasonably adequate time prior to an injury to have taken measures to remedy or protect against such condition.”

In interpreting the statute, it is helpful to assess four key concepts, keeping in the legislative purpose and intent behind its enactment:

(1) ‘ordinary care to maintain its property in a reasonably safe condition’
(2) ‘intended and permitted property user’
(3) ‘actual or constructive notice’

For explanatory purposes, let’s consider a highway collision in Illinois involving the same factual circumstances as the median-barrier safety issues as in Oregon. First, operating a permitted motor vehicle along a public highway is certainly an intended use of such property. Second, the government appears to have been well-aware of the safety issues for some time, as is evidenced by the initial construction of the berms; subsequent recognition of the berms exacerbating the problem in several accidents; and plans to remedy the issue by installing cable-barriers, construction of which was delayed for years-as well as several years of crash data, and expressions of community concern and input from residents, government-affiliated officials, safety advocates, public-interest groups, and others.

Although the element of ‘actual or constructive notice’ may perhaps be debatable, it appears that the primary issue-at least with regard to barrier-related roadway maintenance problems that mirror the ones in Oregon-reside in whether the government exercised ‘ordinary care’ in maintaining its property in a ‘reasonably safe condition.’ Now, this is where matters can be more complex, in that defining what is ‘ordinary,’ and what is ‘reasonable,’ can vary greatly, depending on the facts involved, as well as a persons or court’s individual assessment.

As motorists in the U.S., we have, in the very least, a reasonable expectation that our highways will be adequately maintained, repaired, inspected, and updated, as is necessary to ensure the safety of motorists. To this extent, it would seem reasonable for a motorist to expect that state highways that are heavily occupied by fast-moving traffic, will be separated from opposing traffic in a manner that effectively protects motorists from injury or harm. Further, one would think that ordinary care would include remedying a known roadway hazard that has contributed to numerous accidents, injuries, and wrongful deaths.

From the legal perspective, prior cases have shown that what is ordinary and reasonable can be ascertained not only from prior case law, but also from what safety improvements have been implemented in surrounding areas. With regard to barrier-related median crossover safety issues, the neighboring state of Washington has not only identified barrier issues, but implemented a significant number of changes along I-5 to improve safety. In addition, the Federal Highway Administration discussed this specific issue in April 2014 report, noting their concerns over crossover collisions, which could be reduced through the use of cable-barriers.

So, why then have public entities in Oregon done so little to address safety concerns related to median-barrier crossover collisions? Moreover, has the government breached their duty of ordinary care owed to motorists in providing reasonably safe roadways? In assessing the presence of breach, consider the following, as indicated by the Oregonian, a local media source, upon their review of interviews and documents regarding this safety issue,


“the highway north of Salem went unprotected for so long because of changing political priorities, lack of money, decentralized ODOT decision-making and a traffic safety formula that doesn’t look at crash potential the way some other states do.”

Provided with the foregoing, it is not difficult for one to conclude that the government’s continued inaction appears to be an apparent breach in duty of care. Our automobile collision attorneys are aware of at least one potential claim against the government extending from a recent I-5 crossover fatality, which reportedly alleges that the state “negligently and carelessly permitted unsafe road conditions by the continued and repeated delay in the installation of life-saving cable barriers on a known hazardous stretch of highway.”

It is important to note that, while there are variations between states, both in statutory provisions and case law, the underlying issue in claims against the government associated with roadway maintenance, remains the same-that is, ‘Did the government breach their duty to provide reasonably safe roadways?‘ As veteran attorneys, we are compelled to answer this in the affirmative, and look forward to seeing whether justice is carried out, in the form of financial compensation provided to the victims of tragic and preventable I-5 crossover accidents.

The Chicago Personal injury & Wrongful Death Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. practice solely in the state of Illinois. However, we note the Oregon issue, because we see similar roadway safety hazards in our own state that we feel either have already, or could in the future, contribute to automobile accident injuries and fatalities. In addition, we find it necessary to stress the importance of having a legal professional review the factual circumstances of an automobile collision, immediately following its occurrence, to determine all potential sources of liability to direct claims at.

Claims against the government are often overlooked by victims, and in some cases, even lawyers as well, either due to their complex nature or lack of familiarity in handling such claims. At Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. we explore all potential liability sources, and have the litigation and practice experience necessary to provide effective advocacy and achieve meritorious results on behalf of all auto collision victims, whether the injured, family members of the deceased, or the decedent’s estate. Protect your legal rights to financial recovery-contact us, either online, or by calling 773-516-4100.