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The new Chicago public spot Ainslie Arts Plaza near the Lincoln Avenue McDonald’s where Ainslie, Western, and Lincoln cross, featured picnic areas with colorful tables, vibrantly painted planters, and mosaic street mural.  It was opened on May 21, 2021, and was designed to be an open public space where people can connect in person.  According to the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce’s announcement, the Ainslie Arts Plaza is a “tactical urbanism at work,” and turned an underused location into “a pedestrian plaza with seating, newly installed landscaping and lights, and a street mural painted by artist Andrea Jablonski.”  Although it seems a lot of planning had gone into its décor, one thing that was lacking was planning for pedestrian safety.   The plaza did not have any protection for  pedestrians from errant vehicles.

Recently a woman speeding southeast on Lincoln Avenue at around 11:30 pm jumped the curb along Lincoln Avenue near the Ainslie Arts Plaza, lost control, crashed into the plaza, and demolished the furniture.  Thankfully, at that time people were not in the Plaza and only the driver suffered minor injuries.  Looking at the destruction caused by the crash, if there were pedestrians in the Plaza, people would have been seriously injured.   While comments from  Chicago officials show that they are sad and surprised at the turn of events, they should not be surprised.  It is foreseeable that an automobile driver may miss a curb, miss a turn, speed, and drive negligently.  The Chicago personal injury attorneys at Zneimer & Zneimer PC have seen many accidents where a driver drove negligently, jumped a curb, and crashed into a pedestrian, and are surprised that the design for this public plaza did not include pedestrian protection, since such lack of protection from out of control automobiles was previously litigated to the Illinois Supreme Court.

In 2006, in the case Marshall v. Burger King,222 Ill. 2d 422, 432 (2006), the Illinois Supreme Court was faced with the issue whether a Burger King  restaurant was liable for injuries as a result of a negligent driver who jumped the curb and crashed into the restaurant injuring its patrons.  The case arose when a driver in Rockford, Illinois, trying to drive out of a Burger King parking lot, backed into a lamppost, then drove forward, lost control of the car, hit the sidewalk near the Burger King, became airborne, and crashed through the brick wall and windows of the restaurant, fatally injuring a patron eating in the restaurant.  The estate of the decedent sued several parties, including Burger King.  The plaintiff argued that “no protective poles were built around the restaurant, the restaurant was “ bricked up” only a few feet from the ground, the restaurant was located in an area with heavy traffic, and the restaurant’s parking lot was located directly adjacent to its entrance and dining area,” and that such precautions would have been a “minimal undertaking” for the restaurant.  Marshall v. Burger King Corp., 222 Ill. 2d 422, 432 (2006)

Burger King argued that it had no liability because such automobile accident was not foreseeable.  Burger King suggested that it “owed no duty to the decedent to protect him against the possibility of an out-of-control car penetrating the restaurant and injuring him,” characterizing the incident as “highly extraordinary” and “tragically bizarre” and, “therefore, not reasonably foreseeable.” Marshall v. Burger King Corp., 222 Ill. 2d at 431.

The Illinois Supreme Court disagreed, noting:  “Initially, we note that it is reasonably foreseeable, given the pervasiveness of automobiles, roadways, and parking lots, that business invitees will, from time to time, be placed at risk by automobile-related accidents.” Marshall v. Burger King Corp., 222 Ill. 2d at 442.  Citing to the Restatement (Second) of Torts §344, the Illinois Supreme Court stated that the “plaintiff’s complaint clearly falls within its purview, as it alleges that, based on the place and character of defendants’ business, defendants had reason to know that the negligent conduct of third persons was likely to endanger defendants’ customers.”  Marshall v. Burger King Corp., 222 Ill. 2d at 445–46.  The Court specifically noted that the plaintiff’s complaint alleged that the restaurant was located in an area with a “high traffic count”; that various aspects of its design, including its “brick half wall,” and its sidewalk, render it susceptible to penetration by out-of-control automobiles; that defendants took no precautions, such as installing “vertical concrete pillars or poles,” to prevent automobiles from entering the restaurant; and that defendants had knowledge of all of the foregoing.”  Marshall v. Burger King Corp., 222 Ill. 2d at 445–46. Continue reading

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Chicago Andre Vasquez has proposed streamlining the process to have cars and trucks towed that are blocking a bike lane.  Alderman Vasquez commented that: “cars just don’t care.  They’re parking there, waiting there. double-parking there.  Even when we had the Department of Finance ticket them, they weren’t moving.  By giving the Department of Finance the ability to tow them, it would incentivize people not to do it so they don’t get their towed.”

Additionally, the proposed ordinance would require signs to be posted that a bike lane will be closed 24 hours in advance whenever a permit is issued to do work that would close a bike lane.

The Alderman’s proposal was in response to a tragic accident that occurred on June 9, 2022 where a mother on a bicycle with a toddler named Lily seated in a carrier was riding down Leland Avenue bike lane.  Lily’s mother came upon a ComEd truck that was parked in the bike lane doing work.  Lily’s mother attempted to steer around the truck parked in the bike lane and was forced to maneuver by a semi-truck.  The semi-truck began to move causing Lily’s mother to lose her balance which caused Lily to be thrown to the roadway under the wheels of the semi.  Alderman Vasquez stated that he firmly believes that Lily would still be alive if his proposed ordinance were in affect at the time this incident occurred.

 

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On May 18th, Chicagoans joined cyclists worldwide in the Ride of Silence to honor those who have been killed in bike crashes. In 2021 and 2022, at least eleven cyclists have been killed locally, including notable figures such as School of Rock star Kevin Clark and architect Helmut Jahn. Cycling-related deaths have been getting more attention lately, and not just because of the fame of some victims. The problem is getting worse, with a spike in deaths over the past few years. It is also increasingly being viewed as an avoidable problem, one that could be mitigated with infrastructural changes that protect cyclists.

Groups like the Active Transportation Alliance are pushing for things like protected bike lanes to be expanded so that cyclists are less vulnerable to vehicles on city streets. Specifically, they are asking for more safety measures on the busiest of cycling streets, such as Milwaukee Avenue, where accidents are more frequent. Advocates highlight the urgency of such measures by pointing to the growth in cycling and the expansion of services like Divvy bikes. More bicycles on the road means more accidents, some of them fatal, if cities do not take extra precautions. Continue reading

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The Chicago personal injury attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer encounter personal injury victims with serious injuries as a result of being involved in accidents against larger vehicles.  While newer vehicles are becoming safer for the people inside them, they are becoming larger, heavier, and more dangerous for the people outside that may collide with the larger vehicles.  The increase of safety for occupants inside the newer vehicles is a result of increased safety features such as warning systems, crumple zones, and airbags. Crumple zones are areas of a vehicle that are expected to deform and crumple in a collision, absorbing some of the impact’s energy and stopping it from getting transferred to the car’s occupants.  The crumple zones require room to collapse and dissipate force, warning systems require sensors, and airbags require 10 inches of clearance between storage sight and a human body. One example of this increased size is that since 2000 the weight of pickups has increased by 11% and the height by 25%.

Vehicle design is not the main cause for more large vehicles being on the roads. The shift in consumer taste towards SUVs and pickup trucks has made the streets of the US less safe for pedestrians. SUVs and pickup trucks now account for 60% of vehicle sales in the US. However, as SUVs and Trucks get taller and more common, they become more deadly for pedestrians. Traffic fatalities have declined since the 1980s, while pedestrian fatalities have increased by 50%. One out of every five vehicles sold in America is a pickup, and full-size pickups comprise a growing share of that fifth. For example, in 2021, Ford stopped selling passenger sedans, and the Mustang is the only vehicle Ford sells in the US that is not an SUV, truck, or van.

Higher vehicles are more dangerous than lower vehicles for multiple reasons. One reason is that bigger cars have more mass and therefore impact with more force than a smaller vehicle going the same speed. Another reason is that the direct impact is on the upper bodies of pedestrians. SUVs and pickups are more likely to have squared-off hoods than passenger cars. The vulnerability of pedestrians when struck by an SUV is a geometry problem. SUVs and pickups tend to be tall compared with pedestrians and have a blunter front end. That positioning is more likely to put someone’s head or chest in line to be struck during the initial impact. The sloped angles of passenger cars allow pedestrians to fall on top of the vehicle. High and squared fronts throw pedestrians to the ground, directly into the vehicle’s path, causing them to be run over.

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Sadly, Illinois has had an alarming 18 percent increase in traffic fatalities in 2021.  More than 1,350 died in fatal car accidents in Illinois.  This represents the highest number of traffic deaths in Illinois since 2005.  The personal injury lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C. note that Illinois is not alone in states experiencing sharp rises in traffic fatalities after many years of steady declines in deaths.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 31,720 traffic deaths in the United States from January to September 2021, a 12 percent increase from 2020.  The trend continues to be getting worse in Illinois in 2022.  The Illinois Department of Transportation recorded 80 traffic deaths this year.  This compares with 71 traffic deaths at this time in 2021.

Some help may be on the way to reduce these numbers in that the recently passed infrastructure bill which included billions of dollars for states to improve the safety of highways.  Some improvements and changes could include safer road designs, fixed bridges, general road maintenance, lower speed limits in dangerous areas, crosswalks and pedestrian improvements and better lighting.

The NHTSA has conducted behavioral research to come up with some possible reasons why traffic deaths have been spiking and their research showed that people have been more likely to speed and not wear a seat belt since the start of the pandemic for whatever reason.  These behaviors cannot be altered by an infrastructure bill and falls upon individuals to take responsibility for their own safety.  The injury lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer urge everyone to slow down, wear a seat belt and do not drive distracted.  The consequences of a serious auto crash can be permanently life altering and it is certainly worth the effort to exercises caution to prevent oneself or another motorist from becoming injured.

Car and PeopleOur personal injury law firm has seen an increase in pedestrian injuries as a result of vehicles turning left and failing to see pedestrians even in a crosswalk.  This increase in pedestrian injuries is a result of many factors, including more traffic, larger vehicles with bigger blind spots, and more pedestrians.

A recent study from the Institute for Highway Safety found that pedestrian injuries have increased in frequency and fatality, especially in urban and suburban areas.  Although many crashes with pedestrians involved cars, fatal crashes involving SUVs increased by 81%, the highest increase of fatalities involving pedestrians than involving any other vehicle.  Pedestrian fatalities most often involved crashes with SUVs, vans, or trucks, or other high-powered vehicles.  Most incidents resulting in pedestrian fatalities involved vehicles turning left, and were more likely to involve SUVs, vans, or pickup trucks than cars.  According to Jessica Cicchino, Vice President of Research, when a pedestrian is killed at an intersection by a vehicle, the vehicle is twice as likely to be a SUV turning left, three times as likely to be a van turning left, and nearly four times to be a pickup truck turning left.

Vehicles manufacturers can make vehicle safer for pedestrians but are slow to implement safety features to decrease such injuries.  Vehicles with a front crash prevention system that recognize pedestrians even in low light can be effective to minimize injuries to pedestrians.  An analysis that the Institute for Highway Safety conducted on such vehicle detection systems found that Subaru vehicles that had such pedestrian detection system had 35% lower claim rates for pedestrian injuries than without one.  Similarly, vehicle equipped with automatic braking that detects pedestrians had 27%  less pedestrian crashes than vehicles that did not have such braking technology. Continue reading

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As part of National Dog Bite Awareness Week, the United States Postal Service released its dog bite numbers which showed that Chicago ranked second in the nation for dog bites of postal workers, with 59 attacks.  The same survey showed that Illinois ranked sixth in the nation for dog bites of postal workers.  The Postal Service released a list of tips to reduce the number of dog bites for postal carriers.  The dog bite lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer have handled dog bite cases for delivery people and dog bite attorney, Peter Zneimer notes that these tips would apply not only to postal workers but to any person delivering something to a residence, such as pizza delivery people, Door Dash or Uber Eats delivery people,  or Amazon delivery people:

*  If a delivery person comes to the front door, put the family dog in a separate room with a door and close the door.  The dog bite lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer have litigated more than one dog  bite case where the home owner lost control of their dog when a delivery person was at the door and the dog powered through the door crack or pushed the screen door open to bite the delivery person who the dog viewed as a threat.

*  Do not take a pizza, food delivery or package directly from the delivery person’s hands into your own hands with the family dog  in striking range.  The family dog may view this motion as a threat to the dog owner and may bite the delivery person to  protect its owner from the perceived  threat.  This is a common one.  The dog bite attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer, are currently litigating two cases where the pizza delivery persons (our clients) were bit by the home owner’s dog while in the the act of handing the pizza to the home owner.

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Alderman Vasquez of the 40th Ward in Chicago has been advocating for snow to be cleared from bike lanes after a protest by bicyclists who complained that the bike lanes have not been cleared.  Surprisingly, there were around 103,000 Divvy bike rides in Chicago according to the Chicago Department of Transportation.  However, bike riders have a much more difficult time riding in the winter, and if the bike lanes are blocked with snow and sludge it makes riding a bike unfeasible and very dangerous.  The injury lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer note that bike injuries happen at all times of year.  Alderman Vasquez also instructs that bike lanes should be cleared regardless if the lane is protected by flex posts or not.  He continues that if a lane is protected by flex posts then a smaller plow needs to be used to clear the lane.  If the bike lane is delineated by just a painted line, then it is easier to clear with just the regular snow plow.

Bike lanes continue to be controversial in Chicago with bicyclist advocating for more protected lanes and for bike lanes to be maintained while motorist complain that the bike lanes take away scarce parking spaces.  Businesses owners also claim that they lose customers because of lack of parking.  Hopefully, these conflicts can be mediated so that both sides are satisfied.

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Though it has been a snow free winter so far this winter, it may be about time to find the snow shovels and salt and get ready to shovel the sidewalk.  Shoveling the sidewalk in front of ones house or building is not only a considerate thing to do it is also required by law in Chicago.  The Municipal Code of Chicago 4-4-310 & 10-8-180 requires that property owners and occupants of land keep their sidewalks clear of snow and ice.  A five foot wide path must be created for pedestrians on sidewalks and crosswalks.  Additionally, the snow that is cleared should not be into alleys, crosswalks, bike-lanes or Divvy stations.  Chicago property owners must clear the snow anytime it snows.  For snow at night the snow must be removed by 10 a.m.  For snowfall during the day, the snow must be cleared by 10 p.m. at night.  The penalty for not following the law are possible fines ranging from $50-$500.  Violators can be reported by calling 311.

Ice and snow create a big fall risk for anyone using an uncleared sidewalk.   The fall risk is especially acute for people who have difficulty walking, such as seniors, people with disabilities and young children.  Every winter the attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. receive numerous calls from people have been injured from a fall after slipping on ice or snow on an uncleared sidewalk or walkway.  Additionally, uncleared sidewalks and walkways cause people to walk in the street which is especially dangerous since the roads will most likely be slick if there is snow and there is usually not enough room for both cars and pedestrians.   The lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer encourage everyone to shovel their sidewalks for everyone’s safety and shoveling has the added benefit of being great exercise.

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The intersection of Logan Boulevard and Western Avenue has the sad and tragic history of being the site of two fatal cyclist accidents in the last 15 years.  The intersection is congested and confusing in that the traffic lights and the intersection itself is primarily under the Kennedy expressway.  Add to that the Kennedy Expressway has both on ramps and off ramps that are situated at the intersection.   The intersection has been the site of many motor vehicle accidents.  The personal injury lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer have handled more than one personal injury cases that arose from crashes at that intersection over the years.   Bicyclists are especially vulnerable at that intersection due to the blocked vision under the expressway and the general confusing nature of the intersection.  Without the protection that the metal body of an automobile provides, bicyclist, sadly suffer serious and sometimes fatal injuries when involved in a crash with a car of truck.  The latest bicycle fatality was in the early summer of 2021 when the actor Kevin Clark, who was best known for his role as the young drummer in the hit movie “School of Rock”  was hit by a car while cycling through the intersection.

A separate bike lane has since been added for cyclists traveling on Logan Boulevard with the bike being painted green.  The motor vehicle traffic is also separated from the bicycle lane by plastic poles.  While cyclists applaud the new separate bicycle lanes, not everyone is happy with the new bicycle lane configuration at this intersection. Motorists note that before the changes, Logan Boulevard had two east bound lanes and two west bound lanes for motor vehicle traffic but now, with the new bike lanes, Logan Square Boulevard now has been reduced to one lane for east bound traffic and one lane for west bound traffic causing traffic backups.  Especially aggravating to some motorists is that it appears that there are very few bicyclist using the bike lane during the cold winter months.  This trade off between bicyclist safety and motorist convenience seems to be playing out all over the city of Chicago with motorists complaining that bike lanes take precious parking space and cause additional congestion by eliminating motorist lanes lanes while bicyclist arguing that the improvements are needed to protect the safety of cyclists on the roadway.  The injury attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. support bike safety and hope that solutions can be arrived at that accommodate both  the needs of motorists and bicyclists.

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