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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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Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi in an effort to make Chicago streets safer for cyclists has announced that the City is experimenting with raised bike lanes to keep cars out of cyclists space.  Commissioner Biagi observed that Copenhagen, one of her favorite cities to cycle around utilizes raised bike lanes in its bike lane infrastructure.   Chicago’s Streets for cycling plan envisions 645 miles of protected bike lanes to be in place by 2021.  The options to protect a bike lane from cars can include raised bike lanes, curbs, parked cars between the bike lane and moving traffic and bollards.  Observing that many people will wisely refrain from riding their bicycles on the street without some form of protect more than a painted line on the street, Audrey Wennink, director of transportation for the Metropolitan Planning Council,  expressed the need to build out complete whole networks of protected bike lanes to make transportation via cycle a more feasible option for more people.  As quoted by a Chicago Sun-Times article on bike lanes dated May 11, 2021 Wennink explains: “you need to have bike lanes go a certain distance-connecting all the way from neighborhoods to downtown.  If you want people to ride their bike to work, they need to have a safe pathway all the way from where they start to their destination.”   Though, Mayor Lightfoot is on track to add 100 miles of new bike lanes by the end of the year, Biagi points out that the raw number of new bike lanes is not as important as the few miles of bike lanes that connect one network of bike lanes to another network of bike lanes so that bikers can have a safe path all the way to their destination.

The personal injury lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. applaud the emphasis on protected bike lanes to encourage bike ridership and to protect cyclists from the risk serious injuries that are caused by collisions with cars and trucks.  Injury attorney, Peter Zneimer can attest from personal experience with injured bicyclist, the painted bike lane affords little or no protection from getting hit by a moving car or getting “doored” by someone exiting their car without checking for bikes in the bike lane.  With more and more people using bikes for transportation, the city owns it to these cyclists to devote the resources necessary to make their commute as safe as possible.

 

 

In OctDog1-224x300ober 2015, a 45-pound dog named Chelsea bit a mailman. “Walking” in a normal dog’s paws, the Illinois Appellate Court determined that the mailman’s action could have provoked Chelsea to bite him, and therefore the mailman could not recover damages from Chelsea’s owners for the dog bite.

The mailman, Mr. Claffey, was delivering the mail in Glencoe, Illinois, when his job brought him to the Huntleys’ home. The Huntleys’ front door had a mail slot and two flaps, one on the outside and one on the inside of the door. A spring kept the inside flap shut. Trying to ensure that the inside flat will not damage the mail, Mr. Claffey stuck his right hand through the mail slot, lifted the inner flap, and used the left hand to insert the mail.

In addition to a mailbox with two flaps, the Huntleys had two dogs, one of which was Chelsea. Prior to sticking his hand through the mail slot, Mr. Claffey knew that the home had dogs, and heard dogs barking before he placed his hand in the mail slot. The mailman’s mailbox activity caught Chelsea’s attention, and the dog sprung into action, and bit the mailman’s right hand. Mr. Claffey managed to pull his hand away from Chelsea’s jaws, but the top of his hand was ripped and painful. Mr. Claffey sued the Huntleys for the dog bite for damages under the Illinois Animal Control Act.

The Illinois Animal Control imposes liability on animal owners if the injured person demonstrates that he or she (1) suffered injuries from the animal; (2) was at a place where he or she had the lawful right to be; (3) conducted himself or herself peaceably; (4) and the attack was without provocation.  The statute reads as follows:

If a dog or other animal, without provocation, attacks, attempts to attack, or injures any person who is peaceably conducting himself in any place where he or she may lawfully be, the owner of such dog or other animal is liable in civil damages to such person for the full amount of the injury proximately caused thereby.

510 ILCS 5/16. Continue reading

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