Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

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More young professionals are investing in bicycles as an alternative mode of transportation especially in big cities such as Chicago which has been named last year as the most bike-friendly U.S city. Millennials not only invest in bicycling as a pastime or a good way to exercise, they have embraced it as part of a healthier, greener lifestyle.

While the city of Chicago has been making strides at making its rowdy city streets easier on bike commuters with the creation of its popular bike-share program, Divvy Bikes, the Illinois Department of Transportation reports 1,171 individuals injured and 10 bicyclists killed on average every year. But here’s the catch: these fatalities do not occur in the city but in suburbs where the infrastructure was designed not with bicyclists in mind years ago, but with people driving cars. Individuals behind the wheel more often than not look at the lone bicyclist with mistrust and sometimes with animosity because of the liability they are sure to face. This mentality, though faulty, is spawned from years of auto-centric planning on a large scale and because historically, America has been a driving nation.

Personal injury attorney, Peter Zneimer, notes that this is not the case anymore. As more individuals become more socially and environmentally conscious, biking is no longer a hobby but a practical reality for many in our streets. As personal injury cases arise out of bike-related accidents whether in congested cities or quiet suburbs, the question of safety and liability should be discussed at length.  The Governors Highway Safety Association reports an alarming increase in bike deaths by 12.2 percent in 2015 as published in a Washington Post article. Personal injury lawyers at Zneimer and Zneimer P.C.  believe both drivers and bikers have an equal amount of responsibility on the road, as they should, but the truth is that bikers are more prone to grave injuries or worse, death.

The advent of a global ride-hailing app is probably one of the most ingenious innovations of the last 10 years. It has radically altered the ride-sharing business, disrupted the cab-industry and possibly, renewed car ownership interest for people in big cities who rely on public transportation to get them to their destinations. Personal injury lawyer, Peter Zneimer notes that while the convenience of having a ride at the click of a button cannot be beat, the question of safety is always a topical discussion, not only between passengers and drivers but also for personal injury attorneys due to the question of liability.

Uber, though faced with strong competition in the face of Lyft, is still the biggest player out there and has come under fire lately for the way it has addressed safety issues. Both passengers and drivers alike share an understandable apprehension of the ride-sharing app despite the convenience. UberPool, a service introduced as a way to reduce fares by allowing two or more passengers travelling in the same direction to share one Uber vehicle, is under controversy for the number of high-risk incidents associated with it. One particular incident reported in the Chicago Tribune on April 5, 2017, highlights the hazards of ride-sharing with complete strangers. Twenty-five year old Jennifer Camacho called for UberPool on January 30, 2017 and was the second of two pick-ups. According to Ms. Camacho, as soon as she got inside the UberPool vehicle, “the passenger in the front seat allegedly turned around and began slashing Camacho with a 3-inch blade”. Camacho incurred wounds to her face and is likely to be scarred for life.  Camacho with the help of her attorneys sued Uber for at least $50,000 in damages for negligence. Uber’s insurance company denied coverage because the incident was not considered an auto accident.

This incident is just one too many being reported nationwide, prompting the question: What is Uber doing to address the issue of safety concerns? From a legal standpoint, it seems fair to argue that Uber does have a duty to protect both its employers (drivers) and passengers who can be victims in cases that are not auto accidents but in circumstances far more insidious than a regular rear-ender, such as the Camacho case. The lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer believe that since Uber has control of who its drivers pick-up, the drivers have the duty to do all they can to ensure the safety of their customers after they have entered their vehicle.

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A Chicago Tribune article from September 5, 2016 points out that no statistics are kept by the city of Chicago regarding how many rideshare drivers for Uber and Lyft are involved in crashes every year.  The Chicago personal injury lawyers of  Zneimer & Zneimer are surprised by the lack of safety data given the large number of Uber and Lyft drivers on the road.  Attorney, Peter Zneimer is currently handling many accident cases involving Uber and Lyft drivers involved in traffic accidents that have caused serious injuries due to the negligence of the rideshare driver.  Police crash reports do not have any box to check if a Lyft or Uber driver was involved in the crash.  Chicago Police officer and spokesman Jose Estrada was quoted in the article, pointed out that “Taxicabs are easier to identify and document on the traffic crash report because of their specially issued Illinois license plates and medallion numbers,” “For Uber or Lyft, there is no designation because they are regular vehicles with no special municipal or state licensing. It may be designated as an Uber or Lyft if the reporting officer writes that in the narrative portion, but that’s left up to the discretion of the officer.”

Illinois Department of Transportation uses this information to track the number of taxi accidents.  From this data, it was revealed that there were 4,129 crashes taxi crashes in Chicago.  830 of these crashes caused injuries and 3 of these crashes caused fatalities.  It would be useful to have accident data for Uber and Lyft drivers to make a safety comparison  between rideshare drivers and taxi drivers to see if there is a difference in frequency of crashes. Given the popularity of ridesharing services these days it would be nice to know if there is any greater risk of accident by using a rideshare service versus using a taxi service.

Uber passengers and Lyft passengers can have some reassurance that if they are injured due to the negligence of their driver, Uber and Lyft drivers are covered by a one million dollar insurance policy while they are “on the clock”  meaning from the time they are picked up until the time they are dropped off.  Other drivers on the road that may be injured by an Uber or Lyft driver can also make a claim against the one million dollar policy when the rideshare driver is “on the clock”.  If the driver is not “on the clock” then that driver’s own insurance policy  has to provide coverage.

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The Chicago Tribune reports that Chicago Mayor Emanuel’s plan to make city trucks safer has been advanced in the Chicago City Council.  Chicago lawyer, Peter Zneimer observes that many fatal bike accidents that have occurred in the last few years in Chicago have involved trucks.  Visibility for bicyclist riding in traffic is always a major problem even for people driving automobiles.  The visibility of bicyclists is a much greater problem for truckers.  Almost all of the bicyclist accident cases handled by the attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer involve a motorist not seeing the bicyclist  prior to the crash either due to distraction, lack of attention or the bicyclist was in a blind spot.  Guarded bike lanes are the best solution but they are cost prohibitive to construct everywhere.

The Mayor’s proposes to require city trucks to install side guards, which cover the area between the front and rear wheels of a truck to make it harder for pedestrians or bicyclists to be caught under the wheels of the truck after a crash.  The ordinance would also require trucks to have additional convex mirrors.  The law would also mandate additional training for city employee truck drivers and contractors to improve safety awareness.

The one downside of the proposed law is that the ordinance would give the city almost ten years to make the changes on city trucks.  Contractors who do business with the city would get four years to make the safety changes on their trucks.

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The Chicago Tribune reports that one in four motorists were using their phone shortly before a crash occurred.  The report cited a study conducted by Cambridge Mobile Telematics, a company that makes applications for insurance companies.   The personal injury lawyer, Peter Zneimer notes that more and more of the pedestrian and bike cases he handles involve a driver who is on his or her cell phone and is distracted at the time the crash occurs.  The personal injury attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer have even handled a case where a motorist dropped her cell phone on the floor of her car while driving and was rummaging around the floor of her car with her eyes completely off the road when she hit our client who was bicycling and was completely in his bike lane at time of impact.  Our client suffered serious injuries because of the gross negligence of this extremely distracted driver.

The state of Illinois has had a law against using a cell phone while driving since 2014.  A ticket for driving while using a cell phone is $75.00, going up to $150.00 for repeat offenders.  One would expect to see a big difference the amount of time that drivers spend on the phone in the state of illinois that has a ban on driving and talking on a cell phone and states that do not have any prohibitions for cell phone use. However, the Cambridge study, which looked at more than 100,000 drivers over 18 months, found little difference.  In Illinois, the average time on the phone was 3.17 minutes per 100 miles versus 3.82 minutes on the phone for drivers in states with no cell phone law.

Not too surprisingly, the top 10 percent of distracted drivers, i.e. the drivers who spent the most time on the phone were 2.3 times more likely than the average driver to get into a crash.

More and more Chicago bicyclists each year are getting severely hurt in dooring accidents, but there is a simple solution that can prevent numerous people from getting hurt.

According to a recent report put forth by the Illinois Department of Transportation, “doorings,” or traffic accidents where a cyclist is struck by a car door, have increased by 33% between 2014 and 2015.  While the number of reported crashes in Chicago involving bicycles remained relatively the same, the percentage of dooring accidents has jumped up from 10% in 2014 to 17.5%.  Jim Merrell, advocacy director of the Active Transportation Alliance, said these numbers represent “a step backward for safety in the city.”  Moreover, the City also saw a bump in fatalities from 6 in 2014 to 8 in 2015.   This presents a problem for Chicago, which sees an average of 125,000 daily bike trips and over 45,400,000 bike trips per year. 

The lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C. has seen an uptick in bicycle accidents and, more specifically, dooring cases in the past few years.  Attorney Peter A. Zneimer, name partner and personal injury attorney in Chicago for over twenty years, remarked on the subject that, “our firm has seen an increased number of accidents involving bicyclists to the point where they have become a cornerstone of our business.  Many times, bicyclists are severely hurt and need our zealous representation to get compensation for their injuries.”

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On June 12, 2017, Chicago Mayor Emanuel introduced a plan aimed at completely eliminating traffic fatalities in the City of Chicago by 2026.   The Chicago personal injury lawyers of Zneimer and Zneimer applaud the ambitious goals of the plan.

Following principles of the International Vision Zero movement, the Mayor has directed City department agencies to develop an action plan that based on traffic crash data.  Vision Zero plans have also been adopted in many European cities, such as Stockholm, Berlin and Rotterdam along with many American cities such as Boston, New York, Los Angeles and Seattle.

Part of the focus of the movement is to treat traffic injuries and fatalities as a pressing public health problem.  The Mayor’s office points that more than 2,000 people are killed or seriously injured in Chicago every year.  Chicago personal injury attorney Peter Zneimer can attest to the devastating impact a serious injury or death related to a traffic accident can have on a person and his or her family.  The loss of income and the medical bills that result from an injury victim injuries are bad enough. Many victims are left with life altering disabilities that they must bear for the rest of their lives.

Since initiating the program more than a decade ago, the use of red-light cameras has been highly debated. While some focus on the legality of the cameras in general, our primary concern is whether they are effective or not in improving safety. What seems to be the problem is in the way in which the term “effective” is viewed, in terms of reducing injuries and fatalities versus simply reducing crashes in general. On one end, there is the argument that even though red-light cameras decrease side-impact collisions, they increase rear-end collisions, and therefore add to the overall crash rate. On the other end, there is the argument that decreasing right-angle collisions is more beneficial because these accidents are more likely to cause serious injury or fatality than are rear-end collisions.

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For decades, research studies and statistical data have continued to show the effectiveness of ‘Graduated Driver Licensing’ (GDL) programs. With every state having adopted GDL laws between 1996 and 2011, the efficacy of such programs in improving safety, preventing accidents, and reducing fatalities, is now clearer than ever. While all states utilize a three-stage system, specific GDL regulations vary by state, including those pertaining to age minimums, supervised practice requirements, as well as restrictions on nighttime driving and passengers. Safety experts argue that even more lives could be saved, and accidents prevented, if states with weaker GDL laws enacted tougher standards.

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Earlier this year, an investigation by the Tribune, which examined demographical factors in sobriety checkpoint, first revealed the harsh reality of what many say is a blatant example of racial profiling. Specifically, that Chicago officials are unfairly targeting Black and Latino communities by employing a racially-based approach in selecting DUI checkpoints locations, as opposed to an objective approach that selects checkpoint locations based upon alcohol-related crash data.

Despite identification of the issue several months ago, ongoing investigation shows that DUI checkpoints still target minority neighborhoods.

As injury attorneys, our concern is accident prevention—-and if sobriety checkpoints can prevent accidents by catching drunk drivers, then shouldn’t their location be determined according to where alcohol-related crashes occur most frequently?

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