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.

On June 7, 2010, 15-year Mexican boy Sergio Hernandez was playing with friends near the border between the U.S. and Mexico.  They were playing on the culvert of the Rio Grande between El Paso, Texas and from Juarez, Mexico.  Sergio Hernandez and his friends were playing by running up the to the US border, to touch the fence on the US side of the border and then run back to the Mexican side of the border.  U.S. Border Patrol Agent Jesus Mesa detained one of the friends in the U.S. side. Sergio Hernandez ran back to the Mexican side but was shot by the agent who fired two shots at his direction.  According to the attorney for the agent, Sergio Hernandez had been arrested twice before in the US for smuggling, The agent’s version of events is that Sergio Hernandez was throwing rocks at him.

Hernandez’s family sued Jesus Mesa for damages in federal District Court in Texas claiming that the agent was in violation of the U.S. Constitution which prohibit unjustified use of deadly force by law enforcement agents.  The agent moved for dismissal arguing that Sergio Hernandez had no constitutional protection because he was an alien who had no voluntary attachment to the U.S. and who was on the Mexican side when he was shot.  The federal District Court applied a formalist test and decided that the constitutional protection ends at the border and therefore does not protect aliens like Sergio Hernandez.  The Hernandez family appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.  Hearing the case en banc, The Appellate Court held that the agent was entitled to qualified immunity and that the Sergio Hernandez had no claim under the Fourth Amendment because he was a foreign citizen, had no significant voluntary attachment to the U.S. and was on foreign soil when he was killed.

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case and to answer the following three questions:

  1. Does a formalist or functionalist analysis govern the extraterritorial application of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unjustified deadly force, as applied to a cross-border shooting of an unarmed Mexican citizen in an enclosed area controlled by the United States?
  2. May qualified immunity be granted or denied based on facts – such as the victim’s legal status – unknown to the officer at the time of the incident?
  3. Can the claim in this case be properly asserted under Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, which governs when federal agents may be liable for damages for violating an individual’s constitutional right?.

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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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Let’s face it—from complaining about the food or staff in restaurants, to the persons that provide services in our homes—whenever you criticize something or someone, there is always a possible risk of some form of retaliation. In most circumstances, any retaliatory action taken is relatively minor (mishandled food, slow service, sloppy or unfinished repair-work etc.). For the residents of nursing homes, though, the consequences of making a complaint, whether formal or informal, can be significant. As nursing home abuse and negligence lawyers, we are commonly asked whether the resident should consider changing facilities if they have, or intend to, report a complaint, file a grievance and/or initiate a claim.

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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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Sport-related head injuries amongst school athletes is an issue that has gained increasing attention in the media in recent years, and justifiably so. Over the past decade, ER visits for concussions have doubled for youths between 8 and 13, and nearly tripled for teens between 14 and 19. This alarming data has led to much discussion over how the problem can be remedied and the trend reversed. More specifically, what can be done to ensure the safety of school athletes without threatening our nation’s youth sport programs?

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With the fall season upon us, and winter just around the corner, concern is growing over the City’s ability to adequately address snow removal and bike lane clearance issues, given the increase in bikeways, and past-year failures. Although improvements have been made since Chicago’s first winter with protected bike lanes in 2012, many have serious doubts as to whether the city is truly prepared to handle its growing network of bike lanes. Moreover, imagine the problems that could occur if, against early predictions, we experience a particularly inclement season this year. As injury lawyers, that represent Chicago accident victims, we share the same trepidations.

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For well over a century, state and federal workers’ compensation laws, have provided employees and employers with a mutually beneficial means of resolving disputes following injury or death caused due to workplace-related accidents. It ensures that medical expenses and lost wages for workplace injuries are covered, and provides compensation for permanent injuries, while allowing employers to avoid admitting fault, eliminating the need for the claimant to prove fault, and limiting the recovery of awards for pain and suffering and punitive damages. In short, each side gives up some rights, but gains others. While reformative measures have led to both limitations and expansions on workers’ comp laws, a new plan seeks to completely reinvent the system by allowing employers to ‘opt-out,’ the result of which would essentially permit employers to create their own contractually-based rules and regulations for handling claims.

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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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The increase in bicycling throughout the Chicago area over the past decade has been tremendous. With hundreds of miles of pathways and trails, as well as shared, protected and buffered on-street bike lanes currently in place, and hundreds more expected by 2020, it would be logical to assume that infrastructure will continue to increase as ridership grows. As this occurs, many have concern over the City’s preparedness to keep up with bikeway maintenance issues, both at a financial and planning level. Chicagoland’s current roadway issues are atrocious in comparison to other major metropolitan cities. This holds true when considering only vehicular use. Add bicyclists into the mix and an equation for disaster seems foreseeable in the years to come. In short, how will Chicago be able to handle the additional burden of maintaining its bikeways for bicyclists, when it is already falling behind in maintaining roadways for motorists?

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