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.

The personal injury attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer are cautioning Chicago bicyclists to stay clear from the city sidewalks.  Many Chicago sidewalks have hazardous pavement differentials and deep holes, with grass and weeds growing through them, making them difficult to see and avoid.    Quite a few people have landed on the ground after running into such sidewalk hazards, breaking a hand, a leg, or suffering other injuries.

That is not to say that riding on the street is much safer.  Many streets have large cracks and holes, and angry automobile drivers in various stages of road rage, inching a notch at the sight of a bicyclist.  And yet, bicyclists will fare better against the City if they fall and get injured because of a street hole, rather than if they fall over a sidewalk hazard.

The Tort Immunity Act gives immunity to the City of Chicago for negligence, with few exceptions.  One of the exceptions is the requirement for a local public entity 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.”  745 ILCS 10/3–102(a) (2017).

A Chicago Tribune article reports that there has been a 50 percent increase in crashes between bicyclists and  motor vehicle doors between 2014 and 2015.  According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, there were  302 crashes in 2015 versus 202 crashes in 2014.  Chicago personal injury lawyer, Peter Zneimer observes that many of the painted on bike lanes in the city of Chicago run parallel and close to the parked cars so that when a person opens their car door they open it across the bike lane.  The attorneys of Zneimer and Zneimer handle many such cases and they almost always involve a motorist who is not looking for bicyclists.  The bicyclist is usually thrown to the pavement and in the worst case scenario is thrown in front of moving traffic.

The city of Chicago does have an ordinance making it a violation to open a car door in the path of a bicyclist, with fines as much as $1,000.00. Additionally, the City has constructed 100 mile of protected bike lanes since 2011.  Protected bike lanes are the safest option but they cost money.  Furthermore, many Chicago streets are not amenable to be retrofitted  with protected bike lanes.

With many more bicyclists on the roads than in the past, motorist need to get in the habit of looking for bicyclists.  Bicyclists can do their part too by wear bright clothes that make them more visible and by having lights on their bikes for night riding.  Since a set of bike lights only costs about $10.00 there is no excuse for night riders not to have them.

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.

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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