Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

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Following the court rules may seem like a basic concept, but failing to follow them can have a devastating impact in a case. A recent case demonstrates how an attorney’s oversight almost resulted in the permanent dismissal of a case.

GavelA woman sued the Greyhound bus company after she was injured on a Greyhound bus. The woman claimed the driver was driving too fast, and as a result, the driver hit two other cars and crashed into a tree. Greyhound made a motion to move the case to another county because the accident occurred in that county, and most of the defendants were domiciled there. The court granted the motion and agreed to have the case moved. The court also ordered the woman to pay the transfer fees for moving the case.

Greyhound sent a notice to the woman, asking to have the transfer fees paid, but the woman did not respond. The court required the transfer fees to be paid within 30 days, or the case could be dismissed. After the woman failed to pay the transfer fees within 30 days, Greyhound moved to dismiss the case. The court granted the motion, based on the woman’s failure to pay the fees.

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In a recent case, a boy and his parents brought a lawsuit against school officials after he was hit by a car at his school’s driveway on his way to school. The school was located near a highway, and the school’s entrance was busy around the opening and dismissal times during school days. There was no traffic light or person directing traffic at the intersection of the driveway. The boy alleged the superintendent, principals, assistant principals, and others negligently supervised school staff and students during school hours. The defendants claimed they were shielded from liability through governmental immunity.

School BusThe state’s supreme court found certain defendants were shielded by immunity. However, the court found the assistant principals could be held liable because they may have breached their duty to assign school staff to supervise students during school hours. One of the assistant principals had been responsible for assigning school staff members to supervise student duties throughout the school. However, the school could not produce the names of people who were assigned to “bus duty” on the day of the accident or during the two weeks before the accident.

The court explained that municipal employees are immune from liability for “discretionary” acts but not “ministerial” acts (those performed in a prescribed manner without the exercise of judgment or discretion). Considering this, the court found it was not clear the assistant principals had satisfied their ministerial duties because the assistant principals’ duties included not only preparing the bus duty assignments but also distributing the assignments to staff. Here, it was not clear they created and distributed the bus duty assignments. As a result, there was a “genuine issue of material fact” as to whether they breached their duties.

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Technology in cars is advancing quickly, and many see self-driving cars as the future of transportation. However, these cars present new risks, including privacy concerns and safety risks. Automated cars, also referred to as self-driving vehicles, or autonomous or driverless vehicles, can include a wide range of technologies. These include automated parallel parking assistance, automatic braking, lane-centering, and complete performance of all driving functions. Automated driving can offer many benefits to consumers. For one, it can be very convenient. They also offer many safety benefits. The NHTSA conducted a survey and discovered that over 90 percent of all car accident deaths are caused at least in part by driver inattention or other errors that may be preventable with automated driving. For example, human drivers may be distracted, speed, disobey traffic rules, or misjudge road conditions.

SpeedometerYet, while they offer many benefits, they also present new legal issues. One issue that may arise in these automated cars is the question of who is the driver. That is, is it the person behind the wheel or the manufacturer of the technology? Laws today generally only consider the person behind the wheel to be in control of the vehicle, but that may change as automated cars become more prevalent, and the technology makes further advances. Also, there are concerns that cars could now be targeted for cyber attacks, which could cause liability to shift to the hacker or to the company responsible for the software.

Several states already allow automated cars, or at least the testing of automated cars on their roads. And many manufacturers are pushing for legal changes that support the use of automated cars.

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In a recent case, a man brought a claim against a church after he was hit by a car while he was crossing a road to go to the church. The man had just parked his car in an overflow parking lot, which was owned and staffed by a local church. He was going to attend an event at the church, and to get to the church he had to cross a busy five-lane road. The man and his wife sued the church, alleging that the church negligently located its overflow parking lot in an area that required churchgoers to cross a busy road and failed to provide churchgoers with assistance in crossing the road.

TrafficThe church argued that it did not owe a duty to the man because it did not own or control the road he was crossing when he was injured. However, the appellate court found that the location of the church’s overflow parking lot exposed churchgoers to an unreasonable risk of injury. Specifically, it required them to cross a busy road where there was no marked crosswalk or traffic signal in order to cross the road and get to the church.

The court explained that those who own, possess, or control property have a duty to exercise ordinary care in managing the property so that others are not exposed to an unreasonable risk of harm. Even though the church did not control the street where the man was hit, it did control the location of the overflow parking lot, which could have contributed to his injury.

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Parties often believe that a case is over when the trial ends. However, there are a number of avenues for relief for parties who are not satisfied with the result of their trial. Those avenues may result in granting a new trial altogether or even reversing the jury’s decision.

Neck X-rayIn a recent case, a man was in a car accident and filed a complaint against the defendant, alleging that he suffered injuries to his neck, back, and knee as a result, for which he sought compensation. The defendant admitted that he was at fault for the accident but argued that the accident was not the cause of the man’s knee injuries nor did it require him to undergo knee surgery. The defendant argued that the man had preexisting conditions that were the actual cause of his knee injuries.

The case proceeded to trial, and the jury found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded him $9,620 in past medical expenses for neck and back injuries. However, the plaintiff moved for a new trial because he argued that his knee injuries were also caused by the accident, and a reasonable jury could not have found otherwise based on the evidence presented. The judge granted the plaintiff his request for a new trial, but that state’s supreme court reversed the decision. It held that the jury’s verdict was supported by evidence that his knee injuries were preexisting and that the court should not have granted a new trial. Accordingly, the jury’s verdict was reinstated.

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In a case that was decided earlier this year, a man was killed after he became intoxicated at a restaurant and got into a car accident. The man was driving 79 miles per hour in a 30-miles-per-hour zone when he crashed his car. After the accident, the man’s family brought suit against the restaurant, alleging that the restaurant engaged in negligent, willful, wanton, and reckless conduct by selling and serving alcohol to the man, and that their conduct caused his death. That evening, the man had been at the restaurant from about 2 PM until almost 9 PM. Witnesses observed him being loud and slurring his words. He bought 12 drinks at the restaurant that day.

Liquor BottlesThe plaintiff, a representative of the man’s estate, filed a complaint and an affidavit, as required by the state’s law. The affidavit had to describe the facts upon which the case was based, and the plaintiff based it on information gathered in the investigation. The defendants argued that the affidavit was insufficient because it was not based on personal knowledge. The plaintiff, the administrator of the man’s estate, was not present at any time during the incident. However, the court found that the plaintiff’s affidavit was based upon “information and belief” from information gathered from witness statements, a police report, and a toxicology report—and that this knowledge was sufficient.

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Federal, state, and local governments control much of our everyday life these days, and they have a vast number of employees. Bringing suit against the government can be very tricky. There are often issues of governmental immunity. Sometimes there are issues about when you will be able to receive the compensation you deserve.

Governmental Immunity

Governmental immunity grants many federal, state, and local governments immunity from tort claims in some cases. This means that generally lawsuits cannot be brought against federal, state, or local governments or their employees. However, there are many exceptions. For example, some claims in Illinois cannot be heard in circuit courts but can be brought in a special Court of Claims. Another example is that some statutes provide exceptions—such as U.S.C. Section 1983, which allows plaintiffs to bring claims who were deprived of their constitutional rights by an official’s abuse of his or her position. Also, while Illinois’s Tort Immunity Act generally protects local governments, a local government or employee may be liable for willful and wanton conduct or for quasi-intentional conduct. A government entity can also waive the immunity. For example, a state legislature may be able to waive immunity, making government entities liable. An entity can also waive immunity by contract.

Even if an exception applies or immunity is waived, an attorney’s assistance is essential to get the compensation you deserve. The government may offer too little in a settlement—or there could even be a delay in getting your compensation because the budget is in deadlock.

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Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 5.06.29 PMSeemingly insignificant facts can sometimes have a huge effect on a case. In a recent case, a lawsuit against a bus driver transporting students to a football game was dismissed because the bus was bringing students to an extracurricular activity rather than to attend classes. This seemingly insignificant fact ended up actually being very important, since this meant that the school was not liable under the statute under which the plaintiff brought the lawsuit.

Often, cases are dismissed because a board of education and its employees are immune from certain lawsuits. However, a state statute created a waiver that allowed lawsuits against county and city boards of education for the negligent operation of “school buses” and “school transportation service vehicles” in certain circumstances.

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A 43-year-old man from Willowbrook was killed when a van he was riding in flipped over and landed in a pond east of Interstate 57, near Tolono. His wife, also from Willowbrook, was driving the van when the accident occurred. Eight other passengers in the van were injured during the accident, including the driver. Only one of the other eight passengers was injured critically. The rest sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

van-hippie-suv-1555377According to a local news report, the van was traveling north on Interstate 57 when the driver lost control. The van then veered off the interstate before rolling over several times and coming to rest upside down in the pond. Police indicated that all of the van’s passengers were wearing seat belts at the time of the accident.

Firefighters from Tolono, Savoy, and Pesotum all provided assistance at the site of the accident, as did divers from the Cornbelt Fire Protection District in Mahomet. No firefighters or divers were injured in their rescue efforts.

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