Injuries Caused by Negligent Drivers

Car accidents are the cause of many serious injuries and deaths every year.  Unfortunately, not all drivers carry sufficient insurance coverage.  Many drivers carry the  minimum insurance required by Illinois law of only $25,000.   This is when having an experienced accident attorney on your side can make all of the difference in the world.  One of the first things that a serious injury attorney will investigate is whether some party other than the negligent driver may have been at fault.  While the driver who caused the accident may have been distracted, intoxicated, or driving too fast for conditions, there may be contributing factors that caused the accident and other parties who may be responsible for your injuries.


Driving a truck is a stressful job.  Often, trucking violations designed to protect the public are the underlying cause of accidents caused by truckers. Federal regulations limit the number of hours that truck drivers are allowed to legally work.  However, some trucking companies require their drivers to break the rules and work longer than permitted.  A tired truck driver is a dangerous driver.  Whenever a truck is involved in an accident, careful examination of the driving record is required as well as all applicable log books and inspection logs.  Truck drivers are required to inspect their vehicles for safety before each trip.  Improperly loaded trucks, defective brakes and improper tires can lead to accidents.   We hold trucking companies liable for injuries caused by their drivers.  An accident involving a truck is not the same as a car accident.  A lawyer with knowledge of federal trucking regulations, as well as state laws that apply to the truck driving industry, is critical if you want to win your case. 


Like trucking accidents, motorcycle accidents present unique challenges, particularly in jury selection.   Studies have shown that many jurors are prejudiced against motorcyclists and will hold them at fault for an accident that clearly was caused by the negligence of the driver of an automobile.  Bruce Springsteen often tells the story of going to court as a young man after he was injured in a serious motorcycle accident, and his own lawyer said that he were the judge he would find Bruce guilty just because of the way he looked.  You do not want a lawyer like Bruce had.  You need a lawyer who knows how to get jurors who dislike motorcycles kicked off the jury. 



Roads can be defective and dangerous for many reasons.  The road may have been designed improperly or the city or county may have failed to properly maintain the road.  Traffic signs can be improperly placed, traffic lights can be programmed incorrectly and roadways may be marked improperly.   Municipalities in Illinois are required to comply with the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) when placing road markings, traffic control devices and signage.   The road conditions must be examined by a lawyer, and in some cases, an engineer must be hired to determine whether the road was defective.   In one of the first cases I was assigned to work on as a young lawyer, a head-on collision caused by a car attempting to pass when it was not safe to do so, caused a significant brain injury.   Our investigation revealed that the county failed to properly mark the road a no-passing zone.  A jury determined that Kendall County was primarily at fault for the accident and returned a $5,000,000 verdict.   The driver had only a $50,000 policy.   Many lawyers would have settled for the policy limits and not investigated the possibility of the county being liable.   It is best to hire an attorney soon after an accident so that the road conditions, including signage and lighting, can be documented before changes are made.


Was the driver working at the time of the accident?  The question is not always as easy to answer as you might think.   The answer is important because employers can be held liable for accidents caused by their employees while in the scope of their employment. A cab driver who is involved in an accident while driving passengers would be working at the time of the accident, but what if the cab driver is driving home at the time of the accident?  Then also, there are employees who may drive to different jobsites throughout the day.  In one tragic case I was involved in years ago, a janitor fell asleep at the wheel and crossed the center line causing a fatal accident.  The janitor had only the state minimum policy, but we were able to prove that the janitor was required by his employer to drive to different facilities throughout the day.  We were then able to hold the insurance company for the employer liable for damages caused to the surviving family members.  The law as to when an employee is considered to be in the scope of his or her employment is complicated and is best handled by an attorney with years of experience litigating such issues.


Not only is the driver who is guilty of a DUI (driving under the influence), liable for injuries caused in the accident, the facility that served the driver may also be held liable for over-serving the customer.  Where and when the drunk driver purchased alcohol must be determined.   The Illinois Dram Shop Act holds businesses that sell alcohol liable for injuries caused by intoxicated customers.   This is a potential area of recovery that must not be overlooked. 


Sometimes, a third-party who lends out a vehicle can be held liable for injuries caused by a reckless driver.  If someone allows someone else to use their vehicle, knowing that the person being loaned a vehicle is not a safe driver, or is impaired, that person can also be held liable for injuries caused in the car accident.  This can be true of parents who allow their teenagers to use the family vehicle when the teenager has a history of unsafe driving practices.


When the negligent driver does not have sufficient insurance coverage, an attorney must then look to whether there is any additional insurance coverage available from any other policy.  One often overlooked source of recovery is the under-insured/uninsured “UIM/UM” provisions of the injured driver’s auto policy.  Every auto insurance policy issued in Illinois is required to provide for uninsured and under-insured coverage.  The amount of coverage must be equal to the liability limits that you carry unless you specifically reject this coverage.  Sometimes, there may be more than one policy that may provide coverage.  For example, if you are a passenger driving in a vehicle that is involved in an accident, you may be able to make a claim for UM/UIM benefits under your own policy, the owner of the car’s policy and/or the driver’s policy.  Don’t expect your insurance company to volunteer this information.

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