The Dangers of Driving in ChicagoLike many major cities, Chicago’s driving dangers include narrow and congested roads close to vulnerable bicyclists and pedestrians. For example, the 13-mile stretch of I-290 (the Eisenhower Expressway) from I-94 (the Dan Ryan) to the I-88 (East-West Tollway)/I-294 (Tristate Tollway) interchange is one of the most congested and dangerous thoroughfares in the region, due to lane reductions that cause bottlenecks. Additionally, as anyone who ever spent a winter in Chicago knows, inclement weather can add yet another challenge to already congested roadways. Beyond that, the three biggest dangers that result in car accidents in Chicago, as mentioned above, are distracted drivers, impaired drivers, and people driving too fast. Here is a look at each of these issues.
Distracted DrivingIf a person is driving at 55 miles per hour while reading or replying to a text, they will travel the length of a football field without looking at the road. Not only that, but they will likely also have one of their hands off the wheel (to hold their phone), and they will not necessarily be thinking about driving safely during that time either. Texting causes all three driving distractions, which include:
- Manual distractions
- Visual distractions
- Cognitive distractions
- Eating, drinking, or smoking
- Visiting with passengers
- Dealing with children or pets in the back seat
- Talking on a handheld device
- External distractions, such as other cars, roadside accident scenes, or construction zones
- Adjusting the vehicle’s stereo, temperature control, or GPS
Who is Most at Risk for Distracted Driving?Those most prone to driving while distracted include teens and young adults. One-quarter of all distracted drivers involved in fatal accidents were in their 20s! And 8 percent of drivers ages 15 to 19 who were in a fatal crash were distracted when they crashed. The most common distraction: texting. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 39 percent of teen drivers who participated in a national survey admitted to texting or emailing while driving at least once in the past 30 days. Interestingly, the same group of students was less likely to wear their seat belts when driving and to ride with a driver who was drinking alcohol or drive after drinking alcohol.
Alcohol ImpairmentAlcohol-impaired driving is a major source of death and disability, accounting for about 40 percent of all fatal accidents in the U.S. More than 10,000 people die and many more are injured each year. In Illinois, drunk drivers kill more than 3,000 people each year. Drunk driving creates deficits in the skills drivers need to operate their motor vehicles safely. Those skills include the ability to:
- Track a moving target, as needed for surveilling the roadway.
- Perform more than one function at a time.
- Steer or brake the vehicle effectively.
- Maintain a single lane of travel.
- Remember the last few miles traveled.
- Control the vehicle or process the information necessary to operate it safely.
SpeedingSpeeding kills and injures almost as many people as alcohol does. It is a contributing factor in more than a quarter of all fatal traffic accidents, 12 percent of all injury accidents, and results in more than 9,000 deaths and about 326,000 injuries nationwide each year. Speeding not only refers to driving faster than the posted speed limit but also driving too fast for conditions. Some of the dangers of speeding include:
- Increasing the distance needed for the vehicle to stop. No vehicle stops immediately! Instead, stopping involves the driver noticing a hazard on the roadway and braking until it comes to a stop. The heavier the vehicle and the faster it moves when braking, the longer it will travel before it stops.
- Decreasing the time the driver has to react to a hazard. Remember the first part of the braking process, where the driver has to see and respond to the hazard? The faster the driver travels, the less time they give themselves for a response.
- Reducing the effectiveness of the vehicle’s protective equipment. The seat belts, airbags, and even a car’s frame have a hard time keeping up with the increased force that speed adds to an accident.
- The extreme difficulty for other drivers attempting to judge a gap in traffic at an intersection when making left turns.
Who Is Most Likely to Cause a Speeding Accident?While speeding is an issue across all driver demographics, the drivers most often linked to this risky driving behavior are young men. Nearly a third of all male drivers 24 years old or younger who were involved in a fatal crash were speeding at the time of the accident. This figure drops to one-quarter of all male drivers in the 25 to 30-year-old age group and declines with age. In all age groups, female drivers are far less likely to speed than male drivers are.
Accidents That Occur on Chicago RoadsThe streets of Chi-Town see motor vehicle accidents every single day. These accidents occur in a variety of ways. Here is a look at some of the types of accidents that most commonly occur in Chicago.
#1. Rear-End AccidentsRear-end accidents, while not the most deadly accidents in Chicago, are one of the most common. These accidents generally occur in intersections, though they can also occur in areas where traffic has unexpectedly stopped or slowed. They can even happen when traffic flows normally if someone isn’t paying attention! A rear-end crash occurs when the front of one vehicle collides with the rear of another vehicle. While not accounting for as many fatalities as other accident types, make no mistake: Being rear-ended can result in fatal injuries. It can also result in catastrophic and less-severe injuries, including:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Soft tissue injuries, such as whiplash, which are the most common physical consequence of rear-end accidents
- Damage to the spinal vertebrae or discs
- Broken bones, including a broken collar bone from the pressure of the seat belt
- They drove in reverse when the accident occurred. (Yes, it happens!)
- They intentionally tried to get hit. One aggressive driving behavior is brake checking a driver who follows too closely. This involves the driver in the lead car slamming on their brakes unexpectedly.
- The lead car’s brake lights did not work, making it impossible for the driver behind them to know if they slow down or stop.
#2. T-Bone AccidentsT-bone accidents, also known as side-impact collisions or broadside collisions, are another type of accident that most commonly occurs in Chicago intersections. A T-bone accident involves the front of one vehicle colliding with the side of another vehicle. These accidents generally occur due to a driver failing to yield the right-of-way to another driver, such as at a light, a stop sign, or even when a driver pulls out of a private driveway. T-bone accidents are among the more severe accidents, with a high likelihood of injuries, particularly to occupants sitting on the side of the struck vehicle. This is especially true if there is a large size discrepancy between the vehicles involved, with the broadsided vehicle being the smaller of the two.
#3. SideswipesA sideswipe collision occurs when the side of one vehicle collides with the side of another vehicle. The vehicles involved in this type of accident can be traveling in the same direction or in opposing directions. Common causes of this type of accident include:
- Improper lane changes, where a driver fails to clear a travel lane before merging into it.
- Speeding drivers who fail to negotiate curves in the road and drift into an adjacent—and occupied!—lane.
- Drivers fail to check their blind spots before changing lanes.
- Multiple drivers attempting to enter the same travel lane at the same time.
- Vehicles slide out of their travel lane on slippery roads.
#4. Head-On CollisionsHead-on collisions occur when the front of one vehicle collides with the front of another. While this type of accident is relatively rare, it is extremely deadly, accounting for almost one-fifth of all traffic accident fatalities. The reason they’re so dangerous is that the forward motion of both vehicles increases the force of the collision.
#5. RolloversRollover accidents can involve a single vehicle that rolls after running off the road or colliding with an object or can occur during a multi-vehicle accident because the tires of one vehicle trip on a curb, another vehicle or vehicle part, or another obstacle. Rollover accidents are another type that can result in death or catastrophic injuries such as a brain injury or spinal cord injury. In previous years, rollover accidents were most commonly associated with SUVs, due to their high center of gravity. SUVs are more likely to roll over than other vehicle types, though pickup trucks, vans, and even tractor-trailers also have a higher risk of rolling than sedan-style vehicles. Rollovers in single-vehicle collisions most often occur due to a driver going around a curve too quickly.
If a Car Accident in Chicago Injured YouBeing injured in a Chicago car accident can result in expenses and impacts to every part of your life, including your ability to earn an income, live independently, and partake in the activities and events you enjoyed before you became injured. There is a legal process for obtaining compensation from the at-fault party’s insurance for those expenses and impacts, but this process is very complex and requires experience and understanding of the Illinois laws that govern traffic accidents in Chicago. We can help. Read on for answers to some of the questions we are most frequently asked about car accidents in Chicago. After that, let us talk to you about your case during a free case evaluation.
Frequently Asked Questions For a Chicago Car Accident LawyerIt seems pretty straightforward: You were in an accident someone else caused, it is only fair that they pay for the expenses and impacts you experienced. Right? YES. However, the process of obtaining compensation is confusing for many people. Let us help break it down for you!
#1. What is a personal injury lawsuit?A personal injury lawsuit is a legal claim filed in civil court, and part of the personal injury claims process that those injured in car accidents use to seek compensation for their injuries. The legal claim seeks to prove to the court who legally caused the accident and show the expenses and impacts you suffered as a result. Illinois is a tort state in terms of auto liability insurance. This means that all registered drivers must obtain a liability insurance policy to compensate those who suffer injuries because of their careless or reckless actions.
#2. How long do I have to file a personal injury lawsuit in Chicago?For most personal injury claims in Chicago, the statute of limitations is two years from when the accident occurred. This means that you have two years to file your claim in court. However, the case does not have to resolve within this timeframe. However, claims against municipal, county, state, or federal agencies have different shorter time limits. For example, you must file a claim within one year of the accident against the city or county.
#3. How do I prove that someone else was liable for my Chicago car accident?Liability is a fancy term for legal responsibility. The cause of most car accidents is negligence, which you prove by showing:
- The at-fault party had a duty to take reasonable actions to protect the health and safety of others in a given set of circumstances—in this case, driving down the streets of Chicago. This is called a duty of care, and for drivers, it generally involves operating a motor vehicle safely and legally.
- The at-fault party took actions that failed to protect your health and safety. Remember, the most common causes of car accidents in Chicago include speeding, drunk driving, and distracted driving. These are all examples of a breach in the duty of care.
- The breach in the at-fault party’s duty of care resulted in an accident that caused your injuries and led you to incur expenses and impacts.
#4. Why is there so much talk about insurance? Isn’t my lawsuit against the driver?Because this is a tort state, you can sue careless or reckless drivers if their actions injure you, even if those injuries are minor. Most drivers do not have the money to pay for someone else’s injury expenses out-of-pocket, so the state requires an insurance policy to provide compensation. While it is the purpose of insurance policies to pay for the damages caused by the careless or reckless actions of the insured, insurance companies are in the business to make money. One of the ways they make money is by not paying it out on injury claims. Because of this, they will attempt to reduce or diminish the value of the claim, which can result in a lawsuit.
#5. What type of compensation can a Chicago car accident lawyer help me obtain?Chicago car accident claimants are permitted to seek the recovery of economic and non-economic damages. What does that mean?
- Damages refer to the payment you receive for the financial and emotional impacts of your injury.
- Economic damages involve compensating you for out-of-pocket expenses, such as medical expenses, wage loss, loss of future earning capacity, and property damage.
- Non-economic damages compensate you for the impacts of your injury on your quality of life, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of the enjoyment of life, or loss of consortium (the ability to enjoy physical intimacy and companionship with your spouse after suffering a serious injury).
#6. If I file a personal injury lawsuit, will I have to go to court?Simple answer: It is possible. More in-depth answer: Most personal injury claims settle out of court. As in, about 95 percent of personal injury claims settle out-of-court. However, if the at-fault party’s insurance provider fails to make a settlement offer that will fairly compensate you, your case could be one of the small minority to go to trial. Hire an attorney who is just as comfortable fighting for your compensation in the courtroom as they are with settlement negotiations. (Stewart J. Guss, Injury Accident Lawyers are!)
#7. The at-fault party’s insurance provider has already offered me a settlement. Should I take it?Have you spoken with an attorney about your case? Has the attorney established a value to your claim? If not, then you should not agree to the settlement. However, you should not outright refuse the offer either, because that removes their obligation to make you a better offer! Instead, speak with an attorney first, and have that attorney handle all communication with the at-fault party’s insurance provider. Why? Because, as previously stated, insurance companies are in the business of reducing or eliminating your claim. They will try to get you to release your entire medical history to them, telling you that there is no compensation available, telling you that you caused the accident, and more. Your attorney can protect you from that. What’s more: If the insurance provider offered you an early settlement, chances are, you have not made substantial enough recovery to have a clear picture of how much your claim is really worth. If you accept the settlement then realize it was not enough to cover your expenses, you can't seek additional compensation and must pay for the expenses they caused.
#8. What is the average car accident settlement worth?There is no such thing as an average settlement, just as there is no such thing as an average Chicago car accident claim! Every accident has unique circumstances, as does every accident claimant. Some individuals are more concerned with quickly resolving the claim, while (most) others are concerned with obtaining as much compensation as possible. Not only that, but the settlement itself is unique, as well, and reflects a compromise between the insurance company and the claimant. The clarity of the insured’s liability, the insurance company’s willingness to make a fair offer, and the claimant’s patience with the process influence that compromise.
#9. What determines how much my case is worth?Once again: Insurance pays for most Chicago car accident settlements and awards. Because of this, the amount of insurance the at-fault party has is the leading factor in determining the value of your claim. Beyond that, these factors also come into play:
- The severity of your injury, as more severe injuries usually result in more severe consequences, including higher levels of pain and suffering and emotional distress, in addition to a higher risk of missing more work or even losing the ability to earn an income as a result of permanent disabilities.
- Your income at the time of the accident, as several damage categories, involve loss of income. Because of this, it makes sense that the more you make, the more you lose, and the more you can seek to recover.
- Permanent disabilities, as they result in higher economic and non-economic losses. If you have suffered a permanent disability, you can seek compensation for future expenses and impacts as well as those you have already incurred.
- Your patience. The settlement negotiations process usually begins with a demand package to the at-fault party’s insurance provider that details the accident, shows documentation of expenses, and demands payment on the claim. If the insurance provider refuses to either pay on the claim or offer a fair settlement, you may file a lawsuit. However, just because you file suit doesn’t mean negotiations stop. A settlement agreement can be made even after a trial has begun. Because of this, negotiations can last a long time before there is a resolution.
#10. My spouse died in a Chicago car accident. Is there compensation available for me?Yes. A personal representative of your spouse’s estate can seek compensation on your behalf through a wrongful death lawsuit. In most cases, plaintiffs must file this claim within two years of the death. The compensation you can seek through a wrongful death claim includes:
- Loss of the financial support your spouse provided to your family.
- Loss of consortium.
- Loss of education, instruction, or moral training provided by the deceased to his or her minor children.
- The grief, sorrow, and mental suffering of your spouse’s survivors.
#11. Do I need a Chicago car accident lawyer? Can I file a claim on my own?No. Most claimants who attempt to represent themselves in a tort claim wind up feeling like they have made a terrible mistake. The process is hard enough for legal professionals and absolutely overwhelming for others. Here are some of the benefits of hiring an attorney to help you with your claim:
- Experience. Your legal team spent years obtaining the education and experience to represent the best interests of their clients in personal injury claims.
- There’s power in numbers. Your attorney does not work in a bubble on your claim, but rather shares the work with a team. This means several trained professionals will review and work on your claim. Along with our experience and deep understanding of the process, this is one of the main factors that prevent us from becoming overwhelmed as a person would if they were trying to represent themselves.
- Negotiation skills. A good personal injury lawyer possesses excellent communication skills. These skills can make a big impact on how much money you receive from your claim.
- Guidance. When we assist you with your claim, you will make all the decisions. A major mission of the Stewart J. Guss legal team is to ensure that you make highly informed decisions about your case by giving you the information and understanding you need.
- Contingency fees. Many people are afraid to hire an attorney to help them with their claim because they fear they cannot afford the attorney’s fees. Our client-friendly contingency-fee billing method allows us to begin working immediately on your claim. You withhold payment for our services unless we recover compensation for you.
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