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  • Should truck weight limits be increased despite safety risks?

    Legislation is currently pending in Congress which would permit the weight limits of trucks to increase by 20%. Currently, the weight limit for trucks traveling U.S. interstates is 80,000 pounds. Proponents of the proposed law, which includes a group made up of large shipping companies, including the likes of Coca Cola and The Home Depot,  argue that increasing the weight limit to 97,000 pounds will increase efficiency and reduce emissions, thus benefiting the environment. However, opponents of the legislation are concerned about safety. According to them, heavier trucks may lead to more serious highway accidents and resulting injuries. However, as discussed in this FOX News article, proponents of the law make the opposite argument: In 2009, nearly 300,000 trucks were involved in crashes in the United States, according to figures compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Safety advocates argue heavier trucks may cause more serious accidents. But proponents of the legislation say increasing the weight limit would actually reduce the number of trucks on roads, making them safer. Another issue raised by those who oppose the law is that it may result in increased costs for individual states, as explained in the FOX News article: “If we advocate for higher weights, it’s going to be more wear and tear on our roads, which means more money,” said Jim Cole, a board member of the Georgia Department of Transportation. “We have to balance that with an economic picture of the future, as well.” While the proposed law does allow states to opt out, doing so doesn’t alleviate the safety issues for those states that opt in. If studies support the contention that larger trucks will likely cause more serious car accidents on our interstate highways, then this safety issue shouldn’t be ignored–and it certainly shouldn’t be trumped by the desire to increase efficiency and corporate profits. Profit should never take precedence over people’s lives and any reasonable actions that can be taken to reduce serious automobile accidents on our nation’s roadways should occur even if it means less money will line corporate pockets as a result. Howard Ankin of Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles  workers’ compensationandpersonal injury cases. Mr. Ankin can be reached at (312) 346-8780 and howard@ankinlaw.com.

  • Chicago to install speeding cameras

    Last week, we discussed the safety issues presented when municipalities outsource the maintenance of red light cameras and in the past, we’ve discussed the continuing debate about the efficacy of red light cameras. Now, in Chicago, there are concerns regarding the new proposal to install speed cameras at Chicago intersections located near schools and city parks. The cameras will automatically ticket anyone traveling more than 5 mph over the posted speed limit. As you may already know, red light cameras have been prevalent in Chicago for some time now, and the newly proposed speed cameras will add another level to the scrutiny of Chicago drivers. The State legislature approved the legislation permitting the installation of the cameras earlier this month and the purported reason for the use of the cameras is to change driver’s behavior, improve safety and prevent Chicago motor vehicle accidents. However, there is some debate as to whether the true motivation behind use of the cameras is simply to generate revenue for the city. As explained in this CBS Chicago article, the installation of these cameras would not only exponentially increase revenue, but would also greatly increase the number of cameras in Chicago: But a secret study obtained by “The Expired Meter” website showed that speed cameras could be a much bigger cash cow for the city than red light cameras. Mike Brockway’s “The Expired Meter” website has the results of a trial run of seven red light cameras temporarily enabled to detect speeders in April and May and Brockway said the study shows those cameras alone would have generated more than $100 million in speeding ticket revenue… But the legislation would also allow entirely new cameras close to schools and parks and a Chicago Tribune analysis of the proposed legislation to allow speed cameras in the city showed the legislation would allow at least 47 percent of the city to be covered by the cameras — not including areas around colleges and universities. Another issue with the speeding cameras is that the cameras will take photos of the speeding vehicle, not the driver, and the ticket will be issued to and sent to the owner of the vehicle. This effectively shifts the responsibility for speeding from the driver, making owners of vehicles responsible for the driving of those who operate their vehicles–an unfair practice, to say the least. However, debate or no debate, as it stands,[READ MORE…]

  • Does outsourcing maintenance of red light camera systems sacrifice safety?

        In recent years, many cities have installed red light cameras at intersections. These cameras take photos of drivers running red lights and then tickets are issued based upon the photos. Red light cameras are not particularly popular with motorists and, based upon the results of numerous studies, some have questioned the safety of these systems. We’ve addressed this issue before. In one post, we discussed the debate over red light cameras and, as we explained in another post, the City of Los Angeles has considered abandoning the use of red light cameras for safety reasons. Now, new issues are being raised regarding the wisdom of outsourcing of red light camera systems. The concern is that when municipalities outsource the management of the traffic camera systems, safety concerns go out the window. This is because some contracts with outside vendors provide for a revenue sharing system based on per ticket violations, and thus the argument is made that profits take precedence over safety concerns and accuracy in issuing tickets. The basis for this concern is explained more fully in this Boston.com article: As many as 700 communities, with a combined total of more than 60 million people, outsource their street and highway camera systems, the report found. While vendors capture violations, police or other local officials approve which violations are issued tickets. Some contracts penalize cities if they don’t approve enough tickets, effectively setting a ticket quota, the report said. That can undermine the authority of local officials to decide when to issue tickets, it said. “Automated traffic ticketing tends to be governed by contracts that focus more on profits than safety,’’ said Phineas Baxandall, the report’s co-author. This latest development adds to the debate about red light cameras and whether they provide any benefit aside from convenience for municipalities and the generation of revenues. And, as discussed in prior blog posts, there are legitimate concerns regarding the efficacy and safety of red light cameras, given that there is conflicting data as to whether these cameras actually save lives or negatively affect motorist’s driving habits. Unfortunately, despite this mounting evidence, municipalities continue to install these problematic systems, thus placing profits ahead of safety. Perhaps one day, after even more studies have been conducted regarding this issue, this troubling trend will reverse and red light traffic cameras will no longer be the norm. Howard Ankin of Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles  workers’[READ MORE…]

  • The Workers’ Compensation System Should Not Be Used as a Scapegoat

      As the economy limps along, everyone is looking for someone, or something, to blame. Increasingly, workers’ compensation programs have been targeted, with opponents portraying them as an unnecessary expense that undermines local businesses’ attempts to survive in this challenging economic climate. Critics of the workers’ compensation system offer what appear to be, at first glance, convincing arguments that focus on the bottom line, while ignoring the important role the system plays in protecting the safety of workers.  Headlines such these serve only to fuel the campaign against workers’ compensation and generate confusion: Workers’ comp stands in way of job growth (AuburnPub.com) NCCI Workers’ Comp Hike ‘Bad News’ for Small Businesses in Florida (Sunshine State News) Workers’ comp is still costly (TimesUnion.com). Jon Gelman addresses this issue head on at his blog, Workers’ Compensation Law, explaining that business gain should never trump workers’ safety: Workers’ Compensation has become a “scapegoat” for a failing American economy. As David J. DePaolo points out in his recent blog, industry has raised the banner of reform in an effort to save dollars rather than to save workers’ and their lives… The financial downturn has resulted in an estimated 11% predicted falloff in the collection of premiums…Workers have become expendable as cheap and unskilled labor is now plentiful  around the world…(and) (s)afety is considered an unnecessary expense… The century old experiment of workers’ compensation should not be a culture based upon dollars alone…(This) country can have both, safe jobs and a robust economy. Gelman is 100% correct. The safety of U.S. workers shouldn’t be a mere afterthought, nor should the ailing economy be permitted to undermine the century old workers’ compensation system. Businesses’ desire to keep their heads above water during these difficult times is admirable and understandable, but should not come at the expense of the safety of the very people who make it possible for them to serve their customers.There is a happy medium between business interests and worker safety. Striking an appropriate balance will result in a safe, secure and productive workforce, thus allowing businesses to thrive. Howard Ankin of Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles  workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. Mr. Ankin can be reached at (312) 346-8780 and howard@ankinlaw.com.

  • Teen Drivers and Distracted Driving–A Lethal Combination

      Distracted driving is a problem for anyone who drives a car. If you’re not paying attention to the road and are focused on something else, whether it’s your cell phone, the radio, or a GPS device, you’re putting others on the road at risk. Distracted driving is dangerous, no matter who’s doing it. But it’s even more dangerous for teenagers, since they are simply less experienced drivers. According to a recent Chicago Tribune article, these factors greatly increase the likelihood that a teen driver will be in a car accident compared to more experienced drivers: Teen drivers face a four times greater risk for accidents than older adults, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Chalk it up to a number of factors, among them inexperience dealing with emergency situations, distracted driving and the inclination to show off to friends. After discussing the increased incidence of teenage car accidents, the article then examined the top 10 driving mistakes made by teen drivers: Being Distracted Behind the Wheel Taking Too Many Risks Speeding Overcrowding the Car Driving Under the Influence Following Too Closely Driving Unbuckled Driving Too Closely Driving Drowsy Choosing the Wrong Car and Not Maintaining It Other interesting statistics from the article include that teen drivers wear seat belts far less frequently than other age groups, with only 76% wearing them on a regular basis. And, when teens are involved in car accidents, nearly 30% of crashes involve speeding. Finally, 53% of teens surveyed reported seeing their friends use hand held devices while operating a motor vehicle. In other words, it would seem that teens aren’t exactly the most responsible drivers and that they sometimes make poor choices that could have very serious ramifications in the event of an automobile accident. Of course, for those of us who have teenagers, or who used to be a teenager, this comes as no surprise. Teens can be irresponsible and when that irresponsible behavior intersects with the operation of a car, the consequences can sometimes be life threatening. So, it’s important to emphasize the importance of safety when driving to your teenagers. Do it once, do it twice, then do it again. Because their lives are at stake, along with the lives of everyone else who shares the roadways with them. Make sure your teens know that safety always comes first. Howard Ankin of Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles [READ MORE…]

  • Findings Support Worker’s Claim That His COPD Was Work-Related

      The Appellate Court of Illinois, Fourth District, recently considered the denial of a workers’ claim for workers’ compensation benefits where the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission concluded that his Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease was caused solely by his cigarette smoking. In Gross v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, No. 4-10-0615WC, at issue was whether the claimant’s COPD was caused, in part, by his inhalation of coal dust while working as a coal miner. At the hearing, the Commission gave the testimony of an expert witness  expert witness, Dr. Renn, great weight and accepted his testimony, offered on behalf of Gross’ employer, that the claimant’s COPD was caused solely by his smoking habit. The intermediate appellate court agreed and upheld the Commission’s conclusion that Gross’ COPD was unrelated to his work as a coal miner. On appeal, Gross argued that the Commission ignored the testimony of his expert, Dr. Houser, who concluded that Gross’ work contributed to his COPD and that the Commission also “erred in accepting the opinion of Dr. Renn that coal dust exposure did not contribute to cause his COPD when Dr. Renn failed to give an adequate explanation of the basis of his opinion.” After reviewing the  legal standards applicable to expert opinions, the Fourth Circuit agreed with Gross, holding that the evidence did not support the conclusion that Gross’ work as a coal miner did not contribute to his COPD: We do not believe that there is sufficient evidence in the record to support the opinion of Dr. Renn that the claimant’s significant history of inhalation of coal dust was not a contributing or aggravating cause of his COPD. The employer has simply not offered an adequate explanation or factual basis for a determination that the sole cause of the claimant’s obstructive lung disease is cigarette smoking. We cannot say what our decision would be under circumstances where the claimant did not have significant exposure to both coal dust and cigarette smoking. However, on this record, where the undisputed evidence is that the claimant had nearly 40 years of exposure to both coal dust and cigarette smoke, we believe that the Commission’s finding that his COPD was solely caused by cigarette smoking is against the manifest weight of the evidence. Accordingly, the court reversed the decision denying workers’ compensation benefits and remanded the case to the Commission for additional consideration, thus keeping his claim for workers’ compensation[READ MORE…]

  • Shoplifting

    Have you ever been in a store and had someone follow you around watching your every move? That usually is because shoplifting is big business and, during a recession, it typically grows. Many retailers use deterrents such as surveillance cameras and security tags to deter shoplifters. Because of the high number of store thieves in the past few years, store managers and owners are more likely to accuse first and ask questions later. Accusing, holding, and detaining shoplifters can put store managers and owners at a risk for civil liability if the accusations are untrue.

  • Beware of Pickpockets

    The holiday shopping season seems to start earlier and earlier every year, and with that so do the pickpockets. On a typical day in Chicago the streets are filled with hundreds of shoppers, tourists and business people who can be seen talking on a cell phone, texting, taking pictures or wearing earphones as they listen to music on their electronic devices; everything except focused on their surroundings. These distractions, together with larger crowds, make you a perfect target for a pickpocket or a scam artist.

  • November is National Child Safety and Protection Month

    November is National Child Safety and Protection Month and you should consider putting together a plan for what to do if your child is taken by an estranged relative, goes missing, or even is kidnapped. You have a plan for if a fire strikes your home, a designated case of emergency person should something happen to you and even a will for when you pass away. Knowing what to do if something should happen to your child is just as important.

  • Illinois Doctor Database Passed Under Overturned Medical MalPractice Law is Reinstituted

      Last year, Illinois lawmakers passed a comprehensive medical care reform bill that imposed a cap in medical malpractice cases. As explained at the PopTort, when that law was overturned as unconstitutional, a number of other beneficial medical malpractice regulatory laws that were included as part of the reform were scrapped as well due to a non-severability clause included in the original law: (The lawmakers) added a “non-severability” clause to the law, so that if the cap were struck down (virtually certain as the Illinois Supreme Court had previously struck down two similar “caps”), all of those great medical malpractice insurance regulatory laws would be thrown out the window, leaving Illinois medical malpractice insurers virtually free to once again charge doctors excessive rates. Recently, however, Illinois lawmakers reinstituted a helpful section of the law that will prove to be of great benefit to Illinois residents: an online physician database for medical consumers. In a Chicago Tribune article, this new database was described and its utility to consumers was explained: Illinois patients can now research their doctors using an online database the state launched Wednesday…The database can be accessed through the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation’s website at idfpr.com under the “physician profile” link on the left side. There, patients can learn about a doctor’s educational background and training, determine what type of insurance they accept and find out what languages are spoken in the office. Also included is information about criminal convictions, disciplinary action against the doctor by regulators in Illinois and other states, and whether hospital privileges have been revoked. No doubt this new database is good news for Illinois residents. Now Illinoisans have a useful resource at their disposal that will help them make informed decisions when choosing a physician. And when it comes to making important medical decisions, it never hurts to have as much information as possible available for your consideration. Howard Ankin of Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles  workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. Mr. Ankin can be reached at (312) 346-8780 and howard@ankinlaw.com.

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    Our firm handles workers' compensation and personal injury claims in Chicago, Berwyn, Joliet, Cicero, Waukegan, Chicago Heights, Elgin, Aurora, Oak Park, Oak Lawn, Schaumburg, Bolingbrook, Glendale Heights, Aurora, Niles, Schaumburg, Arlington Heights, Naperville, Plainfield and all of Cook, DuPage, Lake, Will, McHenry, LaSalle, Kankakee, McLean and Peoria Counties.