Illinois is home to one of the largest railroad networks in the U.S., and the country’s single largest rail hub is based in Chicago. Not surprisingly, Illinois has more railroad crossings than any other state save Texas. According to the Illinois Commerce Commission, the state has over 8,400 highway rail-grade crossings and almost 400 pedestrian grade crossings. This high number of crossings creates a significant risk of accidents, which may be worsening. As CBS News reports, last year, fatal railroad crossing accidents increased markedly in Illinois. The number of fatalities reported in 2014 made Illinois the state with the second-highest number of railroad crossing deaths. Tragically, 21 people lost their lives. This constituted a 61 percent rise over the number of fatal accidents recorded in 2013. Troublingly, this uptick represents the first time in decades that fatal railroad accidents in Illinois have increased. This shift also mirrors a national pattern, in which fatal railroad crossing accidents rose 8 percent from 2013 to 2014. Several factors might contribute to this troubling development. According to the Association of American Railroads, freight traffic increased from 2013 to 2014, reaching the highest number of freight carloads since 2008. As the economy improves, further growth is expected. This increase in traffic may raise the risk of accidents. The advocacy group Operation Lifesaver also notes that technology has become an increasingly prevalent distraction in recent years. This distraction may prevent drivers or pedestrians from noticing crossings, stopping far enough away or detecting approaching trains. While some accidents might involve mistakes on the part of motorists or pedestrians, others may occur because railroad crossings are poorly designed or maintained. For example, inadequate signage may prevent motorists from realizing they are entering a crossing. Overgrown vegetation can obscure the sight of a railroad crossing warning sign or an approaching train. Malfunctioning signals or gates may cause people to unwittingly enter crossings at unsafe times. Various improvements could help address these issues. Automated warning devices, such as gates or lights, can ensure drivers and pedestrians are alert to approaching trains. The installation of monitoring devices, which warn authorities of signal or gate malfunctions, could help prevent accidents. More widespread use of interconnected circuitry, which synchronizes traffic and railroad crossing signals at intersections, could also lower the risk of train-vehicle collisions. Grade-separated crossings, which let drivers or pedestrians cross railroads via underground tunnels or overhead bridges, can fully eliminate the[READ MORE…]
A woman who was recently injured in a fatal bus accident here in Chicago has chosen the Ankin Law Office LLC to represent her in a personal injury lawsuit. Attorney John Topolewski sat on a phone call that the victim, 34-year-old Martine Anoine, held with the Chicago Tribune. Four months ago, Antoine moved to Chicago from New York to study sign language interpretation at Columbia University. On one early evening in June, she and two other passengers were on the bus. Topolewski provided a screenshot of her Ventra card statement with a timestamp of 5:29 p.m. for the No. 148 bus. Shortly thereafter, two people, who were not emergency responders, helped her from the wrecked bus and she was taken to St. Joseph Hospital, Topolewski said. She suffered neck and knee injuries and bruises elsewhere. Describing the experience as violent and “extremely frightening,” Antoine said she was thrown from her seat into the seats in front of her. The Chicago Transit Authority bus allegedly ran a red light, killing a woman and causing injuries to seven others. The CTA cited reports from the Chicago Fire Department and the Chicago Police Department stating that the bus driver was alone, but Antoine’s ticket clearly demonstrates otherwise. Shortly before the incident, Antoine recalled the driver, 48-year-old Donald Barnes, yelling at a vehicle in his path. Looking up from her phone, Antoine saw a black vehicle near the left side of the bus and a silver or gold car to the right. The No. 148 bus had departed the stop at Harrison and State streets and was moving toward its next stop. Around 5:50 p.m., officials said the bus came to a red light on Lake and stopped. Then it suddenly accelerated into traffic on Michigan. The bus jumped a curb and finally came to a stop on a pedestrian plaza. “It was literally something out of an action movie,” Antoine said, noting that she did not think that the driver came to a full stop at the light. Aimee Coath, a 51-year-old from Flossmoor, was killed when the bus ran her over. According to an attorney from the firm that filed a wrongful death lawsuit on the family’s behalf, the Coaths had been planning a wedding for Aimee’s daughter. The suit names the CTA and Barnes as the defendants. Barnes, who has been working with the CTA since September of last year, was[READ MORE…]
Victims of car accidents and other emergency events will now be able to receive medical aid faster than before with the opening of Chicago’s first vertiport. Vertiports offer an efficient new alternative to emergency ground transportation by providing a space for aircraft to vertically take off and land. Vertiport flights can streamline travel from crowded downtown areas to nearby airports or medical centers. This means first responders can access injured victims much more quickly, improving survival rates and potentially lowering the risk of medical complications. Vertiport Chicago, which is currently the largest vertiport in the U.S., is situated 3.5 miles from downtown Chicago. The 10-acre facility includes a terminal, a hangar, space for eight parked helicopters and one spot for takeoff and landing. The vertiport officially opened in late April, making the new takeoff and landing zone available to paying clients and local emergency responders, including paramedics, police and firefighters. Since Vertiport Chicago is built on land that belongs to the Illinois Medical District, the facility will give medical helicopters top priority. These helicopters will be able to take off or land before all other air traffic without paying any landing fees. This arrangement should enable local medical professionals to more efficiently deliver organs and move trauma patients to medical centers where they can receive needed care. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2012 found that trauma patients experienced markedly better outcomes when they were transported to the hospital via helicopter. These patients were 16 percent more likely to survive than patients transported by ambulance. The patients who were moved by helicopter also had a higher chance of progressing to rehabilitative treatment, rather than requiring ongoing assisted care. This study did not determine why air transportation might offer such distinct benefits for trauma patients. However, people who are taken to the hospital via ambulance may be at risk for delays and additional injuries. Eliminating these issues may make a critical difference for people who have been seriously injured in car crashes, workplace accidents and other traumatic incidents. The new vertiport will also serve the community by creating jobs, attracting businesses and drawing in tourists. Already, the vertiport is allowing logistics company DHL to expedite daily deliveries to clients in downtown Chicago. The availability of chartered vertiport flights, which will allow executives to travel to O’Hare International Airport in 10 minutes, may give more businesses[READ MORE…]
Many people who have suffered from debilitating injuries or illnesses in Illinois have trouble adjusting to the associated changes in their lives. These individuals may feel isolated or overwhelmed as they struggle with challenges that people close to them have never faced. Peer support groups can play an important role in helping these disabled individuals connect with others, regain confidence and find inspiration. In Chicago, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk has recently started a group, informally called “Kirk’s Battle Buddies,” that seeks to offer members these same benefits. The new group provides disabled people with a chance to share their experiences and support with other people who face similar struggles. Sen. Kirk became inspired to form the group after he suffered a stroke and corresponded with another stroke survivor, a 12-year-old named Jackson. Jackson encouraged Sen. Kirk to put forward his best effort during rehabilitation rather than giving up on making a full recovery. Since that time, the two “Battle Buddies” have given each other support throughout their recoveries. It is Sen. Kirk’s hope that the new group will provide similar motivation to people who suffer from disabling conditions or have experienced serious health setbacks. Members can turn to each other for support as they heal, rehabilitate, set physical goals and work to accomplish those goals. The inspiration for the group’s name comes from the Battle Buddy Foundation, which helps veterans assist other veterans through groups and community events. The Chicago “Battle Buddies” group, however, is open to anyone who has suffered from a serious health problem and wishes to participate. The first group meeting was held in February at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. The same month, members of the group participated in the Hustle Up the Hancock fundraiser. During the event, Sen. Kirk and two other “Battle Buddies” climbed the stairs at the John Hancock Center to raise awareness for lung disease research and education. The event gave group members a chance to achieve their physical goals or show support for other members. Besides providing motivation, groups such as the “Battle Buddies” can offer various invaluable services for disabled individuals. These groups can help members discover resources they might otherwise overlook, from financial and medical support to counseling. Group members can benefit from the advice of others who have faced similar challenges in their relationships, careers or everyday lives. Group participation also allows members to[READ MORE…]
The purpose of the Workers’ Compensation Act (Act) is to protect employees against risks and hazards which are particularly characteristics to the specific work they have been employed to do. An injury is compensable under the Act only if it “arises out of” and “in the course of” the employment. The phrase “in the course of” refers to the time, place and circumstances under which the accident occurred. The words “arising out of” refer to the origin or cause of the accident and assume that there is a causal connection between the employment and the injury. An injury “arises out of” the employment if it originates from a risk connected with, or incidental to, her /his job. Both of these elements must be present at the time of the accident or injury to justify compensation. Jane Brais worked for the Kankakee County Circuit Clerk’s Office as a child support coordinator. On the day of her accident, Brais was returning to her office at the courthouse from a work-related meeting at a nearby administrative building. Brais and other employees normally used the employee’s entrance at the rear of the courthouse. However, the entrance was locked, which meant she had to use the main entrance instead. As she neared the main entrance stairs, she caught the heel of her shoe in a sidewalk defect and fell; the sidewalk where she fell had huge cracks and was broken up. Brais testified, “You could pretty much see the gravel that they put down underneath the concrete.” She further testified there was a one-half to a one inch difference in the level between the smooth concrete and the crumbled concrete. Brais filed her claim against Kankakee County, and the arbitrator denied it. According to the arbitrator, Brais’ accident “occurred when she was walking along a public pathway going in to the county courthouse.” He added, “In doing so, she was not subjected to a risk to which the general public is not exposed or that was peculiar to her work.” The arbitrator found that the risk to the claimant which caused her injuries was no greater to her than to the general public. The Brais case found that the employee’s presence on the sidewalk approaching the steps to the courthouse’s front door was based on the demands of her employment, which had required her to attend a meeting in the administration building two blocks from[READ MORE…]
Several states have laws referred to as an assault by auto or vehicular homicide as it is considered in Illinois. As the driver of a truck, there is a lot of responsibility; the greatest concern is safety and keeping fatigued drivers off the highway and freeways. There are regulations for when and how long a driver may drive. You don’t know when an accident can occur; recently a tractor-trailer rammed into a limousine bus, because the driver dozed off, setting off a chain-reaction crash. The truck driver was charged with death by auto in the crash that killed a man; two people were seriously injured and flown from the accident scene to a local hospital, where they were left in critical condition. If a driver unintentionally kills an individual without lawful justification, they commit Involuntary Manslaughter; if their acts, whether lawful or unlawful, cause the death, are likely to cause death or great bodily harm to some individual, and it is performed recklessly, it is considered to be Reckless Homicide. A person commits Reckless Homicide if he or she unintentionally kills an individual while driving a vehicle and uses an incline in a roadway, such as a railroad crossing, bridge approach, or hill, to cause the vehicle to become airborne. Involuntary Manslaughter and Reckless Homicide are each considered to be a Class 3 felony. In cases involving Reckless Homicide in which the defendant drove a vehicle and used an incline in a roadway, such as a railroad crossing, bridge approach, or hill, to cause the vehicle to become airborne and caused the deaths of 2 or more persons as part of a single course of conduct, the penalty is a Class 2 felony. In cases involving Involuntary Manslaughter or Reckless Homicide resulting in the death of a police officer being killed while on the job as an officer, the penalty is a Class 2 felony. Reckless Homicide includes cases in which the defendant unintentionally kills an individual while driving in a posted school zone, while children are present or in a construction or maintenance zone. According to the Illinois Vehicle Code, when construction or maintenance workers are present, that fact may infer that the defendant’s actions were performed recklessly especially where he or she was also either driving at a speed of more than 20 miles per hour in excess of the posted speed limit or violating Section 11-501 of[READ MORE…]
Last August we discussed lawsuits brought by over 75 ex-football players against the National Football League. The players sought unspecified amounts of damages for head injuries sustained over the course of their careers. The players alleged that the NFL knew of the harmful effects of multiple concussions as early as the 1920s, but kept that information from players until 2010. Riddell, the helmet maker, was also named in the lawsuit as a defendant. These lawsuits are still pending and a hearing was recently held in Miami to determine whether the cases, which were filed in various federal courts, including Atlanta, Miami, New York and Philadelphia, should be consolidated into a multidistrict region. One interesting issue in this case is the possibility that the NFL will claim that the terms of the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players should apply to the players’ head injuries, thus requiring the players to seek compensation via more traditional outlets such as workers’ compensation and disability benefits and the NFL’s medical and long term care plans. As explained in a Workforce.com article about this lawsuit, according to an attorney representing many of the players, the concussions and other head injuries suffered by the players were sustained in ways unrelated to typical workforce dangers: While some players have been able to receive benefits for concussion-related injuries, McGlamry said player attorneys are seeking to prove, in part, that their clients face health problems due to negligence that extended beyond typical workplace hazards. So, while the NFL would prefer to limit recovery by the injured players to more traditional venues, the players claim that the league negligently misled them by downplaying the risks of head injuries and minimizing the long term effects of concussion-related injuries and cognitive disorders. The outcome of this case remains to be seen and it will likely be quite some time until this brain injury lawsuit winds its way through the court system and a resolution is reached. But, nevertheless, it is an important case and emphasizes the dangers of traumatic brain injuries and the risks associated with engaging in activities that tend to result in head injuries. The Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. You can reach the firm by calling (312) 346-8780. Related articles Hall of Famer suing NFL over health problems (foxnews.com) NFL back Jones-Drew disparages head-injury reforms (sfgate.com) NFL questions validity of concussion[READ MORE…]
The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled last November 2011 that the State of Minnesota could proceed with its claim against Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc., the California firm that designed the Minnesota bridge that collapsed in 2007, killing 13 and injuring 145 others.Â The Stateâ€™s claim against Jacobs Engineering Group (Jacobs) is based on the fact that the bridge was designed by a firm that Jacobs acquired in 1999.Â The bridge collapse was found to have been caused by a design error that led to inadequate load capacity. More than 100 lawsuits were filed in 2009 and, pursuant to the Minnesota Tort Claims Act, the State of Minnesota has paid more than $37 million to victims of the bridge collapse.Â The State has also sued URS Corporation, the firm hired to inspect the bridge in 2003, and Progressive Contractors Inc., the company who had performed repairs on the bridge.Â Both of these companies have also filed claims against Jacobs, the design firm, seeking contribution, indemnity and reimbursement for their liability under a Minnesota law that allows injured victims to make a statutory claim for reimbursement in the event of an accident.Â The court dismissed these claims, however, due to a ten-year Statute of Repose, which provides that a company is immune from liability ten years after construction of the bridge.Â Since the bridge was built in 1967, liability of Jacobs with respect to the claims of URS Corporation and Progressive Contractors expired in 1977. Despite the fact that the indemnity claims of URS and Progressive Contractors against Jacobs were dismissed, the State of Minnesotaâ€™s claims against Jacobs were not dismissed.Â The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the Stateâ€™s claims for reimbursement could continue due to a Minnesota statute that retroactively revived the Stateâ€™s claims despite the expiration of the State of Repose deadline.Â Specifically, Minnesota statute 3.7394 allows the state to recover from any responsible third parties any payments made from the emergency relief fund despite any statute to the contrary.Â Accordingly, the State is permitted to seek reimbursement for the payments made to victims of the bridge collapse despite the time limitations in the Statute of Repose. Impact of Courtâ€™s Decision The Minnesota Supreme Courtâ€™s ruling allowing the case to proceed against Jacobs Engineering could have far reaching effects.Â Despite a Homeland Security Report issued in April of 2011 revealing that nearly 12 percent of U.S. bridges are structurally deficient and[READ MORE…]
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