New technology is bringing rapid changes to society, and the law is almost always a step behind. To be more specific, Bluetooth and other hands-free electronic communications technology are changing the way we drive. Illinois law is struggling to catch up while the death rate for certain kinds of accidents continues to soar, particularly distracted driving. Illinois distracted driving law currently prohibits any use of a hand-held device while driving. Penalties include fines and a potential driver’s license suspension for repeat offenses. By contrast, using a hands-free Bluetooth device is not specifically prohibited unless you are under 19 years old, even though using hands-free communications devices has been shown to be even more dangerous than drunk driving.
There is no simple answer to that question. Although there is no law specifically prohibiting the use of hands-free devices for those 19 and older, a party to a lawsuit can try to prove that you were driving negligently even though you were not breaking any specific law. That is how the rules that apply in civil court differ from the rules that apply in traffic court. This loophole can pave the way for a party to argue that you were driving negligently due to your use of Bluetooth. He could then attempt to prove this claim by establishing certain facts – that you were weaving between lanes immediately prior to the accident, for example.
If you were injured in an accident, you can try to prove that the accident was the defendant’s fault due to his use of Bluetooth. On the other hand, if you were the one using Bluetooth, the defendant might claim that the accident was partly your fault. This could reduce or even eliminate the value of your claim.
If all of this sounds complicated, there is a reason why – because Illinois personal injury law is indeed quite complex. If you were injured in a traffic accident that you believe was someone else’s fault, now is no time to “go it alone” and try to represent yourself. Malman Law can help.
At Malman Law we refuse to accept mediocrity, and our track record proves it:
“The Malman Law team is exceptional. Knows personal injury law, very responsive to my personal workers’ comp case, recovered money I thought I would never see. And it happened twice as fast as I thought it would. Thank you, Malman Law.” – Malman Law Client “Two years ago, I was involved in a trucking accident involving a 14-wheeler truck that nearly disabled me for life. Steve fought to make sure that I received the most possible compensation for my injuries. I was about to take the insurance company’s lowball offer, but decided to call Steve first – it was the best decision I’ve made yet.” – Malman Law Client
Car Accidents: Millions of car accidents occur every year, and hundreds of thousands of people suffer serious injury. Car accidents are usually somebody’s fault, and a compensation claim arises when the injured party is not the at-fault party. Texting and driving in particular is a rapidly increasing cause of car accidents. Personal Injury: Just about any type of accident qualifies as a personal injury claim if an injury occurred due to the wrongful act or neglect of another. This is also true of many other types of accidents, such as pedestrian/vehicle accidents, that are not specifically listed here. Wrongful Death: Just about any personal injury that results in the death of the victim can give rise to a wrongful death claim. In Illinois, the personal representative of the victim’s estate (named in the will or appointed by a court) may file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of close relatives and, for certain expenses, the estate itself. Cell Phone Accidents: Pennsylvania’s distracted driving laws cover all usage of handheld devices, and even hands-free models for users under 19. Although breaking a traffic law and being found negligent in a civil lawsuit are two different things, a driver causing an accident through cell phone use is likely to be found negligent. This likelihood increases the odds that the defendant’s insurance company will be willing to settle the claim out of court. Motorcycle Accidents: Motorcycles are probably the most vulnerable motor vehicles on the road, and accidents tend to be catastrophic. Such accidents are typically (but not always) the fault of an automobile driver, due to the disregard with which so many drivers treat motorcycles. Truck Accidents: Truck accidents are typically caused by driver negligence or the defective condition of the truck. When the accident can be traced to the truck, an astute personal injury lawyer will check to see if the accident can be traced to the violation of a trucking industry regulation. Underinsured Driver Accidents: Of what use is it to win a personal injury lawsuit against a driver who cannot afford to pay you because he didn’t carry sufficient insurance at the time of the accident? Fortunately, in many cases it is possible to secure full compensation from another source. Train Accidents: The city of Chicago maintains over 200 miles of local train tracks to transport over 750,000 people a day. Obviously, accidents are inevitable, and they are not always caused by the train operator — technical malfunctions as well as pedestrians and other vehicles can cause accidents as well. You are entitled to compensation, however, if the accident can be traced to negligence.
Comparative negligence is a legal theory that provides guidance on how to distribute compensation when more than one party was at fault for an accident. A court will assign a percentage of fault to each party. Then it will allow the party who is less at fault to recover compensation from the more at fault party – minus his own percentage of fault. For example, let’s assume that there are $100,000 in damages for Driver A. However, Driver A was 40 percent at fault and Driver B was 60 percent at fault. Then Driver A could recover damages, but not the full $100,000. Instead, 40% would be deducted from his recovery due to his percentage of fault in the accident – and he would walk away with $60,000.
Yes. Illinois drivers must carry at least:
No. In fact, you should refuse to do so if they request one, because they will be looking for something they can use against you. Instead, issue the at-fault driver’s insurance company a written notice with the following information only:
Direct all further attempts at communication to your lawyer.
No, not automatically. If you broke a safety law, that fact can be used to shift the burden of proof onto you. In other words, you would now be responsible for proving that you were not driving negligently, even though you broke a safety law. Although that is not good news, it might still be possible to avoid liability.
If the infranction concerned the accident that injured you, you can use it as evidence against him in a personal injury lawsuit (although such evidence will not decide the case in your favor all by itself). If the driver pleaded not-guilty but was convicted anyway, you cannot use his conviction against him.
Yes, as long as you can prove the relationship between your injuries and your lost wages. Theoretically, you could be entitled to decades of lost wages if your injury was so serious that you are forced to abandon your career. The problem you might run into here, however, is that such a large claim would probably exceed the defendant’s insurance coverage limits.
You can if a court appoints you as guardian ad litem for the purpose of filing the lawsuit. Since a minor cannot file a lawsuit in his own name in an Illinois court, someone will have to be appointed – and that person is likely to be a parent or other close relative.
Yes, we will. As your attorneys, we would be under a solemn legal and professional obligation to keep all of our communications absolutely confidential unless you give us permission to release certain information. In almost any case, we would even be entitled to refuse a court order to divulge confidential client information.
Probably not. Since most truckers are independent contractors, not employees, the trucking company is probably not responsible for the driver’s negligence. You might be able to support a claim if the trucking company itself was negligent in some way that contributed to the accident.
No. Although you may have an uphill battle establishing your claim. It would be up to you to prove that the accident was not your fault (instead of the other driver having to prove that the accident was your fault). If the other driver’s brake lights were out at the time of the accident, for example, you might have a workable defense.
Theoretically, punitive damages are available in Illinois personal injury lawsuits. The are unlikely to be awarded, however, for a distracted driving accident. To win punitive damages you would need to show – by “clear and convincing” evidence – that the defendant’s conduct was outrageous in some way. A DUI accident might qualify, but a road rage incident would be more likely to qualify.
If the accident victim dies from the accident, Illinois wrongful death law allows the personal representative of the victim’s estate to file a lawsuit against the responsible party. Liability would have to be proven in much the same way as it would for a personal injury claim. Any damages awarded would go to the victim’s next of kin and to his probate estate.
We work on a contingency basis – if we take your case, your fee will be calculated as a percentage of your actual compensation. Although 95 percent of our clients win compensation, remember this – any percentage of zero is still zero. This means that you will owe us precisely nothing unless we win compensation for you.