15 Passengers Injured This Morning On Shuttle Bus Accident Near O’Hare Airport

NBC Chicago, among other outlets, are reporting this morning that 15 passengers were injured during a shuttle bus accident on I-190 while heading in to Chicago O’Hare airport. Apparently the bus crashed into a median around 6:30 a.m. this morning, tossing passenger around in the bus. A total of 10 ambulances were called to the scene and 15 passengers were injured and taken to various hospitals around the city. Fire officials said four people were transported in critical condition, five in fair-to-serious condition, four in good condition and two people refused treatment.

Robert Gembala, another firefighter who also witnessed the crash, immediately rushed onto the bus and began assisting injured passengers.

“It was unbelievable what they did,” said firefighter Steve Siavelis, who was on the first fire truck to arrive at the scene.

Injuries varied, Sampey said, with passengers at the front of the bus experiencing the greatest impact.

“People were thrown around the bus,” he said. “Some were more critical than others.”

This is the second major accident that has happened in or around O’Hare this year. This Spring, a CTA blue line bus failed to stop when arriving at the airport and crashed up and over the tracks into an escalator. Several passengers were injured in that accident as well. Hopefully those critically injured this morning heal quickly and that there are no fatal injuries.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a Chicago bus accident or a Chicago CTA train accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076. 

Illinois Governor Quinn Vetoes Ride Share Bills

The Chicago Sun Times, Early & Often, political website reported yesterday that Governor Quinn had vetoed the controversial ride share bill that would have put restrictions on companies like Uber, Sidecar and Lyft.

The bill would have required rideshare companies to closely track how many hours each of their drivers averaged on their platforms. Those who offered rides more than 36 hours every two weeks would have to comply with safety regulations similar to taxi drivers — namely, obtaining a public chauffeur’s license, getting fingerprinted and submitting to a criminal background check. Additionally, the companies would have to provide commercial liability insurance identical to that which is required for taxis, for all its drivers — regardless of how many hours they spend on the platform. The governor’s veto ensures that Chicago’s less rigid ridesharing regulations championed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel will stand and take effect later this week.

This was a tough decision for Quinn as he was forced to balance both customer demand with thriving technology versus a protection of the old guard – – here being the taxi companies. The taxi companies are not happy at all as they are held to a much higher standard when it comes to background checks, training and fees for licensing. My issue was whether passengers, pedestrians and fellow drivers would be protected by enough insurance. I think the local ordinance passed in May in Chicago addressed this issue among others. As I wrote here, the local ordinance requires ride share companies and its’ drivers carry $1 million in commercial auto liability per incident while the driver has accepted a ride until the completion of the ride, $1million in commercial general liability per occurrence for bodily injury, personal injury and property damage, and auto liability insurance to cover drivers when logged into app until the driver accepts a ride. Basically, this covered the loophole where drivers didn’t have any passengers in their vehicle but are actively searching for fares. The local ordinance also required a basic driver training course and clean driving record (no misdemeanors convictions such as DUI or reckless driving). It is an endless debate and there’s a chance that the veto is overridden as the original bills passed the Illinois House, 80-26 in June, and would require only 71 votes for an override. The Senate passed the measure 46-8, and would require only 36 to override.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a Chicago car accident or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

Former Redflex CEO And Chicago Transportation Official Indicted On Federal Charges

Both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun Times reported last week that Karen Finley, the onetime CEO of Redflex, John Bills, a former Chicago city official, and one of Bills’s friends are  facing charges of wire fraud, mail fraud, bribery, and conspiracy to commit bribery, with Bills also facing a charge of conspiracy to commit extortion. The charges have been filed in Federal Court in the Northern District of Illinois.

Finley, who was CEO of Redflex until February of 2013, allegedly passed bribes to Bills via Bills’s friend, Martin O’Malley, in exchange for Bills’s help in receiving the red light camera contracts. Those contracts eventually led to $124 million going to Redflex, the Sun-Times said.

Last February, the city chose to block Redflex from bidding on on further traffic camera contracts, in the wake of the scandal, and eventually it chose a Xerox unit as the new red light camera operator.

This should not come as a surprise as both Redflex and Bills have come under scrutiny since last year when it was determined that alleged corruption was involved in the bidding process. As a wrote several weeks back, Redflex has also been named as a defendant in a class action lawsuit alleging that they were unjustly enriched from money they received as the red light camera operator because it was alleged that the contract was received through bribery. This is just another example of how controversial red light cameras have become in Chicago. There are some critics out there, including myself, that believe red light cameras do not actually make intersections safer and are merely a money grab by the city. I will be following the class action lawsuit closely along with the federal charges.

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a Chicago traffic accident or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago injury attorney, Aaron Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

New Illinois Bill Changes Uninsured & Underinsured Motorist Coverage Law

If you are not familiar with uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, then above title may not mean much to you. If you have auto insurance, you have the option to purchase uninsured or underinsured coverage, which provides you coverage for bodily injuries should the driver that hit you not have insurance or not have enough insurance coverage, depending on the severity of the injury. If you involved in a car accident with a driver without insurance and are injured, this type of insurance coverage is used to pay your medical bills, lost wages and for any pain and suffering and/or disfigurement. Often times, I have been able to settle these types of cases for my clients without going to an arbitration. If settlement with the insurance carrier is not possible, then we appoint an arbitrator and the insurance company appoints an arbitrator and the two then pick a third, neutral arbitrator. A hearing is then held where the arbitrator issues an award. The hearing (or arbitration) is similar to a trial except there is no jury and the amount of witnesses is limited as evidentiary requirements are waived for certain things like medical bills, medical records and photographs. This is a quicker and less expensive way to adjudicate a case.

This week, Governor Quinn signed House Bill 5575, which raises the limits for the right to reject arbitration awards under underinsured/uninsured motorist insurance policies by 50%. The old limits were $50,000/$100,000 and are now raised to $75,000/$150,000.  Previously, the insurance companies could reject an award for an individual that was over $50,000 if the policy limits were only $50,000. Now the insurance companies would only be able to reject an award if it was over $75,000. You can read the entire bill by clicking here.

This is a victory for those who are seriously injured in car accidents by drivers who do not have insurance or are underinsured. I cannot stress how important it is for drivers to purchase full coverage insurance. You never know if the other driver who causes the car accident has insurance or not. What if you are injured by an uninsured motorist and unable work and support your family?  Purchase full coverage, so you know you and your family will be protected.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a Chicago car accident or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

Illinois Governor Quinn Vetos Bill That Would Raise Truck Driver Speed Limit

The Chicago Tribune reported this week that Illinois Governor Quinn used his veto powers to overrule a bill that would raise the speed limits for semitrailer trucks from 55 mph to 60 mph on interstates in Chicago and the surrounding area. The bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Jim Oberweis, passed the House 114-0 and the Senate 58-0.  Oberweis said the bill was designed to reduce the differential between cars going 70 mph and trucks limited to 55 mph.

“It would make the roads safer,” said Oberweis, who is challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin this fall. “There would be only a 10 mph differential rather than 15.”

Quinn’s responded by stating that this was all about driver safety:  “no amount of fines, penalties or jail time can ever replace the lives of those whom we have lost to fatal accidents on our interstate highways,” Quinn said.

Citing the recent traffic deaths tied to big trucks traveling at high speeds, Quinn said, “The convenience of increased speeds for truckers on roadways does not outweigh the safety risks to children, families and our dedicated public servants.”

Quinn cited a July 21 truck crash on Interstate 55 near Arsenal Road in the southwest suburbs. An Indiana trucker, Francisco Espinal Quiroz, 51, of Leesburg, Ind., allegedly was speeding in a work zone when his truck slammed into three vehicles, killing 5 people. He has been charged with falsifying duty logbooks used to verify that a driver is not spending too many hours on the road without rest.

I think the Governor was correct in his decision here. Obviously the Chicagoland area is one of the most congested areas with traffic and trucks make up a big percentage of that congestion. Semitrailer trucks, if not driven properly or at a safe speed, can be prone to traffic accidents. Further, the results of a truck accident can prove much more deadly than regular vehicles based on the size of a semitrailer. I do not believe Governor Quinn was overstepping his boundaries as Governor in this situation.

If or someone you love has been injured in a Chicago truck accident or Chicago car accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

Reckless Homicide Charges Brought In Edgewater Neighborhood Car Crash

The Chicago Tribune reported last week that the driver, who allegedly caused a fatal car accident in the Edgewater neighborhood, was charged with reckless homicide by States Attorney’s office. Prosecutors said the driver hadn’t been drinking, had a valid license and has no criminal background. Judge Donald Panarese Jr. ordered the Russian native’s passport seized.

The accident killed a 71 year old pedestrian and injured five (5) others when the defendant driver tried to pass a CTA bus on the right side through a parking lane. After striking two (2) pedestrians, his vehicle crashed into another which caused a chain reaction.

As I wrote yesterday regarding the Tony Stewart NASCAR accident, drivers who kill someone with their vehicles are typically charged with reckless homicide, which is often referred to as manslaughter. Since it is difficult to prove intent (i.e. that the driver purposely struck the pedestrians), reckless homicide carries a much lighter prison sentence than first or second degree murder. The defendant driver in this case will also be facing civil liability through a wrongful death lawsuit by the family or estate of the pedestrian who was killed at the scene. He will most likely also be sued for the personal injuries of the five (5) others who were injured.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a Chicago traffic accident or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago personal injury attorney Aaron Bryant for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

NASCAR Driver Tony Stewart Could Face Civil & Criminal Charges For Fatal Crash

NASCAR driver Tony Stewart made national headlines for a fatal crash that occurred Saturday night after his sprint car struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. in a Saturday night race at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park. To recap, Stewart, who entered this race despite being scheduled for an actual NASCAR event the next day, had an altercation with Ward Jr. while rounding the track which resulted in knocking Ward Jr’s sprint car to the side of the track. A furious Ward Jr. exited his vehicle and walked onto the race track and pointed his finger at Stewart. As Steward was passing Ward Jr., the back end of his car fishtailed and struck Ward Jr. and ultimately killed him right at the scene.

Criminal Charges:

I can honestly say with a straight face that Tony Stewart will not be facing murder charges for this fatal crash as it appears clear that he did not purposely try to injure or kill Ward Jr. The county sheriff and prosecutor are investigating the case right now and I believe it is possible we could see manslaughter charges against Stewart. The level of charge depends upon the intent or what is called mens rea. The prosecutor could conclude that Stewart acted with reckless indifference towards Ward Jr. by driving so close and swerving his car in a way that caused it to fishtail into Ward Jr. The prosecutor may conclude that Steward should have known these actions would cause great bodily harm. These are the types of charges that result often times from drunk driving or reckless driving deaths. The intent (mens rea) was not purposeful but it could be argued that Stewart acted with such indifference towards Ward Jr. that he should be charged. Even if charges are brought, I think this will be a very tough case for the prosecutor because Ward Jr. was acting reckless himself by walking out onto the race track and could be viewed merely as an accident.

Civil Liability:

There is no question that the family of Ward Jr. will file a wrongful death lawsuit against both Tony Stewart and his team and the owners of the race track. The lawsuit will allege that Stewart acted negligently by driving so close and driving in a way causing it to fishtail into Ward Jr. Further, Ward Jr.’s attorneys will argue that Stewart, a veteran driver, should have know that his car could have reacted that way and a fish tail action could have swerved into Ward Jr. Again, like the criminal case, this will be a tough to prove for Ward Jr.’s family because their son acted negligently himself by walking onto the track. Ward Jr., no doubt, will be found at least partially at fault for his own death. This is referred to as comparative fault, which depending on the percentage found by the jury, could reduce any award given to the family. If Stewart (and the race track) are found at least 51% at fault, then Stewart and the race track owners will have to pay damages to the Ward Jr. family for his wrongful death.

This is a case I will be following closely and will definitely be posting about again once we learn more information.

If you or someone you love has been involved in an Illinois wrongful death case or a Chicago car crash, then call Chicago personal injury attorney, Aaron Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

9,000 Red Light Ticket Recipients Will Receive Chance To Appeal

I wrote recently about the Chicago Tribune investigative article about abnormal spikes in red light camera tickets at various locations around the city. This story made news headlines around the country. The City Council responded last week with a hearing on the issue and announced that they were going to give ticket recipients a chance to appeal.

At a hearing of the City Council Committee on Pedestrian and Traffic Safety, Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld said the city’s Finance Department will send letters to approximately 9,000 motorists who were issued a red light camera. Those people will be invited to get a new review of their case, and if it’s found the violation was an error, they’ll get a refund.

At the hearing, Commissioner Scheinfeld did come to the defense of how the red light cameras work and that there could be explanations for some of the spikes in tickets:

“It is important to note that there are always spikes in any automated enforcement system due to fluctuations in traffic volume and driver behavior where cameras are located. For example, if a street is closed for construction, increased traffic flow on an adjacent street or alternate route might drive up violations for a period of time during that construction. The occurrence of special events or severe weather can also create significant changes in traffic patterns,” she added.

In particular, she noted one spike cited by the Tribune — at 119th and Halsted in May and June 2011 — appeared to be the result of a project to repair the 111th Street and 115th Street bridges over Interstate 57. Shcheinfeld said the city believes drivers likely used Halsted to bypass the construction work by exiting I-57 at 99th and Halsted, then heading south to 119th Street to get back on the interstate.

I have called into question the validity of red light tickets from the beginning. Both former Mayor Daley and now Emanuel have stated over and over that the red light cameras (and speed cameras) are used for safety purposes. I have written in the past and still believe that this is a ruse and merely money grab by the city. There have been studies around the country concluding that red light cameras actually make intersections MORE dangerous because drivers stop quickly and increase the chance of a car crash. You can read one particular study here.

Now we learn that thousands of these tickets may have been erroneously issued. Prior to that we learned that Redflex, the company that handled the speeder cameras, bribed their way into their contract with the city. This lead to a class action lawsuit against Redflex for being unjustly enriched for the work done for their city based on illegal bribes. I have to ask, when to we finally call for end to these types of tickets?  I have to give the city some credit for at least recognizing the possible errors here and the potential for ticket recipients to be refunded their money.

If you or someone you know has been seriously injured in a Chicago car accident or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.