NASCAR’S Tony Stewart Cleared Of Criminal Charges But Could Still Face Civil Suit

NBC News reported last week that NASCAR driver Tony Stewart was cleared by a grand jury regarding possible criminal charges resulting from the crash at Canandaigua race track, which killed fellow sprint car racer, Kevin Ward, Jr. Ward climbed out of his car and ran out onto the track to confront Stewart, whose car clipped Ward, eventually killing him in the collision.

The Ontario County district attorney made the announcement last week that Stewart would not face any criminal charges, including involuntary manslaughter (i.e. negligent homicide). Interestingly, the district attorney also stated that toxicology reports showed that Ward had marijuana in his system, which allegedly could have caused impairment.

Although Stewart is cleared from criminal charges, he could still face a wrongful death lawsuit from Ward’s estate. That lawsuit would most likely come from Ward’s parents (assuming he was not married and without children). The lawsuit would allege that Stewart acted negligently and/or recklessly at the time of the accident by failing to avoid contact with Ward. This lawsuit will be an uphill battle though. First, the decedent, Ward, left his vehicle and ran out onto the track where he should have known he would be dangerously close to speeding sprint cars. Second, based on the toxicology report (assuming was accurate), could be used to show that Ward was in an impaired state.  One thing I will point at is that all of the other sprint cars that passed Ward had no problem avoiding and driving around Ward. Ward’s attorneys could argue that Stewart did not take the proper precautions that all of the other drivers did and he could have easily avoided this accident.

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According to Bicycling Magazine, Chicago now ranks as the second best city in the United States for bicyclists. Chicago was previously ranked number 5 in 2012 and number 10 in 2010.

The magazine cited the city’s Navy Pier Flyover construction project, the recent hike in fines for dooring cyclists, and the plans for new protected bike lanes as a few of the reasons Chicago rose in the rankings. It also applauded the city for helping Chicagoans “re-discover” cycling.  Although the magazine did not cite the rise in bike sharing, credit must be given to the city for its’ partnership with the company Divvy. Divvy bikes are available throughout the city for short term rentals, which has definitely increased the interest in bicycling in Chicago.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been taking a lot of heat for various issues such as the red light and speeder cameras, but credit must given for following through on his bicycling initiatives. He has made it a point to make the life for bicyclists much safer and has made bicycling much more accessible for everyone.

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


Odds Of A Vehicle – Deer Collisions In The U.S. Doubles In October, November & December

State Farm insurance company released a study today that says that the odds of a U.S. driver colliding with a deer is about 1 out of 169. According to the study, those odds double over October, November and December due to deer hunting season.  “Periods of daily high-deer movement around dawn and dusk as well as seasonal behavior patterns, such as during the October-December breeding season, increase the risk for auto-deer collisions,” said Ron Regan, executive director for the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies. “Changes in collision rates from year to year are a reflection of changing deer densities or population levels – more deer in a given area increases the potential for collision. Deer populations are also affected by conditions such as new or improved roads with higher speeds near deer habitat, changes to hunting seasons to manage wildlife, winter conditions, and other related factors.”

State Farm provided a list of precautions when driving in areas that are high in deer population:

-Use extra caution in known deer zones.

-Always wear your seatbelt

At night, when there is no oncoming traffic, use high beams

-Avoid swerving when you see a deer Scan the road for deer and other danger signs

-Do not rely on devices such as deer whistles

Remember, if you are unfortunate enough to collide with a deer, and you are injured, you can be compensated for your injuries, medical bills and lost wages if you have uninsured motorist coverage. This is why it is so important to pay for full insurance coverage: including uninsured and underinsured.

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New Illinois Bill No Longer Requires Ticketed Drivers Hand Over License As Bail

The Chicago Tribune reported last month about a new bill that was signed into Illinois law that no longer requires drivers cited for traffic violations hand over their license to the Court as bail insuring they attend court or pay their fine. Up until the bill was signed, certain speeding violations and other moving violations such as causing an accident would require the ticketed driver hand over their license to the police officer as bail. The driver would have their license returned to them by the judge at court after either pleading guilty or after the ticket was dismissed.

Senate Bill 2583, sponsored by Sen. Michael Noland, D-Elgin, and State Rep. John D’Amico, D-Chicago, goes into effect Jan. 1, 2015. “A driver’s license is an important form of identification, and without it many residents may run into problems during everyday situations when a valid ID is required,” Gov. Pat Quinn said in a statement. “This common sense legislation will allow law enforcement officials to continue doing their jobs while letting motorists hang onto a vital piece of identification.”

I think this bill makes sense and held little leverage over the heads of ticketed drivers. Drivers know, or at least soon find out, that failing to show up for court or paying their fine could lead to a suspended driver’s license or sometimes a warrant for their arrest.

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Driver Cited In Chicago O’Hare Bus Crash

There has been an update in the Chicago bus crash that injured 15 passengers as it approached O’Hare airport early Friday morning. According the NBC News Chicago, the bus driver was cited by Chicago police for failing to produce a valid license and failure to maintain her proper lane as she is alleged to have swerved into a median.

The failure to produce a license at the scene is not a serious charge as long as she can produce a valid license on her court date. If so, the ticket will be dismissed. The ticket for failing to stay in her proper lane will be more difficult to fight if the driver is unable to show there was an intervening cause for needing to swerve out of her lane. Further, pleading guilty to this ticket could be admissible as evidence of negligence in a civil case by the injured passengers. I think it is more than likely that we will see multiple civil lawsuits for personal injuries by the passengers against the bus driver and the bus company. I have not seen any news reports on who actually owns and operates this shuttle company. It is possible that a private company runs the shuttle, which is then hired by O’Hare airport. If that is the case, then both O’Hare airport and the shuttle company could be liable for the negligent actions of the bus driver. The owner and or employer are liable to the negligent actions of its employees if the actions were performed within the course and scope of their employment. This is referred to as respondeat superior.

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