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Traffic Fatalities Declining in Most Statistical CategoriesThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently reported that 36,560 people were killed as a result of motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. in 2018. While any amount of traffic deaths is tragic, the 2018 number was actually a 2.4 percent decrease from 2017. Though not always steady, the number of motor vehicle fatalities reported each year has decreased by almost 18 percent since 1975. The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is a third of what it was in 1975, which is more impressive when you consider that the annual VMT has more than doubled since then. In other words, Americans are driving more than ever and still decreasing the number of traffic deaths. There are other findings from the NHTSA report that are worth exploring.

Why the Decrease?

There are several explanations for why the rate of traffic fatalities has decreased in the last 40 years:

  • There have been effective public awareness campaigns about wearing safety belts and avoiding impaired driving.
  • Enforcing traffic laws, such as tickets for not wearing a safety belt, has discouraged the risky behavior.
  • Vehicles are better designed to avoid accidents and protect occupants in the event of a crash.
  • Emergency response systems and medical technology have improved, saving more lives.

Even with an overall decline in fatalities, there are clusters of years when the number of motor vehicle deaths has increased. For instance, the number of fatalities increased by 8.4 percent in 2015 and 6.5 percent in 2016. One possible explanation could be the rising use of handheld digital devices, which increased distracted driving.

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Why Is It Difficult to Resist Distracted Driving?Distracted driving is a hazard that does not seem to be going away, as people continue to be attached to their digital devices at all times. Diverting your attention from the road can cause an accident that results in injuries to yourself or someone else. According to one traffic accident study, nine people die and more than 1,000 people are injured every day in incidents involving distracted driving. As easy as it is to say that you should ignore everything other than your driving, drivers have a difficult time putting that into practice. Why do people allow themselves to be distracted while driving when they know it is dangerous? There are several possible explanations:

  1. The Fallacy of Multitasking: People have become used to constantly checking their phones while performing other tasks, such as working or watching television. You may think of this as multitasking because you are doing two activities at once. However, dividing your attention makes you less effective at both tasks. Looking away from your work for a few seconds to check a text message may do no harm because you are able to stop your work and start again. Looking away for a few seconds while you are driving is dangerous because your driving conditions could change at any moment.
  2. Nagging Alerts: You cannot help becoming momentarily distracted when you hear an alert for an incoming message or call. Answering that message or call will further distract you and increase the risk that you may be involved in an accident. Despite the danger, drivers are often overcome with an urge to know who is trying to contact them. You may be expecting an important call or to hear back from someone you have messaged. You may be worried that the call is about an emergency or an opportunity that will disappear if you do not respond immediately. If you think the message is that important, you should safely pull over in order to check it.
  3. False Safety of Hands-Free Devices: Laws against distracted driving exempt hands-free technology that allows you to answer calls and messages through voice commands or dashboard controls. However, drivers can become cognitively distracted without diverting their eyes or hands from their driving. When you are focusing on a conversation, you are not mentally ready to react to unexpected circumstances that may arise while driving. You are less able to foresee a potential hazard and slower to respond.

Contact a McHenry County Personal Injury Lawyer

Distracted driving can establish negligence in a personal injury case. Another driver may have caused the accident because they were distracted, but you could also share liability for the accident if you were distracted. A Crystal Lake, Illinois, personal injury attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can explain how distracted driving may affect the outcome of your case. Schedule a free consultation by calling 815-338-3838.

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Are Property Owners Liable for Fall Injuries Caused by Leaves?Many people love autumn in part because of the changing colors of the falling leaves. Leaves are usually not an obstacle for walkers but can sometimes be responsible for slip, trip, and fall injuries. Wet leaves can be slick, and a layer of dry leaves may hide obstacles or wet surfaces. When it comes to personal injury compensation, fall injuries are usually a premises liability issue. Whether you receive compensation from a property owner or their insurer depends on whether the property owner had a duty to protect you in the situation leading to your injury.

Clearing Leaves

There is an Illinois Snow and Ice Removal Act that covers premises liability when someone is injured due to winter accumulations on a property. There is not an equivalent act for leaves. If the same principles apply to leaves as snow, then property owners are not required to clear leaves from walkways on their property. If they do clear the leaves, they are responsible for doing so in a way that does not create a hazard for pedestrians.

If a court applies the Illinois Premises Liability Act, property owners may have a greater obligation to clear leaves from their property. The act states that property owners must make a reasonable effort to protect people from or warn people about hazards on their property. If the property owner had a reasonable amount of time to clear the leaves from public walkways near their property, they may be liable if those leaves became wet and created a slipping hazard due to their negligence. Liability would be more certain if a property owner left an object, such as a rake, hidden under a pile of leaves on the sidewalk.

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How an Uninsured Motorist Affects Your Personal Injury CaseA personal injury case involving a vehicle accident will start with filing an insurance claim before you decide whether to pursue a personal injury lawsuit. While you have two years in Illinois to file a personal injury lawsuit, the insurance claim process will start almost immediately. If the other driver was at fault for your injuries, their insurance will likely be responsible for compensating you. However, what happens if the driver at fault does not have auto insurance? In Illinois, your uninsured motorist coverage will pay you instead.

How Does It Work?

Illinois requires auto insurance providers to include uninsured motorist coverage in all insurance plans, whereas other states may only require that insurers offer it. Your insurance will compensate you if you are injured in an accident with an uninsured driver, including if:

  • You were driving another vehicle;
  • You were a passenger in the uninsured driver’s vehicle; or
  • You were a cyclist or pedestrian.

Your insurance policy will also compensate you if the liable driver is underinsured. In that instance, your insurer would pay the difference between what the other insurance company pays you and your medical expenses, up to the limit of your policy. However, your insurance might not cover property damage caused by an uninsured party, depending on the type of policy you have.

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When Are Schools Liable for Children’s Injuries?Parents send their children to school with the expectation that they will be safe, but accidents occur that may result in a child being injured. When the injury requires extensive medical treatment, you should investigate whether you have a strong case for filing a personal injury lawsuit against the school. School districts in Illinois are required to carry insurance in case they are found liable for a student’s injury. In many situations, Illinois law protects school districts against parents filing personal injury lawsuits unless they can prove willful or wanton conduct by the district or its employees.

Plaintiff’s Burden

Illinois’ Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act creates a high burden of proof when plaintiffs file personal injury lawsuits against public entities, such as public school districts. Student injuries are most likely to occur during recess periods, physical education classes and extracurricular athletics. The law states that a school district is not liable for injuries that occur on properties that are meant for recreational activities unless the injury was caused by willful or wanton conduct, which is:

  • Intent to cause harm; or
  • Conscious disregard for safety.

Willful or wanton conduct is a stricter burden of proof than negligence because it requires proving the defendant’s intent. It is unlikely that a school or its employees would intend to injure a student. Showing that the school was ambivalent towards its students’ safety is more likely but still difficult.

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