KENNETH J. ALLEN LAW GROUP - INJURY ATTORNEYS
Illinois and Indiana Personal Injury Lawyers and Attorneys Trial and Civil Litigation Law Firm.
Accident & Injury Law
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Passion. Commitment. Excellence.
Those three words best describe the driving forces behind Kenneth J. Allen Law Group. Our firm is devoted exclusively to the practice of Accident and Injury Law, and exclusively to the people - not corporations - seriously hurt or killed in incidents as varied as on-the-job accidents, semi-truck crashes, injuries from a defective product, or loss of life because of a doctor's medical malpractice.
As the only multi-state law firm in Valparaiso Indiana, Merrillville Indiana, Indianapolis Indiana, Northwest Indiana, Chicagoland, Joliet Illinois, Tinley Park Illinois, Chicago Illinois accepting serious injury and wrongful death cases, exclusively, Kenneth J. Allen Law Group is experienced and knowledgeable in the details and procedures that can make or break a case.
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On July 27, 2011, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed into law new legislation that his office describes will “… simplify regulation of trucks traveling in Illinois, easing the regulatory burden faced by Illinois businesses while helping ensure the safety of Illinois’ roads.”
From the Governor’s official press release:
“One of the top priorities of my administration has been working with the business community to make Illinois an easier place to do business. By clarifying laws that impact transportation, we will help businesses to function more efficiently and still keep the public safe while traveling on Illinois roads.” Governor Quinn said. “This law creates common sense rules, eliminates confusing language, and enhances productivity in the trucking industry and benefits the environment.”
In this economy, focusing upon the dollars and cents of things is understandable, and it seems reasonable to pass Senate Bill 1644 as it “… clarifies and standardizes enforcement language for truck weight and size in the Illinois vehicle code.”
What Governor Quinn Has Signed Into Law Makes for More Danger On Illinois Roads
However, as the Governor points out, this new law also ups the allowable maximum truck weight in Illinois to 80,400 lbs because it will mean less diesel fuel usage in the long run. Saves money.
However, one thing doesn’t change. The heavier the truck, the more dangerous it is on the roads.
Of even more concern, Governor Quinn has signed into law Senate Bill 1913 which will mean that starting on January 1, 2012, trucks in Illinois will be able to drive 65 mphs on our roads.
Increasing Speed Limit on Big Rigs May Save Fuel But Will It Cost Lives?
This bill joins other legislation that works to increase the legal speed limit of big rigs to 65 mph on Illinois roads (this week’s bill doesn’t impact interstates, however prior legislation already covered that issue). For many, increasing the speed of big rigs is dangerous for us all.
Think of this:
- semi trucks carrying a full load of cargo, up to the legal limit of 80,400 pounds, will be driving alongside sedans that weigh around 5000 pounds.
- It will probably be around 80 feet long, lumbering alongside families in minivans, sedans, and SUVs at 65 mph.
- And if that truck needs to stop? It will take it almost twice as long as the car alongside it to do so.
Be careful out there, if you’re driving anywhere in Illinois – especially after the first of the year.
UNPRECEDENTED EPA RELEASES OF PREVIOUSLY CONFIDENTIAL CHEMICAL INFORMATION FOR INCREASED PUBLIC AWARENESS
Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the names of 150 chemicals that have been involved in over 100 health and safety studies (there were concerns over their safe use); these were chemical studies that had been protected from disclosure, kept from the public under a “confidential” label before now.
The EPA has done this as part of the Obama White House’s continued word toward greater transparency in federal actions, and the EPA itself labeled yesterday’s release as“unprecedented.”
What has been done? In 104 studies, the EPA will no longer allow the chemical identity to be omitted. These studies involve chemicals used in common and popular consumer products like air fresheners and non-stick and stain resistant materials along with fire resistant materials, nonylphenol compounds, perfluorinated compounds, and lead.
Online Chemical Data Access Tool Available to the Public
The agency has also given the American public free online access to the consolidated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Inventory on its own website as well aswww.Data.Gov.
Called the “Chemical Data Access Tool,” anyone can go to the EPA site and input anything found in an ingredients label to learn details about that chemical and whether or not there are concerns about its safety in use.
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured or killed due to the wrongful acts of another, then you may have a legal claim for legal damages as well as the right for justice against the wrongdoer and you are welcomed to contact the Northwest Indiana and Chicagoland personal injury lawyers at Kenneth J. Allen & Associates to schedule a free initial legal consultation.
For the convenience of its clientele, Kenneth J. Allen & Associates offers five offices to serve those located in either the states of Illinois or Indiana.
NEW ATRI STUDY REVEALS FACTORS THAT INCREASE CRASH LIKELIHOOD WHEN COMMERCIAL BIG RIG SEMI TRUCKS ARE ON THE ROAD
The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) (which is part of the American Trucking Associations Federation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit research organization headquartered in Arlington, Virginia) has released some important research findings regarding the commercial trucking industry in this country, including recommendations on how carriers can increase the safety of trucks driving on our roadways.
These can be found on the ATRI website and involve:
Ken Allen Law, of course, has requested and received the complete text of the 2011 report entitled “Predicting Truck Crash Involvement: A 2011 Update,” and we will be happy to forward a copy to anyone who requests it (free of charge, of course).
From the report:
In its finding of the likelihood of a crash involving a commercial truck, researchers took information from the new CSA, where a system is used (the “Safety Measurement System (SMS)”) of assigning numbers, or “normative scores” both to (1) carrier performance and (2) driver performance in 7 different areas related to safety (which they’ve called the “Behavioral Analysis Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs)”).
Decisions were made in advance of CSA scoring on what would be okay — the “threshold.” Then, after the scoring was done, if the numbers were over the top — or higher than the threshold — then the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) would take various actions. FMCSA might send a simple warning letter if the variance wasn’t that big. FMCSA might institute a full scale review, if the difference between the scoring and the threshold was huge.
What are the scores the government is looking at under CSA — what are the BASIC(s) that FMCSA is monitoring? The categories are:
- unsafe driving
- fatigued driving
- driver fitness
- controlled substances/alcohol concerns
- vehicle maintenance issues
- cargo-related issues
- crash indicators.
According to the study, “[c]lear conclusions cannot be drawn in instances where weights and crash likelihoods appear out of sync, primarily due to low sample sizes preventing several of the relationships from reaching statistical significance in this study. … [t]he paramount message is that the relationships between driver behaviors and crashes can and should be measured in order to identify the industry’s strongest truck crash predictors.
Once identified, these behaviors must be targeted for interventions, both to improve CSA scores and to reduce the frequency of preventable crashes. Ultimately, by addressing the behaviors in each safety category, not only will scores for a carrier’s respective BASIC decrease (improve), but all improvements will also indirectly feed into lower (better) Crash Indicator BASIC scores.”
In other words, truck drivers need to be protected, studied, and researched because truck driver behaviors have been shown to be a very strong contributing factor in big rig semi truck crashes.
The types of crashes where big, heavy, huge machines collide with smaller, more fragile vehicles – and where all too often, serious injury or death result.
Perhaps you are not surprised.
The Illinois House of Representatives is considering legislation that would make illegal in the State of Illinois for drivers to take photographs or videos from cell phones at the scene of accidents. State Rep. Tom Holbrook of Belleville is sponsoring this bill, arguing that drivers shouldn’t rubberneck — it’s dangerous for drivers to take their eyes off the road.
Specifically, the bill (HB1984, read full text and follow it here) inserts “digital photograph” and “video” into legislation that is being proposed that would fight against distracted driving involving texting, instant messaging (IMs), or emailing. There’s another proposed statute that’s just been amended within the same bill to ban the use of cell phones within 500 feet of an Illinois accident scene.
Evidence at Trial Begins at the Accident Scene
There’s a reason why those scenes in CSI and Law and Order have all the cops and detectives and crime scene investigators wrapping the incident areas with yellow tape and banning everyone from going near the site. Evidence must be protected — and most of the physical evidence is there at that scene of the crime.
Similarly, in accidents, the physical evidence is there at the scene. On the roadway, the truth about what happened to cause the injuries or wrongful death reveals itself. Photographs and videos taken as close in time as possible to the event itself is critical to discovering what really happened.
Insurance companies know this — that’s why they are notorious for having investigators on the scenes of accidents so fast that on occasion they beat law enforcement to the site. Trucking companies instruct their truck drivers to let the company know immediately if they’re in an accident — so they can start their defense to any claim through the gathering of evidence as soon as possible.
What Happens to Critical On the Scene Evidence if This Bill Becomes Law? Plaintiffs Are Hurt.
Rubbernecking can cause wrecks, that’s true. However, the proposed legislation goes farther than that. If it is passed, then critical evidence of all kinds of motor vehicle accidents will be outlawed. This will serve only to hurt injury victims and their loved ones as they later try to prove their claims and obtain justice. It’s harmful.
DISTRACTED DRIVING KILLS PEOPLE: CONSUMER REPORTS AND DOT JOIN FORCES TO FIGHT TEENS USING HANDHELD DEVICES WHILE DRIVING
Consumer Reports has built its longstanding, well-respected reputation as a public watchdog against bad products by offering its readers expert reviews of all sorts of things: appliances, cars, toys, sunscreen. If there is something sold in the American marketplace today, odds are high that Consumer Reports can provide guidance on how well that product works as well as how safe it is to use.
However, today Consumer Reports has gone further than providing expert reviews. Today, on both the Consumer Reports website as well as the federal government’s site for the Department of Transportation, you will see videos and other information regarding the danger of texting or talking while driving a moving vehicle.
They’ve been moved to act because the dangers of Distracted Driving, particularly among American teenagers, is causing a significant number of young people to be seriously injured or killed in accidents that could have been avoided if a handheld device had not been along for the ride.
- 63 percent of respondents under 30 years old reported using a handheld phone while driving in the past 30 days, and 30 percent of them texted while driving during the same period. That compares with 41 percent and 9 percent, respectively, of respondents who were 30 or older.
- Among the under-30 respondents, only 36 percent were very concerned about the problem of distracted driving, and only 30 percent felt it was very dangerous to use a handheld phone.
- 64 percent of respondents overall said they had seen other drivers texting using a handheld device in the past 30 days. 94 percent had observed drivers talking on a mobile phone and 58 percent had seen a dangerous driving situation related to a distracted driver in the past month.
- 78 percent of respondents overall said they had reduced or stopped behaviors related to distracted driving. Of that group, 66 percent said they did so because of reading or hearing about the dangers.
Copies of the Consumer Reports/DOT report “Distracted Driving Shatters Lives” will be distributed to schools and volunteer groups by the National School Safety Coalition.
In tandem with the Consumer Reports efforts, DOT has released its latest video in the Department of Transportation’s “Faces of Distracted Driving” series today onDistraction.gov, featuring Miss South Dakota Loren Vaillancourt, who has been speaking to teens about the dangers of distracted driving since her brother was killed by a distracted driver in May 2009. Watch it here on YouTube.
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) just released its latest crash test studies involving big rigs and cars, and its report “… demonstrates that underride guards on tractor-trailers can fail in relatively low-speed crashes — with deadly consequences.” (Watch the great video that the IIHS has provided to go along with its research results here.)
What are these underride guards? They protect the vehicle that rear-ends a big rig. In these accidents, the car slams into the tractor trailer truck, or semi, and without proper protection (the guard) the top of the car (passenger vehicle) gets slammed up against the truck’s rear, crushing the roof and killing or seriously injuring those who were riding in the front seat of the car. From the release:
“Cars’ front-end structures are designed to manage a tremendous amount of crash energy in a way that minimizes injuries for their occupants,” says Adrian Lund, Institute president. “Hitting the back of a large truck is a game changer. You might be riding in a vehicle that earns top marks in frontal crash tests, but if the truck’s underride guard fails — or isn’t there at all — your chances of walking away from even a relatively low-speed crash aren’t good.”
Result: The IIHS is petitioning the federal government to create new laws that will mandate stronger underride guards to be placed on commercial trucks, ones that will remain in place during a crash. (Read the petition here.)
The weather reports are predicting an unprecedented winter storm will hit our area beginning today, and it’s tragic but true that some folk aren’t going to survive this onslaught. It’s the duty of us all to try and keep that loss as small as possible. Here are some tips for keeping safe during this massive onslaught of freezing temperatures, snow, and ice:
1. don’t drive if you don’t have to do so, drive during the day and on main roads if you must, and all motorists should use extreme caution. A toll-free phone number has been set up, so you can call and learn what the Illinois road conditions are like in advance: call 1 (800) 452-4368.
2. along the roadways, look for National Guard troops positioned at certain rest areas (for example, along I-70) if you need help; both the National Guard and local law enforcement will be driving the roadways, looking for stranded motorists 24/7 during this storm. They will have basic things like snacks, water, and first aid for those in need.
3. watch out for your neighbors, particularly the elderly. Seniors can be very vulnerable, very quickly in winter storms if they haven’t prepared in advance with filled prescriptions, adequate food, etc.
4. prepare in advance for power outages – have water and food stored for emergency use, as well as blankets, flashlights, and charged phones. Have kerosene and kerosene heaters at the ready (always refilling them outside).
5. close off rooms that don’t need to be heated, it saves on fuel.
For more tips, check out FEMA.GOV.
The National Guard for both Illinois and Indiana have both been called into action. This is a serious situation for our area. For the latest information on the weather and storm conditions and other information on staying safe, see ready.illinois.gov.
In the past, it appeared that things were finally changing for the better, with a steady decrease in the number of tragic, horrific deaths happening due to a collision between a person – walking or in a car, truck, or minivan – and huge, heavy, moving locomotive. Things have changed.
In 2010, there was a twenty percent (20%) increase in the number of Illinois fatalities due to train accidents. This is a huge, significant jump. What’s going on?
Railroad accidents usually result in death. The responsibility of the train tracks themselves, as well as the warning systems, is not with the government but with the owner of the railroad. The state governments are each responsible for their roadways leading up to the crossing. Needless to say, money plays a big factor in how safe railroad crossings are in America today. Railroad companies are watching their bottom line, and we all know the dire straits of 2011?s Illinois budget (see our previous post on cutting public services).
Operation Lifesaver is getting involved.
Operation Lifesaver is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the eradication of railroad accidents and train fatalities. From its website:
Operation Lifesaver’s mission is to end collisions, deaths and injuries at highway-rail grade crossings and on rail property through a nationwide network of volunteers who work to educate people about rail safety. Our national office in Alexandria, VA, supports state programs, developing videos, educational brochures, instructional information and other materials for audiences of all ages. Our state coordinators are located in all 50 states.
Already, the Illinois office of Operation Lifesaver has begun a media blitz aimed to educate everyone in Illinois about the dangers of any crash with a train – especially when you’re in a hurry, and thinking you are going to be able to scoot over the tracks and beat the train. We applaud them for their efforts, and hope this post in some small way assists them in getting the word out about this growing danger to us all.
Here’s a video from their latest awareness campaign.
Earlier this month, on November 3, 2010, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the wrongful death case of Williamson v. Mazda Motor of America, Inc.(hear the oral argument online here). This case is very important to us all because it may well mean that citizens can sue car manufacturers for personal injury and wrongful death even if the cars involved in the accidents technically met federal safety law requirements.
The Williamson lawsuit originates in a 2002 car crash where Thanh Williamson, 32, died while wearing a lap seat belt in a Mazda 1993 MPV minivan. Mazda’s defense is that Williamson was seating in the center position of the rear passenger seat and at the time, the car maker was only required to provide a lap band for this spot per National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regulation.
And, that’s true. The 2000 federal regulations did not require that spot to have a shoulder strap seat belt. However, if one had been provided, Williamson probably would be alive today. And, if the crash had occurred in a minivan manufactured in 2007 or later, that seat would have had more than a lap belt: NHTSA changed its regulations to require this safety feature five years after Ms. Williamson died.
Will the High Court find that federal law preempts state law and rule for Mazda? Will the Supreme Court Justices rule instead that American citizens shouldn’t have to face federal law shields by car manufacturers in wrongful death personal injury lawsuits?
Time will tell. Expect a decision sometime in Spring 2011.