Articles Posted in Car Accidents

people shaking handsIn a recent opinion, an Illinois appellate court considered whether an insurance company had a duty to provide coverage to the plaintiff, its insured, related to a motor vehicle accident in light of the fact that the plaintiff violated the cooperation clause in the insurance policy. More specifically, the insurer claimed that the plaintiff failed to appear at a mandatory arbitration proceeding related to the underlying personal injury litigation and the insurance subrogation claim. This resulted in an order from the arbitration judge debarring the plaintiff from rejecting any unfavorable arbitration award.

Following the close of the insurance company’s claim, the defendants filed a motion for judgment in their favor, which the lower court granted. It based its opinion on a finding that despite the insurer’s prima facie showing that the insured failed to cooperate, the insurer failed to provide adequate evidence demonstrating that it suffered substantial prejudice as a result of the insured’s non-cooperation. An appeal followed.

Before delving into its analysis, the appellate court reviewed the rules applicable to court-annexed arbitration. According to Illinois law, certain types of lawsuits are subject to a mandatory arbitration proceeding before a three-person arbitration panel. The panel has the authority to make an award following the arbitration hearing and to dispose of the claims. In general, the award is not binding, and any party at the hearing can file a notice rejecting the award within 30 days and take the matter to trial. While a party represented by legal counsel at the hearing does not waive the right to reject the award if he or she does not appear, the court has discretion to debar the party from rejecting the award if the party’s absence amounted to a failure “to participate in good faith and in a meaningful manner.”

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cars in accidentIn a recent opinion from the Fourth District Appellate Court of Illinois, the plaintiff alleged that he suffered injuries as a result of another motorist’s negligence during a collision that occurred in January 2014. In November 2015, the plaintiff filed a motion seeking to adjudicate liens for medical expenses that had been paid related to the plaintiff’s injuries from the accident. In the motion, the plaintiff alleged that according to the common fund doctrine, the lienholders were required to reduce their liens by one-third and to assume a pro rata portion of the costs associated with the litigation. The plaintiff eventually settled with one of the lienholders. Regarding the second lienholder, the trial court denied the plaintiff’s motion.

In May 2016, after the plaintiff and the defendant in the negligence lawsuit entered into a settlement, the defendant filed a motion to enforce the settlement agreement and to dismiss the lawsuit with prejudice. The court granted the motion, and in July 2015, the trial court entered an amended judgment. The plaintiff promptly filed an appeal regarding the lower court’s denial of his motion to adjudicate the second lienholder’s liens. More specifically, the plaintiff argued that the lower court erred in concluding that the common fund doctrine did not apply to the liens, due to payments it made to the plaintiff pursuant to the medical payments coverage portion of the plaintiff’s insurance policy.

The appellate court began its analysis by reviewing the record. First, it noted that the lienholder’s lien was based on payments it made pursuant to the medical coverage clause in the plaintiff’s policy. It also noted that during the litigation, the lienholder had waived its right to subrogation for the $50,000 settlement between the plaintiff and the defendant. The record showed, however, that the lienholder preserved the right to take $27,463.04 as an offset for the medical payments in the event the matter went to arbitration, along with a $50,000 credit that was paid under the defendant’s insurance policy. The appellate court also noted that the parties were still adjudicating the issue of underinsured motorist coverage.

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lawyers in courtroomIn a recent case, a plaintiff filed a complaint against a defendant, claiming that on September 21, 2013, she was a passenger on one of its buses. She also alleged that the bus driver did not correctly operate the wheelchair lift and that she suffered injuries as a result of this failure. After a trial on the matter, the jury returned a verdict in the defendant’s favor, finding that no negligence was involved. The plaintiff appealed the decision but proceeded without legal counsel. When an individual decides to pursue legal action without legal representation, he or she is referred to as a pro se litigant or party.

On appeal, the plaintiff alleged that the jury was swayed by improper events that took place during jury selection and outside the courtroom. Namely, the plaintiff contended that the jury selection process did not constitute the appropriate amount of time, that defense counsel failed to adhere to the court’s instruction to wait in the courtroom until the jury was dismissed, and that defense counsel made inappropriate statements during their closing argument.

The documents filed with the plaintiff’s appeal included multiple letters, deposition transcripts, medical bills, and medical records, as well as a complaint the plaintiff filed against the attorney who represented her during the trial.

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In a recent case, a plaintiff filed a negligence action against a defendant, alleging that he sustained injuries during a multi-car accident in which the defendant was involved. In response to the complaint, the defendant admitted that he was driving negligently at the time of the crash. He challenged, however, the nature and extent of the injuries that the plaintiff reportedly suffered in the accident, as well as whether or not those injuries were the direct result of the defendant’s negligent driving.highway

After a trial, the jury returned a unanimous verdict in the defendant’s favor. The plaintiff promptly filed an appeal. In the appeal, the plaintiff asserted three main arguments. First, the plaintiff alleged that the trial court committed a reversible error when it concluded that the defendant did not violate a motion in limine. Motions in limine are motions filed before a trial that seek to define the scope of the matters that can be discussed in front of the jury or the type of evidence that the jury may be allowed to consider. Second, the plaintiff alleged that the jury’s unanimous verdict contradicted the manifest weight of the evidence offered at trial. Finally, the plaintiff argued that the trial court failed to provide the jury with sufficient instructions prohibiting them from engaging in their own independent investigations of the matter.

Turning to the first contention, the motion in limine in question asked the court to prevent the defendant from offering testimony and photographs that showed the damage that the vehicles sustained in the multi-car accident. The court granted the motion in part, allowing photos that showed the point of impact but not the extent of the damage. The court rejected the plaintiff’s argument, finding that the defendant did not offer any evidence that exceeded the scope of the trial court’s order. The court also disagreed with the plaintiff’s contention that he was prejudiced by the defendant’s mention of the photographs in front of the jury during the plaintiff’s testimony.

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motorcycle in streetIn Coe v. Lewsader, the plaintiffs brought an action against the defendants, pursuant to the Animal Control Act. During the course of the litigation, the trial court certified four questions to the Illinois Supreme Court. This mechanism allows a lower court to obtain the guidance of the state’s highest court during the litigation. The Illinois Supreme Court provided an answer to one of the questions but declined to answer the other three.

The background of the lawsuit is as follows. In January 2012, the plaintiffs filed a complaint against the defendants, including a claim for loss of consortium, for injuries that one of the plaintiffs sustained on September 26, 2009. Half of the claims sought damages based on negligence, while the other half asserted claims based on the Animal Control Act. According to the plaintiffs, on the morning of the incident, the plaintiff was riding his motorcycle when he struck the defendants’ dog in the middle of the road.

The defendants rejected these allegations, claiming that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent because he was operating his motorcycle at an excessive speed, and he was intoxicated at the time of the crash. The plaintiffs then dismissed their negligence-based causes of action. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment. The parties then jointly filed four certified questions. As part of the certification, they agreed that the plaintiff was intoxicated at the time of the crash and that he was operating his motorcycle at 90 miles per hour when it collided with the dog. They also agreed that the dog was lying passively in the road.

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man in crashIn Claro v. DeLong, the plaintiff was driving a Honda Accord and was waiting at a red light when the defendant, who was operating a Dodge Durango, rear-ended the plaintiff’s vehicle. At trial, the plaintiff offered testimony regarding his lifetime career as an auto body repairman. After starting at his father’s shop, he worked at several other businesses. At the time the trial took place, he was working at an auto body shop, where he was performing heavy repair work. He testified that he could possibly have an opportunity to purchase the business from its current owners.

The defendant testified that she was stopped behind the plaintiff when she felt the brake pedal compress and her vehicle roll forward into the plaintiff’s vehicle. She testified that it felt like there was air in the brake line. Based on her recollection, the impact was very minimal. She recalled exchanging words with the plaintiff, calling the police, and everyone leaving the accident in seemingly good condition.

The plaintiff disagreed and instead testified that the plaintiff was traveling between 15 and 20 miles per hour when her vehicle rear-ended his vehicle. He also testified that after the accident, he experienced pain and discomfort in his shoulder. He eventually saw a chiropractor, who provided limited relief. Eventually, he saw an orthopedic surgeon, who administered steroid injections. He testified that the pain affected his ability to perform strenuous activities, particularly when he was at work. Both care providers provided testimony at trial. The orthopedic surgeon stated that the steroid injections may not continue to work, in which case he would require a disc replacement surgery.

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damaged red vehicleIn Larkin v. George, the plaintiff alleged that he suffered injuries while traveling southbound on I-294 as a result of a multi-car accident. According to his complaint, the defendant’s car struck the rear of a vehicle operated by a person not named as a party in the lawsuit. This caused the non-party’s vehicle to strike the rear of the vehicle in which the plaintiff was driving. This also caused the plaintiff’s vehicle to strike the rear of another vehicle. The complaint asserted multiple causes of action against the defendant, including a claim for negligence.

Before trial, the plaintiff filed a motion in limine, which is a motion asking the court to make a ruling about which evidence can or cannot be used at trial. The plaintiff asked the court to bar evidence from the defendant and photographs showing the damage to the vehicles involved in the accident. The court granted the motion, limiting the defendant’s testimony and use of photographs to showing the “point of impact,” rather than the extent of the damages that occurred.

During trial, the trooper who responded to the accident testified that he was on-scene for 45 minutes following the collision and that the plaintiff did not make any statements indicating that he had suffered physical injuries. The defendant also testified that the plaintiff did not appear to be in any pain. In contrast, the plaintiff testified that he went to an urgent care facility on the day after the accident because he experienced pain in his left ankle. One month later, he saw an orthopedic surgeon, who performed a surgical procedure on his ankle. He also underwent a second procedure by another surgeon sometime later and reported persistent pain and discomfort in his left foot until the time of trial.

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