Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Discusses Experience with the CTA

Recently, a 19-month-old girl was struck and killed by a CTA bus.  Early reports show that the child may have darted out in front of the bus.  This (may or may not) absolve the CTA from responsibility for this tragic accident.  While I sit here with my heart going out to the family of that small child, I could not help but to reflect on the many cases I’ve handled against the CTA over the years.  Most of those cases settled, but I recall at least one that did not, a case stands out in my mind – Tony T. v CTA.

Chicago Bus Accident LawyerI represented Tony T.  Tony got on a CTA bus one day a few years back, a healthy man, with a healthy right foot.  The bus driver was driving too fast for conditions.  The bus driver for the CTA went over a speed bump and sent Tony, who happened to be standing, into the air.  When Tony came back down on his right foot, his heel shattered.  He was taken via ambulance by the paramedics and diagnosed with a right comminuted calcaneus fracture.  Tony’s injuries were serious and permanent.  The CTA denied any wrong doing.  I took the case.  I tried the case.  Tony won and won big.

During the trial of this matter, I stated that this case was ironically about Credibility, Trust and Accountability – CTA.  In Tony’s case, I argued that the CTA’s defense lacked Credibility.  CTA bus drivers are equipped with courtesy cards.  If someone on the bus is hurt, under CTA’s own rules, the bus driver is expected to pass out courtesy cards to the other passengers on the bus.  These courtesy cards give witnesses the chance to write down what happened.  In Tony’s case, the bus driver did not pass out a single card.  Instead, the bus driver called his supervisor to the scene who was highly skilled in doing things to cover up incriminating evidence.  Interestingly, the supervisor didn’t put a darn thing in his investigation report regarding speed.  How convenient.

I argued Tony’s case was about Trust.  I explained to the jury that common carriers (like the CTA) owe its passengers the duty to use the HIGHEST degree of care consistent with the type of vehicle used in the practical operation of its business, in this case, a bus.  I explained to them that in determining the liability issues of a common carrier case, we are in essence determining how responsible we will make the professional transportation companies – the airline companies who use our airways, the railroad companies who use our rails, and in this case, bus companies who use our roadways.  The law recognizes that when ordinary citizens such as Tony pay his fare to use a common carrier, such as the CTA, he gives up control of his safety.  He Trusts that he is going to get from point A to point B w/out injury.

It is a sobering thought to realize how dependent each of us is, every day, on our common carriers.  When we get on a CTA bus, whether in our own neighborhoods or in downtown Chicago, we are at the complete mercy of the professional drivers who transport us.  We Trust them to operate their vehicles in accordance with the highest degree of care, like the law says they must.  When we get on a CTA bus, we are completely at the mercy of the driver.  We Trust that they know the conditions of the streets on the routes which they drive and drive accordingly.  We Trust that they know the condition of their buses and drive accordingly.  Tony’s case illustrated in a dramatic and graphic way just how dependent each of us is on the conduct of our common carriers.  In this case, this Trust was broken.

Lastly, I discussed Accountability.  I won’t discuss in detail Tony’s injuries but I asked the ladies and gentlemen of the jury to hold the CTA Accountable for its actions.  I asked the jury to apply the law to the facts of the case and they did just that.  The jury awarded my client several hundred thousand dollars.  The jury made the CTA Accountable.  The jury delivered to Tony the only thing he ever asked for -  justice.

Dealing with the CTA can be tricky.  If you were injured in a CTA accident, do not delay. Evidence needs to be preserved.  Witnesses need to be interviewed.  Call Willens Law Offices for a FREE consultation at .  We can help.

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How to Write a Demand Letter to the Insurance Company

You or someone you love has been in an accident of some sort and has suffered injuries.  The accident was caused by the fault of someone else and you need and deserve to be fully and fairly compensated under the law.  You have contact with the negligent person’s insurance company.  Your injuries are healed, you’re back to work, and you want your case settled so you can get your life back on track.  You’re ready to begin settlement negotiations with the responsible insurance company and you are thinking, “I need to draft the best Demand Letter EVER!”

So you want to send a demand letter to the responsible insurance company but you don’t know how.  That’s ok.  Here’s a secret that many of my fellow personal injury attorneys may not agree with – You don’t need to know how to write a demand letter.  Demand letters are usually not worth the paper they are written on.  A thorough demand letter explaining liability, damages, this, that and the other thing serves no real purpose.

In regards to my thoughts on demand letters and how they are fairly worthless are thoughts I didn’t have early on in my career as a personal injury lawyer.  I used to write super-thorough demand letters.  I would start by describing how my client’s accident happened and why their client was completely at fault.  I would title that section “Liability.”

Liability

In the section – “Liability” - I would go on and on about what happened, about why my client did not in any way contribute to causing the accident, about how I expected a jury would find in my client’s favor regarding liability…  Talking about what a jury would do before a lawsuit was filed?  Beginner mistake.

Damages

I would title the next section of my letter – “Damages”.  I’d essentially give a play by play of all of the medical treatment my client had in very specific detail.  I’d go into detail about various doctor appointments, procedures performed, therapy sessions and medicine taken.  I’d discuss the physical pain my client experienced, his emotional suffering, the things he could no longer do as a result of the accident (whether temporarily or permanently).   If there was scarring or disfigurement, you bet I’d discuss it.  I’d discuss my client’s job and how much work he missed as a result of an accident.

Demand

I’d usually have a section called “Demand”.  Of course this section would discuss how wonderful my client was, about how a jury would love him and award him gobs of money.  I’d then demand way too much and probably make a couple threats about filing a lawsuit if I did not hear back from the insurance company with a substantial offer… and soon.

A Demand Letter That Works

Then, something happened that caused me never write a thorough demand letter again.  I went to work for an insurance company for a couple of years in a management capacity.  I realized that those letters really don’t get read that much and when they do, it’s usually just so an insurance adjuster can have a chuckle with his insurance adjuster pals.  You see, insurance adjusters evaluate a case based upon evidence, not by what someone argues in a demand letter, whether it’s written well or not.  The demand letter should be simply – “Enclosed please find the following….”  (See below for an example of one of my demand letters).

After working for the insurance company, I got back into my true calling – representing accident and injury victims.  The thorough demand letter is no longer part of my arsenal.  If I want to discuss details or even argue with an adjuster, I’ll pick up the phone and discuss those things I think are relevant and may not be contained in the documents I send him for some reason or another.  A demand letter is not the most important part of obtaining a fair and full settlement for your personal injury case.  The evidence is.  Let me say that again in different words – Demand letters don’t get you full and fair settlements.  Evidence does.  My current demand letters look something more like:

 

Big Bad Insurance Company

ATTN: Big Bad Insurance Adjuster

PO Box 0000000

Dallas, TX 75266

                Re:         Claim No:                            xx-xxxx-xyz

                                Our Client:                          John Doe

Date of Accident:             4/2/2014

                                                       DEMAND LETTER

Enclosed please find the following:

  1. Photos;
  2. Illinois Crash Report;
  3. Wage Loss Verification Form and past tax resturns;
  4. Medical Expense Summary;
  5. Medical records and bills from the following providers:
    1. Highland Park Fire Department;
    2. NorthShore University Health System;
    3. Dr. Feelgood;
    4. Dr. Feelbad;
    5. Physical Therapy Center;
    6. MRI Center; and
    7. Walgreens.

 

Pursuant to 215 ILCS 5/143.24b, please provide me with a certified copy of you insured’s policy limits.  Also, kindly call me upon your review of said materials so we can work toward resolution.  Thanks in advance for your consideration. I look forward to working with you.

If you would like some assistance in trying to resolve your personal injury case, call me for a free, no obligation consultation  at .

Hurt By A Drunk Boater In Illinois

I’m proud to say that I’m  a boater.  For me, boating has added dimension to my life.  My boat, when the weather permits (my home state is Illinois), is my “million miles from Monday” destination.  I’m also a personal injury lawyer.  The combination of being both a boater and a personal injury lawyer gives me a platform to help keep the waterways in Illinois safe.  Sometimes, in addition to the criminal justice system, the civil justice system is necessary to hold negligent and reckless boaters accountable for their actions.

Boat people feel a special bond with other boat people.  It may be because we were all foolish enough to dump a bunch of money into a piece of equipment that causes a lot of hassle, needs constant care and depreciates in the blink of an eye.  Some say BOAT is an acronym for Bring Out Another Thousand.  That being said, most boaters are passionate about their watercraft, whether they have a small go fast boat, a sail boat or a luxury yacht.  Boating is wonderful and most boat operators are safe and responsible.  Nevertheless, boat accidents occur, sometimes as a result of boat operator negligence and other times as a result of boating under the influence.

Alcohol and Boating

Lake Michigan boat accidentAnyone who is involved with boating knows that where there are boats, there is alcohol, and plenty of it.  In fact, I was visiting a friend recently who just purchased a beautiful 45 foot power boat.  The boat came equipped with two bedrooms (staterooms), two bathrooms (heads), a kitchen (galley) and about a million places to put alcohol – cup holders, wine racks…  It even came with a set of whiskey glasses.  My friend’s wife joked that there was not enough room to store her under garments but enough cup holders to accommodate a party of 20.

Alcohol and boating make for a bad combination.  Illinois lawmakers recognize this and in 2014, boaters in Illinois are subject to the same alcohol testing as motorists.  If the operator of a boat is in an accident involving injury or death, he must submit to drug and alcohol testing.  If he refuses or has a blood alcohol level over .08, he faces suspension of his driver’s license and other penalties.  Note – when I say driver’s license, I mean the license that permits you to operate a vehicle.  In Illinois, most boaters don’t have or need licenses to operate a boat, even a really big boat/yacht.

Of course there are reasons other than alcohol that cause accidents such as driver error or inexperience.  Just about any adult can go out and buy a boat and take it out on the water without knowing what the heck they are doing.  I was fortunate enough to have good training but I’ve seen people buy boats, big boats, and then crash them almost immediately.

Seeking Punitive Damages Against A Drunk Boater

Most boat accident cases are brought under the theory of ordinary negligence.  Cases involving inattention to surroundings or driving too fast would generally be based on ordinary negligence theories.  Some cases (like those involving an intoxicated boat operator) may also involve allegations of a wilful and wanton disregard for the safety of others.  These types of cases often seek punitive damages against the reckless boat operator.  Punitive damages, though quite rare in personal injury cases, are designed to punish the reckless boat operator and deter him and others from being reckless in the future.

Contact a Boat Accident Attorney/Boater

If you or someone you love was injured in an Illinois boat accident, it would be wise to talk with a personal injury lawyer who is not only familiar with boating law but also familiar with boating in general.  Please feel free to call me at .  I would be glad to speak with you at no cost or obligation.

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