170,754 Verdict Entered Against Cook County Driver Talking on Cell Phone – Budd v. Kelso

In Illinois and Chicago, there are laws against talking on your cell phone while driving. The purpose of these laws is to eliminate a potential distraction to driving in an effort to increase driving safety and avoid preventable auto accidents. However, as is the case with any law, there are those who choose not to abide by the Illinois cell phone driving laws. The Illinois personal injury case Susan Budd v. Lynn Kelso, 06 L 11272, resulted from an auto accident where the defendant driver was talking on her cell phone.

In October 2004, Lynn Kelso was nearing the Willmette intersection of Ridge Road and Lake Avenue; she was talking on her cell phone at the time. Kelso proceded to drive her car into the busy intersection even though she didn’t have the right of way. At the same time, plaintiff Susan Budd had a green light and as such had begun to drive through the intersection. As Kelso ran the a red light, Budd was forced to come to a sudden stop. While Budd’s quick thinking prevented her from driving into Kelso’s vehicle, it also caused the vehicle immediately behind Budd to rear-end Budd’s vehicle. The rear-impact then forced Budd’s vehicle forward, causing her to hit Kelso’s car.

The 51 year-old Budd sustained lower back injuries as a result of the Cook County intersection accident. The rear-end impact aggravated plaintiff’s pre-existing degenerative disc disease and resulted in a lumbar disc protrusion. Budd underwent extensive physical therapy and eventually elected to have steroid injections into her epidural region in an attempt to relieve the pain.

Despite the many treatments Budd underwent to relieve her back pain, the defendant contested the extent of the plaintiff’s personal injuries. This could be due to the fact that Budd did not go to the emergency room immediately after the car accident; Budd’s first doctor appointment was not until two days later. While Budd told her doctor that she was having neck pain during that initial visit, it was not until a month later that she began to complain of back pain. Likewise, six years passed since the date of incident before surgery was recommended to help treat Budd’s back pain. While Budd has continued to complain of back pain during this whole time period, the lengthy treatment time and nonspecific symptoms led the defense to question the extent of Budd’s injuries and to what degree they were caused by the intersection accident.

However, it was not only the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries that the defendant disputed – Kelso also denied that her negligence was the reason for Budd’s injuries. While Kelso did admit to running a red light, she denied liability for the car crash. Presumably this is because Kelso did not personally run into Budd; rather, Budd ran into Kelso. Kelso instead argued that the accident was caused by the third driver who hit Budd after she stopped to avoid an accident with Kelso.

The Illinois jury did not seem to accept Kelso’s flimsy attempt at escaping liability. It answered in the negative in response to a special interrogatory questioning whether the third driver’s negligence was the sole proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Likewise, the jury entered a $170,754 personal injury verdict against the defendant Kelso, finding her responsible for both the intersection accident and the resulting injuries. So while some drivers claim that talking on their cell phones while driving does not impact their driving safety, Budd indicates otherwise.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Cook County intersection accident lawsuits for over 35 years, serving those areas in and around Chicago, including Oak Park, Downers Grove, Joliet, and Round Lake.

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