A Cook County jury entered a $600,000 verdict in the auto accident lawsuit of Joseph Barbin v. United Parcel Service Inc. and Jorge D. Hernandez, No. 07 L 12572. While it is not unusual for a court to rule in favor of the plaintiff in a rear-end accident, what is unique about Barbin is that the accident was caused as a result of the defendant driver’s failure to obey emergency vehicle traffic laws.
The plaintiff had been hit by the defendant driver while waiting at an intersection for an ambulance to pass. Joseph Barbin was approaching the intersection of North Ave. and First Ave. in Melrose Park when he noted an ambulance approaching with its siren and lights activated. Barbin joined a line of two other vehicles in waiting for the ambulance to pass. However, it was while Barbin was waiting for the ambulance to pass that he was rear-ended by Jorge Hernandez.
Hernandez was driving a UPS package car at the time of the rear-end accident. The impact of Hernandez’s truck with Barbin’s vehicle caused not only severe whiplash, but also resulted in a herniated disc in Barbin’s cervical spine. Barbin underwent a fusion and discectomy surgery at the C4-5 level, but will need future surgery above and below the C4-5 spine in order to repair his cervical spine.
Because Hernandez was operating in his employment at the time of the auto accident, Barbin filed a lawsuit against both Hernandez and his employer, UPS. At the Cook County trial, Hernandez attempted to minimize the extent of his liability in Barbin’s injuries. Hernandez testified that he was driving at low speeds when he hit Barbin’s vehicle and only caused Barbin’s whiplash and soft tissue injuries at most. Furthermore, Hernandez attempted to shift the blame to Barbin, alleging that Barbin had actually rear-ended the car in front of him before Hernandez hit him. And at all times, Hernandez maintained that Barbin’s herniated disc injury and subsequent surgeries were not caused by the rear-end accident.
After hearing all the parties’ evidence, the Cook County returned a $600,000 verdict in favor of the plaintiff. The verdict was twice as much as the $300,000 settlement offer that the defendants had made prior to the start of the Cook County personal injury trial. The verdict included:
• $300,000 for loss of normal life;
• $200,000 for past and future medical expenses; and
• $100,000 for pain and suffering.
And while Barbin deals only with the personal injury claims caused by Hernandez’s failure to yield to an emergency vehicle, Hernandez is also susceptible to fines and other penalties. Illinois law requires all drivers to yield the right-of-way to “an authorized emergency vehicle making use of audible and visual signals” (Public Act 93-0173). Failing to do so can not only result in fines from $100 to $10,000; but the offending driver can also have his license suspended if his violation results in property damage or physical harm to other drivers.
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois automobile accident lawsuits and Cook County personal injury matters for individuals and families for more than 35 years in and around Chicago and its surrounding areas, including Arlington Heights, Algonquin, Calumet City, Franklin Park, Gurnee, Highland Park, and Melrose Park.
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