Chicago Car Crash Involving Police Car Results In 750,000 Cook County Verdict – Rajewski v. City of Chicago

A Cook County jury returned a $750,000 against the City of Chicago as a result of an Illinois car accident involving a Chicago police officer. The Illinois jury verdict took into consideration the resulting chronic injuries to the plaintiff as well as his past and future lost time from work in Marek Rajewski v. City of Chicago and Judy Johnsen, 08 L 11949.

The Illinois auto accident occurred right outside of the Chicago Police Department’s 16th District Jefferson Park Police Station, located at 5151 N. Milwaukee Avenue. The plaintiff, Marek Rajewski, was a 56 year-old maintenance employee who had been assigned to the Jefferson Park Police Station for almost ten years. After ending his janitor shift, Mr. Rajewski collected his car from the south employee parking garage and was exiting onto Milwaukee Avenue.

As he was turning north on Milwaukee Avenue, Rajewski collided with Officer Johnsen, who was driving southbound on Milwaukee Avenue against the flow of traffic. Officer Johnsen was driving her squad car into the same employee parking lot that Rajewski was exiting. According to her testimony, Johnsen was driving her squad car to her personal car in order to retrieve some police reports she had forgotten in her vehicle. She had elected to drive the 50 feet from the north employee parking lot to the south lot rather than walking.

Reports indicated that Officer Johnsen did not have her emergency lights or siren on at the time of the collision, despite the allegations that she was driving the wrong way down Milwaukee Avenue. Johnsen herself testified that she had in fact made a proper left hand turn onto Milwaukee Avenue and was driving on the median strip and not the roadway. She further alleged that Rajewski had sped out of the parking lot and caused the Illinois auto accident.

Immediately following the Illinois car accident a police report was filled out at the Jefferson Park station, which indicated that there was only minor damage to both Rajewski’s vehicle and Johnsen’s squad car. Rajewski refused medical treatment immediately after the car accident, stating that he was not injured, and then proceeded to drive himself home.

Five days after the Cook County car accident Rajewski presented to his primary care physician with complaints of back pain. A MRI and EMG/NCV were done and he was diagnosed with bulging discs at L4-L5 and L5-S1, mild radiculopathy at S1, and aggravation of a pre-existing degenerative spondylolisthesis at L5-S1.

The plaintiff attempted to return to work for several months despite continued back pain, but eventually needed to undergo a spinal fusion at L5-S1 and disc decompression surgery. As a result of his back surgery, Rajewski was unable to lift anything heavier than 15 lbs., which prevented him from returning to work as a janitor. In his Chicago personal injury lawsuit, Rajewski made a claim for a total of 18 months of lost time from work, in addition to the future lost time as a result of his inability to return to work as a janitor.

The defense contested the extent that Rajewski’s back pain was caused by the Chicago car crash, citing his pre-existing conditions and the fact that he did not report any back pain until five days after the car accident. Furthermore, the defense contended that the plaintiff contributed to the car accident because of his limited vision. Over 25 years before the Illinois car accident, Rajewski had a glass eye inserted as a result of an injury he received while in the Polish Army. The defense claimed that because Rajewski was unable to see out of that eye, that he did not see Officer Johnsen’s vehicle driving on the wrong side of the street, and therefore did not avoid the collision.

While this defense was not enough to prevent a guilty verdict against the City of Chicago, it did help to reduce the verdict by 20%. After debating for 90 minutes, the Cook County jury found that Rajewski was in part responsible for the Illinois auto collision, assigning him a comparative fault of 20%. Therefore, the original Chicago jury verdict of $968,735 was reduced by 20% to $774,988. The breakdown for the Cook County jury verdict was as follows:

-$340,194 for past medical expenses;
-$40,000 for past disability;
-$150,000 for future disability;
-$125,000 for past pain and suffering;
-$150,000 for future pain and suffering;
-$2,500 for disfigurement;
-$71,041 for past lost income; and
-$90,000 for future loss of income.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois automobile crash cases for more than 35 years in and around Chicago and Cook County, including Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Westchester, Villa Park, and Itasca.

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