A sixteen year-old high school student was injured in a head-on car crash suffering a broken right patella, fibula and tibia. Screws and rods were required to repair the right leg through the tibia. The student went through 2 years of medical treatment and physical therapy.
The driver of the defendant’s vehicle was employed by a real estate company when he crossed the center line colliding head-on with the high school student’s vehicle. The defendant admitted liability before the trial, but allowed the case to go the jury on damages. The jury awarded $1.28 million in damages to plaintiff based upon his medical bills, past and future, pain and suffering and loss of normal life.
It’s a widely known fact that teenagers are injured and killed at an alarmingly high rate on the nation’s highways and streets. Those numbers may suggest that teenagers are poor drivers, have slow reaction times or are using alcohol and/or drugs to obscure their senses and ability to drive safely. Those assumptions may be worth examining, but this sad case is representative of something else. An adult driver who became distracted by all of the devices we know are available today 24/7; radio, an old standard, now satellite radio, cell phones, Blackberries and street finders.
In this case, the defendant may have been trying to locate the address of his next real estate appointment on one of the available free apps on his cell or GPS device. He may have trying to call or text his customer, his office, his partner or his wife. But the evidence here is that this driver was distracted, not by drugs or alcohol or even limited by a lack of driving experience, but by the electronics he found necessary to do his work or personal communicating. The irony is that he chose to put the safety of others behind his self-interest. Not an acceptable balance between the risk and benefit derived. Chicago had enacted an ordinance making it illegal to operate a cellular phone when operating a motor vehicle. Municipal Code of Chicago, ILL, Sect. 9-40-260; The Ordinance stipulates that no person is to drive a vehicle while using a mobile, cellular, analog wireless or digital telephone, with four exceptions: (1) when the person is an on-duty law enforcement officer or operator of an emergency vehicle, (2) when the person uses a “hands-free” device, (3) in the event of an emergency, or (4) when the motor vehicle is in a stationary position and not in gear. Amendments to the Ordinance in November 2008 clarify that the “use” of a mobile device includes: “(1) talking or listening to another person on the telephone; (2) text messaging; (3) sending, reading or listening to an electronic message; or (4) browsing the internet . . . .” MUNICIPAL CODE OF CHICAGO, ILL. § 9-76-230(a).
The result is tragic; the near death experience and serious injury of a teenager, who this time was not responsible for anything but driving carefully.
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