Illinois Truck Accident: Driver Cleared In ‘Unavoidable Accident’

Typically Illinois courts reward and protect an injured party. For example, if one party is negligent because they ran into a stopped car at a red light, then the injured driver would normally prevail at trial. But this is not the case when the negligent driver was part of an ‘unavoidable accident’.

A recent Illinois trucking accident case ruled in favor of the defendant truck driver on summary judgment (Coole v. Central Area Recycling, 2008 WL 2955543 (4th Dist., July 28)) . The facts of the case were such that the court determined there was an ‘unavoidable accident’ so the defendant was not at fault.

In Coole, the truck driver was driving 5 mph over the speed limit as he approached an intersection; there was no stop light or stop signs controlling his movement. At the same time the plaintiff was also approaching the same intersection. She had a stop sign, but rolled through it and was struck by the defendant truck driver who was going over the legal speed limit. The truck driver contended that he didn’t have time to stop or avoid the broadside collision with Coole’s vehicle. Coole died as a result of the collision and her father brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the truck driver.

Details of the occurrence were corroborated by an eyewitness who stated that Coole did in fact roll through the intersection without making a complete stop and that her car was then in the path of the oncoming garbage truck. The truck driver testified that he only had a split second to apply his breaks before the crash and that he tried to avoid the crash by swerving to the left.

The defendant moved for summary judgment on the basis that the plaintiff, Coole, had not shown that if the defendant driver had been going the posted speed limit of 35 mph then he could have stopped his truck in enough time to avoid the collision. Based on all the evidence before it, the court agreed with the defendant and concluded that Coole’s evidence was insufficient to prove that Hall’s conduct was the cause of the accident.

The court pointed to the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure, 2-1116, which states that a plaintiff is barred from bringing a claim when their negligence contributed more than 50% to the incident in question. While issues of contributory negligence are typically decided by a jury and not a judge, in Coole the court felt that “it does become a question of law when all reasonable minds would agree that the evidence and the reasonable inferences therefrom, viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, so overwhelmingly favors the movant that no contrary verdict based on that evidence could ever stand”.

So from this viewpoint, Coole falls under the umbrella of an unavoidable collision case. When the plaintiff pulled out in front of the garbage truck driver there was not sufficient time to avoid the accident “regardless of any breach of duty”. Given these findings the court ruled in favor of the defendant in summary judgment and the case was dismissed.

For over 30 years Kreisman Law Offices has been handling both automobile accident and trucking accident personal injury cases in Illinois in such areas as Edison Park, River Forest, Kenilworth, and Wheeling.

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