CHICAGO — On average, nine people are killed in distracted driving crashes every single day in the U.S.
That number is growing, according to the latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2019, the agency said, 3,142 people were killed in distracted driving crashes across the country – up 10% from the year prior.
In Illinois, there were 160 distracted driving fatalities in 2019.
“When someone is driving a vehicle that weighs thousands of pounds – particularly at high speeds – that person has a responsibility to pay attention,” Cavanagh Law Group founding partner Tim Cavanagh said. “Almost all automobile and truck cases have something to do with distracted driving. Innocent people are injured or killed because other motorists were not doing what they were supposed to do: pay attention.”
As COVID-19-related restrictions loosen and traffic picks up again, experts say it’s more important than ever to drive cautiously and follow the rules of the road.
When drivers look away from the road for just two seconds, it doubles the risk of a crash, AAA spokeswoman Molly Hart said. She spoke with Bob Sirott on WGN Radio about April being Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Looking away for five seconds is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field blindfolded.
In a recently released AAA poll, 51% of respondents said they text or email when alone in the vehicle. People ages 25 to 34 were most likely to do so. And a quarter of respondents said they believe it’s OK to use their cellphones when alone and at a stop.
“Texting while driving is not only illegal, it also endangers the lives of other motorists, passengers, cyclists and pedestrians,” Cavanagh Law Group partner Mike Sorich said. “Every day, we see clients whose lives were upended by drivers who thought the rules of the road didn’t apply to them. That text or email can wait. It’s not worth the devastation it causes.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded matters.
Traffic deaths increased dramatically in 2020 despite fewer vehicles on the road; speeding, intoxication and distracted driving were common factors in many fatal crashes. And a new study said drivers have difficulty concentrating on the road following a video conference, NBC reports, likely because they “zone out” due to cognitive overload.
Cavanagh Law Group has decades of experience representing clients in cases involving distracted, intoxicated and reckless driving. Our personal injury attorneys obtained numerous multimillion-dollar results for individuals and families across the U.S.
Take a look at some of the firm’s distracted driving cases:
$9.75M Award for Chicago Cyclist Crushed by Truck
In 2014, Cavanagh Law Group set an Illinois state record with a $9.75 million settlement for a Chicago cyclist who suffered devastating injuries when she was struck by a truck. The settlement was the largest in state history for a case involving a vehicle and a bicyclist.
Terri Cenar, a former triathlete and daily cyclist, was riding her bike in downtown Chicago on Nov. 4, 2011, when truck driver Anthony Hudson, a 32-year-old working for Doka USA, failed to check before turning right; he struck Cenar.
Her bicycle became wedged under a truck tire, and Cenar was dragged under the truck and crushed by its weight. She suffered a broken pelvis and injuries to her stomach, bladder, left leg, groin and vulva. Cenar required 14 surgeries.
Cenar’s injuries were so severe that her family wasn’t sure she would survive. They “wanted to get me the best lawyer they knew,” Cenar said, “so they contacted Tim [Cavanagh].”
Cavanagh immediately filed an order of protection against the city of Chicago, which allowed him to gain access to 911 calls and any potential surveillance video that may have captured the collision. Without the order, the evidence may have been erased by the city after 30 days.
“The truck driver took the position that he stopped at a light before he made the right turn, but the camera told the truth,” Cavanagh said. “It was critical evidence we were able to capture because we got involved quickly and got a judge to order the city to produce it.”
Cavangh and his team traveled across the globe to depose employees of the involved trucking company. The record $9.75 million settlement was reached six months before the case was set to go to trial.
$4.1M Award: Truck Driver Using Blackberry Broadsides Car
Cavanagh Law Group in 2006 obtained a $4.1 million settlement for a woman who suffered traumatic injuries the year prior when a truck driver looking at his Blackberry broadsided her car.
Truck driver Dennis Svec, an employee of Berry Electric, was lost and looking at his Blackberry when he entered an intersection and struck the victim’s car. Multiple witnesses testified that Svec ran a red light; one witness disagreed.
Dorothy Barnes, a 70-year-old grandmother who was on her way to the store, suffered multiple traumatic injuries including a C4-5 distraction injury, dura tears requiring fusion surgeries, multiple pelvic fractures requiring surgery, a punctured heart, rib fractures, a closed head injury and cranial nerve palsy.
The case was set for trial but settled immediately before opening statements. Tim Cavanagh took more than 30 depositions in 12 months.
$2.1M Award in Low-Speed Collision with DePaul University Van
Last year, Cavanagh Law Group partners Tim Cavanagh and Mike Sorich obtained a $2.1 million settlement for a truck driver who was injured in a low-speed crash with a DePaul University van.
Samuel Rubenstein was driving a Kenworth cement truck in Chicago on Nov. 10, 2017, when a passenger van driven by a DePaul University student crossed the center line and hit Rubenstein’s vehicle head-on at about 5 miles per hour. The crash was captured on a camera in the cement truck.
Rubenstein was diagnosed with a cervical muscle strain, knee pain and a sprain of his trapezium. In the weeks and months to follow, he continued to experience pain in his neck, elbow and knee. Following an MRI, he was diagnosed with right arm paresthesia and degenerative disc disease in the C4-5 through C6-7 discs. He underwent spinal surgery in 2018.
Defense attorneys argued Rubenstein’s injuries could not have been caused by the 2017 crash due to the low-speed nature of the collision.
Cavanagh Law Group retained a biomechanical engineer who explained in detail how the force of impact was, in fact, directly responsible for Rubenstein’s injuries. The firm also retained a neurosurgeon to testify about Rubenstein’s injuries and the fusion surgery. Rubenstein had no history of spinal issues before the crash.
Cavanagh and Sorich commissioned a computer animation to illustrate Rubenstein’s spinal injuries and explain his surgical procedure to jurors.
“Our client sustained a very serious injury and underwent a three-level fusion,” Sorich said. “We were able to prove through expert testimony that our client’s spinal injury was caused by the crash. We are pleased we were able to get Mr. Rubenstein the financial compensation he deserves.”
The case was settled two weeks before it was set to go to trial in January 2020.
$1.5M Award in Fatal Crash: Truck Driver Texts in Construction Zone
Cavanagh Law Group partners Tim Cavanagh and Mike Sorich in 2019 obtained a $1.5 million settlement in a fatal crash caused by a semi-truck driver who was texting and driving in a construction zone.
Connecticut resident Raymond Johnson was killed on Aug. 18, 2017, when a semi-truck rear-ended his car on I-70 in Clark County, Illinois. His wife, Ruth Johnson, survived the crash.
Truck driver Wayne Kauffman was looking at a text on his phone when multiple cars in front of him began to slow down for a construction. The semi-truck slammed into the Johnsons’ car — setting off a seven-car collision.
“This terrible tragedy could have been prevented if the semi-truck driver waited until he was off the road to check his cellphone,” Cavanagh said.
Following an auto collision, it’s essential to contact a personal injury attorney to determine the best course of action and to preserve evidence in your case.
At Cavanagh Law Group, our attorneys have the passion, drive and experience to take on complex and diverse cases across the United States — and win. We are available 24/7 to answer questions and address concerns. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.