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6-car pileup on icy overpass

As the weather gets colder in the Chicago metropolitan area, the driving conditions get worse. All of us who have lived through Midwestern winters know what to expect, but nonetheless, many of us are taken by surprise by it every year in the first days of below-freezing temperatures. When we get surprised like that while behind the wheel of a speeding car, things can get very dangerous very quickly.

A recent news report noted that at least six cars had collided on an overpass in Chicago as they slipped and skidded over an icy roadway. Fortunately, there were no reports of injuries. The next time this happens, people may not be so lucky. And all of us in the Midwest know there will be a next time.

Most personal injury lawsuits rest on the legal theory of negligence. As applied in cases involving motor vehicle accidents, the idea behind negligence is that all drivers have a duty of reasonable care to avoid the risk of an accident so as to avoid hurting other people. When they breach this duty by acting negligently, and cause an accident and injury to another person, the injured party can hold them liable for their damages. Damages can include medical expenses and lost income as well as noneconomic factors such as pain and suffering.

The question in many such cases boils down to asking whether what the driver did was unreasonably risky. For instance, a court will almost certainly find that defendants acted negligently if they were driving drunk, ran a stop sign, or looking at their smartphone instead of at the road ahead of them.

A case involving bad weather might be different. For instance, if the driver skidded on black ice, the court would have to determine whether a reasonable driver would have been able to avoid the hazard and the risk of an accident. Certainly, drivers who have lived in the Midwest should know to be extra-cautious in wintry weather.

If you have been injured in a car accident, talk to a personal injury attorney about your options for pursuing compensation.

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