'Tis The Season--Accidents Happen

Winter_Driving_iStock_000018910464Small1Tis the Season--Accidents Happen

We survived the holiday season and now look forward to several more months of winter weather, unless we're smart enough to live elsewhere. For the rest of us, this Midwestern climate reminds us constantly of its potential dangers.


For the most part, many of us have no choice but to own a car and drive places, even if it snows or the roads are icy. When we drive in snow and ice, accidents are obviously more frequent than in good weather. Stopping distance is much shorter, vehicles skid, other cars cannot react quickly, and sometimes there are even people riding bicycles on the street (if you see me in the yellow jacket, try not to hit me!).

You Should examine:Insurance_Policy_cropped

  • Your liability limits--remember, it's not you who is uninsured or underinsured, but the other driver might be. In that case, you will need as much uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist coverage as possible. Both are relatively cheap and are the same limit as your liability coverage unless you specifically decline this. Further, if you do cause a crash and a claim is filed against your insurance, you'll want the most coverage possible, just in case someone is seriously injured--otherwise your home, car, and personal assets could be at risk.
  • Medical payments-- make sure you have this coverage, as it pays medical bills immediately if you are in an accident.
  • Property damage coverage--do you have an "agreed upon value" for your vehicle or "Gap" insurance? If not, you could be involved in a collision, have your car totaled and be left without enough to get a replacement vehicle.

If you do get into an auto accident, this is what you should do:

  • Check on any injuries or dangerous situations, and get out of harms way immediately.
  • Call 911 and get immediate medical attention if you are injured--any delay will be used against you by an insurance company or defense lawyer.
  • Photograph the vehicles involved, the intersection or place where it occurred, any visible injuries to anyone involved, and anything else that confirms, documents, or explains what occurred.
  • DO NOT discuss anything with the other drivers involved about how it occurred, who was at fault, or your injuries in specificity.
  • DO exchange insurance information.
  • Provide as complete an account of what occurred to the police officer investigating the crash.
  • DO report this incident to YOUR insurance company as soon as possible.
  • DO NOT speak to, or provide any statement to the insurance carrier(s) for the other vehicles involved.
  • DO contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.

Snowy_Sidewalk_iStock_000005473499_ExtraSmall1PREMISES LIABILITY/SLIP AND FALL INJURIES

I got a call the other day from a friend of mine, who had just slipped walking across a street. Unfortunately, for him, he fractured both of the bones in his lower leg and will need surgery. Worse yet, there is simply no way he can get compensated for this injury, since natural accumulations of ice and snow are generally not compensable cases under existing Illinois law.

In the event that someone does make an attempt at removing snow or ice and does so negligently, there can be liability, especially if the snow that is cleared is placed in a place where it eventually melts and creates a hazard elsewhere. However, "tracked in" water from snow or other precipitation outside a store is not compensable.

While the general rule is that owners or managers of property have no duty to remove snow or ice, there is a Chicago city ordinance (and many other towns have them) requiring this to be done. In other words, it is often difficult to determine whether there is a duty and what that duty may be with respect to snow and ice removal. If you own or manage property, definitely check with a lawyer and/or your liability insurer.

While a great many "slip & fall" incidents are not compensable (especially involving snow or ice), it is best to contact a lawyer immediately to run through the specific facts of your situation.

If you do slip or fall, you should do the following:

  • In addition to the recommendations for motor vehicle accidents, make sure you report the incident to the manager of the premises where you were injured. If this happened in a store, insist on filling out an incident report with the store manager and ask for a copy.
  • Get medical treatment immediately, if you are injured. If you were knocked to the ground, the chances are that you were injured in some way. In these situations, it is best to have someone call an ambulance so you can be examined immediately at the nearest emergency room. Do not assume that because you "feel fine" when you are in shock that you are not hurt. Failure to obtain immediate medical treatment opens up the defense that your injuries were not reported immediately and/or they occurred elsewhere.
  • Save, and do not wash, your clothing and shoes, especially if residue of the substance that caused your fall remains on them.
  • Take photographs of the substance that caused you to fall, the crack in the pavement that made you trip, or the unnatural accumulation of snow or ice that caused you to slip.
  • DO NOT give a statement to any insurance adjuster representing the place where you were injured.
  • DO contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.


With so many workers "working from home," or "traveling between appointments," there are a wealth of opportunities for accidents occurring while one is "on the clock," to say nothing of the more typical industrial-type incidents resulting in injury. If you are walking from your car into a business meeting at a coffee shop and you slip and fall, you could very well be covered under workers' compensation, to name just one possible scenario.

If you are involved in an incident while working:

  • Report the incident to your supervisor immediately. If a written form is completed, ask for a copy.
  • Take photos of the area where you fell, the scene and vehicles of the car crash in which you were involved, the work station where you were hurt, or anything else that would preserve evidence and support your version.
  • Get medical treatment. You have a choice to see YOUR OWN DOCTOR so do not reflexively go where the employer tells you to obtain medical attention.
  • Obtain a work status note from the medical treatment provider and provide a copy to your employer (save one for yourself) stating that you cannot work for a specific period of time.
  • Contact a workers' compensation attorney as soon as possible.


Winter_Cyclist_iStock_000002984618XSmall1Love us or hate us, many of us choose to ride our bikes in the middle of winter. In fact, while I am out "enjoying myself" for exercise on the bike trail, I see many of my compatriots with heavy backpacks strapped on, using the ride to commute to and from work in downtown Chicago on a daily basis in all types of weather.

While most of us try to be mindful of cars, others are rather carefree in the belief cars will stop. The same can be said for cars, as I see all too often drivers of 2 ton vehicles not even looking out to see if cyclists are in the area before changing lanes, turning, or hogging the road.

Cyclists must adhere to the same rules of the road as motor vehicles and motor vehicle operators must be especially vigilant in recognizing the presence of cyclists upon the roadway.

With the advent of more and more dedicated bike lanes in Chicago and other municipalities (and the "sheltered bike lanes" in specific sections of Chicago), it is even more confusing for drivers than before. Just be aware that there ARE cyclists upon the road. Cyclists must be aware that cars cannot always see them and that in the cycle versus car collision, the cyclist often gets the worst of it, so ride cautiously and defensively.

Remember, if you are operating a motor vehicle, you cannot assume bikes can see you or stop if you are driving. If you are a bike rider, remember that cars cannot stop in time in winter conditions and often cannot see you. Both parties should take extra care!


One thing we are proud of at Law Office of Stephen L. Hoffman LLC is our website and blog. There is a lot of useful information contained on both, as well as point by point guides on what you should do in specific circumstances.

The best news is that all this information can be accessed directly from your smart phone right at the scene of the incident. Simply enter in and bookmark our website address, https://www.hofflawyer.com/, into your phone. It should default right to the mobile version of the website and be easy to use right from your phone. Included is much of the information contained right here. You can even access this blog post right from your phone.

While we certainly hope that you all had a terrific and safe 2012 and that the coming year brings you much of the same, it is always best to be prepared. Be alert and avoid accidents and be ready just in case they do occur. Be safe!

Categories: General