Some drivers that rear-end my clients think they can blame the snow and ice - or bad weather. Wrong. Drivers must slow down even more, be extra cautious and keep a proper lookout - all per Illinois law - or risk liability for an accident.
In fact, such accidents may even warrant "partial" summary judgment in Court (if not settled before Court action is taken). Summary judgment is a legal term for an entry of judgment on liability or damages or both when the Court finds there is "no genuine issue of material fact(s)".
In a rear-end car accident, insurance companies and defendants will often fight even these situations. A plaintiff (the person suing) should move for summary judgment at the appropriate time if evidence is appropriate. Pursuant to 735 ILCS 5/2-1005(c), summary judgment is appropriate and the “judgment sought shall be rendered without delay if the pleadings, depositions, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Further, “[a] summary judgment, interlocutory in character, may be rendered on the issue of liability alone although there is a genuine issue as to the amount of damages. Id.
Alternatively, Plaintiffs may seek a “directed verdict” at trial time. Notably, at least one Court has made it clear that, at trial time (as opposed to seeking partial or full judgment earlier in the case via summary judgment) the Court may “direct a verdict” on negligence as to a driver because:
[a] driver . . . has a duty to maintain a sufficient distance from the vehicle in front in order to stop or slow down (Hickox v. Erwin, 101 Ill.App.3d 585), to maintain a safe lookout for traffic ahead (Hickox; Joseph v. Schwartz, 96 Ill.App.3d 749; Snedden v. Lavenka, 92 Ill.App.3d 979) in order to avoid colliding with it (Droese v. Fleming, 93 Ill.App.3d 781), and to take into account the prospect of having to suddenly stop (Droese, 93 Ill.App.3d 781; Snedden, 92 Ill.App.3d 979) or slow his vehicle (Gullberg v. Blue, 85 Ill.App.3d 389). Thus, while a trial court cannot hold a driver, such as defendant, negligent as a matter of law by virtue of a rear-end collision alone, nothing prohibits it from taking the issue of his negligence away from the jury where the evidence overwhelmingly reveals his breach of the foregoing duties. See e.g. Korpalski v. Lyman, 114 Ill.App.3d 563.
Zeifert v. Cox, 182 Ill.App.3d 926 (1st Dist. 1989).
Plaintiffs should fight hard – even on a rear end car accident. Snow and ice is generally not an “excuse” to avoid liability. It’s a reason to slow down and pay attention even more closely.
You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you or your loved one who has been a victim of a crash or accident - in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages--BUT NOT WHILE DRIVING!!). We would be honored to help you with your matters - large or small.