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Illinois Allows Testing for Autonomous Cars

Self-driving cars will soon be on the roads of Illinois. Many are excited to move forward and see how the new technology will be benefit their lives. However, skepticism remains for many lawmakers. They worry about liability if the self-driving cars malfunctioned and caused accidents. Recently, an accident in Arizona involved an Uber self-driving car.

Autonomous Cars Executive Order

The Illinois Department of Transportation, through an executive order from Governor Bruce Rauner, can allow for testing of autonomous (self-driving) cars on the roads of Illinois. The executive order just allows testing of the cars. Rauner stated that these cars the “future”. He predicted they will permanently change roadways in the next five to 10 years.

Beginning this winter, the testing phase will begin, but a driver remains behind the wheel. Gov. Rauner said in a statement, “Working without public and private partners, we can make our roads safer, save lives, attract investment and create new high-tech jobs throughout the state.” Proponents of autonomous vehicles promotes the technology through safety, fuel efficiency and increased access to transportation, especially for the elderly and people with disabilities.

According to the governor’s statement, the automated vehicle industry expects to generate $800 billion annually nationwide by 2050. This includes creation of jobs and fuel saving. The technology hopes to reduce the number of car crashes by vehicle by 94 percent due to human error. The Autonomous Illinois program will connect interested universities, research institutions and other technology partners to test the techonology.

Liability Issue Questions Surround Autonomous Cars

Although lawmakers are showing support for the autonomous vehicle testing, they also question the liability issue in case of collision. According to the executive order, the vehicles will be covered by insurance or other type of financial responsibility but it still doesn’t make it clear whether the person in the driver-less vehicle is liable for the accidents.

Alderman Edward Burke raised concerns when he had attempted to ban the introduction of self-driving cars. He fears that hackers or terrorists could infiltrate the technology for malicious uses. Burke also directed concerns towards the job losses that delivery services and driving companies will face. In the past, Burke has taken several measures throughout the years to protect the taxicab companies from the new and innovative technological vehicles that soon will take over the industry.

If autonomous cars do become the primary form of transportation, changes to the zoning and city planning will have to be done. Road way infrastructure will need changes. Roadways that currently accommodate human error with wide streets, guardrails and lane markings and signs may disappear creating more rooms for pedestrians and bike lanes. Though Illinois has only taken the first step to introducing testing for autonomous cars, we should keep in mind the changes the cities would have to go through to accommodate the new technology.

Illinois Medical Record Rules for Personal Injury Cases

hospital

“Hospital”by Adam Mulligan is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

As previously discussed, insurance companies frequently request medical records. What do you need to specifically know about Illinois medical record rules?

How Do I Get My Medical Records?

Health care provides keep most adult medical records for at least six years. Children have varying lengths of time as well. This length can depend on state laws. Under Illinois law, hospitals must keep medical records at least 10 years. However, no specific rule exists for how long doctors in Illinois must keep medical records. Remember that you have the right to see, get a copy of, and amend your medical record for as long as your health care provider has it.

Under Illinois law, your health care provider owns the actual medical record. For example, if your provider maintains paper medical records, they own and have the right to keep the original record. You only have the right to see and get a copy of it.

Requesting Your Records

Request the record directly from your health care provider. Depending on the record you need, you may need to talk with a hospital or your primary care physician. However, if your doctor no longer practices, you may need to contact the state department of health to find out where your records are kept. You might be denied access to certain medical records, such as your mental health records, if your provider thinks it would harm your physical health for you to see your records.

Facilities may have forms on hand for you to request your medical records, but you can also fill out a Medical Records Request Letter and send it in. You may need to provide the following information:

  • Your name and maiden name
  • Social security number
  • Medical ID number under your policy, or the policy provider number
  • Contact information (address, email and phone number)
  • The records being requested
  • The date of the service(s) of record
  • How you would like your records delivered
  • Your signature

Why This Matters to Your Injury Case

Your lawyer will want to have all of your related medical records related to your injury. This information will:

  • allow an accurate assessment of your injuries,
  • assess the viability of your case,
  • provide proof of your injuries,
  • help determine damage,
  • allows medical experts to analyze the records, and
  • helps prove fault.

Getting the compensation you deserve shouldn’t be a battle. Arlington Heights personal injury attorney Ronald F. Wittmeyer understands how you feel. With more than 30 years experience practicing plaintiffs’ personal injury law, we can fight aggressively on your behalf. Serving the Northwest suburbs including Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Palatine, and surrounding areas, the Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd.helps level the playing field against major insurance companies and corporations. If you’ve been injured or involved in an accident, call our office at (847) 637-5818 or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation with one of our highly qualified Arlington Heights personal injury attorneys. The sooner we can learn about your case and your needs, the more effective we can be at recovering fair and adequate compensation for your losses.

Veterans in Nursing Homes

Many families of retired military members or veterans do not know all of the options available to them for senior care. Since May is National Military Appreciation Month, remember that your veteran deserves the best care. MedlinePlus.gov defines nursing homes as secure places for patients who don’t need to be hospitalized, but they can’t function at home, either. This applies to civilians or ex-military.

Nursing homes employ a vast range of medical specialists focused on everything from speech rehabilitation to occupational therapy. But the foundation on which these facilities rests on a mix of nursing aides, RNs, LPNs and orderlies. They work day to day for the care and well-being of patients.

[Read more…]

The Future of Driverless Cars in Illinois

Driverless Cars

In mid-January 2018, Pizza Hut announced the company was in plans to create and launch driverless delivery vans with the help of Toyota. This announcement ushers in a new trend in commercial businesses: the driverless car. According to Tech World, the companies currently working on developing driverless cars include:

  • Amazon
  • Samsung
  • Huawei
  • Nvidia
  • Volkswagen
  • Baidu
  • Uber
  • Volvo
  • Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
  • Apple
  • Intel
  • BMW
  • Audi
  • Google
  • nuTonomy
  • Bosch
  • Tesla
  • Ford
  • Five AI

How is Illinois Preparing for Self-Driving Cars?

Both the state of Illinois and the Federal government have laws for cars with actual drivers in them (obviously). How are the state of Illinois and federal lawmakers preparing for self-driving cars?

According to the Illinois Policy website, on September 6, 2018, the United States House of Representatives passed the Self Drive Act. This Act regulates self-driving vehicles on the United States’ road, allows “automakers to apply for exemptions from certain transportation safety regulations, and permit[s] up to 25,000 self-driving cars on the road in the first year, and up to 10,000 such vehicles within three years.”

[Read more…]

Nursing Home Generators: Keeping Residents Safe

nursing home power outage

Three months ago  Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria devastated parts of the United States. Many parts of Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico continue to reel. Of course, their main concern remains clearing, repairing, and rebuilding their landscapes and homes. However, some saw frightening images of the affects on nursing homes. What happens to the residents in their care when the power goes out?

La Vita Bella Nursing Home

On August 27, 2017, Timothy J. McIntosh, the son-in-law of the facility owner the Dickinson, Texas La Vita Bella nursing home, tweeted a picture of an elderly woman sitting in waist-high murky water from the flooding of Hurricane Harvey. In his post, McIntosh was urging rescue teams to help evacuate the nursing home by demonstrating just how dreadful the situation had become. People shared the photograph via Twitter and Facebook. Ultimately, this story had a happy ending. The nursing home residents were successfully relocated to another nearby facility.

While this situation and other like it ended happily, Florida wanted to become more proactive.

Florida’s Attempt to Require Generators at Nursing Homes

Florida Governor Rick Scott urged his legislators to act. He urged passage of a bill requiring all nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have back-up generators with enough fuel to sustain power for 96 hours. This specific piece of desired legislation came as a result of an incident at a Broward, Florida nursing home where damage from Hurricane Irma lead to the facility’s air-conditioning system failing and causing the death of six residents.

In September, Governor Scott enacted an emergency rule. The rule required all nursing homes and similar facilities to meet the generator and fuel requirement. However, the discussion did not go much farther. When Governor Scott met with legislators and the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration on Friday, November 3, the meeting lasted 30 minutes. Many hoped that the emergency rule would become codified. However, that did not occur.

Administrative Law Judge Garnett Chisenhall

Previously on Friday, October 27, Administrative Law Judge Garnett Chisenhall ruled that the regulation was an over-reaction to the deaths at the Broward, Florida nursing home. The judge advised that the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration did not have the “authority to require all nursing homes and assisted living facilities to purchase generators and fuel by Nov[ember] 15” as required by Governor Scott’s emergency ruling from September.

Administrative Law Judge Garnett Chisenhall came to his decision based on a multitude of reasons:

  • Technical experts
  • Electricians
  • Meteorologists attesting to the likelihood of a similar hurricane occurring this year
  • a prior act revoking the nursing home’s license after the incident
  • The lack of correlation between the incident at the nursing home and other nursing homes within the state of Florida

Ultimately, Judge Chisenhall concluded that a vast majority of nursing homes and ALFs could not comply quickly. He noted that it seemed impossible for them to achieve compliance by Nov. 15, 2017.

What Does This Mean for Illinois Nursing Homes?

Governor Scott has appealed the decision. But this dialogue has caused many Illinois laws and regulations say. Many have wondered what nursing home regulations regarding power generators exist. How do nursing homes in Illinois ensure the safety of their residents in power outages?

Illinois states that each nursing home facility within the state of Illinois “shall have policies covering disaster preparedness, including a written plan for staff, residents and others to follow.”

The plan shall include, but not be limited to, the following:

  • Proper instruction in the use of fire extinguishers for all personnel employed on the premises;
  • A diagram of the evacuation route;
  • A written plan for moving residents to safe locations within the facility in the event of a tornado warning or severe thunderstorm warning; and
  • An established means of facility notification when the National Weather Service issues a tornado or severe thunderstorm warning that covers the area in which the facility is located. The notification mechanism shall be other than commercial radio or television.

The rules further state that nursing homes must hold a fire drill at least quarterly for all employees. They must hold any other disaster drills two times annually for all personnel. The importance of practicing resident evacuations is also stressed throughout the rules. However, they do not require nursing homes to purchase and maintain backup generators.

As technology continues to improve our way of living and as we become more reliant on it, the likelihood of natural disasters creating a debilitating situation for nursing homes in the United States will continue making this issue one that will not disappear any time soon.

Enjoy the Illinois State Parks

Illinois has over 60 states parks to enjoy this fall and all year round.

Suburban residents luckily have several great state parks nearby. The parks include:

Chain O Lakes State Park

The 2,793-acre state park near Spring Grove has nearly 200 camping sites. Additionally, you can fish and canoe on the lakes. The Turner Lake Nature Preserve is about 80 acres within the park. The state has protected a segment of the park’s bog environment and its unique plants.

Illinois Beach State Park

Along Lake Michigan, residents from all over Lake County, can visit Illinois Beach State Bark. In addition to a great series of bike paths, Illinois Beach State Park allows fishing and swimming.

If you’re traveling from the Northwest suburbs, such as Arlington Heights or Mount Prospect,  take I-294 north to Rt 173 east (approx 8 miles). Take 173 to Sheridan Road. Make a right on Sheridan Road to Wadsworth Road. Lastly, make a left and you will be in the park.

Moraine Hills

If you continue past Lake Zurich on Rt. 12 (Rand Rd.), you can hike and run at Moraine Hills State Park. “The 48-acre Lake Defiance, located near the center of the park, was formed when a large portion of ice broke away from the main glacier and melted.” You can rent a boat for fishing or just enjoying Lake Defiance.

Other State Parks

Depending on where you want to travel in Illinois, you have lots of options. But depending on which park you want to visit, you can have lots of fun. Activities at the state parks include:

  • fishing,
  • hiking,
  • hunting,
  • boating,
  • metal detecting,
  • geocaching,
  • biking,
  • cross country skiing,
  • archery, and
  • horseback riding.

Illinois is not just lots of great shopping and cities. Explore the glories of nature this summer!

Avoid Truck Accidents: Sharing the Road

On July 1st, 2017, a semi-truck collided with another vehicle on Interstate 80 nearing Interstate 55 resulting in the death of the truck driver. Recent and fatal truck accidents show the importance of sharing the road effectively with semi-trucks.

Aside from their large size, semi-trucks face numerous issues on roadways. Truck drivers have difficulty seeing vehicles in their many blind spots. Semi-trucks also struggle with maneuverability when emergencies happen on road ways.

[Read more…]

Light It Up…Safely – Fireworks Safety

In a few weeks, all over the Chicago suburbs, families and friends gather together to celebrate Independence Day. The Fourth of July celebration and festivities are always fun filled. We enjoy the colorful parades, hot barbecues, and spectacular fireworks shows. Of course, some risks exist with parades and barbecues. But fireworks safety needs a special focus.

According to the National Fire Protection Agency, 18,500 fireworks-related fires are reported each year, including 1,300 building fires, 300 automobile fires, and 16,900 outside and other fires. On average each year, fireworks are responsible for three deaths, 40 injuries, and $43 million in property damage. The NFPA reports that in 2015, 11,900 people were treated in the United States’s hospitals for fireworks-related injuries. Of those treated, 51% were injuries to limbs while 41% were injuries to the head.

The NFPA advises against buying and using consumer grade fireworks. Due to the risks associated with pyrotechnics as well as the quality of the fireworks, leave it to the professionals. Recently, a 15-year-old in Davenport, Iowa sustained injuries to his hand from consumer grade fireworks. The teenager headed to Peoria, Illinois for surgery on the hand. However, doctors had to amputate the hand.

Additionally, even the “safe” fireworks cause injuries. Many Americans buy sparklers and firecrackers. And while families, especially kids, love these products, many suffer burns. Sparklers burn hot enough to sustain third-degree burns. The NFPA reports that sparklers make up 25% of firework injuries treated in emergency rooms.

Fireworks Safety Tips

memorial day

With the approaching Fourth of July holiday, remember these fireworks safety tips.

Follow local firework laws and ordinances

While a rural town may have more lax fireworks safety ordinances, not all neighborhoods follow those same casual rules. Check your local community rules and regulations regarding the use of fireworks before purchasing and using fireworks. In Illinois, the Illinois’ Pyrotechnic Use Act bans the sale, possession, and use of those “consumer fireworks.” This includes bottle rockets, roman candles, and firecrackers.

Properly dispose of fireworks after use

If you seek to break Illinois law, please properly dispose of fireworks. Get the objects wet and place them in a metal trash can away from any buildings. Even if the firework does not launch, “duds” can still re-light. Be sure to never relight a “dud” firework. According to Davenport Fire Chief Lynn Washburn, “you just let it be and wait fifteen to twenty minutes and then put it in a bucket of water.”

Do not use consumer grade or homemade fireworks…but if you do, be smart.

According to NFPA’s Dan Doofus, do not use consumer fireworks because “they are too dangerous” and responsible most firework-related injuries. Additionally, avoid making your own homemade fireworks. Again, if you seek to break Illinois law, when using fireworks in a home or residential setting, read all of the directions on the packaging. Make sure the product is safe for use. However, as always, use caution and wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from any potential injuries.

Keep a close eye on children at firework events

According to the NFPA, most injuries affect children and teenagers. Be sure to monitor children in situations where fireworks are present. And remember to never give children fireworks!

Keep your pets safe from fireworks as well

Pets easily startled by the loud noises associated with fireworks. For this reason, do not bring your pets should to fireworks shows. Regardless of the size of the show, your pet could run away if it gets startled. Additionally, if you seek to break Illinois law and use fireworks at home, be sure to keep your pet inside in an interior room to keep the animal from hearing the loud, bombastic noises. In the event an animal does run away during a firework display after being startled, always make sure your pet has updated identification tags so others can return your pet to you.

Leave it to the firework experts, and go to a professional firework show

Most importantly, having your own firework display in Illinois is illegal.

In Arlington Heights, if you get caught with fireworks, in addition to potential injury, you will pay a fine. Additionally, the state can charge you with a misdemeanor and arrest you.

To ensure your safety and to stay within the boundaries of the law, leave the firework shows to the professionals. Removing the hazardous element to your Fourth of July celebration allows you and your family to enjoy the holiday with any added risks.

Happy Fourth of July from all of us at R.F. Wittmeyer!

Summer 2017 Road Construction Projects

As summer begins, remember to add extra time to your trips to ensure your safety due to road construction. Road construction can lead to car accidents, truck accidents, and bike accidents. Additionally, with many people enjoying the weather, be careful of distracted drivers or individuals who may be driving under the influence. To keep the workers and yourself safe, stay off your phone and drive safely this summer.

Suburban Construction

The Illinois Department of Transportation provides a map of the largest construction projects each year. For a clickable map, check out the IDOT website.

However, a few examples of major suburban roadwork includes:

  • In Des Plaines, finishing touches continue at the I-90 and IL-83 (Elmhurst Rd.) interchange. This affects Oakton St., Elmhurst St., and Busse Rd.
  • In Schaumburg, Higgins Rd. (IL-72) will undergo roadwork which may lead to long delays. The construction will occur west of I-294, just south of Woodfield.
  • Near O’Hare, major roadwork will occur on Irving Park Rd. in Bensenville until September. Since this is a major thoroughfare for trucks, please be very careful. If you have been injured in a truck accident near O’Hare, please contact the Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd. today.

Chicago Construction

In the city of Chicago, several major roads are undergoing major road construction. According to WGN,

  • Lakeshore Drive will undergo structural improvements and repairs at the LaSalle Drive Viaduct beginning mid-summer. Expect some lane closures on Lake Shore Drive. However, the Chicago Department of Transportation will try to work around peak rush hours. Nonetheless, the work may take eight months to complete.
  • Grand Avenue reconstruction is underway between Pulaski and Chicago.  One lane will be maintained in each direction throughout the project with one exception. Between late June to July, Grand Avenue will be fully closed at Homan for five weeks under the railroad viaduct.Work will continue throughout 2017.
  • For other Chicago roadwork information, check out the list from WGN.

Real-Time Traffic Reports

As you head out, make sure to check the local traffic reports, which include construction delays. We recommend all of the local news networks, especially NBC Chicago.

 

Illinois Distracted Driving Awareness Week

Distracted Driving

In support of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, from April 24 through April 28, Illinois has designated Distracted Driving Awareness Week. The Illinois Association of Police asked the governor to declare that week as National Driving Awareness Week. The goal is to bring awareness to the potential consequences and dangers that result from distracted driving. The governor and both houses passed resolutions, recognizing this week as National Driving Awareness Week in Illinois.

[Read more…]

About the Firm


Ronald F. Wittmeyer, Jr. practices plaintiffs' personal injury law at his office in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

About Ron

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