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Illinois Plaintiff's Lawyer Personal Injury Blog- Legal News and Insights from Champaign Urbana Attorneys Koester & Bradley, LLP

Train and Automobile Collisions in Illinois: A Deadly Combination



Champaign Urbana, and Central Illinois in general is heavily populated by train tracks.  While almost every Central Illinois resident is aware of these tracks, it is hard to fully-conceptualize the danger.
--Ryan Bradley, Partner, Koester & Bradley LLP

How Common are Railroad Accidents in Illinois?

It may be surprising to learn that accidents involving railroad track and crossings and automobiles and pedestrians are very frequent in Central Illinois.  In fact Champaign Urbana has had a large number of injuries given the large amount of pedestrian traffic with the University of Illinois and large population base for downstate Illinois.  The most common type of passenger railroad or freight trains accidents tend to be ones involving railroad crossings and cars as such as the major wreck in in the Chicago area in the summer of 2019 that caused an Amtrak train to derail.  Often times these sorts of train and railroad accidents are referred to as Highway-Rail Collisions, and while the impact of these accidents is devastating, they can be easily avoided by undertaking certain simple steps. 

Highway-Rail Collisions

Illinois has the second highest number of highway-rail crossings in the United States.  Many of these are in rural areas with unmarked railroad crossings which is why there are a large number of accidents and fatalities in Central Illinois and Champaign Urbana.  Of the 7,696 highway-rail grade crossing in Illinois, 773 of those are located on state roads and 6,923 are on local roads.  There are also 2,673 highway-rail grade-separated (bridges).  3,791 grade crossings and 141 bridge structures in the state of Illinois are on private property, which are not under the jurisdiction of the state.  Illinois is also home to 98 pedestrian grade separated crossings (bridges) and 346 pedestrian grade crossings. 

By statute, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) is responsible for the safety of public highway-rail crossings in Illinois.  Costs of safety improvement are paid by the state, the railroads, and local governments.  The Illinois Department of Transportation through the State Road Fund pays the majority of the costs for public highway-rail crossings located on state roads.  Costs for public highway-rail crossings on local roads are handled by the Grade Crossing Protection Fund. 

There were approximately 107 collisions at public railway crossing in Illinois in 2014.  The majority of incidents involve trains colliding with cars.  However, in 2014, 23 out of the 107 collisions involved a motor vehicle driving into the side of a train.  22 fatalities occurred in Illinois in 2014.  2 of those fatalities occurred in Champaign County which would be wrongful death cases should litigation ensue. 

Illinois Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Collisions

Type of Collision

Total Collisions

Fatal Collisions

Total Fatalities

Train Struck Vehicle




Vehicle Struck Train












              *statistics from ICC Crossing Safety Improvement Plan FY 2016-2020 Plan


According to the Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety Analysis, 117 highway-rail incidents occurred in Illinois, resulting in 16 fatalities in 2015.  4 of those incidents including 1 fatality occurred in Champaign County.  A highway-rail incident is defined as any impact between a rail and a highway user at a crossing site, regardless of severity. Incidents include motor vehicles and other highway/road/sidewalk users at both public and private crossings.



How Can You Easily Avoid Railroad Crossing Accidents?

Drivers can adhere to these common sense steps to  avoid an accident with a train or train tracks--and hopefully avoid having to hire an accident attorney all together:

  1. In a race, the train always wins. Trains move faster than they appear, and even at lower speeds, any time a train, passenger or freight, collides with an automobile, the train wins.  It goes without saying that if the train is actually crossing, you should wait for it to pass before crossing.
  2. Don't "cheat" the lowered gates.  It can be tempting to simply drive around lowered railroad crossing gates. Despite the fact that you may not actually see the train, closing speed can be very fast.  This applies to situations when you find yourself waiting for an extended period of time at a crossing with no trains in sight.  If the wait is unbearable, call the railroad 800 number to report the situation and find the closest functional crossing.  The lost time is not worth losing your life.
  3. Come to a full stop at all crossings. Railroads are a constant fixture in the Central Illinois landscape.  It may be tempting to blow through a railroad crossing , particularly if there is not a train in sight.  Just remember, in a tie between a tran and a car, the train wins, and at over 60 miles per hour, the closing time is very fast.  To avoid a collision, always come to a full stop at every crossing--even if a train is not present.
  4. If you get stuck on the tracks at a railroad crossing, just leave the car. After exiting the tracks, and the zone of danger, look for the 800 number posted at the crossing.  After alerting the railroad, call 911 and tell the local first responders.  Then stay away from the stranded car to avoid injury.
  5. Remember that a train’s stopping distance is very long. A freight train moving at 55 miles per hour may need up to a mile to stop.  Couple this fact with the fact that visibility is not always miles, and you are left with a situation where you as the driver of the car are in the best positions to avoid the collision.  

As always out personal injury team at Koester & Bradley is here to help you recovery for a train collision or railroad crossing case, or just answer any of your questions along the way.

By: Ryan Bradley, Partner, Koester & Bradley, LLP

Quick Tip of the Day: What to Do After a Slip and Fall Accident



Slip and Fall or Premises Liability cases may seem simple and less problematic than other personal injury cases, yet the damages of a fall can be severe and insurance companies are unlikely to settle in good faith.
--Tom Koester, Partner, Koester & Bradley LLP

Follow These Steps to Maximize Your Recovery for Slip and Fall Cases in Illinois

Slip and fall cases, otherwise known ad premises liability cases, are a  type of accident can happen to anyone and at the most unexpected times.  While it is possible for a severe fall to happen without the presence of negligence, in most situations, particularly with respect to commercial areas, such as stores and businesses, it is worth having the facts of the fall evaluated by a local premises liability attorney.  

Most businesses and homes are covered by sizable insurance policies.  The reasoning behind this is simple, homeowners and businesses do not want to be held personally liable for their own negligence.  For instance, if a leaking air conditioning condenser leaks water onto the floor of a business, or a home, and a business invitee, or home invitee falls on the water and breaks their hip, the insurance company, not the property owner, will likely pay for the injuries to the victim.  After all, insurance companies have plenty of funds, and policy owners should never feel bad about filing claims.  This process both protects the property owner, and allows the victim of premises liability negligence to recover.

Despite the fact that the process is simple, insurance companies are loathe to pay any sort of claims and will do everything in their power to make sure that victims of negligence go empty-handed.  This includes posting many so-called "news" stories about faked slip and fall accidents.  Even though hardly anybody fakes an injury for compensations,  Thus, after a slip and fall, or any sort of premises liability situation, it is important to take actions to maximize your recovery.

It is important to know what actions to take following the accident. The Central Illinois slip and fall lawyers at Koester & Bradley have found that certain elements can make a difference in these cases including the following:

  • Contact emergency personnel if necessary, but absolutely file an accident or incident report with the business or property owner in writing.  It is important to file a report of some kind, even if it is simply a narrative on a piece of paper.  Insurance companies and defendants cling to the lack of an incident or accident report as a way to deny liability.  
  • Record the names, numbers, and addresses of all witnesses.  This is vital because at some point, such as a trial or for a deposition, you or your lawyer will need to know what witnesses are involved.  Furthermore, trials can takes years to happen in some cases and witnesses can leave the area.
  • Obtain the insurance information for all parties.  This mans asking the business or home owner both if they are covered and by what company.  Most people do not have copies of their policy at the ready, so you or your lawyer will have to get this information from the insurance company directly.
  • Photograph the scene of the accident.  Smartphones are perfect for this purpose.  Then the photos are readily available to insurance companies, who have a right to ask, and your lawyers.
  • Hold onto all important information and documents.  This can be medical bills, medical records, accident reports, or even a journal or calendar that reveals the time and place of the slip and fall.
  • Speak with an experienced attorney before talking with an insurance company.  The insurance company will try to hold you to a story about what happened and will try to record your statement.  Refuse to talk to an insurance company without first speaking to a local premises liability lawyer.  

As always out personal injury team at Koester & Bradley is here to help you recovery for your slip and fall case, or just answer any of your questions along the way.

By: Tom Koester, Partner, Koester & Bradley, LLP

When and How Most Illinois Car Accidents Happen



At Koester & Bradley, a large percentage of our personal injury arise form auto accidents.  We see many common themes such as distracted driving, speeding, and even projectiles from children in rear seats.  Learning abut the causes of Illinois car accidents is a great way to minimize the chances of accidents for cautious drivers. --Tom Koester, Partner, Koester & Bradley LLP


Koester & Bradley Discusses How and When Auto Accident Happen

Auto mishaps are the leading cause of death among individuals aged 1 to 34 years old nationally.  The same general pattern holds true for Illinois as a state and also Champaign County and Central Illinois where Koester & Bradley focuses its personal injury practice.  Over 40,000 individuals each year in the United States die as a result of auto accidents.  While these statistics might be frightening, a simple understanding of the threats of motor vehicle and truck accidents can aid you in planning trips to minimize threats of potential crashes.

According to information from the National Freeway Website Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), automobile accidents are most likely to happen:

According to statistics, the majority of deadly car accident occur between the hours of 6 p.m. and 12 a.m.  This should really be no surprise since this is when most people are the most tired.  28% of all fatal traffic crashes occur during this time frame.  As nighttime sets in, there are typically more intoxicated or impaired drivers on the roads.  The second most unsafe time of day is between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.  16% of all fatal traffic crashes occur during this time frame.  These times of day tend to me more harmful due to the number of drivers hitting the road, e.g. “heavy traffic” for commuters coming home from work.

Weekends also yield higher amounts of motor vehicle accidents.  Reported auto accidents are higher on Saturdays and Sundays than on any other day of the week.  Tuesdays and Wednesdays tend to have fewer reported accidents.

While there are plenty of auto accidents that occur in Winter months as a result of road conditions, more accidents actually occur in the Summer months.  The NHTSA reported that August is the leading month for traffic accidents to occur.  Experts believe that when the temperatures rise, more drivers tend to hit the roads and thus, more accidents occur.

Anytime a driver chooses to operate his/her motor vehicle impaired whether under the influence of alcohol or medications, the danger of a car or truck accident increases.  The NHTSA has reported that an alcohol impairment at a Blood Alcohol Content of 0.08 can significantly boost the risk of motor vehicle and truck crushes by about 8 times.  The threats of these crashes are increased by 25% when a driver is impaired by marijuana. 

Accidents caused by impairment from marijuana are an issue that Illinois and Champaign County will have to deal with in particular with both medicinal and recreational pot use legalized in Illinois.  In fact, Illinois police are already trying to prepare for the problem.

While impaired driving is the reason for a significant amount of auto mishaps, the NHTSA reports that 95% of all automobile accidents are created at last partly by human error. 

What does this mean for drivers in Champaign-Urbana and Central Illinois who want to avoid car accidents and the accompanying injuries?  All drivers must understand:

  • Evening and nighttime hours are the most dangerous--so stay alert!
  • Impaired driving is not just due to alcohol--it can also be from marijuana and even fatigue.
  • The slower you travel (within speed limits) the safer you will be.  Speeding is a major cause of Illinois Accidents as well.

Have you or a loved one been harmed in an automobile accident? If so, contact the Illinois motor vehicle accident lawyers at Koester & Bradley, LLP.  Our skilled and compassionate attorneys have been offering assistance to our clients since 1895. 

To find out more about our services, please call 217-337-1400 to schedule a free initial consult with one of our partners at Koester & Bradley, LLP. 

By: Tom Koester, Koester & Bradley, LLP

Staying Safe During an Active Shooter Event



It's a topic that I sincerely wish that I did not feel compelled to address.  Additionally, given the gravity of the subject matter, I am with holding my normal snark and sarcasm.  

There is more violence in our society presently than in any other time in recent history.  Whether you tend to blame the guns, the criminals, or the rancorous mental health system, we are all potential victims of mass violence.  Each day more news pours in about officer-involved shootings in Tulsa, Oklahoma or Charlotte, North Carolina and, even more alarming, active shooter events.  

According to the FBI, an active shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.  This can be a random act, planned act, or a spur of the moment reaction to an altercation.  

From Washington State, to Texas, and many points in between, we have almost become numb to the news of random shootings at school, malls, and other public places. Central Illinois and the Champaign-Urbana have had a unique sense of security in regard to active shooter events until recently when shooting broke out in Champaign.

While these types of events are becoming more and more prevalent and deadly, there are certain common-sense steps to take in order to increase the likelihood of survival for yourself and those around your. 

According to experts, simply allowing common-sense to take over is an important aspect of active shooter survival.  Additionally, 

1.  Remain calm.  Panic does not do anyone any good.  Focus on your breathing so you can assess the safest action.

2. Determine what action you are going to take
                a.  Run
                b.  Hide
                c.  Fight

If you are not alone, alert others in the area that a shooter is present.  If you can bring people with you on your escape, do it.  If you cannot convince someone to go with you,  leave him/her and get yourself to safety.

Action a:  run:  be prepared to run.  Run as fast as you can.  If you are wearing shoes that make it more difficult to run, ditch them and run barefoot.  This sounds like something you would see in a movie, but it is good advice.  Know an escape route that will get you the furthest distance away from a shooter.  Once you get to safety, don’t assume someone has already called 911.  Call 911 anyway.

Action b:  hide:  if running is not an option, hide in a secure location, out of the shooter’s view.  You want a location that will provide you protection if shots are fired in your direction.  Do not open a locked door until you can confirm that authorities are the ones coming to your rescue.  Call 911 if you can accomplish this task without being found.  If you cannot find safety behind a locked door, find an area that provides you concealment and cover but still allows you a visual on the attacker.  If the shooter does not see you, you may have a chance to make a run for an exit.  If the shooter doesn’t see you, you may have an opportunity to brace yourself if you need to fight back.
Action c:  fight:  if you are forced to fight the shooter, be aggressive & violent, control the weapon and then control the shooter, and use whatever improvised weapon you can find.  This is the last chance effort and should only be adopted if there is no way to run and hide.

Active shooter events are a frightening reality to our world and, despite the fact that it is not enjoyable to think about, having a plan can save lives.   

Illinois Plaintiffs Lawyer Personal Injury Blog by Koester & Bradley, LLP 

Legal News and safety tips with Illinois Impact from the Accident and Personal Injury Firm Koester & Bradley, LLP


Ryan R Bradley is a personal injury and litigation lawyer based in Champaign County Illinois focused on representing injured clients and businesses navigate the maze of litigation to financial recovery.  

Tom Koester is a personal injury attorney based in Champaign County in Central Illinois focused on representing the injured and victims of Medical Malpractice and Personal Injuries.