The Illinois State Senate District 23 recently announced a measure that might prevent many occupational fatalities in construction zones across the state. Under the new law, the current maximum fine of $10,000 for third-party negligence that injures or kills workers in construction zones will increase to $25,000 when it becomes effective on Jan. 1, 2020. State Senator Tom Cullerton says the higher penalty might put an end to the epidemic and discourage distracted driving in construction zones.
Too many construction workers are killed or severely injured by irresponsible drivers who fail to keep their eyes off the road. Construction workers put their lives on the line day and night to improve the state's infrastructure. A tragedy in Sept. 2018, in which a construction worker suffered fatal injuries, provided part of the motivation for the new bill.
The worker's death followed an incident in which a driver drove into the lanes that were closed and struck the man who was the flagger that night. This incident occurred near O'Hare International Airport in a construction zone on the Tri-State Tollway. Senator Cullerton says he aims to underscore the need for cautious driving in construction zones, although he acknowledges the higher fines might not physically prevent accidents.
Despite the new law, construction zone workers will likely continue to risk their lives. When such tragedies occur, the surviving family members are typically entitled to workers' compensation benefits that will cover end-of-life expenses and lost wages. However, an experienced Illinois attorney can advise them on the viability of a civil claim for third-party negligence, which could secure the recovery of additional financial and emotional damages.