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Schaumburg man gets $24 million judgment in crash suit
By Ted Cox | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 9/9/2009 5:33 PM

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A Cook County jury delivered a $23.8 million judgment to a Schaumburg man disabled in a 2004 car crash.

Andrzej Chraca, 38, was awarded $23.8 million Tuesday after a two-week trial stemming from an April 19, 2004, collision with Steve Miles, an Illinois Department of Transportation employee. Miles' vehicle struck Chraca's at the intersection of Wright Boulevard and the South Frontage Road for the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway in Schaumburg. Both drivers insisted they had the green light, and Schaumburg police could not determine which driver was at fault. At trial, six eyewitnesses produced contradictory testimony. Yet the jury found for Chraca, apparently because his car was struck by the other.

"You have to separate the case into liability and damages," said Chraca's attorney Martin Healy Jr. "Once they determined he was not the one who was primarily responsible for it and they were going to find for him, then you look at damages.

"The large verdict is justified by the injuries that were incurred, terrible injuries," Healy added. "He is going to suffer every day of his life."

Both Chraca and Miles sustained back fractures and partial paralysis. Chraca is unable to walk without leg braces and a walker or canes and generally gets around in a wheelchair. Neither has returned to work.

"After five years, that's what came over me, that I was vindicated," Chraca said, while adding that the monetary judgment would not begin to make up for the damage to his body.

The initial jury award was more than $25 million, but the jury found Chraca 5 percent comparatively negligent, saying he was driving over the posted speed, thus reducing the total to $23.8 million.

Collecting the full amount could be another matter, Healy acknowledged. "There are limitations," he said, "and I'll be honest with you, it's going to be subject to other litigation."

Natalie Bauer, spokeswoman for the Illinois Attorney General's office, which took part in Miles' defense, said IDOT would be responsible for $2 million in the judgment, covered by insurance. "We're reviewing the judgment at this point and considering post-trial motions," she said.