The Illinois Motor Vehicle Code and the Municipal Code of Chicago provide that cyclists are granted all of the rights that are applicable to the driver of any vehicle. Common injuries that cyclists suffer include drivers opening their doors in front of cyclists, drivers turning right in front of a cyclist moving in the same direction, and drivers turning left into the path of an oncoming cyclist. Cyclists can also be injured when drivers park their vehicles in ways that obstruct bike lanes.
If you have been injured in a bicycle accident, you are entitled to full and fair compensation for your injuries. When you work with experienced personal injury lawyer Arlo Walsman, you can rely on his experience and zeal to get you the justice you deserve. Call Arlo at 312-313-0035 or send him an email to schedule your free case evaluation.
What to do, and not to do, if you have Been Injured in a Bicycle Accident
- Call 911 and report your accident to the police
- Make sure to tell the police your side of the story
- Get a copy of the police report
- Get the names, addresses, and phone numbers of responsible parties and witnesses
- Take photos of your bike, the accident location, and your injuries
- Be cautious of what you post on social media about the accident
- Don’t ignore your injuries or delay seeking medical treatment
- Don’t talk to the at-fault party’s insurance company without first consulting a lawyer
How Much is my Case Worth?
The value of any case, and the injured party’s monetary recovery, depends on many different factors. The most important consideration is the nature and extent of the injured party’s injuries. Other important factors include the injured party’s medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages, and the defendant’s available insurance coverage.
A. Compensatory Damages
Persons injured in car accidents are entitled to monetary compensation for their medical expenses, pain and suffering, disability or loss of normal life, emotional distress, disfigurement, and lost wages.
Medical Expenses. An injured plaintiff is entitled to recover the full amount of any medical bills, regardless of whether the injured plaintiff had health insurance that paid all or part of the bills.
Pain and Suffering, Loss of Normal Life, and Emotional Distress. These elements of damages are hard to precisely calculate, as there is no easy formula to determine the monetary value of an injured plaintiff’s pain and suffering following an accident. However, when placing on value on these types of damages, one important legal consideration is the nature, extent, and duration of the plaintiff’s injuries.
For example, a person who fractured a bone in an accident and had to have surgery to repair the injury would generally be entitled to more money for pain and suffering than someone who only suffered injuries such as muscle sprains or strains. Similarly, a plaintiff’s whose medical treatment lasts longer may be entitled to more compensation than a person who only received limited treatment.
Disfigurement. If a plaintiff suffers disfigurement from a bicycle accident such as scars or burns, he may recover damages for the disfigurement. However, there is no easy way to calculate disfigurement damages. Generally, important considerations are the location and visibility of the scars and their size. Another consideration is whether the scars impair the plaintiff’s regular movement and function of their body, such as large scars over joints.
Lost Wages. An injured plaintiff can recover money for any wages he lost as result of his injuries from a bicycle accident. This includes the work that the plaintiff had to miss in order to attend doctor’s visits and other medical appointments.
Future Damages. An injured plaintiff is also entitled to recover for damages that are reasonably certain to arise in the future. For example, in the case of catastrophic injuries, a plaintiff may introduce evidence that he will need future nursing care, doctor’s visits, and medical procedures, or that he will experience continued loss of normal life due to the permanence of his injuries. A catastrophically injured plaintiff will commonly hire expert life care planners to evaluate his medical condition and testify at trial about the future medical care that he will need.
Punitive Damages. Punitive damages are available in car accident cases if a defendant’s conduct was willful or wanton. Both the Illinois Supreme Court and legislature define willful and wanton conduct as “a course of action which shows actual or deliberate intent to harm or which, if the course of action is not intentional, shows an utter indifference to or conscious disregard for a person’s own safety or the safety or property of others.” For example, driving under the influence of alcohol is willful and wanton conduct that will subject a defendant to punitive damages.
Bicycle Accident Statistics
According to a report published by the Chicago Department of Transportation in 2012, the number of people commuting by bicycle in Chicago has increased 150 percent since 2000. Nationally, 0.6 percent of workers commuted to work by bicycle in 2010, but in Chicago, that number was 1.3 percent, or 15,000 cyclists daily. Among its peer cities, Chicago, has more bicycle commuters per capita than New York and Los Angeles.
Between 2005 and 2010, 32 cyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles in Chicago, and just under 9,000 bicycle crashes involving non-fatal injuries occurred. 55 percent of fatal bicycle crashes occur in Chicago occur in intersections, and the most dangerous areas for cyclists are the north and northwest Loop.
Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents
The most common motorist error in bicycle crashes in Chicago involving injury was the motorist failing to yield. The most common bicyclist error was riding against traffic. Other common causes of bicyclist accidents include motorists: turning right in front of a bicyclist traveling in the same direction (a right hook); turning left into the path of an oncoming bicyclist (a left hook); following a bicyclist too closely; failing to give a bicyclist adequate space when passing; and dooring type injuries.
Most Dangerous Areas for Bicyclists in Chicago
Approximately 55 percent of fatal bicycle crashes in Chicago occur at intersections. The north and northwest Loop are the most dangerous areas for bicyclists in Chicago. Many crashes occur on diagonal streets that feed into the Loop, such as Milwaukee Avenue, Lincoln Avenue, and Clark Street.
The greatest amount of bicycle injury crashes occur between 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Bicycle fatalities are highest between 8:00pm and midnight.
Chicago’s Plans for Safer Streets
In 2012, the City of Chicago put forth five categories of proposed solutions to reduced bicycle crashes: roadway design and engineering solutions, education and marketing solutions; enforcement solutions; data and reporting solutions, and policy solutions.
With respect to roadway design and engineering, the City has attempted to improve the design of high crash intersections through measures such as bike boxes, intersection markings, and turn signals. The City has also tried to expand the network of protected bike lanes. With respect to education and marketing solutions, the City has tried to engage directly with drivers and bicyclists while they are in traffic to give tips on safe driving and bicycling procedures. With respect to enforcement solutions, the City has worked to cite drivers who park or drive in marked bicycle lanes.
In June 2016, the City introduced “Vision Zero Chicago,” a plan to improve safety on high crash streets.
Illinois and Chicago Law Regarding Bicycles
Both the Illinois Motor Vehicle Code and the Chicago Municipal Code provide that bicyclists are granted all of the rights, and are subject to all of the duties, that are applicable to the driver of any vehicle. Under Illinois law, it is unlawful for a motorist to open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless it is reasonably safe to do so. It is also unlawful for a motorist to fail to leave a safe distance when passing a bicyclist.
Under the Chicago Municipal Code, motorists must use due care to avoid colliding with bicyclists. Motorists are also prohibited from: turning right in front of a bicyclist moving the same direction; turning left into the path of an approaching bicyclist; driving, standing, or parking in any path or lane designated for the use of bicycles; failing to give a bicyclist adequate space when passing; and opening the door of a parked car as a bicyclist passes.
What to Expect in a Bicycle Accident Lawsuit
A. The Investigation
A good attorney is a skilled investigator. To investigate the facts of a bicycle accident, Arlo will interview the client and any witnesses such as passengers in the client’s vehicle or bystanders. Arlo will also obtain a copy of the Illinois Traffic Crash Report, if one exists, to see what the investigating police officer determined about the crash and how it occurred. In some cases, it may also be necessary to visit the scene of the accident to take photographs. Arlo will also work to obtain video surveillance video of the crash if needed, such as footage from traffic cameras or nearby stores. Finally, in complex accidents involving serious injuries, Arlo may also hire an accident reconstructionist or other expert to inspect the vehicles involved in the accident and offer opinions about the crash.
Understanding the full nature and extent of a client’s injuries is critical to getting the client the best possible recovery. Further, it is important for those injured to understand the full nature and extent of their injuries so that they can consult with their doctors about what treatment will be needed to fully recover from their injuries. Many common injuries experienced in bicycle accidents like muscle strains and sprains can be healed with physical therapy, but remedying more complicated injuries like fractures, tears of ligaments, and disc bulges, protrusions, or herniations may require more advanced treatment like surgery.
B. The Demand Letter
Once Arlo has thoroughly investigated the facts of the case and the client’s injuries, he will send a demand letter to the at-fault driver’s insurance company. The demand letter illustrates why the at-fault driver is responsible for the collision and discusses the injuries suffered by the client. Finally, the letter will demand a specific sum to settle the case.
Some insurance companies will engage in settlement negotiations in good faith and offer full and fair compensation to those injured by their insureds. However, many substandard insurance companies will refuse to negotiate or only give low-ball offers. If this occurs, then Arlo can file a lawsuit on behalf of his client against the at-fault driver and begin preparing for trial. If the defendant’s insurance company refuses to offer adequate compensation, then the only recourse is to try a case to verdict and persuade the jury to award full and fair damages.
C. The Litigation Process
The first step in the litigation process is for the plaintiff to file a complaint. The complaint will include specific allegations about the facts of the collision at issue and the defendant’s negligence. The plaintiff then must serve the complaint and summons on the defendant. Once the defendant has been served, his insurance company will hire a lawyer to represent him. The defendant’s attorney will then file an appearance in the case and an answer to the complaint.
Once an answer has been filed, the next step is for the parties to engage in discovery. The first phase of discovery is called written discovery, where the parties exchange and answer interrogatories and requests to produce documents. Interrogatories issued to the plaintiff will ask for information such as a description of the plaintiff’s injuries, the identity of any witnesses, and the total amount of the plaintiff’s medical bills. Interrogatories issued to the defendant will ask for information such as the identity of any defense witnesses, whether the defendant was charged with a traffic violation as a result of the collision, and the total amount of available insurance coverage. Requests to produce documents issued by the parties will ask for information such as photographs of the vehicles involved in the collision, medical records and bills, and any photographs of the plaintiff’s injuries.
When the written discovery has been answered, the parties will then engage in oral discovery, also known as depositions. At a deposition, the parties’ lawyers will take turns asking a party or witness questions about what they know about the case, such as the facts of the accident or the plaintiff’s injuries. A deposition is similar to testifying in court, because a court reporter is present and the deponent must take an oath to tell the truth, but depositions take place in an attorney’s office rather than a courtroom. The parties may also choose to depose the plaintiff’s treating physicians and any expert witnesses if either party hires an expert.
When discovery has been completed, the case will be certified as “ready for trial.” The case will then be assigned a trial judge who will preside over the trial. Typically, cases involving simple collisions and injuries will take one to two days to try, while more complicated trials with more than one defendant or catastrophic injuries may take two to three weeks to complete.