Monday, April 30, 2012

Chicago Bicyclist Hit By SUV Emerging From Alley Still Recovering From Injuries

In the dark at around 8:00 p.m. on December 2, 2011 the driver of a Volvo SUV shot out of an alleyway near 4813 West Belle Plaine Avenue in Chicago and struck a 42 year old bicyclist.  The driver had just come from the drive through of the nearby Walgreens Pharmacy which empties traffic into the alley.  She was traveling with three young children in her vehicle.  The bicyclist was riding his bike to the Walgreens to pick up a DVD rental.  His wife and two daughters were awaiting his return at home to enjoy family movie night.  The collision resulted in a serious shoulder injury requiring surgery and from which the cyclist has yet to recover.

My law firm has been retained to represent the bicyclist.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Smile, You're Blocking The Bike Lane!

A lot of folks have worked hard for many years to make Chicago's infrastructure better for bicyclists.  Perhaps the greatest advance has been the building of bike lanes which give cyclists a place on the streets to call their own.  So it really drives a lot of bicyclists nuts when people park or stop or do anything but bike in Chicago's bike lanes.  We all see them on a daily basis:  cars, delivery trucks, taxi cabs, etc. stopped or parked in the bike lanes.  Let me be clear, every time someone does that they are breaking the law.  The law creates no exceptions.  Here is the relevant City of Chicago ordinance:

9-40-060 Driving, standing or parking on bicycle paths or lanes prohibited - 

The driver of a vehicle shall not drive, unless entering or exiting a legal parking space, or stand, or park the vehicle upon any on street path or lane designated by official signs or markings for the use of bicycles, or otherwise drive or place the vehicle in such a manner as to impede bicycle traffic on such path or lane. The driver of a vehicle shall not stand or park the vehicle upon any lane designated by pavement markings for the shared use of motor vehicles and bicycles, or place the vehicle in such a manner as to impede bicycle traffic on such lane. In addition to the fine provided in Section 9-4-025 of this Code, any vehicle parked in violation of this section shall be subject to an immediate tow and removal to a city vehicle pound or authorized garage.Added Coun. J. 7-12-90, p. 18634; Amend Coun. J. 9-1-99, p. 10503, § 1; Amended Coun. J. 3-12-08, p. 22781, § 1

Reading the Chainlink this morning, I learned that one concerned and enterprising person has created a Tumblr page where anyone can upload photos of people blocking a bike lane.  Click here to upload your photo.  (Please be careful to stop your bike if you are going to take photos while out cycling.)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Chicago Bicyclists Brave High Winds At Lincoln Park Criterium

A great day of racing going on at Montrose Harbor today.  There are a lot of brave cyclists fighting a nasty headwind and cold temperatures. The Chicago Bicycle Advocate is a proud sponsor of the Lincoln Park Criterium presented by xXx Racing/AthletiCo.


Friday, April 20, 2012

When To Hire A Lawyer

I was in a bike crash, do I need a lawyer?

Well, it's complicated.  If your injuries are not severe and you are a reasonably well organized person with the time to do so, you could pursue a claim on your own.  That said, I get calls fairly often from bicyclists who attempted to handle a claim on their own but then felt overwhelmed by the task and unsure if they were being treating fairly by the insurance company on the other side. Sometimes I agree to represent them and spend a good bit of time trying to fix mistakes that were made.

Let me state the obvious at the outset of this post, I am a lawyer who represents injured bicyclists for a living so it is of course in my interest to discourage people from representing themselves. But, I am often asked the question by bicyclists who have been in crashes whether retaining me is necessary.  I always try my best to answer that question with complete honesty.  I have to.  If I do not think I can help guide a client to a positive outcome that client is going to be angry with me later.  There is simply no point having someone happy at the outset because I have agreed to take their case, but have them turn bitter later.  That is no way to run a practice or to foster goodwill within the community I am committed to serving.

So, how can you determine whether or not you can handle a claim on your own?  Consider the following:

Severity of injury:  Following a crash your injuries may be severe so as to render you physically unable to do what is necessary to initiate a claim.  Broken bones, torn ligaments or worse are physically and mentally taxing.  Bad injuries require convalescence and sometimes mind clouding medication.  Your injuries may require you to focus on getting well and little else.  Dealing with an insurance adjuster in that context would be unwise.  In this instance, do yourself a favor and hire an experienced personal injury attorney.  A good one will even come to your home, or where ever you are, for a consultation that should cost you nothing.

Do you understand your rights as a cyclist:  Many bicyclists are very familiar with the rules of the road as they apply to them.  They are no secret and nowadays can be found easily:  Click here for a link to the relevant City of Chicago municipal ordinances and here for the applicable Illinois statutes.  If the facts of your case are very straightforward it may be relatively simple to find the correct ordinance or statute violated by the offending driver.  Bear in mind though that being able to read the law is not the same as being able to understand it and apply it to a given circumstance.  In our current age information and data is cheap or even free.  But analysis and application are still worth paying for.  The insurance company will not make it easy for you to pursue your own claim either.  For example, many times I have seen a bicyclist doored by a driver -- almost always a clear case of negligence on the part of the motorist -- become convinced that he or she is the one actually at fault for running into the wayward car door.  You may even be pursued to pay for the damage to the car.  Insurance adjusters seem to have a way of performing a Jedi mind trick on bicyclists to get them to believe that they are the ones actually at fault though the driver was the one who was clearly negligent.  An experienced attorney not only knows what the law is, but is confident about his or her client's rights and has spent many years applying the law to a given set of facts both to insurance companies and juries.

Do you have the time and patience to collect all of your medical records and bills:  To resolve a claim the insurance company will require you to submit all of your relevant medical records and corresponding bills.  That's fair.  They are entitled to look at proof of your injuries and what care and treatment cost.  Getting your bills and records should be a simple affair.  Unfortunately, it often is not.  No, it is not rocket science, but it can be time consuming and frustrating.  For example, hospital records are generally acquired by writing to the hospital's medical records department.  The law gives them 30 days to respond but often they do not do so.  Follow up calls must be made constantly.  Once the hospital responds, they may not provide all of the relevant records.  You will need experience reviewing medical records to appreciate what may have been left out.  Also, there is generally a fee for medical records.  A one inch stack of records may cost $100.  An attorney's office will pay that fee for you then simply be reimbursed at the end of the case.  Billing is a different story.  Patient accounts are often handled off site by companies hired by hospitals.  Also, hospital facility charges are often handled by a different entity than are the physicians' charges.  You will need to track down not just the hospital's bill, but the bills from the radiologist, pathologist, emergency room physician, etc.  As I noted, it can be daunting.

Do you have the time and ability to collect evidence:  You know what happened.  After all, you were there.  But can you prove it?  Insurance companies and juries will not simply take your word for how a crash occurred.  Physical evidence and witness statements must be obtained.  The first place to start is with the police report.  A copy can usually be obtained online.  The report will sometimes contain the names, addresses and telephone numbers of witnesses, if the responding officer actually canvased the scene properly.  Those witnesses must be spoken to fairly soon after the incident, while their memories are still fresh.  You may even want to get their statements in writing.  Also, the scene, the bicycle and the motor vehicle involved (if there was a vehicle involved) should be photographed.  That should be done before damage is repaired.  The location and nature of the damage will sometimes provide important evidence regarding how the crash occurred.

Do you feel comfortable negotiating with potential lienholders:  What's a lien?  Well let me tell you:  A lien is basically an encumbrance on property.  Put another way it is the right a person or entity has to your property until a debt you owe to that person or entity is satisfied.  For example, if you go to the hospital following a crash you may not have insurance or the ability to pay the hospital's bill.  Therefore, the hospital my send you, or your attorney, a lien on your claim against the driver that hit you.  You will then be legally obligated to pay that lien from a settlement received from the driver before you may receive any proceeds from the settlement.  Many times the amount of the lien may be negotiated, but there is a pretty substantial body of law regarding when and how that may be done.  A good attorney should help you deal with lienholders in order to maximize your net recovery.

What will you do if the claim cannot be settled:  You could, of course, file a lawsuit, suing the person at fault for your injuries.  It is possible to do this yourself.  That is called filing pro se.  In very small cases, worth say hundreds of dollars, it may not be a bad idea to file a lawsuit in small claims court.  However, in cases involving significant injuries I cannot recommend pursuing a lawsuit on your own.  There are too many technical requirements to satisfy and pitfalls to avoid to make doing so a viable alternative.  I for one have spend 15 years litigating personal injury cases and have certainly earned every bit of experience I have.

This is just a sampling of the hurdles that must be overcome and issues that may arise when pursuing a bicycle injury claim.  If you are trying to make an informed decision regarding whether it is worthwhile to hire an attorney you must do a simple risk vs. benefit analysis.  Can you afford to lose, and what do you stand to gain?  If your injuries are minor and your bills are completely covered then you may wish to give it a go on your own.  If not, speak to an attorney.  A good and ethical personal injury attorney will only charge you if your case is resolved successfully.  You should not have to pay any sort of up front retainer.  If you have any questions or if you are trying to decide please feel free to call me anytime at 312.803.0128 or email me at bhk@mybikeadvocate.com.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Recall Of Time Trial Bicycle Brake Levers Announced

Defects in the design of some Tektro brake levers has lead Specialized Bicycle Components and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to announce a recall.  The problem with the levers, designed exclusively for time trial bikes is that, "The adjuster cap and brake cable can slide out of position and make the brakes non-operational."  The manufacturer, Specialized, is aware of at least one incident in which both brakes failed in this way on a single bike.  However, it has not yet been made aware of any injuries.

If you have these brake levers on your bike you should contact an authorized Specialized dealer for free replacements.

Real, Legal Bicycle Racing In The Heart of Chicago

No stop signs or traffic lights need be obeyed at this Sunday's big bicycle race at Montrose Harbor.  The Lincoln Park Criterium is a real, legal bike race right in the heart of the city and will be held along a designated course on Chicago's lake front on April 22nd.  The first race goes off at 8:00 a.m. with the last concluding around 5:30 p.m. A good time will undoubtedly be had by all on what promises to be a reasonably pleasant day weather-wise.

The race is presented by xXx Racing/AthletiCo.  The Chicago Bicycle Advocate & The Law Office Of Brendan H. Kevenides, P.C. is a proud sponsor of the Elites race.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Injuries Due To Mountain Bike Suspension Fork Failure Leads To Recall

Bicycle component manufacturer Suntour and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission today announced the recall of 17,000 SR Suntour suspension front forks.  A press release reporting the recall states, "The suspension fork’s internal support tubes can break and cause the rider to lose control, fall and crash."  There have been reports of at least 12 injuries due to fork failure, some resulting in lacerations and a dental injury.  The forks were sold with some 2011-12 Trek, GT and Giant mountain bikes.  If you own one of these forks you should contact an authorized Trek, GT or Giant dealer for a replacement.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Straight Outta L.A. Bicycle Video Sends Strong Message To Careless Drivers

Love this bicycle safety video from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.  Though it is in Spanish, the message really needs no translation.  The surprise ending sends a strong message.


Friday, April 6, 2012

What Bicycle Injury Victims Should Know About Chiropractic Care

Chiropractors are not good for your personal injury case.  Excessive amounts of care received by these "spinal adjustment specialists," or from other practitioners of alternative health care (acupuncturists, naprapaths, etc.), tends to by viewed with derision by insurance companies and juries alike in my experience.  Short periods of such care may be tolerated, but a diagnosis or treatment from these non-medical doctors will offer no substantive evidence of an injury deserving of monetary compensation.  Too much such care -- or an injury treated only with chiropractic care -- will be used by the defense to prove that no significant injury was suffered.  The bottom line is that a "real injury" should be treated by a "real physician" licensed by his or her state to prescribe drugs and perform surgery.  Chiropractors are not licensed medical doctors.  They do not receive training via the rigors of medical school and post-graduation residency like medical doctors.   In Illinois, a chiropractic license only permits one to practice chiropractic medicine only.  Under the Illinois Medical Practice Act a chiropractor is defined:

"Chiropractic physician" means a person licensed to treat human ailments without the use of drugs and without operative surgery. Nothing in this Act shall be construed to prohibit a chiropractic physician from providing advice regarding the use of non-prescription products or from administering atmospheric oxygen. Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize a chiropractic physician to prescribe drugs.


Aside from the fact that chiropractors are not medical doctors, the relationships many such practitioners aggressively attempt to develop with personal injury attorneys have, over time, fostered a cynical view amongst insurance adjusters.  Insurance companies are very keen to the notion that some attorneys and chiropractors may attempt to "pad" medical bills in order to make a mild injury seem much worse than it really is.  The methodology used by chiropractors to render a diagnosis, as compared to those of licensed medical doctors, tends to be viewed as less rigorous and more subjective.  Thus a chiropractic diagnosis offers less credible support for an injury and its cause.

Chiropractors and practitioners of alternative medicine are not bad people and most believe in what they do.  Furthermore, chiropractors may indeed offer their patients some benefit.  Their manipulations often do seem to make people feel better.  A bit of chiropractic or alternative medicine care, along with traditional medical care, is perfectly fine in the context of a personal injury claim.  However, too much will sink a claim, making a positive outcome by settlement or jury verdict difficult, if not impossible.  The job of the personal injury attorney is not to tell their clients what they want to hear, but what they need to hear.  Clients should be told honestly of the possible negative impact chiropractic care may have of their claims.

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