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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Accident Reconstruction Wins The Day For Injured Chicago Cyclist

My client and I had a problem.  The young man who hired our firm had a separated shoulder after getting hit by a taxi.  That was his biggest worry.  My concern, however, was how to demonstrate the cab driver's negligence.  You see, the bicyclist was not completely without fault in the matter.

On January 6, 2013 at around 12:30 a.m. the male bicyclist was riding home from a friend's house in the shared bike lane north along the 3300 block of North Damen Avenue when the taxi, which had been stopped along the curb, suddenly pulled out in front of him.  The cyclist could not avoid striking the front wheel well of the cab.  The cyclist had had a few beers, though he was not drunk.  He was also riding without a front headlight on his bike, a clear violation of the Illinois Vehicle Code.  He was also wearing dark clothing.  Yeah, we had problems.  I was not worried about the beers.  I had no reason to believe that that contributed to cause the crash.  The folks at the hospital did not feel the need to draw his blood to run a toxicology screen.  The defense would have no admissible evidence regarding intoxication we needed to worry about.  But his lack of a headlight worried me a lot.  I wondered, had the taxi driver looked in his mirror before pulling from the curb, could he have seen the cyclist?  I decided to find out.

A few weeks after the crash the client and I, with the help of Aaron Bussey of LOOK! Chicago and Elizabeth Adamczyk of Ride of Silence who graciously offered up their time, went out to the scene of the crash to investigate.  The plan was to replicate the conditions of the crash as closely as possible.  We brought the client's bike, absent any lights.  Aaron would play the part of the cyclist and wore the same sort of dark clothing worn by the cyclist on the night of the crash.  I parked my car in the same spot the taxi had occupied.  Elizabeth sat in the driver's seat with a video camera pointed at the vehicle's side view mirror. Outside of the vehicle I yelled, "Action!" (I always wanted to do that) and Aaron tracked the same route the cyclist had on the night of the crash, riding in the bike lane.  The video below shows the results of our test:
video
The bicyclist would have been more visible if he had a light on his bike.  But, the video demonstrates that had the driver looked he certainly could have seen him.  The area was very well lit due to the presence of street lights and a gas station across the street.  I would argue that since the driver would be pulling from the curb into a portion of roadway marked for bicycle traffic that he should have carefully looked for cyclists in the area.

The taxi company's insurer was persuaded by our efforts.  This week, they agreed to a substantial settlement to compensate the cyclist.

I want be perfectly clear that if you are riding in pitch dark without a light on your bike and get tagged by a motor vehicle the mostly likely outcome is that you will not be compensated for any injuries you sustain.  We are good lawyers, but we are not miracle workers.  However, drivers and insurance companies should understand that a lack of lighting does not necessarily preclude liability for harming a cyclist.  In big cities like Chicago there is ample lighting on most main roads at night.  Drivers have a duty to look -- not just glance -- but look for cyclists at night.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What Really Happened To Chicago Bicyclist "Rescued" By The Mayor

The Chicago bicyclist who was struck by a turning tanker truck on North Milwaukee Avenue last Tuesday is grateful to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, his security staff and the numerous other nearby cyclists who immediately came to her aid.  Today, our law firm was retained by the injured woman to represent her against the driver.

Some media sources covering this story focused primarily on the Mayor's involvement, and were cavalier or dismissive about the bicyclist's injuries and the facts of the crash.  Prior to the collision, the 29 year old female cyclist was riding southeast on Milwaukee Avenue.  She stopped in the clearly marked, dedicated bicycle lane when she reached the red light at intersection with West Ogden.  At that location, there is a right turn lane next to the curb, a four foot wide bike lane and a through lane.  The cyclist waited at the light with the huge truck stopped to her left in the through lane.  There was one cyclist ahead of her at the light.  When the light turned green she proceeded.  The truck driver, apparently not noticing the cyclists next to him, swung his vehicle right onto Ogden.  When he did, the truck's front wheels slammed into the woman.  The rider was thrown to the ground and under the truck.  The driver apparently did not realize what had happened and continued forward.  Numerous nearby cyclists shouted and banged on the truck to get the driver to stop.  Luckily he did before the truck's rear wheels rolled over the downed rider.

The video below was recorded by the dash board camera of a witness traveling in the opposite direction, northwest on Milwaukee. The tanker truck is clearly seen turning right from the through-only lane, its front wheels striking the cyclist in light colored clothing.  The video captures well the enormous amount of bicycle traffic along Milwaukee Avenue at that time of day.

video


As has been reported, the Mayor was nearby in a coffee shop and came running when he heard the crash. He comforted the woman and brought her to his vehicle, giving her water and a chance to collect herself. Medical personnel arrived quickly to the scene and tended to deep, bloody cuts to her left leg.  Her right shoulder was painful and becoming hard to move.  The Mayor asked a member of his security detail to drive her to the hospital.  She was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital right away.  She was diagnosed with a separated right shoulder and a fracture.  The wounds to her left leg were stitched closed and dressed.

Despite media reports to the contrary, Chicago police made a report of the crash.

The injured cyclist is still receiving medical care.  Later this week she will have the stitches removed from her injured leg.  Her right arm is immobilized and painful.  She will follow up with an orthopedic physician.

Monday, September 9, 2013

IDOT Driver Strikes, Injures Pregnant Chicago Woman Riding Divvy Bike

Life was good when the 34 year old woman left her East Village home on the morning of September 3rd. It was warm and sunny as she checked out a Divvy bike from a station near her home.  She planned a leisurely ride to her office on Michigan Avenue where she worked as a financial planner.  She learned the day before that she was pregnant with her and her husband's second child.  She felt great.

A driver with the Illinois Department of Transportation spoiled her serenity when he slammed his truck into her.  The woman was hit as she pedaled east on West Augusta Boulevard in the intersection with North Ashland Avenue.  She had been riding in dedicated bicycle lane on Augusta.  Just after she crossed into the intersection, the traffic light controlling eastbound traffic turned from green to yellow. She entered the intersection legally.  She pedaled across Ashland's two southbound lanes.  In most Chicago intersections it takes three seconds for a traffic signal to go from yellow to red.  After she crossed the center line, the northbound driver, who had not stopped at the intersection, crashed into her right side, throwing her several feet.  

The bicyclist was knocked unconscious by the impact and suffered deep wounds to her face and other parts of her body.  Her right foot was fractured.  An ambulance arrived quickly and rushed her to Resurrection Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center nearby.  Numerous tests thankfully ruled out a major head injury. The helmet she was wearing probably had something to do with that. Also, her pregnancy, thus far, seems unaffected, though the fear and anxiety she is experiencing cannot be understated.

The Divvy bike was demolished.

Our law firm has been retained to represent the bicyclist.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Investigation Continues Into the Attack On Chicago Cyclist, Jana Kinsman

The media fury has died down, but the affects of being attacked by persons in an SUV while biking in the Logan Square neighborhood linger for Chicago cyclist, Jana Kinsman.  The 27 year old owner of Bike A Bee was the victim of what police are calling an aggravated battery as she rode her bike north, near the intersection of North Kimball Avenue and West Wrightwood Avenue , just after midnight on August 20th. 

The driver and passengers that attacked Jana are still being sought.  The vehicle involved was a maroon colored Chevy Tahoe, or similar vehicle.  A witness at the scene identified the vehicle as a Tahoe specifically. There are a lot a maroon Tahoes in Chicago (start looking for them and you'll notice).  However, the vehicle involved as some distinguishing characteristics.  It has thin, gold pin striping just under the side windows.  It does not have a roof rack.  It has four doors.  Its vintage is not known, but it appears to have rounded features, suggesting that it is not a very old vehicle.  Here are stills taken from two known videos of the SUV:

The maroon SUV at the intersection of Kimball, Diversey
and Milwaukee shortly after the attack.
The vehicle just north of Kimball and Wrightwood fleeing the
scene, courtesy DNAInfo
The bottom photograph is from video taken by a security camera attached to the outside of a pre-school at the intersection where the attack occurred.  Jana was pulled to the ground by a passenger in the rear of the truck who had grabbed her messenger bag as she rode north on the right side of Kimball.  The top photograph is a still from video shot by the red light camera several block north.  In it, the vehicle is seen making a right turn onto either West Diversey Avenue or North Milwaukee Avenue.  Because it did not run the red light at that intersection, the red light camera did not photograph the vehicle's license plate.  Jana has confirmed that the vehicle shown in both screen captures above are the vehicle involved in the attack.

Chicago police seem to be taking this matter seriously.  They are treating this matter as an aggravated battery rather than a simple hit and run.  As a result, the CPD has assigned two detectives to investigate the matter. Jana and I met with them on August 23rd.  We looked at the red light camera footage together.  After Jana identified the vehicle in the video, the detectives told us they would obtain additional footage from other cameras, essentially following the vehicle through the city to the driver's eventual destination.  The hope is that once the vehicle is found, we will have the driver.

A few days after the incident, we thought we had identified and located the driver.  A friend of Jana's photographed a maroon Tahoe parked near the site.  We ran the plates and obtained the name and address of the vehicle's owner.  Police questioned the man and ruled him out as a suspect.  Also, his vehicle had a roof rack, a feature which appears to be absent on the vehicle involved.

Many people have sent us emails inquiring about the possibility that there is a link between the attack on Jana and a hit and run fatality that took place in the Rogers Park neighborhood several hours earlier.  On August 19th at around 6:20 p.m. an 83 year old man was struck and killed by the driver of a maroon SUV which may have been a Chevy Tahoe or Suburban.  The driver fled the scene and has not yet been located.  There is no reason I am aware of to believe that the two incidents involved the same vehicle or driver other than the fact that both vehicles involved were maroon SUVs.  Here is a photo of that vehicle taken from a red light camera near Rockwell Street and Peterson Avenue:

Photo of the vehicle involved in the Rogers Park incident.
Courtesy The Chicago Tribune
While we would appreciate any tips that can be offered by the general public, please bear in mind that the persons responsible for the attack on Jana may be dangerous.  Do not put yourself at risk.  If you have a tip, we can be reached at 312.629.1901 or via email at brendan@fklawillinois.com.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

10 Year Old Peoria Boy With Head and Facial Injuries After Being Struck By Driver While Riding His Bicycle

A 10 year old Peoria boy was in serious condition yesterday afternoon after being struck by a pickup truck while riding his bicycle on a residential road, according to The Peoria Journal Star.  The incident occurred around 3:35 p.m. yesterday in the 800 North of North Dechman Avenue in Peoria.  The boy was reportedly hit while attempting to cross the narrow street after exiting an alley, according to the Journal Star.  His injuries are apparently not life threatening, though a "chunk of skin near the boy's lip was missing and his face was covered in blood from a gash on his head," noted the Journal Star.

Police are still investigating the matter.  It is not clear how the crash occurred.

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