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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Disturbing Video Of Car Slamming Into West Chicago Bicyclist Helps Bring About Resolution Of Legal Case

Screen capture of video showing the
moment before impact.
(Scroll down for full video.)
Persistent sleuthing, hard work and a little luck has brought about successful resolution of a bicyclist's legal claim against a driver that struck him from behind last year.  Our law firm represented the bicyclist, an active, physically fit 75 year old man.  The case resolved for the full amount of available auto insurance coverage.

The collision occurred on May 1, 2013 at around 6:30 a.m. on West Washington Street in West Chicago, Illinois.  As the video footage below shows the cyclist was pedaling his Trek mountain bike eastbound when he was hit from behind by the driver of a 2007 Toyota Camry.  Before impact he was well-established in the roadway and was cautiously merging left preparing to make a left turn.  In so doing he was fully compliant with the Illinois Vehicle Code.  The driver told police that she was traveling at about 30 mph at the moment of impact.

Soon after the bicyclist hired us we received the Illinois Traffic Crash Report created by the West Chicago Police Department.  It suggested that the bicyclist was at fault for causing the crash.  The report quoted the driver as stating that as she drove east "a man on a bicycle struck her vehicle and hit her windshield."  She also told police that, "She did not see the bicyclist and was not distracted by anything."  Witnesses apparently told police that, "The bicyclist began to enter the middle of the east bound lanes in front of" the car.  The report concluded stating, "No citations were issued." Unfortunately, our client was unable to provide us with much assistance.  Other than recalling that he had been eastbound on Washington, he was unable to recall much else having sustained a head injury that impacted his memory.  We got to work gathering evidence.  The first thing we did was carefully survey the area, looking for cameras that may have captured the incident.  We got lucky.  The crash took place in front of a jewelry store.  It was likely to have security cameras.  It was important to contact the store right away, before any existing footage of the crash was deleted or recorded over. Thankfully, the store owner was cooperative.  He had several cameras on the outside of the building and agreed to search the video archive for us.  It turned out that the cameras captured the crash from multiple angles, which were forwarded to us.  I have posted the best views below.  The first video is from the camera looking west and clearly shows the cyclist and car that hit him in the moments leading up to impact.  The second video shows the terrifying collision and its aftermath.  A warning:  Some will find the videos disturbing.   They are posted with our client's knowledge and permission.

video
video

The footage allowed us to rebut the suggestion in the police report that the bicyclist came out of nowhere and mindlessly ran into the car.  It shows that he was well established within the roadway so as to give a reasonably careful driver plenty of time and space to see him and avoid hitting him.

The cyclist made a downright remarkable recovery from what were very serious injuries.  He was knocked unconscious at the scene, his head having smashed the vehicle's windshield.  His lower left leg was badly broken, requiring surgical repair.  He also had several very large open wounds that required surgical closure.  After days in the hospital he spent more than a month in a rehabilitation facility. Though his medical bills were quite substantial, the driver only carried the minimum amount of insurance coverage permitted under Illinois law, $25,000.  After we provided the video of the crash to the driver's insurer, it quickly tendered the full amount of the policy.  We then looked to our client's own auto insurer to provide additional compensation pursuant to the underinsured motorist provision of his policy.  The video footage also persuaded our client's insurer to tender the full amount of available coverage, thereby maximizing his compensation. 

29 comments:

  1. Why not sue the perp past their insurance coverage? Take her house, her car, her savings and garnish her wages.

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    1. It's likely the driver did not have enough assets to take to court. The cyclist would have lost his own money by just going through the initial stages of a lawsuit. This same exact situation happened to me in 2009 where the driver was underinsured (California laws state a $30,000 min coverage while my medical bills totaled almost $60,000).

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    2. I don't know about Illinois, but in NC where I live, you can't take a person's residence or their work vehicle. You can take other assets, but they have to have enough of those to make the legal action worth it.

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  2. Please tell me you sued this person personally, as you can go after their own assets for additional coverage.

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    1. We are generally not in the business of suing people for their personal assets unless they did something on purpose or they fled the scene. With regular negligence cases we are generally holding insurance companies to their contractual obligations. As always though, at our office that call is ultimately made by the client.

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  3. Great job you guys, it is awesome to see that justice prevailed. Big kudos to the jewelry store owner for his cooperation. The only thing that is sad here, is that if there was no video evidence, no justice would have prevailed. The driver clearly didn't want to be accountable for her actions.

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  4. The cyclist moved into the path of a 30 mph vehicle 2-3 seconds before it arrived, while traveling into the sun. If that's not "coming out of no where", what is? Well established? No way.

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    1. We hear the "sun was in my eyes" defense often from drivers. It is no defense at all. It is an indictment. If a driver cannot see what is in front of them, then they need to slow down, put on sunglasses, pull down the vehicle's visor or otherwise do whatever is necessary so that they can see the path before them. It is a simple rule of driving that if you cannot see, you shall not proceed.

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    2. The sun is a relatively minor factor. Forget that. The motorist arrives at :08. The cyclist just begins to enter the travel lane only two seconds earlier, at :06. He's not "established" in the traffic lane in the motorist's path until :07. The cyclist did not look back nor signal. He suddenly put himself right in front of a 30 mph vehicle. I'm glad for you and the cyclist that you prevailed, but you were lucky. Or just damn good. Or the motorist's attorney was lame. Regardless, nobody should ever enter a traffic lane like that. If there is a long gap, fine. But if there is car coming in just a few seconds? Come on! Signal, make sure they slow down to yield the right of way to you, and let you in, THEN move into their path.

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    3. Sorry but the cyclist was legally in the lane 4 seconds before the driver struck him. You have to be an idiot to say this driver had no time. And the fact that the brakes weren't even applied until long after the collision prices the driver was distracted. Clearly you have an axe to grind with cyclists. Grow up.

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    4. It's possible the motorist was at least slightly distracted, despite her statement to the contrary. Also she was apparently exceeding both the 25 MPH posted speed limit as well as prudent speed for driving into low sun. So those are both her faults.

      However, I also have to agree with PP that the cyclist was NOT "well established" in the travel lane. In reviewing the first video, I see the bicyclist on the sidewalk for the first 4 seconds, then another 3 seconds crossing the parking lane, THEN finally 3 more seconds traversing the travel lane before being hit. Three seconds is not "well established" in my book.

      There is more to stopping distance than mere physical braking ability. Remember the driving rule about leaving at least 2 seconds between you and the vehicle in front of you? That's because 2 seconds is frequently considered the MINIMUM time needed to respond to something unanticipated. This involves first DETECTING a problem, then UNDERSTANDING what it is, then DECIDING what to do, then finally doing it. And the time could well be longer than that if it is something completely surprising, such as cyclist moving in front of you without signaling. It's possible the motorist really didn't see the cyclist right away on the sidewalk or even in the parking lane (look up "inattentional blindness"), but even if she did, if he was not signalling, how would she be expected to anticipate that he would move in front of her? So sure, brake lights would have been good to see (and I can't tell from the low-resolution video whether they were on or not), but she doesn't have ESP and super-human reaction time. So I very much disagree with the assertion that "a reasonably careful driver" would have had "plenty of time and space to see him and avoid hitting him." (Although I'll grant that her speeding and possible distraction may place her outside the "reasonably careful driver" category.)

      Finally, is moving into the travel lane and preparing to turn left without signalling really "fully compliant with the Illinois Vehicle Code"? Of course the cyclist has the right to use the travel lane, but does the Illinois Vehicle Code really have nothing to say about cyclists' duty to use hand signals? And I didn't see him looking behind him either. It's possible he did these things and it's not detectable on the low-res video, and of course I don't have his testimony, but it's not obvious from the video that his merge was "cautious".

      I'm glad he'll be okay and that his expenses should be covered as much as possible.

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    5. So he should have been in the driver's sight for 6 seconds then....

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  5. A car traveling at 30 mph covers 44 feet per second, so the rider was established in the lane approximately 3 seconds, that means that the car traveled 132 feet. The braking time for a Toyota Camry 30 mph - 0 mph is 31 ft. much less that the 132 feet the car traveled. If the driver had been paying attention the car couldn't easily come to a complete stop, but the car never even slowed down until the man was on the hood.

    I will also say that the cyclist wasn't paying attention to traffic, or their surroundings like they should either. In my humble opinion both parties tote some blame for this.

    Everyone please be attentive when on the roads, and look out for one another.

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    1. The braking distance may be 31 feet but you neglected the reaction time. Even if it's one second, which is short, that's another 44 feet. I see problems here with both the motorist, who could have stopped in time if not distracted or blinded by the sun and who ought to be on notice of a potential conflict based on the cyclist's diagonal line of travel -- but also with the cyclist, who wandered into the travel lane without ever looking back to check whether a vehicle was approaching or, if one was approaching, that the motorist had let him into line.

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  6. What was the posted speed limit? At 30 mph, the motorist had approximately 40-45 feet to see the cyclist before impact (rough estimate).

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  7. Job well done. And thank goodness for those cameras. Bravo.

    Joe Mizereck
    Founder, The "3 Feet Please" Campaign

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  8. Take this opportunity to pick up some "Check for Bikes" clings and bumper stickers to pass on to friends, neighbors, family and colleagues - or anyone who just might need an extra reminder to check for bicyclists when they're driving (or getting ready to open their door.) Please help raise awareness of cyclists on the road by going to www.checkforbikes.org - thanks!

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  9. Folks, please take this opportunity to pick up some "Check for Bikes" clings and bumper stickers to pass on to friends, neighbors, family and colleagues - or anyone who just might need an extra reminder to check for bicyclists when they're driving (or getting ready to open their door.)
    Please help raise awareness of cyclists on the road by going to www.checkforbikes.org - thanks!

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  10. I was just hit yesterday early in the morning full gear on lights bright cloths everything and yet it still wasn't enuff for the guy driving truck from his light turning green to the light where I was at t hat had just turn green less than 500 feet I wasn't even passure the cross section to pass my green light when I got hit and the drive could say was I DIDN'T SEE YOU ALL I SAW WAS MY GREEN LIGHT TO GO .. As cyclist We do all can to be safe on the road but IF that driver isn't paying attention to what he is doing anybody could hurt . All it takes is a mere second from the time they look away to slamming in to someone . Be safe and fear no road

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  11. Someone above asks, "Why not sue the perp...?" and, "...you can go after their own assets..."
    When your own insurance company pays out, you are passing authority to sue for damages over to them. The insurance company will almost always sue to recover their own payout if there is probability of winning.

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    1. People who have few assets tend to be the people with no insurance in my experience, although there are always exceptions. Most of the time in my experience the uninsured or under-insured motorist carrier does not pursue the uninsured or underinsured driver because there are no assets from which to collect. I've seen this more often than not. Sure you can go through the time and expense to get a judgement, but for what? Where do you get the money from if they don't have assets?

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  12. "The driver told police that she was traveling at about 30 mph at the moment of impact"

    Assuming the camera timestamp is accurate, I measured her (on Google Earth) traveling a minimum of 50 feet between seconds :07 and :08, which translates to 34mph, or 36% faster than the posted speed limit (and I tried to be fairly conservative, so she may have been even faster than that). Perhaps that was a factor in insurance decisions?

    She came to a stop roughly 80 feet after impact, though her brake lights were on almost immediately at the point of impact, so she presumably recognized the danger slightly before impact.

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  13. By my Google Earth measurements and calculations the motorist was doing right about 40 MPH. Ridiculous.

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  14. 30,000 vehicle deaths per year mostly because we are in such a hurry. Slow the frick down. In the IE of SoCal we have posted a record 25 ghost bikes this year. #stopthecarnage #stfd

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  15. Keep Calm
    Stay Right
    Stay Alive

    http://www.ted.com/conversations/14800/how_best_to_educate_the_public.html

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  16. Thank you for getting the cyclist the compensation he deserved.

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  17. There is no left turn lane. There is only one lane of traffic heading eastbound in front of the jewelry store off of Wood St. The cyclist did not signal, nor keep right. He didnt even turn his head and check to see if it was safe to merge left, which he shouldn't have been doing.

    The car shouldn't have hit the dumb bastard....

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  18. Bottom line: nobody values your life as much as you do, start acting like it. Nobody sees you and everyone is out to kill you....also my personal mantra: Right of way doesn't mean shit from the hospital(or morgue)...all of this gleaned from a life on two wheels...be aware people, and pick your routes wisely, chances of getting hit are DIRECTLY relevant to how many cars you expose yourself to...done.

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