Thursday, June 28, 2012

City Cyclist Struck By Left Turning Indiana Driver On Chicago Avenue

It happened at perhaps one of the best lit intersections in the city, Chicago Avenue and Dearborn Street.  At around 9:00 p.m. on June 18th a 24 year old male bicyclist was riding westbound on Chicago Avenue when he was struck by an eastbound, left turning driver, near the heart of the tourist district.  The motorist, a 28 year old woman from Indiana, claimed that she did not see the cyclist on his white bicycle, equipped with a flashing light and reflectors, in the middle of the intersection.  The bicyclist and driver both had green lights at the time of the crash.  The front of the 2002 Nissan Maxima struck the bike just behind the rider's left leg.  City ordinance requires left turning drivers to yield to bicyclists approaching from the opposite direction.

The heavy and unexpected impact send the cyclist flying north.  He landed hard on the edge of the curb badly fracturing his right arm. The crash also sliced open his left leg.  An ambulance transported him to Northwestern Memorial Hospital where he received an extensive workup, including an arm splint and several stitches to his bloody leg.  It is not yet clear whether surgery will be necessary to aid the healing of his arm.  Regardless, an active summer is out of the question for the hobbled young man.

My law firm has been retained to represent the bicyclist.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Driver Charged With Felony After Striking, Killing Bicyclist In Rockdale

A 31 year old woman was arrested this morning and charged with a felony for striking and killing a 49 year old bicyclist on June 6th in Rockdale, Illinois, according to The Herald-News.  The driver, Cara G. Quiett, was allegedly drunk when she hit James H. Farmer from behind along the 600 block of South Midland Avenue.  The collision ejected Mr. Farmer from his bike and onto the pavement.  He was taken from the scene to Provena Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet where he died twelve days later.

Mr. Farmer is survived by his wife and five children.  He was a U.S. Army veteran and an organ donor.

Bicyclist Struck By Impatient Motorist Receives Settlement

My law firm has successfully resolved the case of a bicyclist who was hit by an impatient motorist in Wicker Park in February.  The 44 year old male cyclist was riding home from work southbound in the dedicated bike lane on North Damen Avenue at around 6:20 p.m. when he was hit.  The driver was stopped in traffic along southbound Damen when, perhaps growing impatient with the congestion, he suddenly peeled-off to the right in an attempt to turn onto West Willow Street hitting the cyclist.  The motorist did not signal his impending maneuver and claims that he did not see the bicyclist who was riding with an operating light on the front of his bike and lights attached to his wheel valve stems.  Also in the SUV was the driver's wife and child.  They told the cyclist they were on their way to the United Center for an ice skating show.

Following the crash the bicyclist attempted to stand up but immediately realized that he could not bear weight with his left knee. He collapsed back to the ground.  We was stretchered into an ambulance and transported to Resurrection Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center nearby.  He was diagnosed with an avulsion of his left patella (knee cap).  

Bicyclist Killed By Metra Train Identified

The bicyclist killed by a Metra train on Monday morning was 33 year old Juan Cordero, a resident of Hanover Park, according to The Daily Herald.  Mr. Cordero's mother informed authorities that her son was riding his bike to work at a nearby Denny's restaurant when he was struck by the eastbound train at the Hanover Park rail station.

The cause of the incident is not clear and is under investigation.  The train's engineer reports that he saw Mr. Cordero riding eastbound ahead of the locomotive before the collision.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Case Of Chicago Bicyclist Doored In Edgewater Resolved Successfully

It is the type of crash that city cyclists think about the most.

It is know as "getting doored," and it happened to a 31 year old male bicyclist on his way home from his bookkeeping job in the early evening of March 15th.  My law firm represents the bicyclist and today successfully resolved the case on his behalf for a substantial sum.  At about 6:15 p.m. he was riding north in the shared bicycle lane on North Clark Street, just north of West Olive Avenue in the Edgewater neighborhood, when the driver's door of a 2006 Toyota Highlander SUV suddenly opened in his path.  He was riding with an operating white light on the front of his bike.  He was wearing a helmet.  When the door flung open the cyclist tried to brake and steer to his left to avoid it but clipped the door with his right hand and handlebar.  The collision sent him spinning before he crashed hard onto the road, the impact with the ground knocking the wind out of him.  Unable to stand at first, he crawled to the side of the road to avoid getting hit by oncoming traffic.  

By the time emergency response personnel arrived on the scene, his right hand was badly swollen.  His left elbow was also cut and bleeding.  He was placed in an ambulance and rushed to a nearby hospital.  An x-ray revealed that he had sustained a right wrist fracture.  While convalescing and undergoing painful physical therapy treatments, the injured man was unable to enjoy his ordinary activities including bicycling, playing the banjo and playing tennis. He also experienced difficulty with common household tasks and washing himself.  It took two months of care and treatment for him to to return to normal.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Bicyclist Killed By Metra Train At Hanover Park Station

A 30 something year old male bicyclist was killed by a Metra train early this morning in Hanover Park, according to The Chicago Tribune.  The incident occurred at the Hanover Park station on the Milwaukee District West line.  The incident reportedly occurred at around 6:30 a.m. this morning.  Few facts have been reported to explain how this incident occurred.  Much of the reporting has so far focused on how disruptive the event apparently was to Metra service. The Tribune reported that the bicyclist was crossing from the outbound side to the inbound side when he was struck.  His name has not been reported. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Settlement Reached In Case Of Bicyclist Hit By Van On Milwaukee Avenue

Deposited into a puddle of mud with a ruptured spleen after being hit by a van while riding on Milwaukee Avenue, August 22, 2011 was a very bad day for one 24 year old female bicyclist.  Yesterday a measure of justice of achieved against the driver of the van that struck her.  My law firm represented the bicyclist and successfully resolved the claim against the driver and his employer for a significant sum.

At 8:00 a.m. last August 22nd, the bicyclist was riding to work southbound in the dedicated bicycle lane on Milwaukee at the intersection of Ogden Avenue.  The light was green and she proceeded straight ahead.  At the same time a 2005 Ford Econoline van, traveling northbound on Milwaukee, abruptly attempted a left turn onto Ogden.  Apparently not seeing the cyclist, who had the right of way, the driver crashed into her with significant force.  The impact threw her off of her bike and into a puddle of mud along the roadside. With a ruptured spleen and sprained wrist she was taken via ambulance to Rush University Medical Center for care and treatment.

Thankfully, the woman has recovered completely from her injuries.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

After A Bicycle Crash: Should Your Health Insurer Pay Your Bills?

You've been in a bicycle crash with a motor vehicle.  You've got your wits about you and you've done all the right preliminary stuff and gotten yourself to the hospital.  Luckily you have health insurance, but hospital personnel are asking you, Who do you want us to bill for your care:  Your health insurer or the at fault driver's auto insurer? You haven't a clue what the right answer is.  Not only are you distracted by your physical discomfort, you have never had the occasion to consider such a choice.  You fall back on reason:  Why should my insurer have to pay?  Bill the SOB driver's insurance.  This is his fault.    

Wrong answer.

If you are injured in a crash, direct health care providers, i.e. hospitals, physicians, etc., to bill your health insurer.

If you later bring a claim or lawsuit against the at fault driver you will substantially increase your net monetary recovery if your own health insurer paid your bills.  Here's why:  In a negligence lawsuit the injured party (the plaintiff) is entitled to, among other things, full compensation for his or her medical bills.  The plaintiff is entitled to compensation for the amounts actually billed by health care providers, not merely what insurance paid, or for co-pays.  The plaintiff is entitled to the full "sticker price" of his or her bills.  If the matter were to proceed to trial, jurors would never hear that the plaintiff had health insurance that paid the bills.  Jurors would only be informed as to what the bills were.  Auto insurance companies understand this, so in negotiating resolution of a claim the full amount of billed charges is considered in coming to a settlement figure.  This is a very substantial benefit to those fortunate enough to have health insurance.  Health insurers, in exchange for the premium you or your employer pay, satisfy the medical bills you incur.  But they do not pay the health care provider's "sticker price" for those services, at least not to providers within the insurer's health care network.  Instead, at least with large providers, they pay a reduced rate that may be a fraction of the billed amount.  Providers generally agree to this arrangement because by being a part of the insurer's network they get lots and lots of patients.

Regardless of who initially covers your care and treatment costs your claim against the at fault driver will be liened for those costs.  In other words, either your health insurer or the care provider will serve you or your attorney with notice that once the case resolves, e.g. via settlement, it is to be reimbursed for the cost of your care and treatment.  A lien directly from the care provider will be for the full sticker price billed.  A lien from your health insurer (known as a subrogation claim) will only be for the amount it paid which, as noted above, will be for an amount substantially less than the care provider's sticker price.  Paying your health insurer's lien rather than the care provider's lien means less money is subtracted from your gross settlement, thereby increasing your net.

But wait, there's more.  

Not only will a lien from your health insurer be lower than a care provider's lien, under Illinois law it can be reduced even further, generally by one-third.  This is due to something called the common fund doctrine.  Under that rule, your attorney is entitled to be paid a fee from your health insurer under the circumstance I have been describing.  The logic behind this is that but for the attorney's effort to bring a claim against the at fault driver, the health insurance company would not receive any reimbursement for what it paid.  An ethical attorney will not, however, keep that fee but will instead pass it on to his or her client.  On the other hand, pursuant to a case decided last year by the Illinois Supreme Court, Wendling v. Southern Illinois Hospital Services, 242 Ill.2d 261 (2011), the common fund doctrine does not apply to health care provider liens.  So, there can be no reduction of liens that come directly from your care provider.  (But under Illinois law all provider liens together cannot exceed 40% of the settlement or judgment.)

Let's take a look at a hypothetical to see how all of this may work:

You are cruising along on your bike in a dedicated bicycle lane when suddenly a driver parked along the curb opens her door into your path causing you severe injuries.  You spend some time in the hospital and incur a $70,000 hospital bill.  You have health insurance and direct your insurer to pay the bill.  It does, satisfying the charges by compensating the in network hospital $11,000 pursuant to their agreement.  The hospital looks to you for a co-pay which amounts to a few hundred bucks which you happily pay out of pocket.  At the same time you hire a wonderful attorney to bring a claim against the driver that caused your injuries.  This very competent, not to mention handsome, attorney works diligently and settles the case for $200,000.  (Luckily the driver had lots of insurance.)  The attorney's fee is one-third of the settlement and the law firm's out-of-pocket expenses are $500.  He negotiates reduction of your health insurer's lien down by one-third, from $11,000 to $7,332.60.  Your net from the settlement, therefore, is $125,500.73.  Had your health insurer not paid the bill, the hospital likely would have sent your attorney a lien for the entire $70,000.  Your net from the same settlement would be $62,833.33, a nearly 50% reduction.  There are ways to try to force a care provider to reduce its lien, but they are far from certain, expensive and time consuming.

These lien issues are indeed tricky business.  Frankly, the need to deal with health care liens and subrogation claims is one reason you may wish to consider consulting with an experienced attorney following a crash.  

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Resolution Reached For Chicago Bicyclist Hit By Unseeing Driver

The legal claim of a bicyclist struck by a motorist that did not see her at the intersection of North Beacon Street and West Wilson Avenue in Chicago has resolved successfully.  My personal injury law firm represented the 46 year old female cyclist who suffered a serious knee injury in the incident on February 25th.  The claim settled for the full amount of all available insurance.

The bicyclist was riding southbound on Beacon prior to the crash.  At the intersection with Wilson she stopped at a stop sign before proceeding.  Wilson and Beacon is a four way stop intersection. Just before making it completely across Wilson Avenue, the rear of her bicycle was struck by a 26 year old motorist driving a 2005 Toyota Corolla.  The impact spun her around and deposited her onto the road.  An ambulance arrived at the scene and transported her to Weiss Memorial Hospital.

The impact of the crash and the twisting that her body experienced, caused severe tearing to the cyclist's left anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus.  She underwent surgery in April to replace and repair the damaged parts of her left knee.  Though she is still undergoing physical therapy, she is expected to make a full recovery.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Chicago's Edition Of World Naked Bike Ride Draws Thousands

With good vibes and a lot of skin some 2,000 people participated in Chicago's edition of the World Naked Bike Ride on Saturday.  The event -- a mashup of carnival, parade, dance party and protest -- snaked its way from the city's River West neighborhood through the tourist district, Viagra triangle, Lakeview and Wicker Park, drawing massive crowds of shocked and awed onlookers.  Me and some 40 other volunteers rode clothed security for the event, working with the Chicago Police Department to keep riders safe.  The purpose of the event was to spread the message of energy sustainability and to symbolically demonstrate how exposed cyclists can feel riding in the heavily trafficked streets of Chicago.  A good time was had by most.

I am compelled to give a big shout out to Gabe Cohen (@Snowgoogles on Twitter) who did an excellent job of coordinating security, the National Lawyers Guild, who monitored the event (wearing suits despite the terrible heat), and the Chicago Police Department, who impressed everyone by not only helping cordon traffic, but did it with good humor, courtesy and professionalism.

Bicycle Racers Tough It Out In Tour Of Galena

Hard core bike racers from all over the Midwest braved brutal temperatures and some sadistic hills to compete in the Tour Of Galena this weekend. My law firm was a proud sponsor of the event.  I was out there on Friday to take in the action.  Arriving early at the start/finish for the elites race I decided to ride the course on my heavy-as-hell Surly Long Haul Trucker.  The ascents on the 8 mile course nearly gave me a coronary.  The descents were plain scary.  The elite men circled the course eight times; the women six.  They have my respect and admiration.  Enjoy the photos below.  Click here to see race results for the entire weekend.

Monday, June 4, 2012

U-Turning SUV Strikes Chicago Bicycle Messenger In Loop

In the heart of the Loop, in the teeth of the evening rush the driver of a Nissan SUV attempted a u-turn in front of a Chicago bicycle messenger causing a crash.  The incident took place just after 6:00 p.m. near 70 South Franklin on May 8th.  The driver had parked or stopped his 2002 Nissan XTerra SUV along the curb of northbound Franklin before attempting to swing the vehicle to the left in an apparent effort to get into the southbound lane.  At the same time a 26 year old female bike messenger who had just finished her 11 hour shift was making her way back home in the right lane of Franklin.  Despite being an experienced city cyclist, the abrupt absurdity of the Nissan's maneuver surprised her and she was unable to avoid striking the truck.

The impact was hard and left the cyclist laying in the street, rush hour traffic cruising past her.  Shocked, she quickly became aware of a sticky wetness on her face.  The impact had opened a large gash on her forehead and she was bleeding.  Nearby pedestrians urged her out of the street.  Someone called 911.  An ambulance arrived and took her to Northwestern Memorial Hospital nearby.  Police cited the driver for "negligent driving," pursuant to Chicago Municipal Ordinance 9-40-140.

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