Friday, July 12, 2013

Trucking Company Pays For Violating Illinois' Three Foot Passing Law

I am often asked whether a driver has to actually strike a cyclist to be held liable for injuries caused in a near miss situation.  For example, must a driver compensate a cyclist who successfully evades the motorist's dangerous conduct, whether that be opening a door into the rider's path or passing too closely.  The answer is, yes, the driver may be responsible for the harm caused by his or her negligent driving even if there is no actual contact.  Why should the driver get a free pass just because the bicyclist took effective evasive action, i.e. by swerving or stopping?  However, the lack of contact between car and bicycle can create evidence problems.  When there is no contact it may be more challenging to prove that the driver's conduct actually caused the bicyclist's injury.  Proving a casual connection between the driver's negligent action and the injury sustained by the cyclist is a vital part of every bicycle injury case.  Inevitably the driver will assert that (1) he or she did nothing wrong, and (2) the bicyclist overreacted and crashed on their own.  Furthermore, the burden of proving the casual connection between the driver's conduct and the harm is a burden borne by the injury victim. 

Last week our firm distributed settlement funds that we achieved for a client in a case that highlights the challenges that may arise from a near miss situation.  The following account originally appeared on Jim Freeman's blog:
On September 12, 2009, Mr. Parish and a friend were riding their bicycles through Carlyle, Illinois.  They were participants in a ride organized by the Trenton Police Department.  The route for the ride took Mr. Parish eastbound on Franklin Street through downtown Carlyle.  In the area of the accident Franklin street has one lane of travel in each direction with no shoulder or parking on either side.  As the two approached 7th Street Mr. Parish heard his friend, who was riding in front, yell, "Truck!"  Mr. Parish looked back to see a semi tractor-trailer emblazoned with the familiar "Allied Van Lines" logo bearing down on the two cyclists from behind. 
The semi did not appear to move over at all to allow space while overtaking the cyclists.  Mr. Parish and his fellow cyclist moved as close to the curb as possible.  The Allied truck passed them at about 35 mph within 18 inches, in violation of the Illinois 3 foot passing law.  Somehow, while the two cyclists were attempting to get out of the way of the passing semi, they ran into one another, causing Mr. Parish to fall and break his leg.  Admittedly, there was never any contact between the cyclists and the truck. 
The truck continued eastbound without stopping.  The driver was never identified, and the subject truck was never found.  No witnesses were able to obtain a license plate or identifying number from the truck, although Mr. Parish did notice numbers on the door where the truck's DOT number would have been. 
We brought suit on behalf of Mr. Parish.  We filed our case in DuPage County where Allied Van Lines is headquartered.
After all evidence had been disclosed and all witness statements had been taken, Allied Van Lines brought a motion to dismiss claiming that they were not liable for Mr. Parish's injuries.  In support of their motion Allied pointed out that they did not employ any drivers, nor did they own any trucks.  That was true.  Allied Van Lines is a sort of umbrella corporation.  It contracts with moving companies who own trucks and employ drivers.  When Allied contracts with a company they funnel business to the company and they allow the company to use Allied's logo. 
Illinois law dictates that a commercial truck bearing the logo and US-DOT number of a corporation is operating pursuant to the corporation's authority, and therefore, the corporation is vicariously liable for the driver's negligence. Because of this law, we argued that identification of the driver, ownership of the truck, and actual contact were all irrelevant.  We argued that the only relevant question before the court was whether or not there was a question of material fact as to whether or not the subject truck bore the Allied Van Lines logo and US DOT license number. 
The Court agreed with us and denied Allied's motion.  In order to avoid the danger of trying a hit-and-run case without so much as a single witness to refute Mr. Parish's version of the events, Allied agreed to settle the case for $130,000.00. 


  1. Nice to see one in the win column. Well done!

  2. Before orthopedic surgery you may contact a good podiatrist or/ physical therapist, who may be able to recommend a support or exercises for maximum potential for your lifestyle and life athletic goals.


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