Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Mountain Of Evidence Buries Driver Who Denied Dooring Chicago Bicyclist

It would have been funny if someone had not gotten hurt.  The lengths to which a driver was willing to go to deny that he doored a woman, our client, riding her bike on North Milwaukee Avenue were absurd.  In the end, however, the mountain of evidence against him buried him.

Today, we reached a settlement with the driver who opened his door into a 27 year old Chicago woman last April knocking her unconscious and leaving her with an open wound to her right leg that required stitches. The amount of the settlement was more than three times the total of her medical bills.

At just before 10:00 p.m. on April 27, 2013 the woman was riding northbound in the clearly marked bicycle lane at 1165 North Milwaukee Avenue.  It was a dry, pleasant evening.  She was wearing jeans, an orange top and a leather jacket along with a bright white bicycle helmet.  Her bike's headlamp was switched "on".  She was coming from her home, and was riding her old, steel framed bike to meet a friend in the Logan Square neighborhood.  At the same time, the driver was parking his silver, 1999 Volvo S70 along the curb, to the right of the bike lane at 1165 North Milwaukee.  He was on his way to see a friend perform in a play at a nearby theatre.  During his deposition taken during the course of litigation, he testified that after parking his car he sat in the vehicle searching his smart phone for directions to the theatre.  He opened his driver's side door just as the bicyclist was approaching in the bike lane.  She had no warning that the door was about to open and she was thrown hard into a passing taxi cab before landing in the street. 

From the night of the collision through the course of the subsequent litigation, the driver went to extraordinary lengths to deny his involvement in this incident.  He told the responding police officer that as he sat in his parked car parked, "He observed [the cyclist] lose control of her bike and she fell (sic.) off and struck [the taxi]."  He was listed as a witness in the Illinois Traffic Crash Report, rather than a participant in the collision.  During his discovery deposition, the driver testified that he did not see what caused her to crash and had no idea why she crashed.  He stated that when he first grabbed for his door handle, the bicyclist was already on the ground.  The video of the collision produced by the driver of the taxi cab shows that that was not so.  It demonstrates that the door of the silver Volvo -- which the driver admitted was his -- opened just as the cyclist approached.  See for yourself:

Photographs of the car taken after the crash reveal significant damage to the driver's side door where it tore into the woman's right leg.  Check it out:

The grey Volvo from the video.

Close up of the damage to the driver's door.

Getting these photos required some leg work.  The driver sold the car after the crash.  Thanks to some great work by our staff we were able to find the vehicle parked outside of the home of its new owner.  We then sent a private investigator out to photograph it.  We had no idea that he would find such obvious damage to the door. 

The video, the photos of the car and the significant bruising to the top of the cyclist's right arm and shoulder all pointed to the indisputable fact that she had been doored by the driver of the Volvo from her right side.  I confronted the Defendant driver with all of this evidence during his deposition.  He continued to deny his involvement.  He said that he had purchased the Volvo some years ago from his father in law with existing damage to the door.  He claimed that the video did not clearly show contact between the cyclist and his door.  He was determined to go down with his ship.  His attorneys insisted that the cyclist herself was unable to recall what had happened to her, citing numerous parts of her medical records in which physicians noted that she said she was hit by a taxi.  In fact, that is what she thought initially.  She was knocked cold and awoke next to the taxi.  She was not quite sure what happened to her and assumed she was hit by the cab. That is also what the police at the scene told her had happened.  Of course, the police received their information from the Volvo driver.  It was not until several days passed that her memory of what had happened came flooding back.

By opening his car door into a marked bike lane without first looking for bicycle traffic the driver violated Chicago Municipal Ordinance 9-80-035 and Section 11-1407 of the Illinois Vehicle Code which prohibit driver's from opening car door's into a lane of travel unless it is reasonably safe to do so.  He also violated Chicago Municipal Ordinance 9-40-160 for failing to exercise due care to avoid colliding with a person riding a bicycle.  Had he looked before opening his door he would have seen her.  She was riding with an operating headlight.  Also, the driver admitted in his deposition that the area where the crash took place was well lit.

Several weeks ago, an intermediary for the driver's insurance company contacted me to ask if we were willing to try and resolve the case.  A settlement conference occurred earlier today.  It was apparent pretty quickly during the negotiations that the insurance company had finally recognized they were fighting a no win battle.


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