Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Resolution of a Case That Highlights Car Door Danger

"Your client has a duty to pay attention to where she is going."  That was the response we received from an insurance company after its driver doored a woman whom we represented as she rode her bicycle on a residential road in Chicago last summer. The 39 year old business owner, wife and mom sustained serious injuries, racking up more than $37,000 in medical bills.  Upon receiving a dismissive letter from the driver's insurer, GEICO, we filed a lawsuit.  The case recently settled for . . . [Read more]

Hit & Run Driver Leaves License Plate Behind, Pays In the End

Here's a tip for any would-be hit and run drivers out there:  Make sure you do not leave your vehicle's license plate at the scene before you flee.  We will find you.

That's what happened after a husband and wife struck a Chicago bicyclist at the intersection of North Franklin Street and West Hubbard Street.  Recently, we made them pay, resolving the case for more than eleven times the amount of our client's medical bills.  It is very unusual for an Illinois personal injury case to . . . [Read more]

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Cook County Jury Finds For Injured Bicyclist Ticketed By Police

After deliberating for more than five and a half hours on Friday, a Cook County jury decided to compensate a male bicyclist injured in a 2011 collision with a SUV in Palos Heights.  Our firm represented the cyclist at the week long trial.

The case was a tough one and the verdict of $37,000 reflects the jury's finding that our client contributed significantly to cause the crash.  Police had ticketed the cyclist at the scene for causing the collision.  The defendant driver's insurance company had sent the cyclist a bill for the substantial damage done to his Lexus SUV.  No settlement offer was ever made by the defense.

The crash occurred at around 8:00 a.m. on May 21, 2011 at the intersection of Harlem Avenue and 131st Street at the northern edge of the Burr Oak Woods Forest Preserve.  The then 59 year old cyclist was riding his bike on the Tinley Creek Bike Path which winds through the preserve.  The defendant driver, a retired surgeon, and his wife were driving north on Harlem.  The bike path crosses Harlem a few feet south of 131st.  Here is a depiction of the intersection used at trial:

The cyclist approached Harlem from the east.  When he reached the crossing, marked with thick white diagonal lines, he saw that the light controlling cross traffic was red so he proceeded.  At the same time, the defendant was stopped in the left turn lane on Harlem waiting for the light to change so he could proceed west on 131st Street.  As the cyclist entered the crossing, the left turn arrow controlling the driver's lane turned green and he proceeded.  The bicyclist struck the left side front quarter panel of the vehicle and fell to the ground breaking his left wrist.  The break was bad, requiring surgery.

Our biggest challenge at trial was overcoming the defendant's assertion that our client knew the traffic signal was changing and attempted to speed across the intersection to beat the light.  The defendant's attorneys had two important pieces of evidence to support that position.  One, was the testimony of a witness, an emergency medical technician, who happened to be in an ambulance stopped at the intersection facing east on 131st Street at the time of the crash.  He testified that while his vehicle was stopped at a red light at 131st and Harlem he saw the man on the bike cross at what seemed to be a high rate of speed just before the collision.  The implication was that if the ambulance had a red light then so must have the cyclist coming from the opposite direction.  Secondly, the defendant argued that the extensive damage to the SUV and the severity of the bicyclist's injury suggested a relatively high speed collision; again, supporting the notion that the cyclist was trying to beat the light.

Honestly, we were worried.  It was based on the witness's observations that the responding police officer laid fault at the feet of our client.  Would a jury do the same?

The jury never heard that the cyclist was ticketed.  The citation was thrown out and generally the fact that one party or another received a traffic ticket is not admissible evidence at trial.  It is the province of the jury to determine fault based on the evidence, not that of a police officer making a snap decision based on someone's observations.  We were able to demonstrate that the witness was very unsure of what he saw and when he saw it.  Also, the law and evidence strongly supported our position that the driver failed to look before proceeding into the intersection.  The witness felt certain that his vehicle was stopped at a red light facing east on 131st Street when the collision occurred.  However, he could not say that the ambulance had quite reached the intersection when the cyclist first started across Harlem.  This allowed us to argue that our client entered the crossing when it was still legal for him to do so, but that he simply got caught in the change of lights.  During my closing argument I showed the jury a blow up of a portion of the Illinois Vehicle Code which instructs drivers how they must proceed when facing a light that has just turned green.  Section 11-306 requires that a motor vehicle facing a green arrow signal, "Shall yield the right of way to pedestrians lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk and to other traffic lawfully using the intersection."  Certainly bicycles are "other traffic."  Since the point of impact was with the front side of the SUV, had the driver looked before proceeding the cyclist would have been visible to him just a couple of feet to his right.  Therefore, he either did not look, despite his insistence to the contrary, or he looked but did not see our client.  Either way, I argued that the defendant violated section 11-306 and was negligent.

The jury clearly had a hard time figuring this case out having spent so long deliberating.  In the end they reached a compromise verdict.  They felt that the driver was indeed negligent, but so was our client.  It is hard to see the result as unfair.  

Getting caught in the change of lights is a consistent problem for bicyclists.  When crossing a wide intersection -- Harlem at 131st is five lanes wide -- there is a good chance that you will get caught in the change of lights.  Bicyclists should be mindful of any crossing countdown, if there is one, before starting into an intersection.  Consider whether your light will remain green, or at least yellow, until you reach the other side.  On the other hand, drivers simply must look before proceeding.  The law, and common sense for that matter, makes it clear that a driver cannot simply charge forward on a green light.     

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Taxi Driver Flees Crash With Chicago Bicyclist, Later Pays

Tilek Tulemyshev in an
undated photo
A taxi driver who fled the scene after striking a Chicago bicyclist from behind in Wicker Park could not escape accountability.  The driver, Tilek Tulemyshev, and the cab company, Best Cab Corp, have paid $300,000 to the injured biker, a 33 year old airline attendant, following a lawsuit filed against them by FK Law.

On September 10, 2011 the female cyclist was riding northbound on North Damen Avenue with her husband and a friend.  When the three reached Damen's intersection with West Webster Avenue they stopped for a red light.  At the same time, Mr. Tulemyshev was stopped along the curb to their right picking up a fare.  When the light turned green the bicyclists began pedaling across the intersection. The taxi also accelerated forward.  Upon reaching the middle of the intersection, Mr. Tulemyshev crashed into the rear of the woman's bike throwing her into the street where he then ran her down. The woman's husband screamed for him to stop.  He did for a moment.  He then threw the taxi into reverse and stomped on the accelerator driving the taxi backwards back into the intersection where he rammed another vehicle.  With the terrified fare still in the cab, Mr. Tulemyshev then put the car in drive and sped east on Webster.  A block or two later he abruptly stopped, let his passenger escape then drove off.

The bicyclist was left with scrapes and bruises over much of her body.  More significantly, she suffered torn cartilage in her left knee requiring surgery.  Her injuries left her unable to work for a significant period of time.  She incurred over $60,000 in medical bills.

Despite undeniable negligence by the driver, he and his attorneys initially refused to compensate our client for the harm he caused.  Instead they asserted that her knee injury was the result of a skiing accident years before the crash.  That earlier incident caused tears to her left anterior cruciate ligament and medial meniscus.  However, for years before the 2011 crash she was symptom free and lived a healthy, active life.  She regularly ran and rode her bicycle without pain.  That changed after being hit by the taxi.  Our challenge was to succinctly demonstrate that the crash was the cause of her ongoing knee problem.  It was complicated.  The first orthopaedic specialist that evaluated her felt that the crash had only resulted in a sprain to the knee.  However, another specialist examined film of her knee and determined that while ACL and meniscus tears preexisted the crash, that at least the injury to her meniscus was exacerbated by the collision and was a very significant factor in her knee problems since.

The evidence regarding her knee injury was solid, but the defense seemed to view it as nuanced. They continued to refused to offer what we and our client felt was reasonable compensation.  Then, two things happened which seemed to tighten the screws.  First, Mr. Tulemyshev, at first cooperative during litigation, disappeared.  Neither his attorneys nor we could locate him.  He never did submit himself for a deposition in the case.  Secondly, we filed and won the right to add a count to the lawsuit seeking punitive damages.  The vast majority of personal injury lawsuits filed in Illinois seek only compensatory damages, that is, money to compensate the victim for the harm caused.  Punitive damages are rarely provided for and are meant to punish a wrongdoer.  The approval of a judge is necessary even to allow a jury to consider providing for punitive damages.  Once we argued for and receive that approval in this case, the defense finally saw the light and did the right thing.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Quick Thinking Chicago Bicyclist Snaps Photo of Vehicle That Hit Him, Helps His Own Case

He thought he got away with it.

When the driver of an Infiniti SUV struck a Chicago bicyclist earlier this year, fracturing his collar bone, he chose to flee.  What he did not count on was the bicyclist, a 35 year old Chicago pastry chef, having the wherewithal to snap a photo of his license plate.  This enabled the police to quickly track down the driver and cite him for failing to exercise due care to avoid hitting a bicyclist.  The cyclist's quick thinking also helped us as his attorneys secure for him a sizable settlement.

The collision occurred at around 7 p.m. on February 12, 2015 on Chicago's northwest side. The bicyclist was riding home from work southbound near 5562 North Lincoln Avenue.  The weather was cold, but dry.  Though the cyclist did not have a headlight on his bike, his helmet had reflective properties and the area was very well lit.  He was riding on the right side of the road.  When he passed in front of a curb cut for the parking lot of a 7-Eleven store, the driver of a 1999 Infiniti QX4, northbound on Lincoln, suddenly made a left turn into the lot.  When he did he smashed into the bicyclist, "t-boning" him.  The driver, who had numerous past moving violations, did not help the badly injured cyclist.  When it became clear that he was about to take off, the cyclist pulled out his smartphone and snapped a photo of the vehicle's license plate.  With the plate number Chicago police officers who arrived at the scene went to work locating the driver.  The bicyclist was loaded into an ambulance and taken to Swedish Covenant Hospital.  He was diagnosed with a right clavicle fracture.

The bicyclist eventually hired our law firm to represent him against the driver.  After several months of work we were able to secure a settlement with the driver's insurer, GEICO, 4 1/2 times greater than his medical bills.

There are a few interesting points here.  Firstly, the importance of riding with a device of some kind that can take pictures, a smartphone, camera or GoPro type device, and using it if something bad happens, cannot be overstated.  Had our client not photographed the vehicle's plate the driver likely would have faced no repercussions for his conduct.  Though there are many video cameras positioned throughout Chicago, most do not reproduce images of sufficient quality to enable the police or us to make out a plate number.  Secondly, if the driver flees and is caught the repercussions will be far greater.  Had the driver stuck around we still would have resolved the case successfully, but GEICO undoubtedly understood that they had to pay more because the driver left the scene.  Thirdly, though all bicyclists are required by Illinois law to ride with at least a front facing headlight at night, not having one does not necessarily preclude recovery.  The crash occurred in a very well lite area and the bicyclist wore a helmet with reflective properties.  Despite his lack of a headlight, the driver should have seen him.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Chicago Bicyclist Killed By Semi Driver In Avondale

One of the bike lanes on North
Kedzie Avenue where Robert
Lewis was killed
Chicago bicyclist, Robert Lewis, died on Friday a week after being struck by a semi truck as he rode his bike in the 3400 block of North Kedzie, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.  He was 48 years old.  It will be of little consolation to his family that he is the first Chicago cyclist to die in four months.

The deadly crash occurred at 1:30 p.m. on September 2nd in Chicago's Avondale neighborhood. Though the details of the crash have not been reported both sides of North Kedzie where the crash took place have clearly marked, dedicated bicycle lanes.  It is not clear whether the semi driver was ticketed.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Bicycle Fatality in Aurora on Saturday.

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that a woman was struck and killed by a motorist Saturday morning.  It appears that the woman was crossing Densmore Road on the Virgil Gillman Nature trail with a group of other riders when she was struck.  Densmore Road is a wide open flat stretch of roadway where it crosses the trail.  There are two signs in each direction warning approaching drivers of the bicycle trail crossing and the speed limit is posted as 45 mph.  The fatal rural Aurora collision occurred shortly before 11am, and the weather was bright and sunny.  Make no mistake, this collision would have occurred in broad daylight.  While police did not issue any charges, I would be interested to know if any investigation was conducted to determine if the driver was distracted or on the phone at the time of the collision.

We have seen a number of cases in which a driver drove through a group of cyclists attempting to negotiate a road crossing.  Inevitably the driver points to right of way as a rationale for so much as failing to look in front of their vehicle or responsibly applying the brakes in order to avoid a collision they knew or should have know to be imminent.  We hear the same language over and over from defendants in cases like this, "...came out of nowhere...  ...barreling down the street...  ..I didn't see her..."  Failure to see what is in front of one's vehicle is negligence at the least.  Declining to take reasonable actions to avoid a collision because of one's right of way is willful.

One undertakes a tremendous responsibility when they get behind the wheel of a car.  It's almost like driving a one ton loaded gun down the road.  The very least we should expect of a person undertaking such a grave responsibility is that they look in front of them as they drive down the road in broad daylight and that they take reasonable actions to avoid collisions.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Ignore NPR, Bicycling Is Safe

An irresponsible piece of journalism about biking injuries and deaths was published yesterday by National Public Radio under the headline, As More Adults Pedal, Their Biking Injuries and Deaths Spike, Too.  The story noted the fact that the number of people biking regularly has substantially increased over the past several years, while spotlighting a "striking" rise in the number of injuries and deaths from cycling among adults.  Much emphasis was placed on crashes involving middle aged men who, supposedly wanting to emulate disgraced former pro cyclist Lance Armstrong, ran out in droves a decade ago to purchase uberfast road bikes which they proceeded to crash.

Yes, bicycling has been on the rise for quite some time, particularly as a form of transportation, as opposed to recreation or sport.  Chicago, for example, saw a 150 percent increase in the number of people bicycling to work between 2000 and 2010.  Similarly, New York City has seen staggering growth in the number of people biking to work.  Despite this growth, "Bicycling  remains a healthful, inherently safe activity for tens of millions of people every year," according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.  Tens of millions.  In contrast, 743 bicycle related deaths were reported nationwide for the year 2013, according to U.S. DOT.  In Chicago the number of fatal crashes decreased by 28 percent between 2005 and 2010, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation.  While one death is one too many these numbers neither suggest that bicycling is exceptionally dangerous nor that it is becoming more so.

With more people riding their bikes there will naturally be more traffic crashes involving bicyclists.  But more bicyclists on the road likely makes biking safer for the individual rider.  The idea is that there is safety in numbers.  As drivers get used to seeing more bikers, they are more likely to be on the lookout for dangerous interactions.  It is true that, according to the U.S. DOT, "bicyclists seem to be over-represented in the crash data."  Bicycle trips account for one percent of all trips in the United States, yet represent nearly two percent of all traffic fatalities.  But no reliable data exists to correlate the number of miles traveled by cyclists and the risks to which riders are exposed.  "Until we have better exposure measures, we just don't know how bicyclist risk compares to other modes," says the U.S. DOT, adding, "But the health benefits of riding may offset some of this risk."

The cause of bicycle crashes varies depending on locale, time of day, alcohol consumption and other factors.  About half of all bike crashes are due to falls caused by things like roadway defects, loose gravel and the like.  Much of the rest is due to driver inattention.  In urban areas I see crashes involving bicyclists caused largely by drivers who fail to look for cyclists while opening their doors, and failing to see cyclists within intersections.  In rural and suburban areas a bicyclist faces an increased risk of being hit from behind by an inattentive driver.  "Nearly a third of all injuries are caused when bicyclists are struck by cars," according to the U.S. DOT.  The bullshit "Lance Armstrong effect" has nothing to do with it.  This "effect" was cited by bicycle industry people in an attempt to explain the increase in road bike sales back when everyone thought Lance Armstrong was worth admiring.  Nowadays sales of new bikes probably accounts for a relatively small percentage of all bikes purchased.  Many of us by bikes second and third hand to use for commuting.  Look out your window NPR, lycra and carbon fiber, while cool, is just not the norm. 

On my daily commute along Chicago's so-called "hipster highway" I see more comfy clunkers than super light racers.  And each year, as the biking infrastructure improves I see more and more regular people on regular bikes.  In April, 2015 reported that bike count numbers rose yearly in New York City from 2006 to 2010, correlating with a near doubling during the same period of time of the miles of bike lanes.  People want to ride their bikes.  Give them a reasonably safe place to do it and they will.

So who cares if a media outlet reports that biking is dangerous?  We all should.  The offending story re-enforces the tired and inaccurate notion that bicyclists are foolish risk-takers, or wannabes, If they get hurt they just got what was coming to them. This framing creates a real hazard.  It makes our lives seem less worthy of protection and less worthy of the continuing work necessary to make our nation's roads accommodating to cyclists.  

Friday, August 7, 2015

Driver Who Killed 65 Year Old Bicyclist In Jersey County Taken Into Custody

Kajavion McCarvey
A 21 year old man is in custody more than two months after killing a 65 year old bicyclist in Jersey County, Illinois, according to  Kajavion McCarvey of East Alton turned himself in on Wednesday after Jersey County authorities announced charges of Aggravated DUI and Reckless Homicide against him earlier this week.

Carol Admire, Courtesy of
The arrest stems from a collision on May 23rd that left Carol R. Admire of Alton, Illinois dead at the scene.  She was riding southbound on the shoulder of State Highway 100 around 4:00 p.m. when the allegedly intoxicated driver, also southbound, hit her with his pickup truck, according to the  Initial media reports of the crash presented a slanted view of the incident, suggesting that Ms. Admire had been riding in too dangerous a location along the busy road.  Local television station KSDK placed emphasis on the existence of a bicycle path on the other side of the roadway from where Ms. Admire was riding.  The no-so-subtle suggestion is that she should have been riding on the path instead.  See for yourself:

It is important to remember that Illinois, unlike some states, does not require that bicyclists use a separated bike path where one has been provided.  Also, Ms. Admire was apparently riding with traffic, on the southbound side of the highway also known as Great River Road.  As noted in the news report above, the shoulder on which she was riding was commonly used by cyclists.  Great River Road is a scenic highway that runs along the Mississippi River.  In light of these facts, it is deeply disappointing that initial reports placed undue emphasis on the bicyclist's conduct rather than on the driver who may have been intoxicated.

In our experience, driver's rarely face criminal charges from causing injury or death to bicyclists.  It is encouraging to seen that the State's Attorney in Jersey County has decided to pursue charges that could see the driver facing in excess of 14 years in jail.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Drivers May Be Liable When A "Near Miss" Causes Injury

To horseshoes and hand grenades I would add bicycling in traffic to the list of activities in which close may be enough to do damage. While riding a bike, coming close to physical contact with a vehicle, i.e. a car door, may be enough to cause a crash and serious injury.
In a video making its way around the internet a terrified London cyclist is seen nearly being run down after trying to avoid a car door.  Check it out:

Even if the cyclist did not come into contact with the door (it is not clear from the video whether he did or did not), he was not “almost doored.”
He was doored.
A driver may be responsible for the harm caused by his or her negligent driving even if there is no actual contact. 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 causal connection between the driver’s bad 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.  With evidence like the above video there can be no question regarding the dooring motorist’s fault.
Near misses that cause harm do not only arise from doorings.  Our law firm has successfully represented several bicyclists who sustained serious injuries from a variety of near miss scenarios. One particular case from a couple years ago is representative.  Our client and his friend were participating in an organized ride. The route took them through a downtown area in a central Illinois city. They were on a road with one lane of travel in each direction with no shoulder or parking on either side when our client heard his friend yell, “Truck!” He looked to see a semi tractor trailer bearing down on them. It did not look like it was going to stop so the two pushed as close to the curb as possible. The truck passed them at about 35 mph within 18 inches, in violation of Illinois’ three 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 our client to fall and break his leg. There was no contact between the cyclists and the truck.  After filing a lawsuit, we argued that but for the driver’s bad conduct the cyclist would not have fallen and become injured.  This proven persuasive and the case resolved for a substantial sum.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Three Illinois Bicycle Fatalities this week; Two were Hit-and-Runs.

By Jim Freeman

The Chicago Tribune reported that a man was struck and killed in Waukegan early Tuesday morning.  Jack Henderson was riding his bicycle near the intersection of Washington Street and Martin Avenue when he was struck by a green sedan driven by an unknown driver wearing a red shirt or jacket.  Nearby video camera caught the suspected hit-and-run driver as the driver fled eastbound on Washington Street.  

On Monday a cyclist was killed in Alexander County.  The bicyclist was struck by the mirror of a Buick when the vehicle passed the bicyclist.  As a result of being struck by the mirror the bicyclist lost control and was struck and killed by another vehicle.  The driver of the Buick was cited for, “improper overtaking of a bicycle.”  I suspect this means the driver was cited for violating the Illinois three foot passing law.

Finally, we posted earlier this week about the death of Jose Gomez, who was allegedly struck and killed by Daniel Wehr in Des Plaines, Illinois.  Wehr was driving a SUV and was working for United Airlines at the time of the collision.  He was identified because his license plate fell off and remained at the scene after Wehr fled.   

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Special Considerations for Collisions with Ride Share Drivers.

By Jim Freeman

At the scene of a bicycle/car collision the driver tendered police his personal auto insurance card.  We opened a claim under the driver’s insurance only to have the claim denied because the driver was, unbeknownst to us, working as an Uber driver.  At the time of the collision the driver was transporting a fare for the ride share service Uber. 

We represent a bicyclist in what we believe to be the first bicycle/ride-share collision in the area.  This case has presented a number of issues with respect to insurance coverage.  One might think that it would be easy to make a claim under Uber’s insurance policy, but that is not so.  Take a look at Uber’s website and see if you can find where it lists their insurance underwriter.  If you can’t find the insurance information on the web site, then you’ll just have to contact Uber.  Think that’s going to be easy?  Where on the website is the contact information for Uber?  Neither the insurance nor contact information is listed on Uber’s website.  In fact, my research suggests that there is no contact phone number for Uber.  The only way to contact Uber is through e-mail.  This makes for a virtual wall around the company for anyone trying to make a claim.  Despite their best efforts to insulate themselves from our reach we were able to determine their insurance carrier and open a claim, but this wouldn’t be easy to accomplish without an in-house investigator.

We also found Uber less than forthcoming with respect to other information such as the identity of the fare, who would be an eye-witness to the occurrence.  Uber has flatly refused to give any information regarding the identity of the fare, forcing us to file suit and seek a court order requiring them to produce the identity of the fare.

If you are involved in an accident with a ride share driver you should expect your insurance claim process to be complicated.  Make sure you get the information of any fare the Uber driver may be transporting at the time.  If you’re a bicyclist and you’re doored by the passenger, this is even more important because Uber’s insurance may try to deny the case claiming that the collision was the result of the passenger and not the Uber driver.  If you’re involved in a collision with an Uber driver it is best to get advice from someone who knows how to negotiate the insurance carriers involved in your loss.  Get help.  You’re going to need it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Hit-And-Run Driver Leaves License Plate at Scene

By Jim Freeman

Daniel Wehr
CBS is reporting that a bicyclist was killed in Des Plaines last night by a hit-and-run driver.  Apparently, the driver was a United Airlines employee driving a company SUV.  At approximately 9:40pm the SUV, allegedly driven by United Airlines worker Daniel Wehr struck a bicyclist, 25 year old Jose Gomez of Des Plaines.  The collision occurred on Algonquin Road just West of Mount Prospect Road.  Wehr is alleged to have fled the scene.  When he was taken into custody at the United Airlines facility approximately six hours after the accident, he reportedly told police he didn't see Gomez until after the collision had occurred.

One aspect of this hit-and-run that is common is the fact that the driver left his plate at the scene.  This actually happens a lot in hit-and-run collisions.  We have handled at least a half a dozen hit-and-run collisions in which the driver fled the scene leaving his license plate behind.  License plate frames tend to break when a car strikes another object causing the license plate to fall off.  This has been instrumental in a number of cases to locate and identify the driver.  We once had a driver claim the plate was stolen before the hit-and-tun collision occurred, but through investigation we determined that the driver had reported the plate stolen three days after the collision and had purchased a replacement plate the same day.

Bicycling Illinois Attorney Left With Serious Injuries After Driver Uses his "Car As A Weapon"

Randy Crump, courtesy
A Bloomington attorney was seriously injured by a driver who allegedly became upset by the presence of a group of bicyclists riding on a rural road in McLean County, according to  

The injured cyclist, Dean Davis, suffered a "serious back injury" when 61 year old Randy Crump, a retired school superintendent, allegedly used "his car as a weapon" to force him off the road, according to one witness.  The incident occurred on July 7th as Mr. Crump tried to pass the group which was participating in an organized ride.  Witnesses say he passed the group of 10 cyclists then slammed on his brakes.

Mr. Crump was charged with reckless driving and "reckless conduct," and for following a cyclist too closely, according to the

This sad incident brings to mind a case from a few years ago in which a California doctor was  sentenced to five years in prison for attacking two cyclists with his vehicle.  Angry that the men where riding in front of him, the driver, Christopher Thompson, pulled in front of them before slamming on his brakes.  His conduct caused the bicyclists to sustain serious injuries.

The McLean County state's attorney is said to be investigating last week's incident.  Hopefully, this matter will be treated with the seriousness it deserves.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Illinois Law Needs To Better Protect Victims Of Road Rage

by Jim Freeman
Friday afternoon I first saw a video of a driver viciously attacking a cyclist during the morning commute that day. The driver can be seen in a video running and punching a cyclist. As with many cell phone videos, this one doesn’t tell the whole story.
The incident began at approximately 7:50 am Friday morning when the green Mercedes pictured in the video pulled up behind two bicyclists in a bike lane on westbound Lawrence at Oakley. Traffic was backed up on Lawrence and the Mercedes was attempting to pass traffic on the right. The light at Oakley was red, so the bicyclists and adjacent line of cars were all waiting for the light to turn green. The Mercedes pulled up behind the cyclists, pushed one into the curb and almost drove over the second cyclist in an apparent attempt to force both cyclists out of the way. As you might imagine, the cyclists yelled at the driver. The driver then accelerated quickly and blew through the red light, striking a cyclist in the process. One of the cyclists followed the driver and attempted to get him to stop. The altercation in the video ensued.
It is my experience that Chicago Police Department doesn’t take bicyclist harassment or assault seriously. Although we have handled cases in which CPD pursued a hit and run driver or a harassing driver, most of the time these actions go unpunished. We will follow up on this story to find out if CPD actually charges the driver.
I’d expect that there were some injuries sustained in this incident, but often cyclists are harassed but not physically injured. In such an instance it is my experience that the CPD often does nothing to hold the offending driver responsible. If CPD doesn’t do anything and no one is injured the victim often has trouble finding a way of holding an offender responsible for their actions, partly because the Illinois Anti-Harassment statute has no provision for civil penalties.
Los Angeles and a few other places have anti-harassment statutes that provide for civil penalties, allowing cyclists to take violators to court themselves rather than relying on police. The key to such a law is to include a provision to provide for attorney fees taxed to the defendant driver if the cyclist wins at trial. Such a provision would allow attorneys to take smaller cases or cases with no physical injury. As the law currently stands in Illinois a cyclist can pursue a driver for an assault or battery, but their recovery for compensatory damages is tied to the amount of medical bills or the value of their damaged bicycle. Further, a cyclist suing for a civil battery or assault must bear the costs associated with suing the driver. If there isn’t an injury or medical treatment the cyclist will have a very difficult time finding a lawyer to take the case because the lawyer will be unable to take a fee that would justify the time to prepare and try a civil case.
Hopefully we’ll have good news to report regarding the offender from Friday. If not, it will be another story about a driver who got away with assaulting and harassing cyclists without being held responsible. Ideally the legislators in Illinois would consider adopting a law similar to that of LA and other places. If that happens cyclists will be able to hold road-ragers and harassing drivers responsible for their actions.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Bicycles, A Tiger and An (Almost ) Monster Truck

Jim Freeman and I partnered to form Freeman Kevenides Law Firm just over two years ago. The goal was and is to focus exclusively on representing bicyclists and vulnerable road users.  Some thought we were crazy.  But as this morning's article in Crain's Chicago focusing on how Jim got his start demonstrates, we are pretty comfortable marching to our own beat.  

Friday, June 26, 2015

Here's How You Should Exit A Taxi In Chicago

Photo property of Freeman Kevenides
Law Firm, LLC
The full version of this post appears in Time Out Chicago.

Following the 2012 death of a young attorney who was run down by a truck when he swerved to avoid an opened car door, the city of Chicago has made efforts to try to prevent such incidents. The term "dooring" is well known to regular city cyclists. It occurs when an occupant opens a vehicle door into a bicyclist. A significant number of these incidents are caused by passengers exiting taxi cabs. The problem has been significant enough for the city to mandate that taxi companies place window stickers inside their vehicles reminding disembarking passengers to look before exiting. Here are some steps you can take when exiting a taxi cab to reduce the chance you will injure an unsuspecting biker...  Continue reading.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Skateboarding Should Not Be A Crime

Back in the mid-1980s when I was a little skate grommet I remember t-shirts and stickers declaring that "Skateboarding Is Not A Crime!" being pretty ubiquitous.  The slogan was a declaration of what we felt was a sort of comic truth.  Unfortunately, often it was not legally accurate.  It was around that time that small towns and big cities nationwide where passing ordinances outlawing skating, particularly on sidewalks in downtown areas.  In those days, skate parks did not exist. Stairs, loading docks and public benches were our skate parks.  Trying to avoid the police was, well, part of the fun.

Nowadays I see lots of skaters and longboarders riding around Chicago.  Longboards in particular, with their bigger, softer wheels are a particularly quick, easy and fun way to get around the City. They are not mere toys, but a means of transportation.  Shorter boards are generally better for tricks and Chicago has invested quite a bit constructing several skate parks to accommodate people who like to grind.  I have not heard of anyone being ticketed by police for skating in Chicago, at least not on public property.  I continue to skate and had never really considered my legal right to do so. Recently, I wondered what ever happened to Chicago's anti-skating ordinance so I looked it up.  To my surprise I found that it is still on the books.  It states:
No person shall ride a skateboard upon any roadway or sidewalk in a business district.
No person upon roller skates, or riding in or by means of any coaster, skateboard, toy vehicle, or similar device, shall go upon any roadway except while crossing a street on a crosswalk. 

Skating is not allowed on the sidewalk in a "business district" and is prohibited in the street everywhere.  This means that while you can skate in Chicago's gorgeous $2.65 million Grant Park skate park, the law prohibits you from riding your skateboard through downtown to get there. Starting Saturday, June 6th, you may kick and push your way along The 606, Chicago's newest path.  But skating through Wicker Park to get there would be a legal no-no.  Soon you will be able to shop in the big new Zumiez skate shop under construction in the heart of the Loop at State and Madison. Step outside the store and try to board your new ride and you could get a ticket.  

Isn't it time to take this section of the Code off the books?

Skateboards are fun, but than isn't a sin.  They also happen to be a relatively cheap (even compared to bikes) means of transportation.  Our City is presently undergoing an infrastructure renaissance, building bike lanes, skate parks and innovative trails that are meant to encourage people powered transportation.  Skateboards should be a part of that mix.  Skateboarding also means business in Chicago.  Small businesses like Uprise, Windward Boardshop, Zumiez, Character, Bluetown and Caravan should be encouraged and supported in their efforts.  One way to do that would be to decriminalize the products they make and sell.

Yes, there are times where skating on a sidewalk crowded with pedestrians is a bad idea.  Part of Section 9-80-200 states, "Any person upon a sidewalk on roller skates or riding in or by means of any coaster, skateboard, or similar device shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give audible signals before overtaking and passing such pedestrian."  This is perfectly reasonable and should remain in force.  But let's get rid of the rest of it and allow people to shred respectfully.

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