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Driver blames GPS for hitting cyclist

Bike Law Brendan illustrates the roadblocks to justice for injured cyclists.

A driver who blamed her navigation system for causing a collision with a Chicago bicyclist has agreed to settle the lawsuit filed against her.

Our law firm was retained by the 34 year old female cyclist who was struck by the driver in December, 2012. Our client was leaving her office building in the 300 block of South Jefferson Street when she was hit hard by the driver of a 2008 Honda Odyssey minivan traveling the wrong way down the one way street. The impact was strong enough to lift her off of her bike, spinning her 360 degrees, before dumping her onto the pavement. She was taken from the scene to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in an ambulance. Though fractures were ruled out, she was left with a painful back and hip injury that required eight months of physical therapy.

The motorist was ticketed by Chicago police at the scene. We accompanied the bicyclist to the traffic citation hearing. With the cyclist ready to testify against her, the driver plead guilty to driving the wrong way down a one way. However, when it came time to compensate the bicyclist for injuries that necessitated nearly $25,000 in medical bills, the driver and her insurance company, Farmers, initially refused to do the right thing. I was told by a Farmers representative that they did not feel the impact was very hard and, in any event, he felt that the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, where she received much of her physical therapy, had charged too much. We filed a lawsuit. During her deposition, the driver was less than conciliatory. She claimed that at before the crash she was driving her minivan from a Target store toward her home in Chicago’s Little Italy neighborhood when she become unsure of where she was going. Her six year old son was with her in the vehicle. Despite living in the city for many years, she said that she was not familiar with the Greektown neighborhood, about a mile from her home. She decided to rely on her satellite navigation system to plot her route. As she drove east on West Jackson Boulevard, the system allegedly instructed her to turn right on Jefferson and head south. She did so, not realizing that South Jefferson Street was a north only roadway until she hit the bicyclist who had just pulled from the curb. Though she admitted to not braking before impact and to traveling at at least 10 miles per hour at the time of the collision, she also claimed that the contact with the cyclist was minimal.

We continued to aggressively press the case against the driver, subpoenaing several witnesses who would testify regarding the severity of the impact. Eventually, Farmers substantially increased its settlement offer and the case resolved for a fair sum.

This was a distracted driving case. Satellite navigation is awesome, until it isn’t. Motorists using these devices are reminded not to follow them blindly. Had the driver in this case looked around before turning onto Jefferson she would have seen a road sign that indicated that she was not permitted to drive south. The other lesson to be taken from this case is that insurance companies often will not voluntarily provide fair compensation. Despite its protest regarding the therapy bills from RIC, there was nothing at all unusual about the rates it charged. In any event, it certainly was not our client’s fault that RIC billed what it did. The bills were what they were. She was just trying to get the treatment she needed to regain her good health.

This one case illustrates to roadblocks to justice for cyclists.  What we as Bike Law lawyers deal with every day.  Let us know if we can help you.

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