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.