Call

Blog

Law
02

Blog

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 $75,000.

The case highlights how dangerous it can be when a driver carelessly flings open a door.  Our client was an experienced city cyclist.  At approximately 2:50 p.m. on August 11, 2014, the driver parked her 2014 BMW along the curb on the east side of 6109 North Wolcott Avenue in Chicago. At the same time, the cyclist was riding her commuter style bicycle northbound on Wolcott. She was wearing a helmet. The weather was clear and dry. As she rode by, the driver attempted to exit her vehicle, opening her driver’s side door into the cyclist. The corner of the door grabbed the strap of her helmet, violently yanking her off her bike.

Illinois is a bicycle friendly state, granting bicyclists full use of our state’s roadways. On the date of the crash there was an Illinois law, 625 ILCS 5/11-1407, which states in relevant part:

No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so, and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.

By opening her door without looking for bicycle traffic, the driver violated this law and injured our client. When the police arrived at the scene they cited her for violating Section 11-1407.  The driver later plead guilty to the charge of unsafely opening her door.  Nevertheless, GEICO, took the position that our client was substantially at fault for causing the crash.

The force that abruptly pulled the cyclist off her bicycle resulted in temporary paralysis that lasted for several terrifying minutes. An ambulance rushed her to the nearest hospital. There it was noted that, “Patient’s head was jerked backward and twisted and patient was pulled off of bike and onto the street. When EMS arrived patient was stating that she couldn’t move and was very anxious.” Thankfully, by the time she arrived in the emergency department she was able to move her extremities. However, she was experiencing severe pain to her neck with swelling, as well as pain to her right hand, ankle and knee. A CT scan of her neck revealed that she had a laceration to her right thyroid lobe. Because of the severity of her thyroid injury she was immediately transferred via ambulance to another hospital that would be better able to care for her. There she was admitted overnight for observation before being discharged the following day. After her release from the hospital she experienced continued pain associated with her lacerated thyroid. The pain was exacerbated with eating, drinking and swallowing. She also continued to experience pain in her right hand and right knee. It was nearly two months before her symptoms resolved.

GEICO, despite its assertion that our client was at fault, made an offer of $30,000 before a lawsuit was filed.  This was a nonsense offer.  Less than even our client’s medical bills, it would not have compensated her for her pain and suffering and the disability she sustained for a period of time.  Interestingly, almost as soon as we filed the lawsuit, the attorney hired by GEICO to defend the case asked us to re-engage in settlement discussions.  At first we declined.  Given the position insurance company had staked out, the sides seemed just too far apart.  The defense attorney was persistent and I knew him to be a straight shooter.  We agreed to attend mediation, during which a retired judge helped the two sides to reach a fair resolution.

Doorings are by far the most common type of case we see.  Sometimes we get calls from cyclists injured in dooring incidents in which they tried on their own to reach a reasonable settlement with a driver’s insurer.  Fault on the part of the driver is pretty clear in such cases.  As in this case, sometimes the driver even pleads guilty to a traffic citation.  Sadly, however, insurance companies figure they can get away cheap, betting that the injured victim, and even the law firm representing her, will not want to undertake the hassle of litigation.  It is a mistake to acquiesce to this strategy.  In this instance, not only did our client receive a fair settlement, I would bet that the driver in question will be more inclined to look for bicyclists before opening her car door.

Comments

Bike lawyer rides her bike in Charlotte, NC
Ann Groninger Jun 21, 2024

Bike Law lawyer hassled by a driver for riding in the lane. Why, because she was trying to take a left turn!

Read More
E-BIKE LAWS. ARE THEY LEGAL?
Ann Groninger Apr 04, 2024

Love them or hate them, e-bikes continue to rise in popularity. At the same time, lawmakers struggle to keep up with the developing technologies. Every week I get multiple inquiries from people trying to navigate North Carolina’s e-bike laws. If you’re confused, you’re not alone.  We could easily fill a book with all the latest […]

Read More
Ann Groninger Jan 04, 2024

Many of our cycling clients find themselves having to interact with the criminal justice system. Typically, it’s because the driver who hits them (or their family member) is charged with a crime or traffic offense. Occasionally bicyclists themselves are charged with traffic offenses! Every state’s criminal laws are different, but there is a lot of […]

Read More
Bike Crash Road Defect Georgia
Peter Wilborn Jun 14, 2023

We recently shared the story of a trial victory from the State of Texas where a bicyclist was injured due to a defect in a road maintained by the Texas Department of Transportation. Texas Road Defect   We now can tell the story of another huge win in a road defect case, this time from […]

Read More
Road defect dangerous to cyclists
Charlie Thomas Mar 14, 2023

Recently, attorneys with the Bike Law network took a case to a trial against a titan of a defendant: the Texas Department of Transportation. TxDOT was represented by the Attorney General’s Office, one of Texas’ largest legal teams. We had a great client, but it was a tough case to prove. So tough, in fact, […]

Read More
bike path charlotte
Ann Groninger Jan 13, 2023

  2023 got off to a rough start for Charlotte, North Carolina, particularly in the context of road safety. Within about a week, we lost a young woman who was riding her bicycle, a pedestrian killed in the same area of town, and four people were killed in a car wreck on I-85 in the […]

Read More
North Carolina Bike Crash
Ann Groninger Dec 06, 2022

Unless you’re a very recent follower of ours, you’ve heard us talk before about “contributory negligence.” To recap: “pure contributory negligence” is the law in North Carolina and only 3 other states (Alabama, Virginia, Maryland). In pure contributory negligence states, if a person is injured by someone else’s fault and the injured person contributes even […]

Read More
Is It Illegal to Ride Your Bike on the Sidewalk bikelaw
Peter Wilborn Aug 01, 2022

The laws dictating whether you can ride your bike on the sidewalk differ depending where you live. Different states have different laws on this matter, and local ordinances also vary. Let’s take a look at the legal framework behind various state laws related to cycling on sidewalks. The laws of sidewalk-riding can be very complicated […]

Read More
Ebike crash
Bruce Hagen Apr 26, 2022

DRIVER ON METH KILLS 17 YEAR OLD BICYCLIST, BARROW COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY REFUSES TO CHARGE DRIVER WITH FELONY.   On August 23, 2020, at approximately 8:40pm, 17-year old Obianuju Osuegbu was on her way home from her summer job working at a grocery store. She had earned enough money that summer to buy herself a […]

Read More
Load More