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

Atlanta Slow Roll
Bruce Hagen Apr 18, 2019

Bike Law Ambassador Niklas Volmer and Bike Law Georgia client Jordan Streiff have had enough of the City of Atlanta’s lip service and hypocrisy when it comes to building out meaningful bike infrastructure and decided it was time to do something about it. For some context, the City of Atlanta has promised to invest $250,000,000 […]

Read More
Danny Feldman Apr 17, 2019

ALABAMA BICYCLE LAWS It’s important to know your legal rights (and duties) when bicycling in Alabama. It is especially important after a bicycle accident (we call them bicycle “crashes” and explain why here). For any questions about the State’s bike laws, or about your rights to the road, contact attorney Danny Feldman directly. Right to […]

Read More
Rick Bernardi Apr 16, 2019

From the beginning, the Bike Law Network has had a singular focus—helping cyclists who have been injured find justice. Well, what’s so special about that? Lots of lawyers take bicycle accident cases. But the Bike Law Network is different—the lawyers in the network are cyclists themselves, and they’re passionately committed to protecting the rights of […]

Read More
Bike Walk Macon, Georgia
Bruce Hagen Apr 11, 2019

Rachel Hollar is the energetic spark behind the success of Bike Walk Macon, the leading advocacy group in the Macon-Bibb County area.   I recently had a chance to catch up with Rachel to discuss how cycling culture has changed in the Macon area since Rachel founded Bike Walk Macon in 2015.    Back in 2015, […]

Read More
Charlie Thomas Apr 11, 2019

LOUISIANA BICYCLE LAWS It’s important to know your legal rights (and duties) when bicycling in Louisiana. It is especially important after a bicycle accident (we call them bicycle “crashes” and explain why here). For any questions about the State’s bike laws, or about your rights to the road, contact attorney Charlie Thomas directly. Right to […]

Read More
Amy Benner Johnson Apr 10, 2019

TENNESSEE  BICYCLE LAWS It’s important to know your legal rights (and duties) when bicycling in Tennessee. It is especially important after a bicycle accident (we call them bicycle “crashes” and explain why here). For any questions about the State’s bike laws, or about your rights to the road, contact attorney Amy Johnson directly. Right to […]

Read More
Ann Groninger Apr 10, 2019

NORTH CAROLINA BICYCLE LAWS It’s important to know your legal rights (and duties) when bicycling in North Carolina. It is especially important after a bicycle accident (we call them bicycle “crashes” and explain why here). For any questions about the State’s bike laws, or about your rights to the road, contact attorney Ann Groninger directly. […]

Read More
Brian Weiss Apr 10, 2019

COLORADO BICYCLE LAWS It’s important to know your legal rights (and duties) when bicycling in Colorado. It is especially important after a bicycle accident (we call them bicycle “crashes” and explain why here). For any questions about the State’s bike laws, or about your rights to the road, contact attorney Brian Weiss directly. Right to […]

Read More
Bruce Hagen Apr 10, 2019

GEORGIA  BICYCLE LAWS It’s important to know your legal rights (and duties) when bicycling in Georgia. It is especially important after a bicycle accident (we call them bicycle “crashes” and explain why here). For any questions about the State’s bike laws, or about your rights to the road, contact attorney Bruce Hagen directly. Right to […]

Read More
Bryan Waldman Apr 10, 2019

MICHIGAN BICYCLE LAWS It’s important to know your legal rights (and duties) when bicycling in Michigan. It is especially important after a bicycle accident (we call them bicycle “crashes” and explain why here). For any questions about the State’s bike laws, or about your rights to the road, contact attorney Bryan Waldman directly. Right to […]

Read More
Lauri Boxer-Macomber Apr 10, 2019

MAINE BICYCLE LAWS It’s important to know your legal rights (and duties) when bicycling in Maine. It is especially important after a bicycle accident (we call them bicycle “crashes” and explain why here). For any questions about the State’s bike laws, or about your rights to the road, contact attorney Lauri Boxer-Macomber directly. Right to […]

Read More
Joe Piscitello Apr 05, 2019

PENNSYLVANIA BICYCLE LAWS It’s important to know your legal rights (and duties) when bicycling in Pennsylvania. It is especially important after a bicycle accident (we call them bicycle “crashes” and explain why here). For any questions about the State’s bike laws, or about your rights to the road, contact attorney Joey Piscitello directly. Right to […]

Read More
Load More