As a Chicago personal injury attorney who enjoys cycling and the outdoors, I have been approached by many clients that do not know where to start when it comes to being injured in a bike accident. Here is a list of some of the most frequently asked questions, and perhaps more importantly some of the issues that you need to be aware of if you have been injured in a bicycle accident.
- Is it possible for me to be found at fault in my bicycle accident and still recover compensation for my injuries? Can I still be compensated for my injuries if I was doing something wrong, like riding on the incorrect side of the street, not wearing a helmet, or not having reflectors at night?
- I was injured in a hit-and-run bicycle accident. Is there any chance of receiving compensation for my injuries?
- Can more than one driver be liable in an Illinois bicycle accident claim or lawsuit?
- If I am injured in a Chicago bicycle accident due to the fault of a motorist, are they responsible for paying my medical expenses?
- Do I need to discuss the bicycle accident details with the insurance company if they contact me?
- I was injured in an Illinois bike accident, and the insurance company wants me to sign a medical authorization form. Should I sign it?
- The driver who hit me on my bike was working at the time. Who is liable, the driver or the company he works for?
- If I see a bicyclist get hit by a driver, but I was unable to stop, what should I do?
- I heard that taking photos is important after an accident. What should I take pictures of if I am in a bicycle injury accident?
- How long do I have to file a lawsuit after my bicycle accident in Illinois?
- I was in a bicycle accident. Can I only be compensated for my medical bills, or can I also get money for when I had to take off work from my injury?
- Do I have special rights as a bicyclist in Illinois?
- Does Illinois have laws specifically for bicyclists?
- What can I do if my child was injured or killed on his or her bike?
- I think a faulty repair caused my bicycle accident. Is the repair shop responsible for my injuries?
- Can I have an expert testify for how my bicycle accident occurred, similar to a doctor testifying as a medical expert?
- Is it worthwhile to hire an attorney for my bicycle accident?
Yes. You can be found at fault in a bicycle accident if you are negligent on your bike and cause the accident. Thus, it is very important to abide by Illinois’ bicycle laws. However, you may still be able to recover compensation for your injuries. In Illinois, all traffic laws apply to both motor vehicle drivers and bicyclists. 625 ILCS 5/11-1502. This means that bike riders have the same duties and responsibilities as drivers. Illinois uses the doctrine of modified comparative negligence, which only constitutes a bar to recovery when the bicyclist is more than 50% at fault for their injuries. 735 ILCS 5/ 2-1116.
Thus, in Illinois, bicyclists who are injured and are less than 50% to blame for the accident have the right to recover damages. However, their damages will be reduced by their percentage of fault, meaning if you are found to be 30% at fault, you can only recover 70% of the damages. Just a police report or insurance company saying that you are partially at fault does not make it true. Typically, comparative negligence and the percentage of fault are determined by the jury or trier-of-fact.
Absolutely! If you are a victim in a hit-and-run bicycle accident, you should file a report with the police immediately. Illinois requires that all accidents involving bodily harm, death, or property damage greater than $1,500 have crash reports filed. http://www.dmv.org/il-illinois/accident-guide/, 625 ILCS 5/11-401. If possible, get the other driver’s license plate number so the police can track that person down. Police have many tools at their disposal and often times the driver is eventually apprehended.
It is also important to get witness’ names and numbers, as they may be useful in helping to identify the driver. In the event that the other driver cannot be identified, or is uninsured, you may still be able to receive compensation from your own insurance company if you, or in some cases a family or household member, have an uninsured motorist policy. Hit-and-run drivers are typically considered uninsured for insurance purposes.
Illinois has an uninsured and hit-and-run motor vehicle coverage statute, which requires that persons insured against loss from liability also be covered by uninsured motorists and hit-and-run accidents. 215 ILCS 5/143a. Under the statute, there must be contact between you and the hit-and-run car. http:// www.illinoislegalaid.org/index.cfm? fuseaction=home.dsp_content&contentID=6805.
Yes. Under the comparative negligence doctrine, more than one person can be at fault. 735 ILCS 5/2-1116. In Illinois, defendants that are found liable for the plaintiff’s injuries are jointly and severally liable to the plaintiff. 735 ILCS5/2-1117. The trier-of-fact determines the percentage of fault of each party, and your damages are reduced by your own percentage of fault. 735 ILCS 5/2-1117.
In many cases a bicyclist will end up being struck by one vehicle as they try to avoid another motorist’s actions. This is common in “dooring” accidents, when a driver opens their door into a bike lane, which is against the law in Chicago, causing the bicyclist to swerve and be hit be another driver. Under 625 ILCS 5/11-1407, it is unlawful to open the door of a vehicle on the side of moving traffic, unless it is safe to do so. In this type of case, it is possible that both motorists would be at fault and liable for injuries to the bicyclist.
If the driver was negligent and at fault, they will be responsible for medical expenses. However, not all medical expenses may be covered, only those that are considered reasonable through the insurance claim process or at trial. Illinois uses the reasonable-value approach, which means that you are able to seek the full reasonable value of your medical expenses, regardless of insurance. Wills v. Foster, 323 Ill.2d 393 (2008).
Often a bicyclist will use their own health insurance to pay for the medical treatment and then once the settlement is made for the accident, their attorney can discuss reimbursement of medical costs with the health care insurance provider. The advantage to using your own medical insurance is that the insurance company usually only pays a percentage of medical expenses, which means after a potential settlement, you will not be paying back the full cost of your medical bills. Additionally, your insurance will pay the bills promptly, so health care providers do not send you to collections, as they are legally able to do, while you wait for your case to be resolved.
You are not legally obligated to give them any information. If you have been seriously injured, you may want to talk to an attorney first before discussing any details of the accident with the insurance company. Insurance companies try to obtain as much information as possible in order to help negotiate the lowest claim settlement. They are not looking out for your best interests, and often use what you say against you.
While you do have a duty to cooperate with your own insurance company (http://insurance.illinois.gov/autoinsurance/total_loss_auto.asp), a bike accident attorney can help with how much information is necessary to disclose for the best outcome of your case. Additionally, you do not have a duty to have any direct contact with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
In most cases an attorney will advise you to not sign anything that the insurance company gives you before you discuss it with them first, especially in serious injury cases. You are not legally bound to give them any information, including access to your medical records. Most of the time, by signing a medical authorization form, you give the insurance company complete access to all of your medical records, which may give them a basis for rejecting your claim.
In most cases it will be the company the driver was working for. This is referred to as the doctrine of respondeat superior, which is a common law doctrine that basically means that employers are responsible for employee actions when they happen within the scope of employment. Pyne v. Witmer, 135 Ill.Dec. 557, 561 (1989). For it to be in the scope of employment, “the conduct must be of the kind the employee is employed to perform, must occur within the authorized time and space limits of the employment, and must be done at least in part to serve the employer, rather than be for the employee’s personal ends.” Bagent v. Blessing Care Corp., 224 Ill.2d 154, 164-65, 308 Ill.Dec. 782, 862 N.E.2e 985, 991-92 (2007). So in your case, the employer most likely would be liable. However, in the event that the accident occurred outside the scope of the employment, the driver may be liable.
You may be an important witness for the bicyclist so please call the police in that jurisdiction and report what you saw. You may be able to corroborate the bicyclist’s story and help them receive compensation for their injuries. If the accident appears to be serious, call 9-1-1. If possible, try to write down any license plate numbers if you see them, or anything else you noted while witnessing the accident. http://www.greenflag.com/help/ drivingguide_accident_help.html.
Photos can be very useful to build a bicycle accident case for an injured cyclist. They are important because evidence after the accident will be lost as people leave the scene, repair their cars, and as injuries heal. If you are in a bicycle accident, have someone take photos of the following: the accident scene, including street signs, landmarks, vehicle/bike/gear damage and traffic control signals, all from different angles if possible.
Accident scenes may change depending on construction or even the time of year. Having photos will ensure an accurate portrayal of conditions at the time of the accident. You should also take pictures of injuries, both initial and throughout the medical treatment and healing process, as well as pictures of the victim in the hospital or receiving medical care, and of medical equipment needed for the injury. These photos show the extent of injuries and are more convincing than mere words from a doctor in your medical records.
Many Chicago bicyclists are also utilizing video cameras on their helmet or handlebars. These small video recorders do an amazing job recording both the crucial information leading up to the actual collision and the moments following. Understandably, these videos can have a real impact on insurance adjusters and juries react when they see how a bicycle accident happened in ‘real time’.
The statute of limitations for bodily injury claims in Illinois is two years from the date of the accident (735 ILCS 5/13-202), and five years from the date of the accident for property damage claims. 735 ILCS 5/13-205. This means that you must file a lawsuit, or a accept a final settlement within these time frames, or you may lose your right to recover compensation. http:// insurance.illinois.gov/autoinsurance/auto_other_co_claim.asp.
It depends on the facts of your case, but you may be entitled to more than just compensation for your medical bills. There are several types of damages, or money that you may be able to recover. Compensatory damages may be recoverable to compensate you for the money you are out, such as medical bills that you have incurred, property damages, or lost wages. If any of your property was damaged in the accident, including your bike, helmet, or clothing, make sure you take note of the items, and keep any receipts if you have to replace anything.
That information will be especially helpful if the driver can be proved to be at fault. Pain and suffering damages may also be available, as well as lost future earnings and future medical expenses, in some cases. 72 U. Chi. L. Rev. 537. Punitive damages may be recoverable, in some instances, if the other party’s acts were intentional or particularly egregious. Punitive damages are non-economic and are intended to penalize the defendant. They may not be recovered without compensatory damages.
In wrongful death bicycle lawsuits, damages for surviving spouses may include loss of pecuniary damages, such as loss of economic support, damages for grief and sorrow, loss of services, and loss of society. 740 ILC5 180/1. If your case proceeds to trial, the jury or trier-of-fact determines the amount of damages. Schaffner v. Chicago & North Western Transp. Co., 161 Ill. App. 3d 742, 749 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 1987).
In general, as a bicyclist, you have the same rights and duties as drivers on the road. 625 ILCS 5/11-1502. Therefore, you must obey all traffic laws that apply to drivers, like yielding to pedestrians or stopping at stop signs, for example. This includes a responsibility to pedestrians when propelling your bike on the sidewalk or a crosswalk, as well as giving audible signals to pedestrians before passing them. 625 ILCS 5/11-1512. Further, as a bicyclist, you cannot ride your bike where prohibited by official traffic control devices. Id. Chicago prohibits bicyclists from riding on sidewalks unless the rider is under twelve years old. Chicago, Ill., Code § 9-52-020(b) (2008).
Yes. There are several special Illinois laws and administrative codes for bicyclists. First, Illinois requires that only one person ride a bike. 625 ILCS 5/11-1503. There are, however, exceptions for adults carrying children in slings. Id. Next, it is unlawful for a bicyclist to ride anywhere aside from designated vehicular roadways or bike trails. 17 Ill. Adm. Code 110.165.
Further, when riding slower than the flow of traffic, bicyclists must ride as close to the right curb or side of the street as is safe, except when passing another bike, when making a left-hand turn, or when necessary to avoid other obstacles. 625 ILCS 5/11-1505. Alternatively, on one-way roads, when there are two or more lanes, a bicycle rider may ride as near to the left curb as is safe.Id.
While riding at night, a bicycle must be equipped with a white light on the front and red reflectors in the back. 625 ILCS 5/11-1507. It is against the law to ride without proper brakes. Id. There is also a law regarding bicycle parking, which allows bicycles to be parked on sidewalks, where it is not prohibited, as long as they do not obstruct the normal and reasonable movement of pedestrians. 625 ILCS 5/11-1513.
If your child has been killed in a bicycle accident, you can file a wrongful death suit against the at-fault driver. If your child was injured while riding his or her bicycle, you may be able to recover damages, as you would for an adult. Illinois uses the Tender Years Doctrine, which states that children under seven years old are incapable of negligence, and thus cannot legally contribute to an accident they were involved in. Appelhans v. McFall, 325 Ill. App. 3d 232, 239 (Ill. App. Ct. 2d Dist. 2001). In Illinois, where a minor child between the ages of 7 and 14 is involved in the accident, there is a rebuttable presumption that the child is not capable of contributory negligence. Savage v. Martin, 256 Ill. App. 3d 272, 281 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 1993). This means that it is presumed that that child cannot contribute to the cause of the accident, and the jury must take into account the child’s age, capacity, and intelligence in determining his or her fault. Id.
You may be able to sue the repair shop if you can prove that they were negligent in repairing your bicycle and that the negligent repair contributed to the cause of your accident. Further, you may be entitled to recover from the bicycle manufacturer if the bicycle design itself caused your accident and injuries via a product liability lawsuit.
Yes. An expert witness is someone who has knowledge of a material factual matter beyond that of an average person because of his or her education, training, or experience. 107 Ill. 2d R. 220(a)(1). There may be a few different types of bicycle experts. Illinois courts have accepted engineers, bicycle designers, and even former bicycle racers to testify as bicycle experts. Schaffner v. Chicago & North Western Transp. Co., 161 Ill. App. 3d 742, 750 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 1987). These experts may testify to the bicycle’s safety features, or other design aspects that may or may not have contributed to the accident.
Attorneys are useful in bicycle accidents as they can make the post-accident process easier for you. They do the work to obtain police reports, and other relevant information necessary for your recovery, as well as help you through the insurance claim process. Chicago bike accident lawyers are there to fight for the best outcome for you, unlike insurance companies, who want the best bottom line for themselves. They can negotiate with the insurance companies, and they know what personal information is necessary to turn over and what is not, especially regarding medical authorizations (see FAQ #6).
Attorneys can also provide guidance on what documents mean and what consequences they have on your ability to recover. A good example of this is release forms, which release the insurance company from paying any more money on your particular claim after you sign, even if your injury gets worse. Your attorney may advise that you do not sign a release form with the insurance company so that in the event your injuries from the accident worsen, you will not be barred from recovering more money in the future. Additionally, an attorney can be invaluable in the event that an insurance company decides against you.
Nothing can prepare you for an accident. No matter how careful you may be as you navigate through the Chicago streets, all it takes is a split second for a driver to take his or her eyes off the road and a collision may follow. As an injured person, many insurance companies work quickly to offer you a settlement that may be totally inadequate and insufficient with the hope that you will accept their offer. Before you consider resolving a bike injury case, talk to a law firm that has successfully resolved hundreds of claims and lawsuits for injured cyclists.
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers provides a no obligation case evaluation for all Chicago bicycle injury and related accidents, so call us now at 888-424-5757 or complete our online contact form for assistance.