Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Bicyclist Hit in Crosswalk and Dragged 50 Feet Receives Settlement of Insurance Policy Maximum

The Illinois Bicycle Lawyers at Keating Law Offices recently attained a six-figure settlement on behalf of a Bolingbrook bicyclist who was seriously injured when he was hit while riding across the street in a marked crosswalk. This serious collision occurred when the driver of a Chrysler 300 made a quick right-hand turn across the crosswalk of a busy intersection without properly checking for bicyclists or pedestrians first.

The collision occurred at the intersection of Boughton Road and Whitewater in Bolingbrook. Boughton Road is a major street in Bolingbrook with two lanes of traffic and turn lanes in each direction at its intersection with Whitewater. Two crosswalks cross Boughton at this intersection; one at the north end and one at the south. Both crosswalks are enclosed by bold, solid white stripes to attract the attention of passing motorists and clearly define the area for crossings.

On the early morning of September 21, 2013, the bicyclist was crossing the intersection of Boughton Road and Whitewater Drive. The bicyclist, a very experienced and avid rider, was riding across the northern crosswalk with the "Walk" signal clearly illuminated. As the bicyclist crossed the intersection, a white Chrysler 300 sedan driving in the opposite direction attempted to make a right-hand turn across the crosswalk onto westbound Boughton. Shockingly, the motorist failed to immediately notice that she hit the bicyclist, and dragged him along the pavement of Boughton Road for a staggering distance of 50 feet before finally coming to a stop. The motorist told the police officer that she never saw the bicyclist when making the right-hand turn. The bicyclist sustained a leg injury that required hospitalization and surgery.

The official police report for this crash indicates that both the motorist and the bicyclist technically had a green light traveling on Boughton in opposite directions. But having a “green light” alone does not automatically give someone the right-of-way. For example, even if a motorist has a green light, they still are required by Illinois law to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk, since pedestrians and bicyclists using a crosswalk actually have the right-of-way. The logic and policy behind this Illinois bicycle law is that it gives people - whether they be pedestrians or bicyclists - using a crosswalk enough time to safely cross without interference from cars trying to turn on or off of the street.

Illinois law is very clear regarding the protections provided to bicyclists crossing in crosswalks. Multiple provisions of the Illinois Vehicle Code require motorists to yield to bicyclists within crosswalks. Section 5/11-1002(e) states in part: “Whenever stop signs or flashing red signals are in place at an intersection or at a plainly marked crosswalk between intersections, drivers shall yield right-of-way to pedestrians as set forth in Section 11-904 of this Chapter.” The referenced Section 11-904(b) requires drivers approaching a stop sign to come to a complete stop before entering a crosswalk at an intersection and to yield to the right-of-way of any vehicle that has entered the intersection.

The legal implication of these laws in the case of the injured Bolingbrook bicyclist is that it does not matter that the motorist had a green light. The motorist had a responsibility under Illinois law not only to look out for pedestrians and bicyclists in the crosswalk, but to yield the right-of-way to the bicyclist no matter what. The bicyclist had the right-of-way and the motorist was supposed to "share the road" with the bicyclist.

The harsh reality in this case is that the motorist failed on two fronts. First, the motorist failed to see the bicyclist in the first place. This is known as the "failure to keep a proper lookout." Second, the motorist failed to adhere to the Illinois Rules of the Road and yield to the bicyclist. These two failures combined to create a collision that severely injured the bicyclist.

In the end the matter was settled for the six-figure policy limits of the driver's automobile insurance coverage. In simple terms, this means that the insurance company paid every penny it was obligated to pay under the terms of its insurance policy. The bicyclist has also been able to make a claim for his totaled road bike, cycling gear, and kit. This settlement will allow the bicyclist to move forward and get back on his bike after he is now emerging from a long period of rehabilitation.