Saturday, July 2, 2016

Video Details Emerge That Chicago Bicyclist Virginia Murray Was Killed In Right-Hook Crash

Intersection of Sacramento and Belmont in Chicago's Avondale neighborhood.
The death of 25-year old Virginia Murray of Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood has made news headlines in large part because it is the first death of a bicyclist utilizing a bike share bicycle. However, the "right-hook" crash that took her life is unfortunately all too familiar in Chicago. Illinois and Chicago traffic laws that are already in place are designed to protect the bicyclist from this traffic scenario ever occurring. The driver of the flat-bed truck involved apparently did not see the bicyclist and failed to yield the right-of-way when making a right-hand turn. This is known as a "right-hook" crash.  

According to a new report from ABC 7 - Chicago, there is video surveillance footage that depicts the fatal collision between Chicago bicyclist Virginia Murray and the flat-bed tow truck. As reported in the report and previously reported information, the flatbed truck approached the light at Belmont on northbound Sacramento. The truck came to a stop. While stopped, 25-year old Virginia Murray, rode up to the right side of the truck between the curb and the truck itself. In the video it is clear that Ms. Murray was within the field of view of the truck's driver as the flat-bed truck began its turn. Ms. Murray's path was exactly the one that a Chicago bicyclist should follow. 

Illinois law requires bicyclists to ride as close as possible to the right-hand curb in situations like this. Section 11-1505 provides as follows:
Sec. 11-1505. Position of bicycles and motorized pedal cycles on roadways - Riding on roadways and bicycle paths. 
(a) Any person operating a bicycle or motorized pedal cycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall ride as close as practicable and safe to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under the following situations: 
1. When overtaking and passing another bicycle, motorized pedal cycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction; or 
2. When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway; or 
3. When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, bicycles, motorized pedal cycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge. For purposes of this subsection, a "substandard width lane" means a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle or motorized pedal cycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane; or 
4. When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized. 
(b) Any person operating a bicycle or motorized pedal cycle upon a one-way highway with two or more marked traffic lanes may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of such roadway as practicable. (Source: P.A. 97-813, eff. 7-13-12.)
The collision occurred when the truck turned right across Ms. Murray. This is what is known as a "right-hook" collision. In Chicago, the Chicago Municipal Code addresses this scenario. Section 9-16-020 of the Municipal Code of Chicago specifically prohibits right turns in front of bicycles. The infographic below details right-hook and left-hook bicycle crashes. The ordinance states:
When a motor vehicle and a bicycle are traveling in the same direction on any highway, street, or road, the operator of the motor vehicle overtaking such bicycle traveling on the right side of the roadway shall not turn to the right in front of the bicycle at that intersection or at any alley or driveway until such vehicle has overtaken and is safely clear of the bicycle.” 
As an attorney who focuses my practice on representing victims of bicycle crashes, right-hook collisions are unfortunately very common. The reason that these types of crashes are so common is simple: the motorist does not see the bicyclist even though they have the opportunity to do so. The motorist typically makes the turn without ever checking for other traffic - including bicycles - when making the turn and the collision occurs. 

The key words in the ordinance are "until such vehicle has overtaken and is safely clear of the bicycle." The weight of these words are that it is incumbent upon the motorist to make absolute certain that the path is clear before turning. In addition, the motor vehicle involved in this situation is the type of truck that is utilized in a professional capacity. Drivers of such vehicles are required to meet a higher duty to make sure they are driving safely at all times.

In Illinois the failure of a motorist to adhere to the Illinois Rules of the Road and the Chicago Municipal Code in a bicycle crash that leads to the death of a bicyclist can be the basis for a wrongful death claim against the driver. In cases where the driving was working at the time of the collision, the legal principle of respondeat superior applies. This legal principal means that the employer is responsible for the acts - including the failures - of its employee.

This is a tragic collision that has cost the life of another Chicago bicyclist. Our sincere thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Virginia Murray. 

Leaders In Bicycle Crash Litigation

Keating Law Offices is the premier law firm in Illinois that represents victims of bicycle accidents and crashes. Attorney Michael S. Keating is the Chair of the Bicycle Litigation Committee for the National Trial Lawyers Association, the American Association for Justice. Keating Law Offices has represented the families of the victims of some of the most high profile cases in Illinois. The firm is nationally renowned for its experience in handling cases stemming from injuries or wrongful deaths as a result of collisions with motor vehicles.

If you have any questions regarding this post or an issue involving Illinois personal injury law, contact Illinois Bicycle Attorney Michael S. Keating at 312-208-7702 or 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All e-mails and phone calls are returned promptly. All initial consultations are confidential and absolutely free and without any obligation.