Bicycle Accidents & Injuries

Eliminating Car and Ped Traffic Accidents

What do you call an accident where a car strikes a pedestrian? Is it a car accident or a pedestrian accident. When urban planners and mayors set out to eliminate traffic deaths, who do they target?

First they examined the statistics and found that the number of traffic fatalities caused by car accidents attributable to speeding was 33,808 in 2013. Latest data available in the United States show pedestrian fatalities caused by a car accident at 4,473. The highest percentage of pedestrian fatalities occurred in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Houston and LosAngeles.
90 percent of all pedestrians killed were in a single car accident and 19% are killed by hit and run drivers. 73% of car accidents causing the death of a pedestrian were in urban areas with 70% of fatalities occurring at non-intersections.
More than a third (37%) of pedestrian killed, and 1 in 8 (13%) of the drivers had blood alcohol concentrations of .08 g/dl or higher, the illegal limit in every State.

Car accidents resulting in the death of a pedestrian continue to increase by a solid 3% per year. So what were the conclusions reached?

The obvious: pedestrians and drivers do not obey laws and signals consistently and in addition, often used cell phones and ear phones while walking and driving!

Simply put, there is no one target in the quest to prevent car accidents and pedestrian fatalities. Numerous urban proposals and projects now involve shared responsibilities among drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, traffic enforcers and street designers, all of whom must change behaviors and attitudes.

Slowing traffic may be the most immediately effective measure for pedestrian and safety as well as in the prevention of all car accidents. When struck by a vehicle going 40 miles an hour, pedestrian has an 85 percent chance of dying and a higher chance of sustaining chance of sustaining a serious injury such as brain trauma. This compares with a 45 percent chance when struck at 30 miles per hour. Every 5 mph increment makes a huge difference in the pedestrian’s or driver’s ability to avoid the accident, serious injury or fatality.

Drivers tend to go as fast as conditions allow. There are many design strategies, called “traffic calming measures”, that force drivers to slow down. These measures are self-regulatory and may deter drivers off roads heavily used by pedestrians. For example, speed bumps, textured pavement and raised crosswalks remind a driver of his speed and cause him to slow.
Roundabouts are equally effective but often cause confusion for all parties.

I personally love the signs that flash the speeds of passing cars. I’ve never seen it fail to cause everyone to hit the brakes!

The Federal Highway Administration lists many measures that, in additions to slowing traffic, can render pedestrians and cyclist more visible and street crossings safer. The pedestrian bridge is great but not always feasible but an alternative on a wide street could be the installation of mid-crossing pedestrian islands.

The unavoidable take-away is that drivers, pedestrians and cyclists all share responsibility for safety. Peds and cycists can wear reflective gear, Drivers and cyclists can slow down, no one should drive, walk or cycle distracted, all must keep vigilant, follow traffic laws and signals-they serve to keep everyone in their own lane. Don’t depend on the other guy to follow the rules-you may have the right of way but it’s no fun to explain that to a police office from your hospital bed. It is always better to stay safe than to call Grazian and Volpe for assistance in obtaining compensation for your injuries. But if you can’t stay safe stay with Chicago’s most trusted and experienced personal injury lawyers for over 30 years.

Bicycle Safer By Avoiding the Right Cross

The most common and unfortunate way a cyclist and vehicle meet is referred to as the “right cross”. When referring to car on car accidents, personal injury lawyers may call this the “t-bone”.

A right cross occurs when a driver pulls out from the right of a cyclist, say from a side street, parking lot or driveway. Sometimes a cyclist doesn’t see the driver and vice versa because there is an obstruction like a parked car or tree blocking their view. Impact can happen in two ways: either the driver hits the cyclist front on -to the cyclist’s side or the cyclist slams into the side of the car. In this collision, the cyclist is generally traveling at a higher speed because she doesn’t expect the car. Neither way is pretty. Injuries can be serious with a brain concussion being the most consistent result.

This accident can be avoided by several means:

1) Lights, Lights, Lights! At night it’s the law. During the day a flashing light makes you more visible. In this situation a driver is not looking at the bike lane or closer to the curb-he’s looking at the middle of the lane. Flashing lights may alert him to something he is not expecting.

2) If you see the driver but can’t make eye contact-wave or use a loud horn. My wife has a scary loud horn that I thought may get her shot or provoke a hit but has actually saved her from collisions. You may feel obnoxious but you won’t end up in the emergency room.

3) Slow down. Especially at night. In familiar territory you should note these potential hazards and know where you are vulnerable. In new territory, you need to ride slower. Period.

4) Ride further left in the lane. This advice is good for a number of fact patterns but especially for the right cross. You may worry about getting hit from behind but the stats do not support that concern. It all depends on the road. On fast roadways with few pull out points staying to the right is better. On slow roadways, staying to the left is smarter. The farther left you are, the better a driver may see you and the better able are you to avoid a collision or mitigate the impact by giving all the opportunity to slow down or giving the cyclist the opportunity to speed up and avoid the car.

From a personal injury lawyers standpoint, this can be a good settlement lawsuit. The cyclist is usually pretty injured and a car always bears some fault. However, the cyclist may also be at fault for riding too fast or not having lights. Grazian and Volpe has had great success in obtaining good settlements for cyclists. The cyclists are grateful for the money but would have rather avoided the accident. Hopefully, this article will help others avoid the dreaded “right cross.”

Older Pedestrians Need Our Care

41 million Americans are 65 or older. They are enjoying active and healthier lifestyles achieved often through the simple act of walking. Walking increases bone and muscle strength, mobility, agility and independence. It helps to prevent, delay and control chronic illness and fosters social interactions and better quality of life.

However, walking, for all its benefits, presents a risk to older pedestrians that could be preventable.

The December issue of AARP Bulletin noted that people 65 and older make up 13 percent of the population but account for a disproportionate share of pedestrian deaths. This population also sustains more severe injuries than other demographics when hit by a car or bicycle.

Many factors increase the risk for older pedestrians. They may not see or hear as well, think as clearly or move as fast as they once did. Some may fail to make appropriate accommodations for these declines.

Reckless drivers and cyclists may be equally culpable in the rising incidence of older pedestrian injuries. Drivers and cyclists may be dismissive of the capabilities of older pedestrians by trying to turn around a slow pedestrian in a cross walk or speeding around corners where older pedestrians are attempting to cross.

Until recently, most communities were built for easy vehicular access, not pedestrian safety. Wide two-way streets, often with multiple lanes can make it impossible for an older person to cross in one light.

Drivers and cyclists alike need to be aware of the special considerations of older pedestrian. Aggressive movement cannot be accommodated by older pedestrians and it is the duty of the driver or cyclist to make appropriate adjustments.

Older pedestrians can protect themselves by:

1) Wearing reflective and light clothing
2) Be aware of cyclists as a danger-older pedestrians often don’t look for cyclists
3) Heed the traffic light count-down
4) Enlist the help of other pedestrians to assure safe passage
5) Time your walk across frequently used streets and refrain from stepping off the curb unless there’s enough time left to reach the other side safely
6) I can’t recommend this strategy but many of our older clients state that they prefer to cross in the middle of a block where they can see traffic from both directions and do not need to worry about turning cars.

Walking is a basic need and right of life. Let’s try to make walking safe and enjoyable for older pedestrians.

Cyclists: One Way Not to Get Hit

Grazian and Volpe have litigated thousands of car and bike accidents over the last 30 years. Some are unavoidable but we are constantly reminded how many accidents are totally preventable.

A growing area of our practice involves cyclists. Chicago strives to be a bicycle friendly city and we applaud the efforts. Cycling is healthy and good for the environment. However, the city has a long way to go before it is “bicycle friendly.” Drivers and cyclists are the main culprits in any bicycle/car accident. Most times it is the result of ignorance of proper protocol.

Bicycle accidents are often serious and sometimes fatal; not to the driver but always to the cyclist. Cyclists can scream and swear at bad drivers but cars are huge metal shells traveling at high speeds. Impact with a bicycle is of little consequence (physically) to the driver or passenger in a car. Our largest settlements are always for the cyclist because cyclists are unprotected and their injuries can be horrific. Many a cyclist have been grateful for a large settlement but all wish their accident never happened.

A proper fitting helmet, back and front lights and adherence to bicycle law is a given. After the basics a cyclist must be aware of the most vulnerable cycling situations.

The most common accident we have seen in the last year is what I refer to as the “Right Hook”. This involves a car passing you on your left and then making a right turn directly in front of you or right into you. Drivers think they can pass a slower bicycle and underestimate the speed at which a cyclist is traveling. This is a hard collision to avoid because the cyclist does not see the driver until it is too late. There is no escape maneuver available in this situation. There are three rules for avoiding the right hook:

1) Don’t ride on the sidewalk! You are invisible to a driver when you are on the sidewalk and enter the street to cross.
2) As you approach the intersection, take the middle position in the lane. If the street is narrow-definitely take the whole lane. Move to the right as you cross the intersection.
3) Add a mirror to your bike or helmet. Every cyclist knows that looking over your left shoulder causes the bike to serve dangerously to the left. A mirror allows you to see cars on your left without this risk.
4) Never pass a slow moving car on the right. Move to the left and make visual contact with the driver.
5) Watch for passengers that may be exiting on the right. A slowing car may indicate a driver who is about to unload a passenger.

ALWAYS RIDE AS IF YOU ARE INVISIBLE!

Bicycle Recall: Trek 2013 Madone

The lawyers at Grazian and Volpe are ever vigilant for any information that can help cyclers stay safe and avoid injury.
We came across a new brief stating that approximately 6,800 Trek model Madone bikes manufactured as 2013 models have been recalled by Trek Bicycles of Waterloo, Wisconsin.

The reason is that the front brake of this bicycle may fail causing a bicycle crash hazard. Trek has received five reports of loose front brake attachment bolts but, fortunately, no injuries to date.

Consumers should stop using the bikes immediately and take the bikes to a Trek dealer for a free front brake system replacement.

These are expensive bikes ranging between $3400 and $15,000 and carrying the model numbers 5.2, 5.9, 6.2, 6.5, 7.7 or 7.9 and serial numbers starting at WTU and ending with G or H.

We applaud Trek for recalling these bikes before any injuries occurred. Grazian and Volpe have noted an uptick in bicycle recalls by various manufacturers. We feel this is probably due to the surge in cycling as a sport and commuter alternative and the need for manufacturers to supply more inventory to dealers.

Bicycle maintenance and repair are crucial in helping cyclers contribute to a safer cycling environment and avoid bicycle accidents and injuries.

Trek cyclers can contact Trek at 800-373-4594 or online at www.trekbikes.com for more information.

Cyclers interested in bicycle recalls may access the Consumer Product Safety Commission at www.cpsc.gov/en/Recalls.

Bicyclists Assaulted on Road-Don’t Forget Auto Insurance!

Nationwide, the number of road assaults against bicyclists has sky-rocketed. The quickly growing popularity of cycling as a healthful and cheap alternative to motor commuting has led to some hard feelings between drivers and cyclists. Generally, these “meeting” are limited to some harsh words, horns and a few hand gestures. However, in some instances there can be physical violence. In Chicago, as in other urban areas, the level of bicyclists taking to the city streets has doubled in the last 7 years leading to a new class of rapidly growing plaintiffs in personal injury lawsuits- the bicyclist as an assault victim. Grazian and Volpe has received an increasing number of calls from cyclists who have suffered serious personal injury due to criminal activity from a motorist or more rarely, from a pedestrian.

The most recent case involved a woman cycling home from work on Damen Avenue on the north side of Chicago. A passenger in a Ford Bronco traveling in the same direction grabbed the strap on her backpack, dragging her for approximately 15 feet before speeding up and letting go causing her to careen into a bank of parked cars. The victim sustained a traumatic brain injury, broken collarbone and wrist. The Bronco took off and the woman was taken to the hospital by ambulance where a police report was taken. Fortunately, city cameras documented the whole incident and the victim was able to press criminal charges as well as make a
claim against the driver’s car insurance for her injuries. The driver’s insurance was insufficient to fully compensate her and she was able to file a claim against her auto insurance for the balance of her injuries and a new bicycle.

We chose to pursue a criminal prosecution because the incident was fully documented on video and therefore very helpful in our civil lawsuit for personal injury. However, it is not necessary and not always advisable to file criminal charges. In many cases, we have determined that it is more advantageous to file a personal injury lawsuit and save the plaintiff the time and emotional strain of a criminal trial where the standard of proof is more rigorous and favors the defendant. In general, each case needs to be assessed on its own merits especially where the the pursuit of a criminal action may be a moral duty of the plaintiff to deter similar crimes in the future through prosecutorial action.

Often times the cyclist is unable to identify their assailant due to the trauma of the incident. In this case, it is considered presumptively to be an uninsured motorist claim and the victim may file a claim for injuries with their auto insurance carrier or with the insurance carrier of any blood relative with whom they live. Yes, you may file a claim with your cousin’s, your father’s your sister or brother’s auto insurance if you live in the same home. Millions of dollars in potential compensation has been left on the table because cyclists are not aware that they can avail themselves of either the driver’s, their own auto insurance or that of a blood relative in their home.

Chicago is becoming a mecca for cyclists and also a city of increasing bicycle accidents. Cyclists need to wear full safety gear, obey appropriate traffic directives and be aware of their legal rights and liabilities on the road. This is a fascinating area of evolving law and Grazian and Volpe is a law firm leading the charge in advocacy for injured cyclists. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions regarding bicyclist’s rights and safety- we are here for the Chicago cycling community!

Great New Gadgets to Avoid Bicycle Accidents

Many readers of the Grazian Volpe blog site may be aware of the adventures of my bike-riding spouse. Her insistence on braving the roads and paths of Chicago on her trusty Cannondale bike knows no limit for weather or traffic conditions resulting in more than a couple visits to the emergency room for broken bones and concussions.

Over the years, I have written extensively on this blog site about bicycle safety and injuries. Grazian and Volpe has advocated on behalf of injured bicyclists for 30 years and the growing popularity of commuter biking is adding significantly to our client list.

I write this in a humorous tone but am dead serious about the prevention of bicycle accidents. In our experience, the cyclist always gets the worst of any accident whether with a car, truck, other cyclist or even a pedestrian. Cyclists often suffer the most serious of injuries including broken bones, brain trauma and in several cases, death.

We have endeavored with this blog site to provide helpful information to promote bicycle safety and prevent serious injuries. It was with great excitement that I read an article in last weeks New York Times detailing some great new products aimed at creating a better and safer cycling experience for urban and all cyclists. The article was in the March 10, 2014 NYTimes and was written by Meghan Petersen. It deserves a read by all and a save for future reference.

While Ms. Petersen details safety, fitness and security innovatiosn, I want to list several in this post which I thought especially useful and potentially life and injury saving as applied to our experience with bicycle and car accidents.

One such product was developed by Philip McAleese of Newtownards, North Ireland and is called the See.Sense. The See.Sense is a bike light designed to make cyclists more visible. The See.Sense has sensors that react to surrounding light levels and movement by flashing in a pattern similar to an ambulance or police car. If a cyclist swerves or brakes the SeeSense will emit flashing lights indicating a change in speed and direction. The beam on the SeeSense is extra broad making the bike visible from all angles thus helping to prevent a side-on collision.

Jonathan Lansey, a Boston biker spent so much time dodging cars on his daily urban commute that he began a Kickstarter campaign to finance the production of a bike horn, the Loud Bicycle which sounds like a two-toned car horn at roughly the same decibels-112. He has tested the horn and found that drivers reacted as if to another car which is to say, immediately!

I especially love this one both as a driver and a cyclist- it is called the XFire Bike Lane Light. This light is equipped with two high-visibility red lasers that project two three-foot lines onto the road, creating the cyclists own bike lane and is visible to motorists up to a mile away.

The Hodving is a high-tech inflatable bike helmet that works like a automobile air bag. It looks like a fashionable neck scarf and detects the impact of a crash and inflates like a helmet around both neck and head. The Hodving was designed in Sweden and not yet available in the United States. Safety tests performed in Sweden by the Folksam insurance company indicate that the Hodving may be three times more effective than a standard bike helmet. My wife suggests this justifies a trip to Europe but I think we will hold off for US distribution.

The best point in the article is that all cyclists need to remember that they are sharing the road with drivers and other cyclists. Predictable behavior should be practiced and unexpected and unsafe maneuvers are often the catalyst for serious accidents.

So remember to ride smart and ride safe and remember Grazian and Volpe when all else fails!

Bicycle and Large Truck Accidents and Deaths Rise Suddenly and Sharply

Deaths of bicyclists and occupants of large trucks rose sharply last year even as total traffic fatalities dropped to their lowest level since 1949 according to federal safety officials. Bicyclists deaths jumped 8.7 percent and deaths of occupants of large trucks increased 20 percent while overall traffic fatalities dropped 1.9 percent.

The increase in bicycle deaths may reflect more people riding bicycles to work and for pleasure according to Jonathan Adkins, deputy executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association which represents state highway safety agencies.

For example, in Washington D.C. there has been at 175 percent increase in bicyclists during morning and evening rush hours since 2004.

The increase in large truck accidents in death may be more difficult to ascertain. The NHTSA is working with the Federal Motor Carrier Administration to gather more information to better understand the reason for the increase. Industry officials suspect there may be a connection between states increasing their speed limits and the increase in deaths. Texas has increased the speed limit to 85 mph on Highway 130 between Austin and San Antonio with a correlating increase in accidents.

Grazian and Volpe cannot stress enough the need for bicyclists to obey safety laws. where protective gear and use equipment and clothing that is lighted and/or visible in all weather conditions.

Remember-it is always better to stay safe and avoid accidents but if you can’t stay safe stay with Grazian and Volpe – Chicagoland’s Injury Lawyers for over 30 years.

When a Car and Bicycle Meet or Why Such Accidents are Never Romantic

Bicycle accidents with motor vehicles typically result in one of several scenarios, none in which the bicyclist comes out the better. Along with wearing a helmet and obeying traffic laws, nothing could contibute more to the safety of a bicyclist than to be aware of these scenarios and avoid them at all costs.

All of us have noticed the memorials to cyclists that dot the roadways of Chicago. Nine times of ten, these are located in the right lane, at a corner. The most common motor vehicle/bicycle accident occurs when a motorist makes a right turn across the bicyclist’s lane of traffic. The results are almost always dire or deadly.

The second most common accident is when a bicyclist or motorist fail to stop at a red light or stop sign or thirdly when a bicyclist or motorist pass improperly on the right.

In these types of accidents a bicyclist may face serious personal injury or even death. If there is a silver lining in these scenarios it will involve questions of liability which may be cleanly attributable to the motorist. When not clear, counsel must deal with insurance company and jury perceptions which cut against a cyclist which hold that a bicyclist is by his/her nature the more reckless party.

The most difficult and perhaps most unavoidable accident in a crowded urban environment such as Chicago is when a motor vehicle “doors” the bicyclist.

Dooring occurs when a motor vehicle driver or passenger opens a door into the bicyclist’s path. When a door opens suddenly and there is little room to maneuver due to traffic, the bicyclist will either “T-Bone” the open door, which results in the rider being thrown over the handlebars, or hit the door in a way that crushes or pinches the cyclist’s hands. Resultant injuries are serious and include comminuted fractures to fingers, hands or wrists. Counsel may only be able to find liability when the offending motor vehicle was illegally stopped i.e., a taxi driver stopped to let out a passenger in moving traffic. Otherwise, it is an uphill battle.

Bicyclists are at severe disadvantage to motor vehicles when it comes to accidents. They are unprotected, not easy to see, just plain smaller and face negative jury perception. It is incumbent upon cyclists to always be defensive and never, ever, count upon the competency or awareness of the motorist.

Remember, it is always best to stay safe, but is you can’t stay safe, stay with Grazian and Volpe, Chicagoland’s Injury Lawyers for over 30 years.

Challenges in Representing Bicycle Accidents

Bicycle traffic in Chicago is on a rapid growth track due to the price of gas, the green movement and more healthful living habits. The types and models of bicycles has ballooned and so has the incidence of bicycle accidents

Unfortunately, hundreds of Americans die and thousands more are injured in bicycle accidents each year. In 2009, 630 bicyclists were killed and 51,000 were injured in collisions with motor vehicles.

There are many similarities in representing clients who are injured in bicycle accidents and clients who are injured in motor vehicle accidents. There are common types of collisions, defenses to refute and juror biases. However there are key differences. For example, some roadway defects that pose hazards to bicycles are of little or no consequence to the motorist.

Potholes, improper trenching, loose debris and poor pavement transitions are some examples. Overgrown foliage or trees can cast a significant shadow on the roadway, obscuring the bicyclist from the view of oncoming traffic and contribute to collision if they impair the bicyclist’s vision.

Counsel should prepare for his/her case by researching these defects to determine if a single or combination of defects were responsible for the hazard. Counsel must establish the parties responsible for the creation of the defect, its length of existence and if there is a history of collisions at the site of the defect. Collision records may be requested from the city or county through a public records act request or through the highway patrol. A civil engineer familiar with roadway design and modification may be needed as an expert witness in cases where roadway design is to blame.

Several potential defendants may exist. Identify who was responsible for maintaining the roadway at issue. It may be a city or county, but private entities such as general contractors, project manager, and premises owners may also be responsible.

Grazian and Volpe has represented many victims of bicycle accidents in and around Chicago and South Chicago. Successful representation necessitates knowing the nuance particular to these types of accidents. In addition, counsel must understand basic bicycle mechanics and the bicycling laws in the jurisdiction where the accident occurred.

These are guidelines for representing the injured bicycle rider. Grazian and Volpe recommends first and foremost that riders wear helmets, have proper reflectors and lights on their  bikes, ride defensively and observe bicycle traffic laws.

Remember, it is better to stay safe, but if you can’t stay safe, stay with Grazian and Volpe, Chicagoland Injury Attorneys for over 30 years.