Motorcycle-Firefighter Killed After Being Cut Off by U-Turning Vehicle; Estate of Schroeder v. Wright

Motorcyclists have a higher fatality rate than drivers of cars. This is due to many factors, but one is the fact that motorists frequently fail to notice motorcycles. In many accidents, the motorcyclist is not wearing a helmet. In some instances, motorcyclists are traveling at high rates of speed, and they collide with a car or truck. Such was the case in the death of D.S.

D.S. was operating a motorcycle eastbound on Aug. 31, 2008 on Higgins Road in Schaumburg when he entered the intersection at Mall Drive with a green light. He was cut off by a car operated by the defendant, T.W. She was making a U-turn from westbound Higgins to head eastbound.

D.S. was killed in the crash. He was survived by his wife and three mnior children. D.S. was a firefighter and paramedic with the Deerfield-Bannockburn Fire Department. At the time of the accident, he was driving a high-performance motorcycle on his way to a charity run.

The defendant was visiting from out of state. Several witnesses testified at trial that the defendant suddenly and unexpectedly made a wide and slow U-turn without activating her turn signal, and she cut D.S. off as he entered the intersection. The defense contended that the sole cause of the accident was the high rate of speed of the motorcycle driven by D.S. Witnesses said he was traveling at 70 or 80 mph in a zone posted for 40 mph. Some witnesses said he might have been racing another motorcycle. Schaumburg police calculated his speed at 111 mph using a “speed to gears” formula, which relied upon the tachometer RPM needle reading and gear post-accident.

The plaintiff’s defense argued that the use of this formula was flawed because the tachometer separated from the bike and was damaged, and the gear shift lever was broken as a result of the accident.

Before this lawsuit was filed, the plaintiff’s estate made a demand of $100,000, which was rejected. After the suit was filed, the policy limit was offered, but the plaintiff’s attorneys rejected the offer as “too late” and pursued an excess verdict and bad faith claim, maintaining it was bad faith not to have tendered the policy pre-suit.

The plaintiff’s family sought damages for their grief and sorry pursuant to the amended Illinois Wrongful Death Act. Photos entered into evidence showed the minor children crying at their father’s funeral, with the oldest child holding a shovel at the grave site. Another photo showed a child receiving the father’s firefighter helmet. Dozens of uniformed firefighters from several departments were shown surrounding the family mourning over the casket.

The jury reached a not guilty verdict in this case. The case was tried before Judge Donald J. Suriano of Cook County.

This was reported in the Cook County Jury Verdict Reporter.

Chicago’s Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois motorcycle accident lawsuits and Chicago wrongful death matters for individuals and families for more than 36 years in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Woodstock, Morton Grove, Niles, Calumet City, and South Holland.

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