While a Cook County jury awarded almost $3 million to a bicyclist hit by a dump truck, the verdict was reduced by 50% for what the jury found to be the bicyclist’s responsibility in her own accident. This bicycle-auto accident verdict suggests that even though bicyclists are more vulnerable than cars or trucks, they, too, must share the responsibility for maintaining a safe roadway environment. Lucyna Kubisztal Smith and Danny Smith v. Suburban General Construction, Inc. and William S. Chase, 07 L 6481.
The bicycle-truck accident occurred in June 2007 at the intersection of 86th Avenue and 111th Street in Palos Hills. The 49 year-old Lucyna Smith had been riding her bicycle on the sidewalk along the 111th Street, but then entered the crosswalk in order to cross 86th Avenue. At the same time, the 29 year-old William Chase was driving a dump truck along 86th Avenue. Chase failed to see Smith and ended up not only running her and her bicycle over, but then continued to drag her under the dump truck for an estimated 30 to 50 feet.
Smith sustained multiple fractures, including those to her pelvis, sacrum, lumber spine, and cervical spine. The damage to her cervical spine aggravated her pre-existing cervical arthritis and required a spinal decompression and fusion surgery across five different levels. Smith’s doctors predict that she will also require a hip replacement in the near future as a result of the intersection accident. In addition, she was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and subsequent depression. Smith brought a personal injury lawsuit against Chase for her injuries and lost time from her job as a housekeeper. In addition, her husband brought a separate loss of consortium claim for the loss of service and companionship of his wife.
The dump truck that Chase was driving was owned by Suburban General Construction; as the owner of the vehicle they were also named as defendants in the trucking accident lawsuit. At the Cook County trial, the defendant driver claimed that he never saw Smith in the crosswalk, which is why he made no attempts to avoid hitting her. To support his claim, Chase offered up the fact that his dump truck was 6’2″ high, while Smith was only 5’2″ and therefore would have been in his blind spot. However, three eyewitnesses testified that Smith had been moving slowly when she crossed the street, which suggested that Chase could have avoided hitting her if he had seen her.
Perhaps more compelling was a piece of evidence in support of the defendants’ case was that Chase had the green light at the time of the bike-truck accident. Chase argued that Smith had entered the intersection in violation of the red light and rode her bicycle into the path of Chase’s dump truck. The defense brought two eyewitnesses forward who confirmed that the truck had a green light at the time of the intersection accident.
Prior to the start of the Cook County personal injury trial, the defendants had submitted an offer of $700,000 to Smith and of $120,000 to her husband for his separate claim. However, the Smiths rejected both offers and proceeded to the trial. This decision seems to indicate foresight on the part of the Smiths, as the jury entered a $2.9 million verdict against the defendants.
While the original verdict amount was reduced by 50% for Smith’s contributory negligence in entering the intersection against the red light, the plaintiffs were still left with a verdict award of $1.5 million. Of that total award, $1,459,300 went towards Smith’s claims:
-$411,250 for past pain and suffering;
-$612,500 for future pain and suffering;
-$549,917 for past loss of normal life;
-$547,917 for future loss of normal life;
-$250,000 for disfigurement;
-$187,017 for past medical expenses;
-$181,000 for future medical expenses; and
-$181,000 for present cash value of future loss of earnings.
The remaining $41,665 went to her husband:
-$4,800 for past loss of services;
-$22,100 for future loss of services;
-$9,400 for past loss of consortium; and
-$47,030 for future loss of consortium.
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling bicycle accident cases and truck accident lawsuits for more than 35 years in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Bensenville, Calumet Park, Lombard, Tinley Park, and Dolton.
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