Many people in Chicago and other parts of Illinois ride a bike for recreation or to get where they’re going. While biking has benefits like providing exercise and reducing transportation costs, it also comes with an increased risk of injury.
The Chicago Department of Transportation reports that bicyclists are five times more likely to suffer serious injuries in an accident than those riding in a vehicle. Although a bicycle accident can happen anywhere, 85 percent of bicycle and pedestrian accidents in the state occur in the Chicago area.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a bicycle accident with a motor vehicle, it’s essential that you speak with an Illinois bicycle accident lawyer as soon as you’re able. The driver’s car insurance company is probably already working to prove you were at fault, so they won’t have to pay your claim.
Failing that, they may instead undervalue your damages. An experienced Illinois bicycle accident attorney can help you fight for your rights in this difficult situation.
How Can an Illinois Bicycle Accident Attorney Help?
When you are hit by a car or other vehicle on your bike, you have a high risk of serious injuries that could leave you in pain or out of work for weeks or months. Some accident victims believe it will be easy to get their damages covered by the car driver’s insurance company, but that’s not often the case for several reasons:
- The driver may claim you were at fault to avoid a ticket or higher insurance rates. Or, they may simply remember the accident differently than you do. To complicate matters, sometimes the bicyclist is unconscious or dazed due to their injuries and unable to coherently explain their side of the story to the responding police officers. Worse, they may not clearly remember what happened later because of a head injury or strong pain medication.
- Even if the car driver admits fault, their insurance company can still try to blame you. Illinois uses modified comparative negligence law, which states that an injured party may collect damages if they are less than 51 percent responsible for the accident. But any percentage of fault ascribed to the injured person is subtracted from their damages. As a result, the insurance company might claim that you were partly at fault so they can at least pay you less. Or they could argue that while their client made mistakes, you were more than 51 percent at fault, so they shouldn’t have to pay anything.
- Sometimes the insurance adjuster realizes it will be very difficult to blame you, so instead, they undervalue your claim. They might say certain medical treatments are unnecessary and completely overlook any damages you haven’t asked for – and many people have more damages than they know about! Your bicycle accident attorney can help by identifying and properly estimating all your damages and then negotiating with the insurance company to recover all the compensation you deserve.
What Is a Good Bicycle Accident Settlement Offer in Illinois?
Here is another scenario that can happen with a bicycle accident: The injured person receives a settlement offer from the driver’s insurance company very quickly after the accident. It seems like enough to cover their damages, so they accept.
Weeks or months later, the money runs out, and they’re still getting new medical bills for continued treatment.
This is a strategy where the insurance adjuster not only undervalues your claim but decides to be proactive and make a quick offer, hoping you’ll accept before you realize the amount is too low.
Insurance professionals know that many people will be so relieved the insurance company isn’t fighting the claim they’ll sign right away. They also know that most people aren’t knowledgeable enough about the law to accurately calculate their own damages.
For this reason, an offer of current medical bills plus a little extra could seem generous, even when it’s massively undervaluing the injured person’s claim. Unfortunately, once you accept the insurance company’s offer, you have no legal path to pursue further damages.
The best way to protect yourself in this situation is to speak with an experienced bicycle accident attorney before you sign anything. If an insurance adjuster calls and pushes you to accept the offer, you should be especially worried.
You do not have to answer or return their calls immediately – instead, call a lawyer right away.
What If The Driver Is Uninsured, Underinsured, or Unidentified?
Sometimes we meet clients who don’t think they have a claim because an uninsured driver hit them. Or, they suffered a hit-and-run accident, and the driver was never found.
These situations are frustrating, but please don’t give up until you’ve spoken with an attorney. In many cases, we can find a solution.
Just under 12 percent of Illinois drivers (11.8 percent) are uninsured. If an uninsured driver strikes you on your bicycle, you can sue them personally.
However, this is only a good solution if they have a reasonable amount of assets we can seize. In some cases, there is no real path to recovering damages if you win, and we don’t recommend putting yourself through the time and stress of a trial if you won’t be able to collect compensation at the end.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of options. If you have uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UI) coverage for your own car, you can use that policy to cover your damages in a bicycle accident – even if your car has nothing to do with the crash.
Many people have no idea this is an option until we tell them. It doesn’t occur to them to report a bicycle accident to their insurance carrier the way they would report an accident in their car.
Underinsured motorists are another concern. Illinois only requires $25,000 in bodily injury liability per person and $20,000 in damage liability.
The latter is usually sufficient for a bicycle accident – most people are not riding a $20,000 bicycle. Even if you have damage to a phone or laptop you were carrying, there will probably be enough coverage.
But the potentially low amount of bodily injury liability is concerning in a bicycle accident when many people suffer severe injuries. Broken bones, TBIs, back or spine injuries, soft tissue injuries, deep cuts, and abrasions – these may require expensive medical care, sometimes for months after the accident.
In some cases, the injured person could develop chronic pain or other persistent issues that need continued care. As a result, the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage can run out quickly if they only have the minimum amount.
With severe injuries, even a more robust policy may not cover everything.
Again, you have the option of suing the driver for expenses not covered by their insurance, but this is only worthwhile if they can pay the judgment. But, depending on the type of policy you have, you may be able to use your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage in this situation.
If you have a “stacked” policy, you can “stack” that coverage on top of whatever the at-fault driver’s insurance pays up to the limit of your own policy.
In a hit-and-run case, you can file a claim with the driver’s insurance if the police can find them. But in many cases, this isn’t possible, and the driver is never identified.
When this occurs, your only option is to file a claim with your uninsured/underinsured motorist policy. This is one of many reasons why we recommend buying a robust UM/UI policy if at all possible.
There are some less common situations where you might have a claim against a third party – someone who did not hit you but nonetheless contributed to your accident or injury. One example would be if your bike malfunctioned due to a manufacturer’s defect, and this caused you to crash.
Or, if your bike helmet or other safety equipment failed to perform up to the standards set for it, and this made your injuries worse, you might have a claim against the company.
Illinois’ Dram Shop Act allows a private cause of action against a business that sells alcohol if a customer later injures someone while intoxicated. Most states require the defendant to meet certain criteria for the bar or restaurant to be held liable.
For example, they may only allow liability if the establishment served someone who was already visibly intoxicated or under the age of 21. Illinois law does not have these requirements – it is only necessary to prove the business supplied alcohol that caused the driver’s intoxication.
If you were riding a bike and a drunk driver hit you, it’s likely that you don’t know where the driver got their alcohol. Your Illinois bicycle accident lawyer can investigate and find this information if the driver’s insurance coverage isn’t sufficient to cover your claims.
Third-party claims don’t apply to every case, but sometimes, we identify a potential claim the injured person may never have considered. Your lawyer will always work to find a solution so you can recover some or all of your damages if at all possible.
Staying Safe While Riding a Bike
You can reduce your risk of bicycle accidents and injuries by taking these steps:
- Never ride without a well-fitting helmet, even for a short trip. Bicycling accounts for more traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) seen in emergency rooms than in any other sport, but a helmet reduces the risk of head injury in an accident by more than 50 percent. Your helmet shouldn’t be uncomfortably tight, but it should fit snugly and shouldn’t move once you’ve adjusted the straps into place.
- Choose a bike that fits someone your size. Riding a bike that’s too big or small for you can increase the risk of an accident. If you have children who ride, check their bikes and helmets every few months to ensure they’re still a good fit.
- Work on making yourself visible. Fluorescent clothing is ideal for daytime bike rides, and reflective clothing works best at night. In Chicago, bicyclists riding at night are required to use a white light on the front of their bike that can be seen at 500 feet and a red light on the back that’s visible from 200 feet.
- If you regularly carry packages or other items, invest in a good quality bike basket so you can keep your hands on the handlebars.
- When crossing or riding on a street, always pay careful attention to vehicles around you. Even if you have the right of way, a driver might be distracted or fail to see you.
If you do have an accident on your bike, be sure to report it to the authorities and seek medical care, even if your injuries seem minor – some people don’t notice symptoms of their injuries at first.
If you can, take pictures of your injuries and the accident scene. It’s a good idea to document what happened so you can get appropriate care and seek reimbursement from the responsible party’s insurance carrier.
Contact An Illinois Bicycle Accident Law Firm Today
Recovering from a bicycle accident can be a long, painful process, and the last thing you need to do is worry about how you’ll pay for medical care and other expenses. Yet this is often a concern for injured bicyclists as their medical bills pile up and their paid time off dwindles.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a bicycle accident, please contact The Fakhouri Firm Accident and Injury Lawyers today for a free consultation about your case, or call us at (312) 999-9990.
We’ll evaluate your claim and estimate your damages, including medical bills, lost income, lost earning potential, permanent disability or disfigurement, pain and suffering, damage, and other damages.
Robert S. Fakhouri, founder and leading lawyer for The Fakhouri Firm Accident and Injury Lawyers, graduated from the Chicago-Kent College of Law and became one of the youngest members of the Illinois Bar. Mr. Fakhouri has achieved repeated recognition, including a Top 40 Under 40 designation from the National Trial Lawyers Association since 2020 and the Illinois Super Lawyer Rising Star title since 2019. He was also listed among the Top 25 Motor Vehicle Attorneys in 2023. He offers straightforward legal advice on various social media platforms.
After working as a law clerk and litigation associate, he founded The Fakhouri Firm to speak up and defend the rights of injured people. He speaks English, Spanish, and Arabic.