This blog has discussed “dooring” and Chicago bike accidents to some degree. These incidents occur (sometimes hit-and-run) when a person opens a car door (usually while parallel parked on a street) and a passing bicyclist slams into it. This behavior has only recently been classified as a traffic offense in the Windy City. But even so, many bicyclists still think that Chicago is an unsafe city in which to ride bikes. Sadly, an accident last week will certainly bolster that opinion.
On Friday morning just before 9am, a 32-year old man was riding his bicycle to work northbound on North Wells Street near the North Side of downtown Chicago. Just past Oak Street near Walter Payton High School, a driver of a parked car opened a door into the pathway of the bicyclist. He swerved and managed to avoid the door – but rode into the path of a tractor-trailer and was crushed by the 18-wheeler’s back wheels. He was pronounced dead on the scene.
The driver of the big rig was not cited, although the person who tried to exit the parked car did receive a traffic citation by Chicago Police. But that “minor” traffic citation could turn out to be very expensive if the person is named as a defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit by the (unmarried) victim’s parents.
It appears that the plaintiffs would have a strong case if they argue that the victim would still be alive had the person not opened the car door without checking for bicycle traffic. If the lawsuit is successful, the defendant may be ordered to reimburse the family for burial expenses and perhaps even pay monetary damages for loss of companionship and mental anguish. In addition, a jury could very well order the defendant to pay out future wages that the 32-year old attorney would have earned in his lifetime had the bicycle accident never occurred.