A cyclist successfully brought a civil suit for brain damages caused by a hole in Route 111 in Wood River, Illinois. She was riding her bike next to the road when witnesses testified that it appeared she struck a hole and flipped over the handlebars. She was unconscious at the scene and bleeding from the ears. The injuries have prevented the woman from living a normal life.
The roadway and adjacent gutter and concrete had several defects that would not accomodate bicycle riders even though bicyclists are intended users of roadways. Illinois law provides the same protections to cyclists as it does to vehicles. Illinois statute 625 ILCS 5/11-1502 provides as follows: Traffic laws apply to persons riding bicycles. Every person riding a bicycle upon a highway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle. The Illinois Department of Transportation has an excellent website detailing applicable laws and safety precautions.
The woman was not wearing a helmet although it was unclear whether or not a helmet would have made a difference in these circumstances. Despite the fact that she was not wearing a helmet and had no memory of the event (because of the severe brain injury), a successful suit was brought. Illinois law does not require cyclists (or motorcyclists) to wear helmets and if the matter had gone to trial, a jury could not hold that against her.
Of other significance, suits against municipalities such as cities, are difficult and complex. Through the years, the state legislature has passed numerous laws making it difficult for injured persons to hold municipalities (cities, parks, schools…) accountable for their negligence. In Illinois, one difficulty is the fact that suit must be brought within one year of the injury (this is called the statute of limitations) as compared to suits against private businesses and individual homeowners where the requirement is two years.
The laws contain numerous immunities for a city preventing any recovery. For example, if the cyclist was riding in an area which was not intended for cyclists or not the purpose of the roadway, the city could be dismissed from the lawsuit.
In this case, the evidence and use of expert testimony was used to show that the immunities did not apply.
WWF&G has handled numerous bicycle accident cases, including accidents involving minors as well as product defects involving bicycles. We have also handled various types of injury cases against municipalities. Over the years, we have developed a network of information and experts to assist with these types of cases. For a free consultation call 618-462-1077.