More and more people are bicycling for exercise, to commute to work, or just for fun. It is a great way to get around in the Chicago area: according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Chicago bicycle commuters has increased by 150 percent since 2000. Among major U.S. cities, Chicago is third in the number of bicycle commuters. However, as the population of the city grows and the more bicycles there are on the roads, there is accordingly more potential for crashes. A City of Chicago 2012 Bicycle Crash Analysis reports that there were 32 fatal bicycle accidents and 8,861 crashes resulting in injuries between 2005 and 2010.
What Is a Right Hook Accident?
By law, bicycles traveling on the roads have the same rights and responsibilities as motorized vehicles. Section 9-16-020 of the Municipal Code of Chicago deals with turning right in front of a bicycle. This is a common type of bike accident, known as the right hook. The law states that “When a motor vehicle and a bicycle are traveling in the same direction on any highway, street, or road, the operator of the motor vehicle overtaking such bicycle traveling on the right side of the roadway shall not turn to the right in front of the bicycle at that intersection or at any alley or driveway until such vehicle has overtaken and is safely clear of the bicycle.”
Right hook accidents can happen in several ways, such as:
- A driver does not see a cyclist in their blind spot in an intersection; the car then turns right at the intersection and cuts the cyclist off.
- The car is traveling more slowly than the bike. The bike passes the car on the right, and the car then makes a right turn into the bike.
- The car and bike are side by side, waiting at a light. When the light changes, the car turns right, either cutting off or hitting the bike.
Both drivers and bicyclists should be aware of the potential dangers of a right hook collision, but often it is difficult to prevent because it happens so fast. Either the bicyclist does not have enough time or space to avoid hitting the car, or the car hits the bicycle while turning in front of it. Right hook accidents frequently happen at intersections. They can, however also happen wherever a driver makes a right turn, such as on side roads, alleys, businesses, or entrances to parking lots and ramps.
Common Causes of Right Hook Accidents
Often, someone driving a car passes a bicyclist on the left. The driver believes he or she has enough time to make the turn before the cyclist arrives at the same point. However, the driver may misjudge the speed and distance of the cyclist, and the result is a collision in which the cyclist hits the passenger side of the car as it is turning. The driver of the car may just not notice the bicyclist or may not respect the cyclist’s right to share the road and believe the car has the right of way.
Another factor contributing to the crash may be driver distraction. Drowsy driving, talking or texting on a phone, grooming while driving, or impairment from drugs like alcohol can distract the driver from what is happening to his right. Dangerous road conditions, such as potholes, deteriorating roads, or blocked views may also contribute to the accident and may result in the liability of a governmental or similar entity.
Injuries Caused by a Right Hook Accident
Regardless of the cause of the accident, the driver is usually not hurt in a right hook accident. The cyclist, however, is frequently thrown from his or her bicycle and may suffer serious or even fatal injuries. When a bicyclist has been hit by a driver, common injuries include:
- Trauma to the upper or lower extremities
- Concussion or other closed head injuries
- Injuries to the face, abdomen, and thorax
- Neck injuries
- Spinal damage
- Multiple bruising, abrasions and lacerations
- Strains, fractures, and dislocations
As in any personal injury case, the purpose of damages in a right hook accident is to compensate the injured person for harms sustained from the accident. Depending on the severity of the injuries, a variety of damages can potentially be plead. If your right hook accident results in injury, compensation may include the cost of:
- Past and future health care expenses
- Loss of income
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
What to Do if You Are Involved in a Right Hook Accident
In the initial stages after the accident, you may think you have not been injured, or that your injuries are mild. This can be misleading, however, if you are in shock: adrenaline sometimes masks physical pain, meaning accident victims may not notice the severity of their injuries until much later. You should always seek medical evaluation and treatment as soon as possible after the accident.
You should also contact the authorities in the event of an accident. You may need the details recorded in the police report if you file a claim. If you are able, gather information at the scene, such as the vehicle driver’s insurance information, address, phone number, and license plate number. It is also helpful to have contact information for any witnesses.
Do not admit fault at the scene of the accident, whether explicitly or implicitly. Answer any questions asked by the police simply and honestly, but do not say you were at fault, make excuses for the other driver, or minimize your injuries; it’s best to wait until emergency personnel have evaluated the accident scene, road conditions, injuries, and state of involved parties before discussing fault or liability.
Before you enter into settlement negotiations, accept a settlement agreement, or take a check as a full and final payment, it is often wise to first consult with a bicycle accident attorney. An experienced attorney can evaluate the extent of your injuries, determine whether the offer would be fair compensation for the losses you incurred, and help represent your interests throughout the negotiation process.
For more information or to arrange a free consultation, call (312) 924-7575, or contact us toll free at (855) 529-2442. You can also contact Abels & Annes online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.