Walking across the street in Chicago should not be an adventure, but, nevertheless, it often turns out to be just that.
As I’ve written about previously, the main reason it’s so dangerous to cross the street is that drivers are not paying attention to the road or those on it. Most typically, the danger comes from vehicles that are turning. As I have addressed numerous times, it is often vehicles turning left who fail to look through their turn who inflict the most harm.
Chef versus Truck—Truck Wins
My client L is a rising 31-year-old chef. As is typical of those in the restaurant industry, even before the pandemic, she also walked dogs to supplement income. After doing that for one of her clients, she was walking home. While crossing busy Division Street in Chicago in the gentrifying and congested Wicker Park neighborhood, she was struck by a truck driven by the employee of an HVAC contractor.
L was not completely within the crosswalk at the time, but, I argued, that fact should not remove the driver from responsibility when he should have been alert for pedestrians within the pathway of his left turn.
A pedestrian struck by a moving truck can often result in catastrophic injuries. While L was hurt badly, the injuries she sustained were far less serious than they could have been. She sustained a fractured metatarsal in one foot, a severely sprained ankle, hip sprains in both hips, low back injuries with some radiation into her legs, as well as a neck sprain and right shoulder sprain. As L had previously experienced anxiety, this crash caused her anxiety to increase. I argued her PTSD was exacerbated by the crash. Of course, this point was disputed by the defense as having pre-dated the crash.
The pandemic also muddied the waters on wage loss issues. L had just received a salary bump and promotion to Sous Chef from the well-known Chicago based restaurant consortium. Unfortunately, she then got hit by a truck. Even more unfortunate, a mere 3 months later, Chicago went into a lockdown that made just about any restaurant work dry up for workers. While we could argue that L should have been able to begin her new job at the higher status and salary but was not able to do so due to her injuries, the defense could rightly argue this was due to the constriction of the restaurant industry during the pandemic. It was a little of both. L understood this, so we did not focus on her potential wage loss. We focused on her injuries.
We’ll Send You a Bill for That!
Before I filed the lawsuit, and once L had completed her treatment, I made a demand for settlement upon the insurance carrier for the HVAC company.
Not only was this met with resistance, the insurer made ever-increasing demands for specific documents, questioned every single bill for treatment, and, when it finally made an offer, offered so little as to be insulting. Despite my justification of the fairness and reasonableness of her bills, the insurer was hung up on the costs of treatment rather than the impact of the injuries upon L and her life.
Nevertheless, I did have my records clerk procure all the requested bills in HCFA format (which include the recognized billing codes). Despite this, the insurer made an only slightly less insulting offer.
After discussing all the options, pros, and cons, with L, it was decided I would file a lawsuit.
The Long March to Justice
The long slog that is our civil justice system was only made sloggier by the pandemic. The one thing that kept defendants and their insurers “honest” were viable trial dates. Without any realistic hope of setting cases for trial for over 18 months, most insurers used that as an excuse to not provide offers of any substance. Consequently, plaintiffs’’ cases languished.
In L’s case, multiple factors combined to change this paradigm.
Once the defense attorney filed an appearance on behalf of the driver and company, she called me and questioned why the insurer had not made a more realistic offer. This is always a good sign when an experienced lawyer wonders why a case is being undervalued. Another set of eyes evaluating a case can often cause seismic shifts in the pathway of a case.
In L’s case, these shifts were not seismic, but they were significant. While the opposing counsel began reevaluating L’s case in concert with the insurer, L and I began to formulate exactly what she would be comfortable accepting. I also began the long process of determining all outstanding liens and unpaid bills and, once I knew those amounts, negotiating the lowest settlement possible to maximize the potential taking for L.
Hiking, Family Trips, Firm Name Changes, and…Settlement
One way in which I negotiate is to NOT negotiate. I listen to the other human being, and we talk about everything BUT the case on which we are on opposite sides.
In this case, counsel and I discussed her upcoming hiking vacation she feared she and her husband were not fit enough to complete, my dog’s upcoming surgery, my bicycle riding, and her firm’s name change.
Once we got to know (and trust) one another, we would make demands, offers, counterdemands, counteroffers, and continue to do so until we reached a happy place for all involved. It took several weeks of intense back and forth and was not concluded until I was on my vacation. Yet another reason why my laptop travels with me!
L was thrilled with a six-figure settlement that paid all her bills, lost wages, and still left her plenty of tax-free settlement proceeds to compensate her for her pain and suffering and loss of a normal life. She now is ready to re-start her food career once the industry is fully back to “normal.’
Contact Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Stephen Hoffman
As in all cases involving injury and potential liability, if you have been hit by a vehicle immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact a lawyer with expertise in your type of case, such as bicycle accidents or pedestrians hit by cars.
If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has nearly 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
Stephen handles personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything upfront and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day, contact Stephen now.