From the title, some of you were hoping this would be a discussion of Led Zeppelin’s seminal 1979 album. While that is part of the soundtrack of my nerdy high school experience, it is not what this is about. But the title is catchy and it applies to this subject.
My client was injured when he rode his bike into his office building. With so many bike commuters, this is something that doesn’t seem unusual at all. What made this a bit odd was the fact that my client worked in a high rise building in Chicago’s Loop and routinely rode his bike into the parking garage ramp and parked it in the auto parking garage.
He was not the only bike commuter in the building and he was never told by anyone in the garage that he could not park his bike there.
He did one other thing that made his case a bit unique; he entered the garage through the Exit Ramp while the automatic door was open.
Of course, you can kind of see the punch line coming—as he enters on his bike, the garage door closes heavily on his helmeted head and neck, resulting in a cracked helmet, a deep forehead cut, and a neck injury. Fortunately, after months of therapy, he recovered.
We sued the owner and management of the parking garage and the owner and manager of the building. Our argument was that certainly our client was partially at fault for riding in through the exit, but that if the building and garage was aware of this practice and did nothing to stop him, it was at fault more. Additionally, we argued that they garage and building were negligent in failing to maintain a door that would stop when confronted with anything in its path. One would assume the garage door would stop when a vehicle came into its path, so why wouldn’t a human being be afforded the same level of safety?
While this would typically result in a lot of finger pointing at others, what made this particularly interesting was the fact that different attorneys and law firms represented different parties. The garage was represented by a large firm and the building management by a small firm.
Why is that significant? Because different firms have different theories of how to litigate a case. Often, large firms lose the forest for the trees and just dive in and bill as much time as they can. Smaller firms often believe that if a case can be settled reasonably, this option should be explored. Such was the scenario here.
Litigation—cases that are filed as lawsuits and in the court system—often take on a life of their own. Litigation is like auto pilot run amok or a computer that won’t listen when you tell it to stop. As discussed above, this is great for many insurance company lawyers, who are paid to defend a case by a wealthy insurance carrier, and can often lose sight of the value of the case, whether settlement might be a good idea, and even why we are doing what we are doing.
This is what happened for a time here, where all we did for months was exchange 1000s of pages of documents, ask and answer written questions, and overall jump through hurdles that enlightened us no more than had we not done this.
And we had not yet even begun depositions.
Fortunately, just as things looked like a fairly small case would go on forever, I was approached by the attorney for the building management about settlement.
The lawyer for the building management ultimately prevailed on the lawyer for his codefendants, the garage, and convinced them he should try to settle the case. After a bit of back and forth negotiation, we were able to arrive at a number that satisfied my client and gave him fair money for his medical bills, pain and suffering, scarring, and lost wages. We recognized their arguments that my client was partially at fault by entering in the exit ramp and door. They accepted the fact that they had not done enough to prevent this from happening.
The thing we lawyers sometimes forget is that personal injury cases are personal. They involve people. Most people just want their fair compensation and their case resolved.
I guess you could say that when you remember the human elements involved in a case, you are not a Fool In The Rain.
If you are a bike commuter, make sure you check with building management about where you are supposed to park your bike. Ask where you are to enter. Find out if you can park in the underground garage.
Obviously, if you decide to park your bike in the garage, don’t enter through the out door!
Ride defensively, and remember that cars will be using the same roads and ramps you are.
As in all cases involving injury and potential liability, immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact a personal injury lawyer.
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 has been named a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited.
Stephen handles personal injury and workers' compensation 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.