Cycling & Chicago

March 2, 2015 / in / Written by Matthew Willens

If you are someone who prefers an active lifestyle to sitting around, would rather feel the wind in your hair than control the climate, or just favors pushing pedals to waiting in traffic, cycling through Chicago might be just the thing for you. Chicago offers a great deal of bicycle paths, lanes, and trails that span the majority of the city. The intricate chain of bike lanes wound throughout Chicago streets allow cyclists to commute through traffic in a relatively safe way. The pedestrian-friendly layout of Chicago was built with cyclists in mind and often allows cyclists to get around even easier than commuters on foot.

However, there are risks involved with bicycling through the city. You are traveling at a rate of speed comparable to most vehicles but with only the protection of most pedestrians. This means that mistakes on a bicycle are often more severe than those involving pedestrians (which usually happen at a lower rate of speed) or cars (which are equipped with seatbelts, airbags, roofs, and windshields). For those of you who embrace the risks and thrills of seeing Chicago by cycle, here are some ideas to keep in mind.

Illinois Traffic Laws Apply to All

Whether you travel our fair city by bike or car, the traffic rules are designed to apply to and protect everyone. This means that as a cyclist you must obey all traffic signals, warnings, and signs. You are safest and least likely to have a collision when you do so and you are breaking the law if you do not. This is particularly important to remember at intersections. Intersections are the most dangerous places for both cars and cyclists; the majority of collisions happen at these crossing areas. There are so many moving parts that go into a traffic intersection that cyclists are truly at a much higher risk when using them.

It’s Important to Know the Laws

While traffic laws apply equally to cars and cycles, there are some laws that are unique to those who commute via bike. For example, no person over the age of 12 years old is allowed to ride a bicycle on a Chicago sidewalk unless that route is specifically marked as a bicycle route. There are also laws that pertain specifically to the equipment required for cyclists. Illinois law mandates that all bicycles used after dark must have a white light on the front that should be visible from a distance of 500 feet. On the back of all bikes in use after dark must be a red reflector or a red light. That light needs to be visible from at least 600 feet.

Visibility is Key

The importance of proper attire cannot be overemphasized. Bright and reflective clothing is one of your best defenses against a collision with a car. If a driver cannot see you, they also may not be able to avoid running into you. If you are driving at night you may want to invest in a wearable flashing light, as there may not be enough light to shine off of your reflective clothing. This will not only help you avoid a collision with a driver but may also help prevent a parked driver from hitting you with their car door. It is quite common in Chicago for cyclists in bike lanes, which are right next to parked cars, to collide with a driver’s door as the driver attempts to exit their car. Bright clothing can help you avoid this.

Our team at Willens Law Offices hopes that all of our Chicago cyclists arrive safely at their destination. However, if you have been involved in a bicycle accident, contact the attorneys at our firm today.

If the Other Driver Did Not Have Car Insurance, Can I Trust My Own Insurance Company After a Car Accident?

February 25, 2015 / in / Written by Matthew Willens

This frigid Chicago weather has me watching more TV than usual. One thing I noticed from a few too many hours in front of the TV is how many insurance commercials there are. From a lizard, to a silly woman to a man with a deep voice, these companies really work hard to convince people like you and me that they are trustworthy. They use the magic words that everyone likes to hear when it comes to insurance, words like: value, guarantee, safety and trust. But should you trust your own insurance companies after you’ve been injured in a car accident? The answer is, “Probably not.”

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I give this answer from experience. I’m a personal injury lawyer with two decades of experience in dealing with insurance companies. At one point during my career, I was even employed by an insurance company. Usually after someone’s involved in a car crash that was someone else’s fault, they wonder if they should trust the negligent (at fault) party’s insurance company. The answer is almost always a big fat NO. BUT, some wonder if they should even trust their own insurance company. Unfortunately, the answer is “probably not.”

Let me illustrate in a real life example. I am just finishing off a case for a client of mine. I’ll refer to him as JB. JB is insured by Allstate, yes the “You’re in Good Hands with Allstate” folks. JB was in a high impact car crash with another driver who ran a stop sign and T-boned his vehicle. JB’s car was totaled. The photos of his damaged car were disturbing. Unfortunately, the at fault driver did not have insurance. No worries, our client has purchased Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM insurance) through his own auto insurance company, Allstate. When you are in a car crash that is the other driver’s fault and that driver does not have insurance, UM coverage will (should) help protect you. JB did not hire us right away. After all, he felt like he was in “good hands.” He trusted the company that he had been paying premiums to for around 30 years.

After the car crash, JB suffered many injuries which required emergency room care, including a broken bone in his foot and an injured shoulder. Because he was nursing his broken foot for a couple weeks, he initially did not get much care for his shoulder. However, after those first couple of weeks, his foot doctor referred him to a shoulder doctor. JB eventually had shoulder surgery. His injuries forced him to miss work as a school teacher. As a result of the crash, JB incurred medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering. When JB turned to Allstate to get properly compensated under the law, what did Allstate do? They said something along the lines of, “We don’t believe you. We think your injuries were caused by something other than the car accident. We also think the accident was partially your fault.” JB was in disbelief. He hired us.

We filed an Uninsured Motorist (UM) claim on JB’s behalf. We provided Allstate with all of the police reports, property damage photos, medical records, bills, wage loss information, etc. We presented JB for a sworn statement taken by one of Allstate’s lawyers. We even had JB’s treating doctor, a highly regarded orthopedic surgeon with 30-plus years of experience; author an extensive report outlining exactly why JB’s injuries were related to the car crash. Was that enough for Allstate to do the right thing? Nope. Did they want to engage with us in settlement discussions? Nope. They hired their own doctor, a doctor fresh out of medical school with, frankly, a sad resume, to contest JB’s injuries. This doctor’s report was filled with half-truths and outright lies. Eventually the case went to arbitration and we were able to obtain nearly nine times Allstate’s pre-arbitration offer for JB.

This brings us back to the question: Can I Trust My Own Insurance Company After a Car Accident? The answer is again: “Probably not.” I don’t intend to single out the “good hands” people at Allstate in this article. Many insurance companies that offer auto insurance probably would have done the same thing.

If you or someone you care about was in a car accident, and the at fault driver did not have insurance, you are best served by contacting an experienced car accident lawyer. The lawyers at Willens Law Offices can help. Consultations are free and unless and until we win, we don’t get paid a dime. Furthermore, we advance all costs. Call us at 312-957-4166.

Who is Covered by Workers’ Compensation in Illinois

January 26, 2015 / in / Written by Matthew Willens

The majority of the population depends on a healthy body just to get to and from work, and most of us rely on our health to perform our jobs correctly. When we suffer from a muscle strain, a sprain, or any other injury, our work performance takes a turn for the worst. When a person is injured simply from going about their daily duties on the job, Illinois law believes they should not be punished for it, and instead should be eligible to recover compensation. Out of this theory, the system of workers’ compensation was developed. Workers’ compensation arose from the idea that employees owe a duty to their employers to perform their jobs, and employers owe a duty to their employees to provide a safe work environment. When accidents happen, the workers’ compensation system is there to protect employees and their families.

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Who is Covered?

Just about every employee who works in Illinois is covered by this system of insurance. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act provides that if a person is employed in the State of Illinois, other than by a small family-run business, or if their employment is “centralized” in Illinois, they are covered by Illinois’ system of workers’ compensation. Any injury that arises “out of and in the course of employment” is protected under the Act. This basically means that whether you slip over a piece of equipment or strain a muscle through a repetitive motion, your injury falls under the Act.

How Do I Get Coverage?

The key to receiving coverage is reporting the injury in a timely fashion. As soon as your are medically able to give notice to your employer, you need to report the accident that led to your injury. In fact, by not reporting to your boss, you run the risk of forfeiting any right to recovery at all. The Act allows all employees a 45 day window to make their initial report to their employer; however, the sooner the better. Even if you don’t know how serious your injury is, it is better to make an initial report and then revise it later. Keep in mind that any sort of retaliation by your employer is strictly prohibited by law, which means it is better that you speak up rather than wait until the injury gets worse.

Do I Need An Attorney?

There is no requirement in Illinois that you seek legal counsel before filing a claim for workers’ compensation. However, having an advocate will serve your interests for several reasons. First, the workers’ compensation system can be complex. You can be pressured into accepting partial payment or less than you deserve simply out of fear of missing too many paychecks. Second, you will most likely need to see a doctor who works with the insurance company. This may not always work in your favor. Thus, having an attorney who understands the medicine behind the treatment is in your best interest. Third, your injury may worsen. If you accept less than you deserve now, you may be sacrificing any chance of receiving compensation if the injury worsens in the future. Without understanding exactly how seriously you have been injured or how it will affect you in the future, you may be placing your physical and financial future in jeopardy.

Don’t fight the system alone. Contact Willens Law Offices for a free consultation today. We can help ensure that you recover adequate workers’ compensation benefits while you recover from your injuries.