Cyclist Hit by Driver of Stolen Car Is Out of Hospital, Recovering from Spinal Injuries

The cyclist who was injured. Photo provided
The cyclist who was injured. Photo provided

The 30-year-old female cyclist who was struck on Tuesday, September 4, in Logan Square by a teen fleeing in a stolen car, has been released from the hospital, according to her attorney. However, the woman sustained multiple injuries, including spinal fractures, and has a long road to recovery.

As reported in Streetsblog Chicago last week, witness Geoffrey Harding said he saw the female driver of a gray Honda Accord driving erratically that afternoon at about 3:15 p.m. As the motorist sped south on Sacramento she veered left into the oncoming traffic lane to get around a line of cars stopped at a red light at Diversey, across the street from Fat Rice restaurant. She then struck a northbound pickup truck and careened towards a Marathon station at the northeast corner of the intersection, striking the cyclist, who was biking north.

Harding reported that that the driver was unconscious behind the wheel following the crash. A staff member from Norwegian American Hospital, where she was taken for treatment, said she was released from the emergency room the same day.

The motorist, who’s 17, was charged with felony possession of a stolen vehicle, and was also cited for failure to exercise due car for a pedestrian (bicyclist) in the roadway, failure to stay in lane, and driving without a license or insurance, police said. The driver  has a traffic court hearing on Friday, October 19, likely at the Daley Center, according to the cyclist’s attorney, Brendan Kevenides of the bike-focused firm FK Law (a Streetsblog Chicago sponsor.)

The bike rider grew up in Logan Square and has lived since 2015 in San Luis Obispo, California, where she is studying environmental engineering at a community college, Kevenides said, adding that she requested anonymity to maintain her privacy. She came back to Chicago to attend a friend’s wedding and was riding a 1990s steel-frame Fuji when she was struck.

The cyclist was transported to Illinois Masonic Hospital after the crash with broken vertebrae, a fractured scapula, three broken ribs, a collapsed lung, and extensive road rash, Kevenides said. She underwent surgery to install metal hardware to stabilize her spine last Thursday. “I met with her at the hospital after the surgery and she was in obvious, visible pain,” Kevenides said. “She was hit head-on, so it’s amazing that she survived.”

The bike rider was released from the hospital yesterday wearing a “turtle shell”-style hard brace around her back and torso and is staying at a friend’s house, Kevenides said. She is able to walk short distances with a walker and sit upright for short periods of time. “But she’s in constant pain,” he said. “She won’t even be able to start physical therapy for six-to-eight weeks. It’s obviously going to be a long road to recovery.”

Kevenides said that, despite these challenges, the cyclist seems to be in reasonably good spirits. “She’s dealing with this as well as anybody could be expected to be. But she’s concerned about her future. She very much wants to get back to school and continue her education.”

The attorney declined to discuss the firm’s legal strategy or his information about why the teen was driving a stolen car. However, he added that there were several witnesses, and there may be security video footage of the crash. There are no traffic cameras at the intersection. “This case could go on for quite a long time.”

  • Kevin M

    I’m so sorry for the cyclist, for Mr Hardin’s traumatic experience, and for every other witness’ upsetting role in this horrible act of negligence. I hope the driver is put in jail for a very long time.

    I’m a little confused by Mr Kevenides’ remarks at the end of this SBC article, and I would like clarify (if anyone can provide it) so that I understand these situations better. Mr Kevenides says the “case could go on for quite a long time,” and I’m wondering why that might be. It seems to me that the driver is unequivocally at fault; do we really need camera footage to prove that? Furthermore, and most troubling for the cyclist, according the SBC article, the driver did not have insurance. So, it seems to me that the cyclist’s only possible sources of funds to pay for their medical bills are A) the personal funds of the driver–which likely are insufficient by a large margin; B) the cyclists’ personal health care (but if their student status drops because they have to suspend their studies, their insurance could drop as well); C) the cyclists’ and their family’s personal funds (a horrible option that adds punishment to pain); D) donations.

    What is it about this situation that could make the court case “go on for quite a long time”?

  • rduke

    Generally you have you see out recovery before the case can move forward, so the full extent of the injuries can be accounted for. Some damage is unknown until treatment is finished and the doctors say, “Whelp, you’re functioning at 75%, and we’ve exhausted all other options, sorry”.

  • what_eva

    Let me be clear from the outset that I’m speculating on all of this, but a couple of potentials:

    The vehicle owner may have been negligent in some way that led to the theft. eg left the car running unlocked while running into the store/coffee shop/cleaners. Kevenides will certainly want to get the details of the theft.

    option B may push back and drag things out, potentially trying to drag the vehicle owner’s insurance into it, especially if there’s something to the first one.

    If there’s anything to the first one, that will certainly take time as it’s unlikely the owner’s insurance will just pay up willingly barring something grossly negligent (dunno on that, maybe left the door open too practically advertising “please steal my car!”) If it were to go to trial, that’s where you get those verdicts with percentages eg the driver was 90% at fault but the owner was 10% for leaving an easy target (ie driver wouldn’t have had a car to strike the cyclist but for the owner’s negligence).

    Add to it what rduke said below, if recovery isn’t 100%, that needs to be seen out. If the cyclist has any kind of permanent disability, that absolutely factors into things and can take time.

  • Guest

    The majority rule among the 50 states is that the owner of a stolen vehicle will not be held liable for damages when the vehicle is stolen and then involved in an accident. This is because the vehicle was taken without the consent of the owner. Under the “permissive use doctrine”, an owner is liable for personal injury or property damage resulting from negligence in the operation of a vehicle by any person using the vehicle with the permission of the owner. Liability is dependent on the express or implied permission of the owner. Since the owner of a stolen vehicle has clearly not given permission for their vehicle to be used, they are generally not responsible for the actions of the thief. They owe no duty to the owner of the legally-parked vehicle owned by your insured.

  • what_eva

    fair enough and I should have also stated IANAL, so that’s some educated guesses at best on my part.