The Chainlink

Paralyzed Bicyclist Sues City, Saying Lakefront Trail Dropped Nine Feet

Paralyzed Bicyclist Sues City, Saying Lakefront Trail Dropped Nine Feet

By Ted Cox on December 30, 2014 12:13pm 

 Jennifer Kraft was left paralyzed from the chest down. Jennifer Kraft was left paralyzed from the chest down.
Jennifer Kraft

THE LOOP — A 34-year-old schoolteacher is suing the city over a bike accident last year on the South Side's lakefront trail that left her paralyzed from the chest down.

Attorneys for Jennifer Kraft, a teacher of high-school chemistry, said in a suit filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court that the city and the Chicago Park District were responsible for her falling nine feet when the trail "abruptly ended without warning" at 37th Street.

According to the suit, the accident took place April 25. Kraft was northbound on the bike trail when it ended, and she fell nine feet onto concrete. "While Jennifer’s helmet saved her life, she remains in a wheelchair as she fractured three neck vertebrae, both shoulder blades, and punctured her spine at chest level," according to a statement issued Tuesday by the Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard law firm representing her.

Kraft is paralyzed from the chest down, according to the firm, and the suit charges the city and the Park District "carelessly and negligently designed the trail by failing to warn bicyclists of an abrupt drop-off on the trail."

"Jennifer's life has been forever changed because of this unsafe trail," said Patrick Salvi, managing equity partner at Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard. "Not only does the trail design concern us, but the trail has no warning signs, railings, lights or other safety protections — not then, not now."

The suit seeks unspecified damages for personal injury.

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I saw this and initially thought woah what the hell damn you city then I actually looked at the location and thought woah talk about a tragic but avoidable accident. This is a break wall, not a road. This is unfortunate but she was the negligent party. To litter up the lakefront with a slew of signs because someone was not being attentive is ridiculous. 

Do they have signs on the edge of roof tops, or the Grand Canyon? I feel for her but to get all up on negligent design when this is the first time someone has done this is nothing more than a PR gambit to force the cities hand. 

This is completely different than the Train Track issue you are talking about ad, completely. There is a reasonable expectation of safe passage along a right of way like a street. While the train tracks are obvious and I never had trouble transiting them I can understand how it could cause issues. A massive/obvious break in a break wall that is not a ROW is so not any where near the same thing. 

Quite possibly, but I think the need and value needs to be demonstrated first before a more formal organization might be convinced to take it on.

I created a new thread for the topic. Let's move discussion there so as to make it more widely visible and not swamp this thread.

Nikul Shah said:

Seems like something Active Transport Alliance may be best suited to do? Would they have any interest in taking the lead on a hazard list?


Skip Montanaro 12mi said:

I have a suggestion. I don't see there's much we can do about making certain road segments "permitted and intended" where today they are only "permitted", but we could do something about the "on notice" part. We could maintain a page on thechainlink.org which calls out known hazards and periodically email (and print+USPS mail?) it to appropriate city officials.

FYI - The distinguishing characteristic for roadways where cyclists are considered intended users is whether the roads are designated in any way as bike routes, something that is not the case on Kingsbury. If there were bike route signs or bike lanes on a road, that's a different ballgame.

The location in Wilmette where I was injured was a known, much-reported hazard but it was not on a designated bike route, so I was out of luck - permitted but not intended.
 
ad said:


 ... I am one of several cyclists who was severally injured before the City finally took out the train tracks on Kingsbury---something that would have happened much earlier if Boub wasn't on the books and the City had to deal with suits from all of the cyclists injured by a dangerous road condition the City had clear knowledge of.  


.....just a quick disclaimer for anyone actively paying attention to this thread, and not because I disagree with Anne's analysis, but because not everyone is as familiar with the ins-and-outs of the decision as some are on here, and I think what I say below is important to keep in mind regardless...... 

If you get in an accident yourself, don't play armchair lawyer and think you have no recourse because of what has been said about Boub here, REACH OUT to a lawyer and talk to him or her regarding what happened.  A qualified/respected personal injury attorney will be honest and let you know whether they think you have a case---it's how they make their living.  It's important to understand the Boub decision and discuss it here, at a minimum so that people know why to push the legislature to fix it, but don't just assume it forecloses a claim when you get in an accident somewhere.  Let a qualified legal professional help you figure that out.  


Anne Alt said:

FYI - The distinguishing characteristic for roadways where cyclists are considered intended users is whether the roads are designated in any way as bike routes, something that is not the case on Kingsbury. If there were bike route signs or bike lanes on a road, that's a different ballgame.

The location in Wilmette where I was injured was a known, much-reported hazard but it was not on a designated bike route, so I was out of luck - permitted but not intended.
 
ad said:


 ... I am one of several cyclists who was severally injured before the City finally took out the train tracks on Kingsbury---something that would have happened much earlier if Boub wasn't on the books and the City had to deal with suits from all of the cyclists injured by a dangerous road condition the City had clear knowledge of.  

Agreed. It's always worth getting an opinion if you think there's any chance that you may have a case. For those who aren't familiar with how personal injury cases work, the standard practice is that these cases are on a contingency basis, based on whatever the lawyer collects for you - no retainer or hourly billing.  Calling to get a professional opinion and see if you may have a valid claim costs you nothing.
 
ad said:

If you get in an accident yourself, don't play armchair lawyer and think you have no recourse because of what has been said about Boub here, REACH OUT to a lawyer and talk to him or her regarding what happened.  A qualified/respected personal injury attorney will be honest and let you know whether they think you have a case---it's how they make their living.  It's important to understand the Boub decision and discuss it here, at a minimum so that people know why to push the legislature to fix it, but don't just assume it forecloses a claim when you get in an accident somewhere.  Let a qualified legal professional help you figure that out.  

I rode the Chicago Ave sidewalk on the bridge and encountered the same 3 step drop.

So I stopped my bike and walked down.

When will people get the message 'speed kills'?

As for this unfortunate case, Jennifer doesn't state where she entered the path atop the breakwater wall. Her video petition said 'the path has no other obstacles or drop-offs for 1.1 miles before this point', so I can only assume she got on at 43rd St which, like 37th St, has a dangerous drop-off.

https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=z_TxFLyaQTdY.k6k_xBca1w6I

Seems to me all the lawyer for the city has to ask is, if you got on at a point where the breakwater path has a dangerous drop-off, shouldn't you have reasonably expected it to end the same way? Forewarned is forearmed.

Mike Zumwalt said:

My own brush with OMG I almost hurt myself was riding East on Chicago ave. I hate the bridges that are open grates because of the slippery tire movement so I went up on the sidewalk.

OOOOPS! the other side of the walk past the bridge is 3 steps, luckily I was on my Mt. Bike and improvised very fast and rode down the steps. WHEW!

Now had I been riding fixed I'd be layed up somewhere eating through a tube.

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