CHICAGO (WLS) — Data shows that 40% of all pedestrians struck last year in Chicago were victims of hit-and-run crashes.
ABC7’s I-Team spoke to a victim who said their court battle is a wake-up call for insurance claims, both for pedestrians and cyclists.
A local woman thought her car insurance would cover her when she was hit and run by a driver. When that didn’t happen, she took her battle to court.
“I was scared, scared because, you know, I didn’t even know where I was. She was asking about my family. And you know, that’s when I found out they beat me,” said Carmen Galarza.
Galarza thought her life was over when she was struck in the parking lot of a Belmont Gardens neighborhood store in 2018 by a hit-and-run driver.
“It has been bad. We were scared, we thought we were going to lose her because the men who hit her got out of her car, looked at her on the ground and got into her car and left, “said Holly, Galarza’s daughter. Garcia.
Because the driver was never caught, Galarza filed a claim with his own auto insurer, Direct Auto Insurance Company, to pay for uninsured motorist coverage under his policy.
“I was in a lot of pain and there were months where I could barely walk,” Galarza said.
She said the coverage from her $25,000 insurance policy would help pay for medical bills not covered by health insurance. She said there was also the loss of a job opportunity and long-term injuries.
“I still have pain up and down my leg, my whole thigh, down to, say, my arm and I have a lot of headaches and not to mention, you know, I’m not as bright as I used to be.” with my memory since I had that accident,” she said.
“The policy in Illinois is that if you have an insurance policy, you get coverage. So if someone who doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have enough insurance hits you in a car, you can use your policy,” said Howard Ankin, Ankin’s attorney. Law.
But in court, Direct Auto Insurance Company said that to file a claim for a payment under uninsured motorist coverage, the customer must have been inside a car at the time of the hit-and-run.
Galarza’s attorney, Howard Ankin, has been fighting the case in two different Illinois courts. He argues that Direct Auto Insurance Company’s policy is not in line with “Illinois public policy set forth in the Illinois constitution.”
“The judge agreed with us and the Illinois appellate court apparently agreed with us as well, but through another consolidated case,” Ankin said.
Still, Ankin said his client has yet to receive a settlement as the insurance company is trying to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.
The insurance company’s lawyer said “it is not appropriate for us to comment until after the case has been concluded.”
The ABC7 data team found that through 2022 in Chicago, 2,468 pedestrians were struck by cars, an increase of 9% over the previous year. At least 40% were hit-and-run accidents.
“It’s important that people know that this uninsured motorist provision or their policy protects people when they’re hit by a car,” Ankin said.
If you are hit by an uninsured or hit-and-run driver, as in the case of Galarza, you should file a claim with your own insurer. If you don’t own a car and don’t have auto insurance, you may want to purchase a non-owner auto insurance policy.
“They should step up and help me, but I guess they’re not willing to cooperate. They don’t want to pay,” Galarza said.
Galarza’s lawyer said that if the insurance company’s appeal does not go forward, the next step would be an arbitration hearing to determine payment for his claim.
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