US and Canada Report

Hit-and-run victim turns to Ankin Law in case that affects anyone with car insurance

Hit-and-run victim turns to Ankin Law in case that affects anyone with car insurance

February 08
22:21 2023
A car crash devastate a victim without proper insurance

Carmen Galarza was walking out of a store on a summer day in 2018 when she stepped into the parking lot and was struck by a car.

The driver stopped, stepped out of his car and looked at her. Then he did what 40 percent of hit-and-run drivers do in Chicago – he drove off.

Galarza was rushed to the hospital with injuries to her head and body. The physical and mental pain still affects her today.

The driver was never identified or arrested. Galarza called Ankin Law for help.

The good news is she lives in Illinois, where longstanding public policy says auto insurance policies should provide coverage to customers when they’re struck by hit-and-run drivers. It doesn’t matter that Galarza was a pedestrian at the time of the accident and not in her insured vehicle.

The bad news is that her auto-insurance policy seeks to deny such coverage. And this policy was even approved by the Illinois Department of Insurance.

“The whole purpose of insurance is that if you have it, you’re protected,” attorney Howard Ankin said. “If you’re hit by a car while walking or biking, that auto-insurance card in your wallet or glove box can help you pay the endless stream of medical bills. You don’t have to be in your car to get coverage; the accident just needs to involve a car.”

Represented by Ankin Law, Galarza filed a lawsuit and won at the trial level when a Chicago judge ruled that Direct Auto Insurance Company owed her coverage. Direct Auto appealed, prompting the Illinois Appellate Court to consolidate Galarza’s claim with a similar case to decide a simple question: Can auto insurance companies write policies that deny uninsured motorist coverage to policy-holding victims who were pedestrians and not in their cars at the time of the accident?

It was the first time the Illinois Appellate Court interpreted the public policy of Illinois as it relates to uninsured motorist coverage, which includes hit-and-run accidents. A three-justice panel ruled that insurance companies do owe coverage to victims in these situations.

“The public policy of Illinois is to protect members of the public injured in vehicular accidents,” the appellate court wrote, noting that this public policy is “reflected in state statues and well-established case law.”

The court concluded that insurance companies cannot deny coverage to their customers just because their customer was a pedestrian at the time of the accident. This coverage must extend to all members of somebody’s household named in the policy, meaning a customer’s household family members can receive the same type of coverage if they are injured as pedestrians by a hit-and-run or uninsured driver.

Galarza’s case now may head to arbitration to determine if a settlement can be reached to avoid litigation.

“We’ll continue to seek justice for Carmen,” Ankin said. “Everybody in Illinois should know they have options.”

Media Contact
Company Name: Ankin Law
Contact Person: Howard Ankin
Email: Send Email
Phone: (312) 600-0000
Country: United States

About Author