Wicker Park Hit-and-Run Leaves Us All Wondering: Where’s the Driver?

Wicker Park Hit-and-Run Leaves Us All Wondering: Where’s the Driver?Regular readers of our blog know that we discuss hit-and-run accidents in Chicago and its suburbs quite a bit. Every car accident that leads to injuries is serious, but there’s something about hit-and-runs that gets our hackles up. Maybe it’s because the perpetrators so rarely get caught, and that can delay justice for the people who are hurt.

When we heard about Nakari Campbell, the 17-year-old who is fighting for her life because of a hit-and-run driver, our hearts dropped. But then we learned that the Chicago Police Department had surveillance video of the car and its license plate, and we were hopeful. Maybe this time, the victim and her family would get some actual justice.

The hit-and-run happened on August 5th. It’s now September 1st. Why haven’t there been any arrests?

We’re not the only ones wondering, either. The attorney for the family is asking a lot of questions, too. As she explained to ABC 7 News, "The police knocked on a door. A mom said, 'My son doesn't want to talk to you.' But, instead of putting out an alert, or putting out an arrest warrant, or bringing them down for questioning... There's been no attempt to get any information from who was driving this car.”

She’s right. This family deserves answers. But as attorneys who have taken on hit-and-run cases, we also know this is par for the course. It’s infuriating, but it’s not abnormal. So, we thought today we could talk a bit about the difference between our investigations and police investigations when it comes to car accidents.

How attorneys “investigate” a case

When an injury lawyer says, “We investigate your case,” that’s true. But unlike police, we don’t have access to the same tools and resources at our fingertips. So, an attorney-led investigations works something like this:

  1. We meet with a potential client, who tells us what happened and hands over whatever documentation they have. Typically, this involves a police report, insurance policy and their medical bills, and maybe photos and videos. We review all this information.
  2. If the scene of the accident has not yet been cleaned up, we may look at the scene itself. If can’t do it, we have field partners who may. We’ll also look at the vehicle (if applicable) to see what kind of damage there is.
  3. Once we file a claim, then we have access to information that we may not have before. That’s because we exchange information with the insurance company – often the client’s, in a hit-and-run, but in other cases it’ll be the other driver’s insurer. If the insurance company doesn’t want to play ball, we’ll ask a judge to order them to do so.
  4. If we file a lawsuit, then we enter something called the discovery phase. This is a big deal, because now it’s not just the policies and documents that go back and forth; now, there are depositions and interrogatories (and other fancy legal terms for “questioning witnesses under oath”).

An injury investigation is all about finding the truth from the documents and data available. It’s about showing that someone else is negligent, and that there is a preponderance of evidence which shows that this negligence caused harm. We investigate events caused by wrongdoing that led to losses.

Law enforcement has a different goal. When they investigate an event like a hit-and-run, they’re not concerned with the person who was injured. (At least, not from the perspective of their investigation; as human beings, we’re positive they’re concerned.) Their goal is to find a person who perpetrated a crime. To do that, they’ll pour over their databases and seek warrants for searches and (hopefully) knock on doors to find witnesses who will speak to them. They must follow proper procedure because if they arrest the wrong person, it only delays justice for everyone. It’s why these types of cases can take so long, even when they have the name of the owner of the vehicle.

In short, police can do a lot of things we can’t. We can talk to witnesses, but we must follow a different set of rules to do it. We can look at database information, but only if we request it; we don’t have free range access to their databases. They can track the movements of the vehicle to see where the owner goes. We can’t do that, despite what television procedurals may say.

And often, the criminal case takes precedence over the civil case. What that means is, we can file a lawsuit but sometimes, our lawsuit gets put on the back burner until the police are done with their criminal investigation and case. This can work to our benefit at times; being able to say Driver A was convicted of a hit-and-run or drunk driving can help bolster a claim that Driver B was not at fault. But it can also harm us, because criminal cases can take time, and often, that’s not time an injured person really has to spare. It’s hard to be patient when you’re afraid you’ll lose your home because you can’t work to pay your bills, or because you’re caring for your child who’s fighting for survival in a hospital.

Should I hire a Chicago hit-and-run attorney if I get hurt?

Yes, you should. Because even if the hit-and-run driver is never caught or arrested, there are legal options available to you that can help you keep your home, pay your bills, and care for your loved ones. But those options can narrow if you try to face off against the insurance company on your own.

But I paid all my premiums, you might say. I have coverage; why wouldn’t they pay me?

Here’s the hard truth: insurance companies are in the business of making and keeping money. And they’ll try to give you the least amount possible at a time when you are most vulnerable. They know you’re hurting; it’s why they offer that check so quickly. But in the event of a serious, life-altering injury, what they offer you will almost certainly NOT be enough.

Furthermore, they will try to say that you are only entitled to X amount of money under your policy. The truth is, there may be times where your claim could exceed policy limits. This isn’t always the case, but having an attorney review your policy and your claim could help, because we know when these circumstances apply. Trust us: your insurance company won’t tell you if you’re owed more money than they’re offering.

Like so many other Chicagoans, we’re rooting for Nakari Campbell and her family. We want to see her make a full recovery and see the driver who hit her face justice. As much as we might not like it, though, we know these cases can take time. We hope that the wait won’t be much longer.

Gainsberg Injury and Accident Lawyers provides comprehensive counsel to clients throughout Chicagoland. If you were injured in a car accident of any kind, we’d like to help. Please call us or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation.