June 13th, a typical summer day in our home. SBJ was home and I intended to get a quick group of errands done around town. I needed to head to the library and return that over-due book, get to the bank…. these types of quicky errands. I was kinda looking forward to leaving the kiddos at home and enjoying a quiet ride, but my wee-one wanted to tag-along. So she grabbed her “fip-fops” (as she calls them) and planned to join me on the short journey.
So just before heading out the door, both my husband and myself notice an Evanston police unit sitting outside our apartment building. He was pointed the wrong way on our one-way street, so we wondered if something was going on. Seeming like he was not moving anywhere or doing anything, I opted to head out. We ran into a neighbor who was also leaving his home with his child, and we chatted, speculating why that police might be sitting there. Just as we were chatting, the officer proceeds down the street, the wrong way on our one-way street. Our street is one of those unusual streets that is one-way-split. It is one-way headed west by a midpoint, and then one-way headed east at that same midpoint. So… I notice he reaches that midpoint and then heads down the other half of the one-way, this time going the right direction on the correct portion of one-way street.
I part ways with the neighbor who continues to walk down the same street, and load little M into the car. I opt to go in the same direction as the police officer because we were, in fact, headed to downtown Evanston, it just made sense. As I turned down the street, I see him parked next to the parked cars. I pull to the right to evaluate whether I would be able to go past him, but determine that my ‘big blue bus,’ as we call it, would not fit in this small space. So I’m sitting a good 50+ feet away from this officer. I see him get out of his car and issue a ticket to the parked car situated next to his. He then gets back into his car, and as I anticipate him proceeding forward, I then notice his reverse lights on! He begins to BACK-UP!!! I’m thinking, “surely he’s going to stop. Surely he will see me sitting here. OH MY GOSH….. HE’S NOT STOPPING!!!!” I start honking my horn, but apparently too late. He’s stopped ON my front, driver’s side bumper. I hear all of this god-awful screeching as he pulls forward again. “Oh great….. just great,” I’m thinking at this point.
I get out of my car, and feel pretty frustrated at this point. I ask him if he had even looked before backing u? Officer W. is completely mortified and very apologetic….. but this is kinda hard for me to hear at first. This is the first newer car I’ve ever owned! I love my big blue bus that has taken us to California and back and on many family road trips in between. I love my kiddo-mobile and it’s shiny blueness! I chose it because of its color and how it makes me happy, and I cherish that its only 4 years old and has features I have never ever had in a car before now! My big blue bus takes really good care of us, and now…. it’s all scratched up and damaged. I was soooooo upset that just one person’s carelessness has caused this to my poor vehicle.
BUT….. then I see poor Officer W. really upset and realize just how mortified he is about this whole situation. I appreciate what he’s feeling and we await the officers who need to do the police report and take photos and such. All the while Officer W. is assuring me that the City of Evanston has insurance and that they will cover this damage. He admits he is 100% at fault and therefore this will be covered without a problem. Officer T. who runs the report for us is also suggesting the exact same information. He tells me that I need to call the City of Evanston to open a claim and get the whole thing rolling to get coverage for the damage. I was a little baffled that at the scene these officers did not know how the process worked, but that **I** was the one that needed to call and open a claim and handle the whole thing.
Ok, well, whatever. I take the information and go on with my day. The very next morning I call the City of Evanston and speak to a woman who tells me that they (the law department) have already received the police report and they have forwarded it on to their 3rd party handler who will process. She is also suggesting the very same information as the police officers…. that there should be no issues in coverage as the officer was at fault. We just need to go through the required process to do so.
Alright. At this point I’m thinking this is going fairly smoothly and just letting the process flow. Right after that weekend, I actually hear from the 3rd party personnel. However, what I hear just kinda sets me off. I’m not at all thrilled to be asked, “have you gotten a quote for the damage yet?” I was a bit beside myself with the character and presentation of this woman. She was abrupt and abrasive, and it really took me aback. She was basically telling me that I would have to be the one to take the car somewhere to get a quote and send it into them. I was confused by this because I presumed that they (having been the party at fault, and being an enormous city) would have a place for me to go and get it fixed. I kinda lost my cool on this woman and she just insisted that this was the process. I was also upset that not only would I have to go find a body shop to do this work, get the quote, but also then find a fax machine to send it to this person. Keep in mind, I am a mother who homeschools her 4 children, who also maintains several part time jobs to do so. I did not feel that adding this to my plate was fair (being the victum and not the one at fault) and was quite annoyed at being asked to do this. We left that phone call on a pretty sour note.
After coming to some reason a short while later, and realizing that yes, I really don’t know this process because it’s never happened to me before, AND it really was not so cool of me to go off on her when she was merely going by her policies and protocols. I call her back and apologize. I let her know that I just find this whole process kind of frustrating as I am not the one at fault here and yet I have to go through hoops to get this bumper fixed. She appreciated my call and we chatted further. She mentions to me that the auto shops will often fax the forms in for you, and email was another plausible option. So, we get back on better terms and I move on with my day.
I googled an Evanston auto body shop and was pleasantly greeted on the phone with a gentleman who says I can come by anytime I want for a written quote. Quite accommodating, I head on over there that next day. I needed to get there asap as we were planning to leave town in just 2 days for our first family camping trip! I figured if I could get that all accomplished before leaving town, then I’d be able to get the van fixed right when we get back in town. So that Wed. all is settled…. I drive on over to the auto-body shop, get my quote for $1529.30 (and the sad news that I will be car-less for 4 days!!), AND fax that all into M. at the 3rd party insurance carrier.
M. calls me that same day and says that she got the quote, that they would cover a rental as well (though through reimbursement format), and all they need to do is speak to Officer W. (the one who backed into me) and then we’d get going on the repairs! GREAT!!! I’m thinking, “great! This is working out just fine.”
Yes…… the long awaited “well”…. or the dreaded “but” that you care not to hear when you want things to go your way.
So… we head out and back into town on our camping trip and I’m realizing that I don’t have a phone message or email from M. and wonder what the status of the claim is. I opt to drop her an email so that I don’t forget the next day to check in with her. I email her asking her why it’s been awhile and what the current status was. The response??? Yep…. the *killer* response. THIS is what I heard back from her:
We have completed our investigation into the accident and have determined that the officer involved was in the process of enforcing the law when the loss occurred and Local Government and Governmental Employees IL Tort Immunity Act, Section 10/2-202, reads:
A public employee is not liable for his act or omission in the execution or enforcement of any law unless such act or omission constitutes willful and wanton conduct.
Therefore, we have respectfully denied your claim for damages. A denial was mailed to your home yesterday. Please contact your insurance carrier to proceed with a claim.
YES!!! THIS IS WHAT THEY SAY!!!!
I’m beside myself…. I call M. and ask her to explain this to me in plain English. “So you are saying to me that if person ‘x’ backs into person ‘y’ that person ‘x’ *would* be held responsible….. BUT because person ‘x’ in this situation is a man in uniform…. sworn to uphold the law…. and neglectfully backed into MY car without looking before backing up…. that he was not “willfully” hitting me and therefore cannot be held responsible??? Can you please explain to me how that makes ANY sense what-so-ever?” She simply recited this stupid law (quoted above) over and over and told me to “go suck it, my word is God’s word,” or…. “just go call your own insurance company and leave me alone now.”
I then called the City of Evanston’s law department. Their reaction was that they have absolutely NO say in the matter and their decision is their decision. I emailed M. at the 3rd party carrier one last time and ask how this could be appealed….. and she replies, “Our denial will stand. Please contact your own insurance carrier if you have any further questions.”
Alright people…. gloves off!
I mean, how hard is it to simply fix a mother’s bumper when **you are at fault**?
Why should a police officer, sworn to uphold the law, be exempt from these very laws?
What if injuries were involved? Would the City of Evanston be so cavalier?
How is it that civilians should feel SAFE with the POLICE who are ***supposed*** to serve and PROTECT us, yet if they *accidentally* cause damamge, they will not be held liable for this damage??
WHY would I be told by EVERY party along the way that my bumper would be repaired and then in the final hour all promsises are renigged?
The how’s and the why’s could go on and on. What’s REALLY important here is justice. All people created equal…. until you where a stinkin’ uniform?? I am more than upset about the injustices of this situation. I feel that the public needs to know this story and BEWARE of those sworn to protect and serve you in your home town. There are much higher powers protecting them from their wrong-doing’s and therefore less cautions need to be taken. There are powers beyond that hover, protecting only them, and not the civilians of the city within which we live. I feel that ALL peoples should hear this story and be aware of just how unjust this heirarchy really is.