The city of Evanston first denied, then approved a $1,500 insurance claim from a woman whose car was hit by a police officer.
In an incident that took place on June 13, Amy Jarjusey was in her van with her one-and-a-half year-old when an officer backed into her vehicle. A city insurance agency at first rejected her claim, saying the officer was not liable because he was "involved in enforcing the law." The agency reversed its course today after city officials reviewed the accident a second time.
Jarjusey was floored by the original denial.
“Because he was a police officer, and he was issuing a ticket, he doesn’t have to look behind him when backing up?” she told Patch on Wednesday. “This is an injustice.”
Patch left voicemails at the police department’s insurance company, CCMSI, and at the Evanston Police Department on Wednesday afternoon asking about the denial, neither of which were returned that day. On Thursday morning, Jarjusey contacted Patch to say that she had just found out that the insurance company had changed its ruling.
“The City of Evanston has reevaluated your claim and has decided to settle for your vehicle damages of $1529.30 plus a rental car during the time of repairs,” a CCMSI agent wrote in an e-mail to Jarjusey.
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz told Patch in an e-mail that city staff had reviewed the circumstances of the incident a second time and decided that the “best course of action was to settle the claim.”
The accident occured when Jarjusey was getting ready to leave her house with her one-and-a-half year-old daughter when she noticed a police officer driving the wrong way down the one-way street, she said.
Harvard Terrace, where Jarjusey lives, is split down the middle by Barton Avenue, and runs one way in opposite directions on either side of Barton. The officer had entered on Asbury, going the wrong way, then continued east across Barton to go the right way, according to Jarjusey.
Meanwhile, Jarjusey got into her van, pulled out of her driveway and turned onto the street headed east. The officer came to a stop in front of her and got out of his car to issue a parking ticket, she said, then got back in, apparently not seeing her behind him. In her 2008 Dodge Caravan, Jarjusey didn’t think she had enough room to drive around.
“I think he's going to proceed forward, and then all of a sudden, I see his reverse lights,” she said. "I start honking, but he's already on my bumper," she said. The impact wasn’t bad, and the officer was apologetic, she said. She contacted the city the next day, and assumed the damage would be taken care of.
CCMSI told her to get an estimate for the cost of repairing the dent and scrapes to the front bumper of her van. So Jarjusey went to an auto body shop on Dempster Street, where she was quoted $1,529. She sent that information over to the insurer, and when she didn’t get a response after several days, she called the company.
An agent told Jarjusey that her claim had been denied, despite the evidence presented in the accident report filled out by the police officer on scene. In a letter dated June 25, the agency said the “officer was involved in enforcing the law when the incident occurred,” and cited Illinois state law stating that public officials are not liable for their conduct while enforcing the law “unless such act or omission constitutes willful and wanton conduct.”
After the decision was reversed, Patch contacted City Attorney Grant Farrar, who said in an e-mail that he had “no comment on the City’s fair, and non-precedent setting, reevaluation of this claim.”