The Supreme Court of Illinois has just ruled that an auto insurance policy, in certain circumstances, must cover non-auto drivers, such as bicyclists.
According to the local ABC affiliate WQAD 8, this particular case goes back to 2020, when a 14-year-old boy who was riding his bicycle on a public street was stuck by a vehicle.
It was a hit-and-run. The driver, after hitting the boy, took off.
The boy - who has been identified as Christopher Guirachocha, from Chicago, Illinois - was left with injuries to his right arm, shoulder, and thigh - injuries that required medical attention.
Guirachocha's father, Fredy Guiracocha, ended up with a lot of medical bills as a result of the medical attention that was needed to address his son's injuries. So, Fredy Guiracocha decided to file an uninsured motorist claim with his car insurance, the Nashville, Tennessee-based company Direct Auto Insurance.
The claim, however, was denied. The company said that it would not cover the claim because the boy was not in his father's vehicle at the time he suffered his injuries. The company highlighted language in Guirachocha's policy that it claimed supported this position.
This led to a legal battle between Guirachocha and the insurance company.
Initially, a trial court sided with the insurance company and dismissed the claim. Subsequently, however, the First District Court of Appeals reversed the lower court's decision.
The case was then appealed to the Supreme Court of Illinois.
The members of the Illinois Supreme Court have now ruled in favor of the boy and his father.
In her decision, Justice Lisa Holder White wrote:
The public policy behind (uninsured motorist) coverage is to place the insured in the same position as if the at-fault party carried the requisite liability insurance. Thus, whether the insured person occupied a vehicle at the time of the accident with an uninsured vehicle is not the proper inquiry. Rather, the inquiry should be whether the person’s injuries resulted "out of the ownership, maintenance or use of a motor vehicle," including the uninsured at-fault vehicle.
The court concluded that the boy's injuries did result from such use of a motor vehicle.
The boy, his father, and their legal team are all happy with the decision, and they have released statements indicating as much. The legal team has also called this "a big win for the residents of the state."
The question going forward will be how, if at all, this ruling will affect auto-insurance policies in Illinois. Time will tell.