An Orland Park hit-and-run accident has left one teacher dead and another seriously injured following a parish Christmas party.
Police Hunting Driver in Orland Park Hit-and-Run Accident
On December 4, 2019, at approximately 8:00 p.m., police responded to multiple calls about a hit-and-run-accident involving pedestrians outside of the Square Celt Ale House & Grill at 39 Orland Square Dr., near the Orland Park Mall. At the scene, officers found two victims who were then transported to Silver Cross Hospital.
One woman, 61-year-old Margaret “Rone” Leja, later died from her injuries, while the second woman, 54-year-old Elizabeth Kosteck, was treated and released from the hospital the following morning. Both victims worked at the St. Michael School in Orland Park, IL, where Ms. Leja was the school’s technology coach and Ms. Kosteck teaches third grade.
The women had reportedly been leaving the parish’s Christmas party at the Square Celt at the time of the Orland Park hit-and-run accident. As they walked to their parked cars, an unidentified driver turned left from the restaurant’s parking lot and struck them a few feet from the curb. There were no actual eyewitnesses to the crime itself, though Orland Park Police have confirmed that the suspected vehicle was leaving the same restaurant as the two victims.
Police Chief Tim McCarthy said his department has been pulling video from dozens of area cameras in an effort to track down the hit-and-run driver. They are reportedly looking for a “light-colored vehicle.”
Hit-and-Run Accidents Present Challenges
The death of Margaret Leja in the Orland Park hit-and-run accident highlights how senseless these incidents can be. Any time a driver fails to stop at the scene of an accident, it is illegal in Illinois. And when the accident results in injury or death, it is a felony that can result in significant criminal penalties if that driver is caught.
A hit-and-run accident leading to injury is a Class 2 Felony that carries a possible sentence of up to seven years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $25,000.00. If someone is killed in the hit-and-run accident, however, it is a Class 1 Felony carrying a maximum fine of $25,000.00 and/or a prison sentence of up to 15 years.
But despite the serious legal consequences that hit-and-run drivers face, these types of accidents continue to occur at an alarming rate across the country. If anything, they appear to be on the rise. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety:
- Eleven percent of all traffic accidents involve hit-and-run drivers.
- More than one hit-and-run accident occurs every minute in the United States.
- There has been an average of 682,000 hit-and-run accidents each year since 2006.
- Hit-and-run accidents resulted in 2,049 deaths in 2016 – a 62 percent increase from 2009, the last year in which a downward trend was recorded.
These are sobering statistics, made even more troubling by the fact that hit-and-run victims face a greater hurdle to obtaining fair compensation for their injuries because the at-fault driver fled the scene without exchanging insurance information – assuming there even is any insurance at all.
Nevertheless, financial recovery is not impossible. If the hit-and-run driver is located, it is possible to obtain information about that driver’s insurance policy and pursue a claim against it. Even in cases in which the driver remains unfound or in which the identified driver is either uninsured or underinsured, a victim could still seek compensation through an uninsured/underinsured motorist policy.
Let Our Hit-and-Run Accident Lawyers Get You Justice
But while there are many potential avenues of recovery in a hit-and-run accident, successfully pursuing them is no easy task. It takes skill and familiarity with these types of incidents to maximize the amount of financial compensation available. To put yourself in the best possible position to get justice, contact the Illinois hit-and-run accident attorneys at GWC Injury Lawyers LLC.
At GWC, we have successfully recovered more than $2 billion for our clients in verdicts and settlements, making us one of the leading Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation law firms in the state.