Hit and run victim has huge bills, no way to pay

Accident highlights problems uninsured victims face

Author: Tim Gerber , Reporter, tgerber@ksat.com
Published On: Jul 13 2012 09:15:14 PM CDT   Updated On: Jul 13 2012 09:55:00 PM CDT
BANDERA, Texas -

A recent hit and run accident in Bandera that left two men seriously injured highlights the problem of what happens when an uninsured driver causes injuries to victims who also have no insurance.

Just before 12:30 a.m. on April 27, Claude Beeghly and his friend Eric Armstrong were walking along Main Street in Bandera heading to a Shell gas station to get a drink when they were hit by a motorcycle that was struck by a speeding car.

"I was minding my own business walking down the street," Beeghly said. "The next thing I know I ended up in the hospital."

Claude Beeghly has no memory of the accident that nearly killed him. He does have the scars and some very large medical bills to remind him how the crash has changed his life.

"It broke my leg. It shattered my kneecap and it broke my jaw in 3 spots," Beeghly said.

The motorcyclist, Dakota Bates, suffered less serious injuries. Beeghly's friend Eric Armstrong ended up with a serious head injury, lacerated liver and broken bones.

Both men now have medical bills in the tens of thousands of dollars.

"At this point I'd say maybe a little bit under a $100,000," Beeghly said referring to his outstanding medical bills.

Nancy Cruz, 28, was the driver of the car that hit the three men. According to accident reports, Cruz was celebrating her birthday at the Longhorn Saloon and was asked to leave. Witnesses said Cruz had been drinking and was upset when she was told to leave.

According to DPS reports, Cruz got into an argument in the parking lot with Dakota Bates who worked at the bar. Bates left the bar on his motorcycle and headed down Main Street.

Cruz allegedly took off after Bates and reportedly "intentionally" struck Bates' bike with her car, causing it to hit Beeghly and Armstrong. Cruz left the scene and turned herself in to police the next day.

Like her victims, Cruz had no insurance making it difficult for them to get any compensation from her.

"It is a very common problem," said Melissa Montgomery, manager of victim services for Mothers Against Drunk Driving. "If you don't have medical insurance and you don't have an insurance policy for something like that to happen, then it's very hard to obtain services."

Montgomery said while Bexar county has programs to help uninsured crime victims, many surrounding counties do not, leaving agencies like MADD to find a way to help.

"And we do the best that we can do to make sure you get the services you need to start the healing process but there are no guarantees that your needs are going to be met," Montgomery said.

Victims may be able to piece together financial assistance from a variety of agencies, but not enough to fill the gap left behind. The State of Texas provides some compensation to victims from the Attorney General's Crime Victims'

Compensation program but those funds are capped at $50,000.

"That leaves a really big hole in the center and we're letting people drop through that hole and that's not right," Montgomery said. "There are these huge holes and yes we have to address this."

Montgomery said MADD is reaching out to the victim's but it's too early to know what services they will be able to provide. That leaves Beeghly and Armstrong with a stack of bills and no one to blame but Cruz.

"I think that (she) should be liable for what happened," Beeghly said. "I'm just putting it in the Lord's hands. That's all I can do."

Beeghly said two law firms have already turned down his case mainly because Cruz has no insurance and it would be difficult to go after the bar because they quit serving her drinks. Investigators weren't able to determine if she was drunk at the time of the accident because she left the scene and didn't turn herself in for several hours.

For now, Cruz remains in the Bandera County Jail on four felony charges including three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and causing an accident involving death or injury.