In Illinois, car accidents result in over 1,000 deaths and over 90,000 injuries each year. Although the number of vehicle accidents has decreased in the past few years, accidents still occur at a rate of over 1,000 per day on Illinois streets and highways.
http://www.dot.state.il.us/travelstats/2008cfweb.pdf. Car accidents in DuPage County and the westerns suburbs account for a significant portion of the total number reported in the Chicago metro area. You should consult with a DuPage County car accident lawyer to learn about your rights to a possible settlement if you or someone you know has been injured.
Do you have a car accident claim due to an injury?
If you have suffered an injury from a car accident, truck accident, pedestrian accident, motorcycle accident, bicycle accident or hit and run accident, you may have a claim for negligence. Anyone who chooses to operate a motor vehicle must exercise reasonable care to obey the traffic laws of the State of Illinois and to take reasonable measures to avoid an accident. Failure to do so may constitute negligence and gives rise to a claim for damages, including medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, loss of income, and other damages resulting from the accident. In some cases, the amount of damages you are entitled to receive for your injury claim may be considerable. (Some of the results obtained by DuPage County car accident attorney John Malm are summarized in the Recent Settlements tab above).
Can your injury claim be settled without filing a lawsuit?
Car accidents occur unexpectedly. No one asks to become injured, and no one wants to become involved in a lawsuit unnecessarily. An injured person may feel reluctant about consulting with an attorney before speaking with the insurance company. This is understandable. Clients often tell me, "I am not the type of person to file a lawsuit." Does this describe you? You should be aware that not every personal injury claim becomes a lawsuit. Car crash injury claims in DuPage County are no exception. In fact, very few car accident cases are ever filed as lawsuits, and fewer still are ever presented in a trial. Given the substantial delays and costs of litigation, there is sometimes little economic sense in filing a lawsuit when a reasonable settlement of your injury claim can be privately obtained out of court. I will help you properly allocate the responsibility for the injuries you have suffered so that you may receive fair compensation for your damages.
Why is it important NOT to speak to the Insurance Company?
Before ever speaking with an insurance company concerning a possible settlement of your car accident claim in DuPage County, there are some important things you should consider. Remember, the insurance company is motivated to quickly close your personal injury claim, or to settle the claim for the least possible amount. Speaking directly with the insurance company on your own is not advised, and it may be a serious mistake. Sometimes, an unwary client may inadvertently concede facts that are not yet established by the evidence. Other time, a client may volunteer something that causes the insurance company to improperly evaluate the claim and, thus, inadequately set its "reserves" (the minimum amount the carrier is required to hold in a reserve account during the claim period, in anticipation of its liability to pay a settlement or verdict), even before medical treatment is completed. If reserves are set too low, the carrier will certainly be reluctant to revise its earlier evaluation when a settlement demand is issued for the company's consideration. Remember, your attorney should perform all necessary communication on your behalf.
Often a client's car accident injury claim does not receive serious consideration until my law firm has been retained to act on their behalf. Your attorney must be able to present an informed settlement demand package, highlighting the relevant evidence that would be presented to a jury if the case were ever to be taken to trial. It is at this critical stage when a skilled attorney can prove to be invaluable to you. A carefully prepared settlement demand should be presented as a persuasive argument for the client (much like a closing statement to a jury). A carefully prepared settlement demand followed by thorough and exhaustive negotiations will often result in a favorable settlement for my clients -- even in those cases in which no reasonable offer of settlement was initially made by the carrier.
How can the other driver's Negligence or "Fault" be proved?
The "fault" in causing the automobile accident and the resulting harm you have suffered may be allocated to the responsible party -- and to their insurance company -- by proving the other diver was negligent. In presenting a claim of negligence, you must show that the other driver breached a specified "duty" owed to you (like a traffic law, a duty of reasonable care, etc.) and that your injuries occurred due to the other driver's "breach" of that duty. This is how negligence or "fault" must be proved.
You may already have a good sense of who is "at fault" in causing the accident. But proving fault can sometimes be complicated by issues of fact (i.e., failing to reduce speed or stop for traffic control device) or issues of law (i.e., duty to yield to oncoming traffic while turning left). Examples of the type of actions, on the part of either driver, that may have contributed to the car accident often include:
- Failure to reduce speed or failure stop at a red light or stop sign
- Driving at an excessive speed, in excess of the posted speed limit or in excess of that permitted by weather conditions
- Driver distraction caused by a cell phone, passenger or radio
- Failure to yield to oncoming traffic or obey traffic laws regarding right-of-way
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
(Some examples of contributing causes of a motor vehicle accident, as indicated on the Illinois Traffic Crash Report, may be viewed here).
What type of "damages" can be claimed?
You must consider what types of damages are legally compensable in your car accident claim, and what amount of damages a court or jury is likely to award. You may be entitled to:
- past and future medical expenses
- valuable lost time from work
- costly effects of disability
- painful disfigurement
- loss of a normal life, and
- pain and suffering (being past, present and future)
How will you know if it is a fair settlement?
The insurance company may extend an offer of settlement to you in the hopes of closing an otherwise valuable car crash injury claim, even before necessary medical treatment has been undertaken. If you have never been involved in an accident claim, or if you are not an attorney experienced in handling injury claims, you may not know whether the insurance company is negotiating in good faith. Be careful. The insurance company's claim adjuster may sound sympathetic to the injured person. But remember, underlying the adjuster's friendly telephone manner is a conflict of interest: the insurance carrier is motivated to settle and close your claim for the least possible amount. It is best to consult an attorney and to avoid discussing your claim with anyone.
Get what your claim is worth! Here is an example of how I have done it.
In a recent Illinois car accident injury case, I was the second attorney retained to represent a 57-year-old man who suffered a shoulder injury as a result of a rear-end-type automobile accident. The other driver's legal liability in causing the accident was not in dispute. The question to be presented to the jury was, "what amount of damages is this claim worth?"
My client had previously engaged another law firm to represent him against the at-fault driver's automobile insurance company. The insurance company requested a settlement mediation, at which a "final" settlement proposal for the client's shoulder injury was presented. The insurance carrier and their attorneys offered $190,000 to settle the case. My client's former attorney urged my client to accept the offer. Unsatisfied with the insurance company's offer, and the advice of his counsel, the client walked away from negotiations and contacted me for a second opinion. I was asked to immediately take over the handling of the case, and I put together an aggressive litigation strategy that I believed might significantly increase the insurance company's offer of settlement.
I began taking sworn depositions of the eyewitnesses to the crash, whose testimony was necessary to establish the severity of the impact, which caused the injury to my client. I engaged a vocational rehabilitation specialist to review my client's work restriction and offer an expert opinion concerning my client's diminished future employment prospects. Through the testimony of a forensic economist, I argued that my client's future lost income claim would be significant. After completing depositions of the insurance carrier's own expert physician and economist, I prepared the case for trial. The case settled just before trial for $737,500.
There is no substitute for hard work. By allowing me to review the facts surrounding the car accident, the injuries suffered by my client, and formulate and execute an aggressive litigation strategy, my client obtained an additional $547,500 in settlement.
Can you demand additional insurance coverage under another policy?
If the at-fault driver (motorist) has no automobile insurance, you may still be able to bring an "uninsured motorist" claim against your own automobile insurance policy, depending on coverage. In some instances, even if you do not have your own automobile insurance policy, you may be able to make a claim against an automobile insurance policy of a household or family member. There are written notices that must be filed and other technical steps that must be taken in order to bring an uninsured motorist claim; therefore, you should consult with an attorney right away. Many are unaware of the available coverage that can be obtained by bringing an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim. Do not settle a claim or lawsuit against the at-fault driver (motorist) or insurance company without first consulting with an attorney and considering such a claim.
Act promptly and get your injury claim on file.
My experience as a personal injury litigator has shown that car accident claims that are initiated promptly, with proper notice to the responsible insurance companies, are often given more consideration by the insurance carrier than claims that are delayed - even if the delay was for good reason. Speaking with an experienced car accident injury attorney right away can provide valuable advice to assist you in dealing with the other driver's insurance carrier. The attorney should be able to explain what you will need to do in order to successfully settle your injury case and provide you with a strategy for how your claim can best be handled - whether through litigation or a negotiated settlement.
Always remember, there is a time limit for your legal claim, which is governed by a "statute of limitation." In Illinois, most personal injury claims arising from negligence are governed by a two-year statute of limitations. See, Illinois Compiled Statutes, Illinois General Assembly (Personal Actions), 735 ILCS 5/13-202 (Personal Injury-Limitation). In some instances, however, the statute of limitations is only one year (e.g., lawsuits against municipal entities or school districts), or is governed by a notice statute with special additional requirements that must be followed soon after the accident and before a claim or lawsuit can be filed later. Your claim will be barred if no lawsuit is filed before the expiration of the applicable statute.
Get advice from an experienced attorney.
There are several steps you should take following an accident. (See, What To Do When You Have Been Involved in A Car Accident ). It is important to speak with a knowledgeable attorney right away. An experienced attorney will be able to issue required notices, obtain eyewitness statements if needed or ensure that evidence, such as tire marks, photographs, measurements and "black box" data is collected and preserved. Sometimes, the vehicle itself must be carefully stored for testing. If a settlement is reached, an attorney can provide valuable assistance in seeking an adjudication or reduction of costly medical or insurance liens. Don't battle with or even speak to the other driver's insurance company without first consulting with an attorney.
Contact DuPage Motor Vehicle Accident Attorney John J. Malm
John J. Malm & Associates is an experienced personal injury law firm representing individuals and families who have suffered an injury or loss due to an accident. You may be entitled to a substantial settlement if you have been injured. Call 630-527-4177, or 312-422-6855, and speak with Attorney John J. Malm.