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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Most of our clients have never had to deal with the legal system before getting hurt. We’ve gathered some of the most frequently asked questions we hear about personal injury for you to check out. Do you have other, unanswered questions? Give us a call at (312) 236-2900 for a free consultation of your rights.
What is a personal injury claim?
A personal injury claim arises when you are injured through the negligence, recklessness, or intentional behavior of another person, and you ask for financial compensation for your injuries. Personal injury claims can arise from a variety of types of accidents or events in which people may be injured. Common events that may lead to personal injury claims include:
- Traffic collisions
- Boating accidents
- Airplane crashes
- Slip and fall accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Dog bites
- Swimming pool accidents
- Workplace accidents
- Accidents involving defective products
- Nursing home negligence
How do I make a personal injury claim?
In most instances, the person, company, or entity responsible for your injuries will have some form of insurance, and you’ll make a claim to have the insurance policy pay your medical costs and other damages. If your injuries were caused by an auto accident, you’d make a claim against an auto policy. In the event of a slip and fall injury, you might make a claim against someone’s homeowners insurance or business insurance. The amount of money you can recover usually will be limited to the amount of insurance coverage the responsible party has, even if your damages exceed the amount of insurance. If you’re unsure who the responsible party is or how to go about making a claim, an experienced personal injury attorney can help.
What kind of compensation is available for a personal injury claim?
Every case is unique, and the compensation available to you for your injuries will depend upon the circumstances of your accident. For most types of personal injury claims, Illinois law allows you to potentially get payment for your medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, disability and disfigurement, and loss of normal life.
What should I know about dealing with the insurance companies after the accident?
- Even if you are not at fault, you are required to report any accident to your insurance company. If you fail to do so, you could lose the chance to get some of your costs covered by your own policy. (In some instances, it may be necessary to try getting compensation from your policy before filing a claim against the other party’s insurance company.)
- Be careful about what you say. You do not want to say anything that could be admitting fault. For example, if you had a green left-turn arrow and a person across the street decided to turn right on red, leaving you sideswiped, you should be careful about what you say about the circumstances. The investigation should proceed with an independent evaluation of who caused the accident.
- Do not sign an insurance release. When you sign an insurance release, you are agreeing to whatever amount the release is for. This closes you out from further compensation negotiations or for a lawsuit – even if you end up with more expenses from the accident in the future. We recommend that you at least consult an experienced personal injury attorney before you sign the release so you’re aware of your options.
How is fault determined in an accident?
Determining fault can be complex. Because Illinois is an at-fault state, that means that the insurance company for the person who caused the accident pays for injuries and damages. This seems straightforward but many times drivers are uninsured or underinsured. Other times, what or who caused the accident is in question because the facts of the case are not very clear. There are also cases where both parties may share some fault. It all depends on the circumstances of your accident. Insurance companies know that their policies are confusing. In some instances, they will offer you an insurance release that will provide some – but frequently not enough – compensation for your injuries. We recommend speaking to a personal injury attorney before you embark on any conversations with insurance companies, whether it’s yours or the other party’s.
What happens when the other driver doesn’t have insurance?
If the driver who caused your auto accident injuries is uninsured or underinsured, or in other words doesn’t have enough insurance to cover your damages, you may be able to make a claim under your own vehicle insurance policy if you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. The caveat is that your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage has to exceed the other driver’s coverage. For example, if the other driver has a policy with a $20,000 bodily injury limit, then you need to have more than $20,000 in uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage to get anything from your policy, and what you get will be the difference between your coverage and the other driver’s coverage. So in that example where the other driver has $20,000 in coverage and you have $30,000 in underinsured motorist coverage, you may be able to get up to $10,000 from your policy. Making claims against multiple insurance policies can become complicated. It’s best to seek the advice of an experienced auto accident attorney, who can help you make sure you make the right claims against the right policies.
How long do personal injury cases usually take, from start to finish?
There’s not an easy answer to that – it really depends on the individual claim. Some factors that may affect the length of your case:
- The accident investigation may take longer in some cases than in others.
- Certain types of personal injury cases like medical malpractice may require expert witnesses and testimony.
- If your case settles earlier on, it will likely be a shorter process than if your case goes to trial.
If your case cannot be settled before the statutory deadline for filing a lawsuit, your personal injury lawyer can file the lawsuit to preserve your claim.
What are the statutory limits for filing personal injury lawsuits?
In general, Illinois law says that a personal injury lawsuit must be filed within two years after the injury occurred. However, it’s not always as simple as it sounds to determine when that two years is up. There can be complex legal issues at play when figuring out when the deadline is to file a lawsuit — and if the deadline is missed you lost any chance at compensation. A personal injury attorney can evaluate your case, help you determine when the deadline is, and make sure you don’t lose your chance at recovering your damages.
Do I have to be present for all court dates?
Not necessarily. You are required to appear at the deposition. At that time you will give a sworn testimony on the record. You will also have certain court dates to attend if your case goes to trial. In most instances, however, your injury attorney can attend meetings on your behalf and can tell you when you need to appear for specific meetings or in court.