Answering Important Questions After An Accident
The following is a brief discussion of some of the issues we at Taradash Johnson Janezic have found important to our clients who were involved in automobile accidents. It is based on Illinois law in effect at the time of this writing and is not intended to provide specific legal advice or all of the information you may need to know in the event of an automobile accident. You should consult with an experienced lawyer for specific legal advice and more detailed information.
AUTO ACCIDENT ISSUES
If you’ve been in an accident, one of your first concerns is who was “at fault” for the accident. This is often difficult to determine, especially if there are no independent witnesses. The police officer may make a preliminary determination of fault at the scene and include this in the police report. If you are listed as being partially or solely responsible for the accident, do not accept this determination without consulting a lawyer. An experienced lawyer should review the facts about the accident with you and may recommend that some additional investigation be done to establish who was at fault.
Even if you were partially at fault, this does not prevent you from being compensated for your injuries. In Illinois, the law provides that you may recover from the other party who caused the accident according to that party’s percent of the fault for the accident (up to 50%). For example, you were involved in an accident at an intersection, and the court finds you were 20% at fault. This would mean that you could recover 80% b of your damages (medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.) the other driver who was found to be 80% at fault Also, you would be 20% responsible for the damages of the other driver.
As you probably are aware, many people in Illinois do not carry insurance on their cars. If you are in an accident with an uninsured motorist, you still may be able to recover for your injuries from your own insurance company. Even if you do not have uninsured motorist coverage on the car involved in the accident, you still may be able to recover if you or a relative with whom you reside has uninsured-motorist coverage on any vehicle in the household. Also, the fact that you did not have insurance on the car you were driving does not prevent you from recovering for your injuries or damages to your car. We urge you to consult with an experienced lawyer immediately to determine what insurance coverage may be available to you from all sources.
Normally, shortly after the accident, you will be contacted by adjusters for your own and the other parties’ insurance companies. Their jobs are to establish who caused the accident and the amount of your damages. Most of the time, adjusters will request that you agree to a statement and may ask you to fill out a detailed claim form. BEWARE: Any statement you give may be used against you In court. We recommend that you consult with an experienced car accident attorney before you give any statements, even to your own insurance company.
Depending on your coverage and who is at fault, an insurance company, by contract, may be obligated to pay for the damage to your car. The insurance contract usually provides that the company is obligated to repair or replace your car. In the case of repairs, some companies do their own estimates, while others may request that you have estimates made. You are generally free to choose which body shop you wish to use. However, some insurance companies have a list of preferred body shops. If you choose one of these “preferred” shops and has a problem with their repairs, the insurance companies may be able to assist you in resolving the problem. You are also entitled to be paid for the loss of use of your car while it is being repaired. This payment may be used for a rented vehicle. The amount to which you may be entitled varies under the circumstances of your case and with the insurance company. Generally, the most difficult problems our clients encounter occurs when their vehicle is “totaled.” Normally, a vehicle is totaled when the cost of repairs exceeds 80% or more of the value of the vehicle. The problems occur when it comes to determining the value of your car. Many companies use the NADA or KELLY BLUE BOOK as a basis for determining the value of a vehicle. However, some companies use their own valuation method or employ companies whose appraisals are more favorable to the insurance company in order to limit the amount they pay you for your car. If there is a substantial difference between the NADA or KELLY value and what the insurance company says your car is worth, you do not have to accept it. You should consult with an experienced lawyer before you decide.
In addition to compensation for damages to your car, you may be entitled to payment for one or more of the following:
- Past and future medical bills
- Past and future pain and suffering
- Loss of income
- Cosmetic surgery
- Lost or diminished earning capacity
- Bodily impairment or other disability
An experienced injury lawyer can advise you as to how much you may be entitled to receive for each of these injuries and about other possible damages to which you may be entitled.
Health – Your immediate and future medical condition should be your first priority after an accident. Early, effective medical care is necessary to aid in your recovery and to prevent injuries from becoming more serious.
Establish a connection to the accident – Obtaining medical care as soon as possible is critical in an accident case. If you wait a long enough time before seeing a doctor, the insurance company may argue that the time gap between the accident and treatment suggests that your problems are not related to the accident, but are the result of some event, which occurred alter this accident.