From the bustling city of Chicago to the many miles of farmland that help feed our nation, Illinois is a beautiful state to drive through. But a car accident can make for an unpleasant end to your trip. In 2021, the state saw 295,604 motor vehicle accidents.
While less than 1 percent of these involved fatalities, more than 20 percent had reported injuries.
Even minor injuries in a car accident can leave you in pain for days and may cost you time at work. More serious injuries can be expensive to treat and could leave you out of work and struggling to pay your bills for months.
Some people also develop chronic pain or suffer a permanent disability due to their car accident injuries.
Will the at-fault driver’s car insurance policy help pay for the many expenses you could incur from your car accident? It should, but many people find themselves hitting a wall with the insurance company.
Dealing with an insurance adjuster can be frustrating, and it’s easy to inadvertently make things worse. If you’ve had a car accident and are struggling to get your insurance claim paid, or you have not made a claim yet, your best option is to seek legal advice.
Why Do You Need an Illinois Car Accident Attorney?
An experienced Illinois car accident attorney will fight to ensure you get a fair settlement for your car accident. We can negotiate with the car insurance company if they refuse to pay your claim or only offer you a small percentage of what your claim is really worth.
If recovering all your damages from the other driver’s insurance policy isn’t possible, we’ll also consider if there are any other options to recover your losses.
Here are some of the reasons why it’s so important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney after your car accident:
Fault Is Often Disputed in Car Accident Cases
In many accidents, the two drivers disagree about fault. This doesn’t always mean one party is lying – sometimes one or both drivers don’t have all the information about what happened.
A police report may not provide clarity, either. The responding officers will interview both drivers and any other witnesses, plus make observations of any evidence at the scene (usually damage to the vehicles).
Often, they receive conflicting stories from both drivers and have little additional evidence to go on.
When the officer completes a report, they’re required to draw a diagram showing how they believe the accident occurred. There is also a written section where the officer gives their opinion on how and why the accident happened.
Frequently, they are doing the best they can with limited or conflicting information, so it would be unrealistic to expect that all reports are 100 percent accurate.
If you believe your police report was incorrect in some way, we can search for evidence to show that the accident was not your fault. We will take the time to investigate your accident thoroughly, including looking for nearby traffic, doorbell, or security cameras that may have captured the crash.
We’ll also follow up with witnesses or canvas the neighborhood to determine if other witnesses left the scene before police arrived. Additionally, we can request “black box” data from both vehicles, providing a wealth of information about what both vehicles were doing before and during the crash.
Through these efforts, we often gather enough information to challenge an incorrect police report.
Even if the Police Report Is in Your Favor, the Insurance Company May Still Claim You Were at Fault
Sometimes, people think their insurance claim will be approved easily because the police report says the other driver was at fault. But that doesn’t mean the at-fault driver’s insurance company agrees!
There are a few different ways this can happen. The other driver may dispute the police report like you could if you didn’t find it accurate.
But even if they don’t, their insurance company can still claim you were at fault because of a legal concept called modified comparative negligence. Illinois, like many other states, uses modified comparative negligence statutes in personal injury cases like car accidents.
Here’s how it works: Modified comparative negligence deals with the fact that fault is sometimes shared. In a car accident, both drivers may have made mistakes that contributed to the accident.
Maybe one driver was speeding, but the other pulled out in front of them without looking. The speeding driver had the right of way, but their speed could have made the damage from the accident worse.
Who is at fault here? Technically, both drivers have some fault.
In Illinois, a driver who is 51 percent at fault or more is considered to be liable and cannot collect damages from the other party. However, this doesn’t entirely relieve the other driver of responsibility.
While a driver who is less than 51 percent at fault can collect damages, they will lose their own percentage of fault. If they were 10 percent to blame, then 10 percent would be deducted from their final award.
If your car accident case were to go to trial, a jury would be asked to assign percentages of fault to you and the other driver, but this rarely happens with car accident cases. Most are resolved out of court through negotiations with the insurance companies.
As a result, the insurance adjuster’s perception of your degree of fault will be critical.
If the adjuster finds any grounds to argue you were at fault, they will. It doesn’t matter if their client admits to pulling out in front of you or making any other error in driving judgment.
It doesn’t matter if the police ticketed the other driver but didn’t ticket you. Their insurance adjuster can still argue that you also contributed to the accident and should lose some percentage of your damages.
In some cases, they may even argue that you were more than 51 percent responsible. The adjuster probably knows that you weren’t and that they won’t be able to prove their claim, but it gives them a starting point for negotiations.
They hope that you’ll accept a smaller percentage of fault in order to get something for your damages, and they’ll save money.
Your Attorney Can Stand Up to the Insurance Company For You
If an insurance company has denied your claim after an accident, don’t call them to discuss it. This might seem like a reasonable thing to do, but it rarely works out well.
The insurance company will almost certainly record your call “for quality control purposes.” Then they’ll pick apart anything and everything you say, looking for something that can be interpreted to mean you caused or contributed to the accident.
Many people inadvertently make an innocent remark that the insurance company later uses against them.
Even if you manage not to do this, you’re unlikely to change the adjuster’s mind. In the best-case scenario, the adjuster will probably tell you that they don’t have to pay because of a certain clause in their policy or some facet of insurance law.
A better solution is to call a car accident attorney to discuss your case. Because we are deeply knowledgeable about car accidents and insurance law, we can refute the insurance company’s claims.
We may be able to point out that they’re incorrectly interpreting a law or that a judge is unlikely to agree with their understanding of a word, phrase, or clause in their policy.
Additionally, we always work to gather evidence of the other party’s liability before beginning negotiations with an insurance company, so they will have a harder time arguing that you had a significant degree of fault.
A Car Accident Attorney Can Review Your Settlement Offer
If you’ve already received a settlement offer from the other driver’s insurance company, you might think that you’ve avoided some of the pitfalls discussed above. The insurance company isn’t blaming you or refusing to pay your claim, so everything is fine – right?
Not necessarily. A settlement offer is designed to make you feel as though the insurance company is taking responsibility, but sometimes, the offer is too low compared to your actual damages.
In fact, when the insurance company can’t find a way to blame you for the accident, one of the next strategies they might try is simply making you a lowball offer. Insurance adjusters know that valuing an insurance claim is tricky, and most people aren’t even aware of all their damages.
It’s very easy to be deceived by an offer that looks generous but is really cheating you of thousands of dollars or more.
A car accident lawyer will be on your side and will ask you questions to identify and calculate all your damages. These may include:
- Medical bills. One of the most common mistakes people make when handling a car accident claim without a lawyer is forgetting to consider future costs. Some people may accept a settlement, then find out later that their injury didn’t heal right, and they need another surgery, etc. Others might overlook out-of-pocket expenses for items like mobility aids or equipment for at-home physical therapy work. Your attorney will usually wait to settle your case until they know your treatment is complete. Or, if it appears that you will need continued care for a chronic or permanent problem, they will estimate your future medical costs and seek these from the insurer.
- Lost income or earning potential. Many people don’t realize how much income they’ve lost due to their injuries. If you used paid time off or sick days after your accident, you deserve to be compensated for those. Yes, your employer paid you for those days, but you lost that paid time you might have used on other occasions. If you have a more severe injury that leads to a permanent inability to work in the same job, you may also have lost earning potential. This is true even if you switch to a less physically demanding occupation for lower pay – you can still work, but you’ve lost some of your income.
- Damage. We’ll ensure you receive the right amount for your car repairs or replacement, including your car’s diminished value.
- Pain and suffering. Some people don’t even think about their pain and suffering when filing an insurance claim. However, this is valid damage, and you deserve compensation for both physical pain and emotional or mental distress.
- Permanent disability or disfigurement. If you suffer any permanent injury, you deserve additional damages for losing quality of life.
- Wrongful death. If a loved one dies in a car accident, it can be incredibly difficult to process your grief while helping family members, including children, deal with this terrible loss. The last thing you need to do is struggle with financial problems, but unfortunately, this often happens after a car accident. You may face final medical bills, funeral or burial costs, and a loss of income if your loved one was the primary earner for the family. We will work to help you recover these and other damages so you can focus on your family during this difficult time.
If you’ve received a settlement offer after a car accident, please ask an attorney to review it before you accept. You can go ahead and sign if it’s a fair offer, but if not, we can negotiate with the insurer to achieve a more equitable settlement.
How Can You Get Assistance From an Illinois Car Accident Law Firm?
If you or a loved one have been injured in an Illinois car accident, please contact The Fakhouri Firm Accident and Injury Lawyers at 312-999-9990 for a free consultation to learn more. We’ll review your case, answer your questions, and explain your options for pursuing compensation.
Founder and lead attorney Robert S. Fakhouri is an experienced personal injury attorney who has successfully settled or won many car accident cases, recovering millions of dollars for injured people and their families.
He graduated from the Chicago-Kent College of Law and worked as a law clerk and litigation associate before founding The Fakhouri Firm. You can find Mr. Fakhouri on social media, where he explains legal topics in accessible terms for his many followers.