Do You Have Car Accident Injuries?
If you have been injured in an accident that was caused by another driver’s negligence, you are entitled to be compensated for your injuries. Arlo has a wealth of experience in motor vehicle cases, and comprehensive knowledge of the Illinois Motor Vehicle Code.
When you work with experienced personal injury lawyer Arlo Walsman, you can rely on his experience and zeal to get you the justice you deserve. Call Arlo at 312-313-0035 or send him an email to schedule your free case evaluation.
What to Do, and Not to Do, After a Car Accident
- Get the other driver’s name, contact information, and insurance.
- Call the police and have the police make a report.
- Seek immediate medical attention if you think you are injured and request an ambulance if necessary.
- If you are able, make sure to get the names and contact information of any witnesses to the accident. Witnesses can help you prove how the accident happened and establish that you were not the at-fault driver.
- If you are able, take pictures of your vehicle, any other vehicles involved in the accident, and your injuries. Photographs are great pieces of evidence that will help you prove your case against the at-fault driver.
- Call an experienced personal injury attorney to get a free legal consultation.
- Do not delay in seeking medical treatment if you are injured. If you wait to seek treatment, insurance companies and defense attorneys will often argue that your delay suggests that you were not seriously injured, or that you are faking your injuries.
- Do not speak with the at fault driver’s insurance company. The at-fault driver’s insurance company will record your call and will seek to illicit subtle admissions from you that may hurt your chances to receive full and fair compensation.
The Importance of Police Reports
If you are involved in a car accident, you should always call the police and ask the responding officer to make a report. In Illinois, law enforcement officers will then fill out what is called an “Illinois Traffic Crash Report.” The image below is a blank sample of a crash report.
Crash reports provide a great amount of detail about how an accident happened and are a very valuable source of information in a claim against an insurance company or a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
The information that will be contained in the report is:
- The names, addresses, and insurance companies of all drivers involved in the accident. (See for example boxes 20 and 44 on the image above).
- The location of the accident. (Boxes 7-11 above).
- The witnesses to the accident and their addresses and phone numbers. (Box 45 above).
- A narrative description of the officer’s interviews with the drivers involved in the collision, including the at-fault driver.
- A narrative description of how the accident occurred, as well as a drawn diagram of how the accident occurred.
If the officer determines after his or her investigation that the at-fault driver violated the Illinois Motor Vehicle Code or a local municipal ordinance, the officer will also specify what law the driver violated. This can be useful, because if the at-fault driver later pleads guilty to a traffic ticket or misdemeanor offense, the injured driver may use this guilty plea as evidence of the driver’s negligence.
The crash report will also list investigating officer’s conclusion about the primary and secondary causes of the accident, such as:
- Following too closely
- Failing to yield the right of way
- Improper passing
- Driving on the wrong side of the road
- Improper turning or turning with no signal
- A driver being under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Obscured vision
- Disregarding a yield or stop sign
- Disregarding traffic signals
- Exceeding safe speed for conditions
- Failing to reduce the speed of a vehicle to avoid an accident
- Distracted driving
The crash report will also contain information about the weather at the time of the accident.
So, calling the police after a car accident and insisting that the police make a crash report will greatly aid an injured driver in bringing a successful claim against will at-fault driver.
How Much is my Case Worth?
The value of any case, and the injured party’s monetary recovery, depends on many different factors. The most important consideration is the nature and extent of the injured party’s injuries. Other important factors include: (1) the injured party’s medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages, (2) the defendant-driver’s available insurance coverage, and (3) whether the plaintiff has any uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage with his own insurance company.
A. Compensatory Damages
Persons injured in car accidents are entitled to monetary compensation for their medical expenses, pain and suffering, disability or loss of normal life, emotional distress, disfigurement, and lost wages.
Medical Expenses. An injured plaintiff is entitled to recover the full amount of any medical bills, regardless of whether the injured plaintiff had health insurance that paid all or part of the bills.
Pain and Suffering, Loss of Normal Life, and Emotional Distress. These elements of damages are hard to precisely calculate, as there is no easy formula to determine the monetary value of an injured plaintiff’s pain and suffering following an accident. However, when placing on value on these types of damages, one important legal consideration is the nature, extent, and duration of the plaintiff’s injuries.
For example, a person who fractured a bone in an accident and had to have surgery to repair the injury would generally be entitled to more money for pain and suffering than someone who only suffered injuries such as muscle sprains or strains. Similarly, a plaintiff’s whose medical treatment lasts longer may be entitled to more compensation than a person who only received limited treatment.
Disfigurement. If a plaintiff suffers disfigurement from a car accident such as scars or burns, he may recover damages for the disfigurement. However, there is no easy way to calculate disfigurement damages. Generally, important considerations are the location and visibility of the scars and their size. Another consideration is whether the scars impair the plaintiff’s regular movement and function of their body, such as large scars over joints.
Lost Wages. An injured plaintiff can recover money for any wages he lost as result of his injuries from a car accident. This includes the work that the plaintiff had to miss in order to attend doctor’s visits and other medical appointments.
Future Damages. An injured plaintiff is also entitled to recover for damages that are reasonably certain to arise in the future. For example, in the case of catastrophic injuries, a plaintiff may introduce evidence that he will need future nursing care, doctor’s visits, and medical procedures, or that he will experience continued loss of normal life due to the permanence of his injuries. A catastrophically injured plaintiff will commonly hire expert life care planners to evaluate his medical condition and testify at trial about the future medical care that he will need.
B. The Defendant-Driver’s Insurance Coverage
Illinois law requires drivers to have a minimum of $25,000 in bodily injury coverage. If a defendant-driver causes an accident that injures another driver, the defendant’s insurance company will pay any settlement or judgment against its insured driver up to the amount of the limits of the defendant’s policy.
C. Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage (commonly referred to as UM/UIM coverage) can be very valuable in a personal injury case. If an injured plaintiff has a UM/UIM policy of insurance with his own insurance company, he can use it when the defendant’s insurance policy is not large enough to fully compensate him for his injuries. For example, if a defendant only has $100,000 in coverage, and the plaintiff obtains a $250,000 judgment, the plaintiff can only recover $100,000 from the defendant’s insurance company. However, if the plaintiff had a UM/UIM policy with limits of $300,000, he can collect the $150,000 from his own insurer and be made whole. This is why it is very important for Illinois drivers to consider purchasing a UM/UIM policy with their own auto insurer.
What to Expect When Hiring the Arlo Law Office
The first step Arlo will take when representing a client that has been involved in a car accident is to thoroughly investigate the facts of the accident and the nature and extent of the client’s injuries.
A. The Investigation
A good attorney is a skilled investigator. To investigate the facts of an accident, Arlo will interview the client and any witnesses such as passengers in the client’s vehicle or bystanders. Arlo will also obtain a copy of the Illinois Traffic Crash Report, if one exists, to see what the investigating police officer determined about the crash and how it occurred. In some cases, it may also be necessary to visit the scene of the accident to take photographs. Arlo will also work to obtain video footage of the crash if needed, such as footage from traffic cameras or nearby stores. Finally, in complex accidents involving serious injuries, Arlo may also hire an accident reconstructionist or other expert to inspect the vehicles involved in the collision and offer opinions about the crash.
Understanding the full nature and extent of a client’s injuries is critical to getting the client the best possible recovery. Further, it is important for those injured to understand the full nature and extent of their injuries so that they can consult with their doctors about the treatment needed to fully recover from their injuries. Many common injuries experienced in car accidents like muscle strains and sprains can be healed with physical therapy, but remedying more complicated injuries like fractures, tears of ligaments, and disc bulges, protrusions, or herniations may require more advanced treatment like surgery.
B. The Demand Letter
Once Arlo has thoroughly investigated the facts of the case and the client’s injuries, he will send a demand letter to the at-fault driver’s insurance company. The demand letter illustrates why the at-fault driver is responsible for the collision and discusses the injuries suffered by the client. Finally, the letter will demand a specific sum to settle the case.
Some insurance companies will engage in settlement negotiations in good faith and offer full and fair compensation to those injured by their insureds. However, many substandard insurance companies will refuse to negotiate or only give low-ball offers. If this occurs, then Arlo can file a lawsuit on behalf of his client against the at-fault driver and begin preparing for trial. If the defendant’s insurance company refuses to offer adequate compensation, then the only recourse is to try a case to verdict and persuade the jury to award full and fair damages.
C. The Litigation Process
The first step in the litigation process is for the plaintiff to file a complaint. The complaint contains allegations about the facts of the collision at issue and the defendant’s negligence. The plaintiff then must serve the complaint and summons on the defendant. Once the defendant has been served, his insurance company will hire a lawyer to represent him. The defendant’s attorney will then file an appearance in the case and an answer to the complaint.
Once an answer has been filed, the next step is for the parties to engage in discovery. The first phase of discovery is called written discovery, where the parties exchange and answer interrogatories and requests to produce documents. Interrogatories issued to the plaintiff will ask for information such as a description of the plaintiff’s injuries, the identity of any witnesses, and the total amount of the plaintiff’s medical bills. Interrogatories issued to the defendant will ask for information such as the identity of any defense witnesses, whether the defendant was charged with a traffic violation as a result of the collision, and the total amount of available insurance coverage. Requests to produce documents issued by the parties will ask for information such as photographs of the vehicles involved in the collision, medical records and bills, and any photographs of the plaintiff’s injuries.
When the written discovery has been answered, the parties will then engage in oral discovery, also known as depositions. At a deposition, the parties’ lawyers will take turns asking a party or witness questions about what they know about the case, such as the facts of the accident or the plaintiff’s injuries. A deposition is similar to testifying in court, because a court reporter is present and the deponent must take an oath to tell the truth, but depositions take place in an attorney’s office rather than a courtroom. The parties may also choose to depose the plaintiff’s treating physicians and any expert witnesses if either party hires an expert.
When discovery is complete, the case will be certified as “ready for trial.” The case will then be assigned a trial judge who will preside over the trial. Typically, trials for cases involving simple collisions and injuries will take one to two days, while more complicated trials with more than one defendant or catastrophic injuries may last two to three weeks.