26 Apr, 2024

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Car Accident?

Author Todd A. Strong

After a car accident, you might be wondering, “Do I need a lawyer for a car accident?” A lawyer will help you negotiate a settlement with the insurance companies and receive compensation for your injuries.

Call Strong Law Offices at 309-688-5297 for help with your case. You should get in touch with an attorney before speaking with the insurance companies to avoid delays and complications in achieving compensation. An attorney will represent you in the negotiations and take your case to trial, if necessary.

Female driver making phone call after traffic accident with head in hands. Do I need a lawyer for a car accident
Female driver making phone call after traffic accident with head in hands. Do I need a lawyer for a car accident

Illinois Car Accident Laws

Illinois car accident laws can be confusing to navigate. Many car accident victims get overwhelmed with the process. That’s where car accident attorneys come into the picture: to explain the laws relevant to your case and how they affect you.

Illinois is a comparative negligence state for car accidents. In a comparative negligence state, the amount of compensation you can get will depend on how much fault you contributed to the accident. Your negligence is compared to the other party’s negligence to determine the value of your compensation.

If you were more than 50% responsible for the accident, you cannot seek compensation. You can only seek compensation if you contributed half or less of the fault.

Furthermore, the value of your compensation can be decreased depending on how much fault you contributed. For example, if you contributed 30% to the accident, you can only seek up to 70% of the total value of your claim as compensation.

Some leading causes of car accidents in Illinois include distracted driving, drunk driving, speeding, and failing to yield the right of way. If it is determined that the accident was caused primarily by your drunk or distracted driving (you were texting while driving, for example), you would not be able to seek compensation.

Statute of Limitations for Filing a Personal Injury Claim in Illinois

Another important law regarding car accidents in Illinois is the statute of limitations for filing personal injury claims. In Illinois, personal injury victims typically have two years to file a personal injury lawsuit. That applies to car accidents as well.

While a lawsuit is not the same thing as filing a claim with the insurance company, for all practical purposes, the limit applies there as well. Insurance companies are only incentivized to negotiate a fair settlement due to the threat of a lawsuit.

However, if the threat of the lawsuit goes away, insurance companies can give you a lowball offer or even deny your claim, as they know there is not much you can do about it. If you try to file a lawsuit once the two years have passed, the defendant will usually file a motion to dismiss, at which point the lawsuit will be tossed out of court.

There are exceptions, of course. If you suffered a legal disability due to the car accident and were in a coma or otherwise legally disabled and unable to file a lawsuit, the clock is paused for the statute of limitations. It will only resume once the legal disability is removed, and you are once again able to file a lawsuit.

If you were the victim of a car accident when you were under the age of 18, the statute of limitations applies from the date of your 18th birthday, not earlier. If the defendant left Illinois, the statute of limitations gets paused as well.

In some cases, you may be able to file a wrongful death suit. Since death can occur after the date of the accident, you typically have two years from the date of the death, not the date of the accident.

What Is the Role of a Lawyer in a Car Accident Case?

A car accident attorney in Illinois has many roles and responsibilities. One of the most important ones is negotiating with the insurance companies to reach a fair settlement.

Suing after a car accident isn’t always necessary due to the fact that insurance companies often prefer to settle rather than face a lawsuit. However, in some cases, your lawyer will file a lawsuit.

In some cases, once your lawyer actually files a lawsuit, the insurance company will come back to the negotiating table and agree to a settlement. At that point, the insurance company will realize that you are not bluffing and are ready to take the case to trial, if necessary, to receive full compensation.

In other cases, the insurance company may still refuse to negotiate, and your case will go to trial. While that doesn’t always happen, you don’t need to be worried if it does. The role of your attorney is to represent you in court and convince the court that you are entitled to the compensation you are claiming.

Your attorney may also argue that you are entitled to punitive damages. Punitive damages are unlike compensatory damages in that they are designed not to compensate you for losses, but to punish the defendant.

Punitive damages thus don’t depend primarily on the extent of your damages, but the actions of the defendant. Typically, they only apply in cases of severe recklessness, willful negligence, and malicious intent. The case for punitive damages may be tried separately than the case for compensatory damages.

Even if the case doesn’t go to trial, though, your lawyer will work on collecting evidence that the other driver was at fault. If there is an overwhelming amount of evidence, the insurance company will usually be ready to accept a higher settlement.

Some cases can be quite complicated when it comes to determining who is at fault and what percentage of negligence each party contributed. Since Illinois is a comparative negligence state, your compensation depends directly on the amount of negligence you contributed.

Your lawyer will work extensively to document evidence and determine each party’s negligence. He or she may review security camera footage, look at police reports, and collect statements from witnesses. In some cases, expert witnesses may be called to review the evidence and determine what happened.

Common Challenges in Car Accident Cases

One common challenge in Illinois car accident cases is establishing liability. Illinois follows a modified comparative negligence rule, meaning compensation may be reduced if the plaintiff is found partially at fault. Determining the extent of each party's negligence requires a thorough investigation of the accident scene, witness statements, and often expert analysis. Attorneys leverage their experience and resources to gather evidence and build a compelling case to establish liability in favor of their clients.

Another obstacle victims face is dealing with insurance companies. While insurance is meant to provide financial protection, companies often prioritize their bottom line and may attempt to minimize payouts. Adjusters may use various tactics to undervalue claims or deny coverage altogether. Attorneys skilled in negotiation tactics and well-versed in Illinois insurance laws advocate on behalf of their clients, ensuring fair treatment and maximum compensation.

Furthermore, navigating the legal process can be overwhelming for those unfamiliar with the intricacies of Illinois law. From filing paperwork to adhering to strict deadlines, there are numerous procedural requirements that must be followed. Attorneys specializing in car accident cases have a deep understanding of Illinois statutes and case law. They guide their clients through each step of the legal process, alleviating stress and ensuring compliance with all necessary procedures.If you suffered a car accident, contact us immediately. Remember, there is a statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit, so the sooner you get in touch with an attorney, the better. If the statute of limitations already passed, get in touch with an attorney for advice on your options. There may be an exception in your case that extends the statute of limitations. Don’t delay; the sooner you contact an attorney, the sooner you can get compensation.

About The Author

author-bio-image
Personal Injury Lawyer Todd A. Strong Illinois workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyer Todd A. Strong is the founder of Strong Law Offices in Peoria, Illinois. Todd brings considerable legal knowledge, experience, and skill to the table to ensure injured victims throughout the state are treated with respect, dignity, and fairness.
Years of Experience: More than 20 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State, 1994
U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois, 1994
U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, 2022
U.S. District Court, Southern District of Illinois, 2023
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About The Author

author-bio-image
Personal Injury Lawyer Todd A. Strong Illinois workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyer Todd A. Strong is the founder of Strong Law Offices in Peoria, Illinois. Todd brings considerable legal knowledge, experience, and skill to the table to ensure injured victims throughout the state are treated with respect, dignity, and fairness.
Years of Experience: More than 20 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State, 1994
U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois, 1994
U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, 2022
U.S. District Court, Southern District of Illinois, 2023