Illinois Car Accident Law
What Is Car Accident In Ilinois?
Ankin Law - Chicago Car Accident Lawyer
Chicago, Illinois 60654
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Howard Ankin is a Car Accident and Personal Injury lawyer who prides himself in representing his clients as their friend and attorney, providing quality referrals for legal matters outside of his practice areas. His investment in the Ankin Law is evidenced every day as families throughout the Chicago area and Illinois return to the firm for legal guidance at all stages of their lives.
Insurance RequirementsIllinois is an at-fault state, meaning that the insurance company that insures the person who caused the accident is responsible for paying for the damages its insured caused, up to certain policy limits. Every driver in Illinois is required by law to have the following minimum insurance limits:
- $20,000 property damages
- $25,000/$50,000 bodily injury coverage
These are only the state's minimum liability coverage. Liability coverage pays for claims by another person if the insured causes an accident. Insurance is a contract between the insured and the insurance company in which the insured pays premiums in exchange for the insurance company covering damages that the insured may cause. Additionally, if the victim sues the insured, the insurance company will pay for a lawyer if the claim results in litigation.
Insured drivers can purchase additional coverage known as first-party coverage. In Illinois, this additional insurance consists of the following:
- Medical payments - This additional insurance pays for an insured's medical expenses arising out of an accident involving a covered vehicle. It may cover the driver and other occupants in the vehicle.
- Uninsured or underinsured motorist - This type of insurance covers the property damage and medical expenses the driver sustains when the at-fault party did not have insurance or had inadequate insurance.
- Comprehensive - This type of insurance covers property damage to an insured's covered vehicle arising out of incidences other than motor vehicle accident such as fire or theft.
- Collision - This type of insurance covers property damage to an insured's vehicle that is caused in an accident.
Typically, if a vehicle is financed, the finance company requires additional insurance over the state minimum requirements.
Potential DefendantsIn Illinois, there are a number of individuals who may be held legally responsible for a car accident. It is important to understand who may share responsibility for the accident in case an insurance company denies coverage or the defendant did not have insurance. Some potential defendants other than the at-fault party include:
AgentIf the driver was performing an errand or task for another person when he or she caused the accident, the person who sent the driver on this errand can be held liable for the driver's negligence in some instances. Similarly, under an agency theory the negligence of a minor driver can be imputed to his or her parent when the child is performing a task at the parent's request.
EmployerIf the at-fault driver was working at the time of the incident and was performing his or her work duties, the employer may be held liable for the accident. This rule does not pertain to independent contractors. However, whether a person is an employee or independent contractor may be a question of fact for a judge or jury to consider.
Negligent EntrustmentIf a person lends his or her vehicle to another person and has reason to know that person will use it in a way that involves unreasonable risk of harm to others, the legal theory of negligent entrustment may apply. This translates to mean that if a person lets a friend borrow a vehicle knowing that he or she is unlicensed, is known for drinking or driving or is an inexperienced driver, the car owner may be held responsible for the damages that result.
Filing an Insurance ClaimThe driver who was injured by the at-fault driver files an insurance claim against with the at-fault driver's insurance company. During the aftermath of an accident, the parties report the accident. Illinois law requires the drivers involved in an accident to stop. A law enforcement officer may come to the scene of the accident and gather basic information about the parties, including their names, addresses, driver's license numbers and insurance information and may share this information with the other party. The law enforcement officer may also write down information about the accident, the extent of the damages, weather conditions and his or her impressions about what caused the accident.
Investigating the ClaimOnce a third-party claim has been filed, the at-fault driver's insurance company investigates the claim. The insurance company may review information about the area surrounding the accident, traffic signs or controls in the immediate vicinity of the accident, road conditions, location of impact on each vehicle, witness statements, driver statements, lighting conditions, any reports regarding alcohol or drugs, any concern mentioned in a police report regarding distracted driving, medical reports, any tickets and other factors.
First Party ClaimsIf the victim seeks compensation against his or her own insurance policy, such as under the collision portion of his or her coverage, the first party insurance company may then pursue the at-fault party's insurance company for reimbursement of these expenses, including any deductible that the driver had to pay.
Denying Third Party ClaimsAfter the insurance company investigates the claim, it may deny it. The insurance company's representatives will try to minimize the losses the insurance company sustains and will deny coverage whenever possible. There may be a variety of reasons why an insurance claim is denied, such as the insured is determined not to have been at-fault or the insurance company believes the victim is seeking recovery for damages that were not sustained in the accident. If the insurance company denies the claim, the victim's only recourse is to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. The insurance company must then provide legal representation to the insured under its terms of the insurance contract.
Insurance Company and Insured DutiesThe insurance company owes its insured a number of duties. The insured also has duties to the insurance company. The insured must notify the insurance company of any accidents that could result in a claim. The insured must also cooperate with the insurance company in its investigation. The insured must report the accident within a reasonable time. Failing to give reasonable notice as required by the insurance contract can make it so that the insured loses its right to recover under the policy. Therefore, an insured driver should notify his or her insurance company even if he or she believes the accident was caused by the other party. Likewise, if the insured is served with a summons, he or she should immediately notify the insurance company.
The insured must maintain timely payments for premiums. If he or she fails to pay the premium, the insurance contract may be cancelled.
The insurance company has a duty to defend its insured even if it has denied the third-party claim. The insured is required to participate in the litigation process as required by the insurance company. If the third party is successful in its lawsuit against the defendant, the insurance company pays out the amount of damages up to certain limits.
Health Insurance PrinciplesRules regarding health insurance may apply in car accident claims. If a private health insurance company pays for treatment a victim of a car accident received, it will have an interest in recovering for the amount that it paid. The insured usually has a contract in place with the insurance company to reimburse it out of any settlement or jury award of damages for the treatment it covered. The medical provider typically has a medical lien for any unpaid portion of the bill against the victim's claims for damages. The Healthcare Services Lien Act limits the potential recovery of insurance companies. The total amount of liens cannot be more than 40 percent of the victim's recovery. Likewise, no single lienholder can receive more than one-third of the victim's recovery. This law also impacts how much personal injury lawyers can receive for their services. If the total liens are more than 40 percent, the lawyers' fees cannot be more than 30 percent of the victim's recovery unless there is an appeal in the case. Medicare and Medicaid also have lienhold interests in victims' recovery.
Starting a LawsuitTo start a lawsuit in Illinois, the victim must have a Complaint and Summons prepared. The complaint sets out the legal arguments as to why the defendant should be required to pay damages for the accident. The summons notifies the defendant that a lawsuit is filed and that he or she has a limited right to answer the lawsuit or risk a default judgment. How the defendant must be served depends on the type of claim and the defendant's residence. If the claim is filed as a small claims case that alleges $10,000 or less in damages, the victim can send it through certified mail with a return receipt, per IL SCR 284. Generally, the defendant is served personally, per 735 ILCS 5/2-203. If the defendant is a corporation, it is served on the registered agent, per 735 ILCS 5/2-204. If the defendant is not a resident of the state of Illinois, it is served on the Illinois Secretary of State with notice to the defendant through registered mail at his or her last known address, per 625 ILCS 5/10-301.
Proving a ClaimTo recover for a claim, the victim through his or her legal counsel must be able to prove several elements of the offense. The victim must be able to establish that the accident was caused by the negligence of the other driver. This means that the defendant must have done something unreasonable or failed to act in a reasonable manner when operating the motor vehicle. For example, the at-fault driver may have failed to yield, ran a stop light, been speeding, was distracted or was drinking and driving. Due to these actions, the defendant caused the accident which resulted in the victim's damages which stemmed directly from the accident.
DamagesThe final element that an insured must establish in a car accident lawsuit in Illinois is damages. These are various types of damages that a car accident victim may be able to recover, including payment for medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering. Additionally, victims may recover for property damage they sustained, lost earning capacity, car rental expenses and permanent scarring. The victim must keep records to establish these damages.
Illinois uses modified comparative fault principles if the victim is partially responsible for the car accident. As long as the victim was not 50 percent or more at fault for the accident, he or she can still recover for it, per 735 ILCS 5/2-1116. However, the victim's own contribution to the accident will reduce the amount of damages that he or she receives by his or her proportionate share of the accident. For example, if the victim sustained damages of $100,000 and was 25 percent at fault for the accident, his or her recovery would be reduced by $25,000. These principles apply if a lawsuit is filed, as well as if an insurance company is deciding how much money to offer an insured during settlement negotiations if it did not deny a claim.
Statute of LimitationsIllinois has a strict statue of limitations for car accident claims. This is the time limit by which a victim must file a lawsuit to prevent being barred from bringing forth the claim due to passing a time limit. For personal injury claims, there is a two-year statute of limitations, per 735 ILCS 5/13-205. However, if the defendant is a public entity, the time limit is only one year, per 745 ILCS 10/8-101. If the accident claim only involves property damage, the statute of limitations is five years, per 735 ILCS 5/13-202.
It is critical to discuss your case with a personal injury lawyer well before the statute of limitations so that a lawyer can properly investigate and prepare your claim. He or she can advise you of your rights during the legal process.
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