What to Do After a Car Accident That Was Not Your Fault

January 1, 2024 | David Abels
What to Do After a Car Accident That Was Not Your Fault

Have You Suffered Injuries in an Accident Due to a Negligent Driver?

Car accidents can greatly affect a person's life depending on the severity of the accident and the injuries that they sustain. The injuries from a car accident can range from bruises and scrapes to permanent disability, paralysis, or even death. Those with severe injuries are often left with substantial damages and piles of debt that seem too high to ever pay off.

Have you suffered injuries in an accident due to a negligent driver? If so, you may qualify to pursue compensation from the at-fault party. 

To find out your options for holding the at-fault driver responsible and recovering damages, reach out to a Chicago car accident lawyer.

Car Accident Statistics

In a recent year, there were 34,247 fatal motor vehicle crashes in the United States. Of these, 1,005 fatal crashes happened in Illinois and 133 happened in Chicago. These statistics are alarming. Drivers who are distracted, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or driving recklessly cause many of these serious or fatal accidents. Car accidents are always traumatic, even if the accident was not your fault. In any event of a car accident, reaching out to an experienced car accident attorney can help you determine your options.

Causes of Illinois Car Accidents 

The causes of car accidents in Illinois, as in many other places, can vary, and accidents often result from a combination of factors. Here are some common causes of car accidents in Illinois:

  • Distracted Driving: Using a mobile phone or texting while driving is a significant cause of accidents. Distracted drivers may take their eyes off the road, leading to collisions.
  • Speeding: Speeding reduces reaction time and increases the severity of accidents. Drivers who exceed speed limits or drive too fast for road conditions are more likely to be involved in accidents.
  • Drunk Driving: Alcohol and drugs impair a driver's judgment, coordination, and reaction times, leading to a higher risk of accidents.
  • Reckless Driving: Aggressive driving behaviors, such as tailgating, weaving in and out of traffic, and road rage, can lead to accidents.
  • Weather Conditions: Illinois experiences various weather conditions, including rain, snow, and ice. Slippery roads and reduced visibility during adverse weather can contribute to accidents.
  • Failure to Obey Traffic Signals: Ignoring traffic signals and signs can result in collisions at intersections.
  • Driver Fatigue: Fatigued drivers have slower reaction times and impaired decision-making, increasing the risk of accidents.
  • Failure to Yield: Failure to yield when required, such as at intersections or when merging, can lead to accidents.
  • Inexperienced Drivers: Inexperienced or novice drivers may struggle to handle challenging driving situations, increasing the likelihood of accidents.
  • Mechanical Failures: Mechanical failures or defects in vehicles, such as brake failures or tire blowouts, can contribute to accidents. If mechanical defects caused your car accident, you may work with an attorney to file a third party claim.
  • Poor Road Conditions: Poorly maintained roads, potholes, and construction zones can create hazards for drivers, leading to accidents.
  • Driving Under the Influence of Drugs: Some accidents occur when drivers are impaired by prescription or over-the-counter medications.
  • Tailgating: Tailgating increases the risk of rear-end collisions, especially in stop-and-go traffic.
  • Defective Traffic Signals: Accidents can occur when traffic signals malfunction or are not properly maintained.

It's essential for drivers to stay vigilant, obey traffic laws, and adapt to road conditions to reduce the risk of accidents. If you've been involved in a car accident, consulting with a legal professional can help you navigate the legal process and seek compensation for damages.

Car Accident Injuries and Complications

Car accidents can cause your body to twist, jolt, or stretch in unnatural ways, as well as hit objects inside the vehicle. Traumatic injuries can take many forms, including some of the common ones below.

  • Soft Tissue Injuries: Soft tissue injuries are defined as injuries that cause damage to connective tissue in muscles, ligaments, and tendons. This is a very common type of car accident injury. For example, whiplash is categorized as a soft tissue injury. Whiplash occurs because of the back and forth motion caused in the neck when a car is hit. It can cause serious pain for the accident victim.
  • Lacerations and Cuts: Loose objects and broken glass can cause many injuries to a person. Lacerations and cuts may also be from broken parts of the car as the car crashes. These injuries are often minor, but can be more severe if the cut is deep enough or if a vital organ is penetrated. The loss of too much blood could lead to serious problems or even death if not treated right away. These injuries also occur alongside other injuries so the issues can compound.
  • Head and Brain Injuries: Brain and head injuries can be extremely serious, leading to coma, brain death, vegetative state, and even death in some circumstances. Concussions from car accidents range from mild to severe. Sometimes they are treatable with little issue and sometimes they cause serious, life-long complications. Head injuries are often referred to as the “silent” injury, as many don't realize they have one until it's too late. As brain injuries can be incredibly serious, it's important to receive treatment for them as soon as possible.
  • Chest Injuries: Chest injuries are often mild injuries that include bruising or contusions. However, more severe injuries can cause internal bleeding or severe damage to internal organs. Seat belts commonly cause bruising in car accidents, as well as air bags. Chest injuries may also include broken ribs, as the small amount of space between the driver and the seatbelt can cause a strong impact when a car is struck.
  • Arm and Leg Injuries: Arm and leg injuries are caused by the sudden movement that occurs when a car is struck. Depending on the severity of an accident, the crash may also cause an arm or leg to get trapped in the crushed car. Arm and leg injuries include broken bones, bruises, cuts, and even amputation in serious injuries. Sometimes fractures require surgery to repair.
  • Neck and Back Injuries: So many of us take for granted the use of our spines to control our necks and back. But when someone's neck or back suffers serious injury in a car accident, it can change their life forever. Not only are these injuries extremely painful, but they can also lead to complications that can leave injury victims with long-term pain.

You may experience other types of injuries as well, and they can range in severity depending on factors, such as the force of the collision. It's vital you consult an experienced car accident attorney in Illinois as soon as your able after the crash. A lawyer from Abels & Annes can help you assess your injuries, ensure you receive proper medical treatment, and calculate the damages you may recover.

What Are The Insurance Requirements in Illinois?

In Illinois, registered vehicles must be insured with the following minimum limits:

  • $25,000 for the injury or death of one person involved in an accident;
  • $50,000 for the injury or death of more than one person in an accident;
  • $20,000 for damage to another person's property.

A motor vehicle that is registered in another state but operating in Illinois is also required to carry liability insurance.

What Steps Should I Take Immediately After a Car Accident?

An accident can leave you feeling traumatized and unsure of what you should do next. Immediately after an accident, try to remain calm and take these steps:

Safety first: Move to a safe area as soon as you can. Turn on your car's hazard lights, and if you have any warning devices like flares or cones, place them around the accident scene. Do not drive away. Leaving the scene of an accident is against the law in every state. If the other driver leaves the scene, remain there and report the incident yourself.

Check for injuries: If you or anyone else is injured, call 911 or ask someone else to call. You may think you have not been badly injured, but some car accident injuries don't show up until later. It is always good to seek medical care after an accident.

Call the police and report the accident: Even if the accident was minor, it is good to get an official police report. You may need it for insurance purposes or other legal proceedings. There are now some insurance policies that require a police report or notice within a certain amount of time. When you speak with the police, provide the facts to the best of your ability. When the police arrive, tell the officer exactly what happened. If you do not know the answer to a question, say so.

File a written report with the State of Illinois: If you have been in an accident that requires a written report you must one with the Illinois Department of Transportation within ten days. A report is necessary when the accident is one which results in death, bodily injury, or property damage of $1,500 or more, or $500 or more if the vehicle is uninsured. The report you fill out is for statistical purposes only.

Exchange information: Everyone involved in the accident should exchange information. You should get as much information from the other driver(s) as possible, including:

  • Names, addresses, phone numbers;
  • Driver's license numbers;
  • License plate numbers;
  • Vehicle makes, models, and years;
  • Car insurance information; and
  • The location of the accident.

Collect evidence: It is important to gather as much evidence as possible right away. Obtain contact information from any witnesses. Take photos of the accident scene from more than one angle. Include pictures of debris and road signs. Check for video cameras in the area.

Be careful of what you say: When talking to anyone at the accident scene, avoid discussing fault. After the accident, the other driver's insurance company may contact you. If so, be polite, but be very cautious. Do not provide a recorded statement or sign anything without consulting your lawyer. Your own insurance policy probably requires you to report your accident to your insurance company, as well. If your insurer asks you to provide a statement, consult with a lawyer first. If you decide to give a statement without the guidance of counsel (which we would not recommend), do not discuss fault or say you were not injured. Simply state the facts. Even your own insurance company may try to downplay your injuries to pay less.

Do not talk with others or post on social media about the accident: You will probably discuss the accident with family or other people you trust. However, be aware that conversations with friends and the general public may not be confidential. Do not discuss your accident on social media.

Consult with a personal injury lawyer: Do not discuss the accident with representatives of an insurance company without consulting with an attorney. Do not sign papers or release forms without getting legal advice first. For example, signing a medical authorization gives others access to all of your medical records, including those before your accident.

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What Is a Car Accident Lawsuit?

Under personal injury law, if you can prove that someone else's negligence caused your accident, you can recover damages from that person for any injuries you received in the accident. The law generally defines negligence as “A failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.” Therefore, fault is a critical element of your lawsuit.

Illinois utilizes the fault system, also referred to as a tort system, to decide who is financially responsible after a car accident. This simply means that the person who a court finds is at fault for the accident must pay damages for any harm resulting from the accident.

What Damages Can I Collect from the At Fault Driver?

When a court awards monetary damages, it is an attempt to make the injured party “whole,” or as they were before the accident. The amount of compensation is based on the facts of each case and the extent of any injuries or property damage the accident caused.

If you were in a car accident that was not your fault, you have a legal right to seek compensation for any losses resulting from the accident, such as:

  • Medical bills, including emergency room costs and future medical expenses
  • Physical therapy and similar services
  • Lost wages from missing work
  • Replacement and repair costs for any vehicle damage or other property damage
  • General pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Disfigurement
  • Temporary and permanent disability.
  • Funeral and burial expenses (if you lost a family member in the accident)
  • Any other costs that are directly connected to the accident

In a car accident case, the two most common types of compensation are: economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages (also known as special damages) refers to damages that you have a bill form, like medical costs, in-home care, lost wages, or any other cost that was directly related to your accident.

Non-economic damages (or general damages) are damages that do not directly correlate to a cost or bill but still qualify as damages. An example of non-economic damage is pain and suffering. This can include physical pain from your injuries and mental trauma from the accident or the effects of your injuries.

If your case goes to trial, the judge or jury will look at what your life was like before your injury and what it is like now. According to this evaluation, they will calculate a sum of money for pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and loss of normal life. If your case doesn't make it to trial and you settle instead, your attorney and the insurance company will negotiate this number.

What Can a Car Accident Attorney Do for You?

A car accident attorney offers many benefits as you navigate the claims process and pursue compensation. A car accident lawyer can deal with the insurance companies for you and handle all aspects of your personal injury claim. They can properly file all paperwork and documents needed to support your claim and accurately calculate your damages. 

Since the insurance company may offer a lowball settlement that does not cover all your injuries and losses, an attorney can negotiate with the at-fault driver's insurer to reach a fair settlement. Additionally, at the time of settlement, a lawyer can negotiate with your doctors to reduce the amounts of your medical bills. This can help put more money in your pocket.

In the event of a lawsuit, attorneys can represent you in court, presenting your case and advocating for your rights.

Once you pick an attorney, you can focus on recovering from your injuries. Your lawyer will take over the task of dealing with the insurance adjuster to help you recover compensation.

Be Aware of Illinois' Statute of Limitations

Like all other states, Illinois sets a time limit for filing a personal injury lawsuit. This is called the statute of limitations, and you typically have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit in civil court. 

If you do not file your claim within the appropriate time, you risk losing the ability to sue, so consult a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Doing so can ensure that you can recover all of the compensation you need to pay for your medical and other expenses.

Contact an Experienced Illinois Car Accident Attorney Today

Filing a claim for your car accident can be a stressful process, but at Abels & Annes we're here to help take the weight off of your shoulders. We will be there for you every step of the way and will work tirelessly to get you the best settlement offer possible. If your case goes to trial, we will use our decades of experience to win your case and to get you back to your normal life as soon as possible.

Hiring an attorney is the best first step that you can take toward receiving compensation for your injuries. For more information and a free case evaluation, please contact us online or at (312) 924-7575.

David Abels Author Image

David Abels

Partner

David Abels has carved a niche for himself in the personal injury law sector, dedicating a substantial part of his career since 1997 to representing victims of various accidents. With a law practice that spans over two decades, his expertise has been consistently recognized within the legal community.

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