Unfortunately, car accidents are a common occurrence. On average, a driver will have a car accident once every 18 years or so. Some accidents are minor, but many are catastrophic. In 2017, 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 experience car accident attorney can help you determine your options.
Insurance Requirements in Illinois
In Illinois, registered vehicles must be insured with the following minimum limits:
- $20,000 for the injury or death of one person involved in an accident;
- $40,000 for the injury or death of more than one person in an accident;
- $15,000 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.
How to Proceed Immediately Following 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 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 immediately. 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. 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, but if you do not know the answer to a question, say so.
File a written report. If you have been in a reportable accident, you must file a written report with the Illinois Department of Transportation within ten days. A reportable 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.
Trade information. Everyone involved in the accident should exchange information. You should get as much information from the other driver 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 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 I 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.
Be careful about talking with others. 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 a personal injury attorney. 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.
What Is a Personal Injury 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.
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
- Physical therapy and similar services
- Lost wages from missing work
- General pain and suffering
- 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
What Can a Car Accident Attorney Do for You?
A car crash lawyer can deal with the insurance companies, properly file all paperwork and documents, accurately calculate your damages, and represent you in court, if necessary.
Like all other states, Illinois sets a time limit for filing a personal injury lawsuit. This is called the statute of limitations. 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.