If you have been involved in a traffic accident and suffered injuries, a number of questions immediately come to mind. Are you entitled to compensation? While your own insurance should cover the cost of your injuries, if you were not at fault in the accident it is possible that you might be entitled to compensation beyond what your own insurance might cover. What are the steps that you need to take to recover for those losses?
You may need legal assistance to pursue a claim for compensation. The complexity of the legal system makes it difficult, if not impossible, to pursue an injury claim without legal help. Pursuing compensation likely means that you will be going up against an insurance company for the other driver. You will be facing an insurance adjuster who is not on your side and has considerable experience in dealing with accident claims. You should have an experienced accident attorney on your side to guide you through the process. However, even before you retain an attorney, steps you can take include:
- Get any necessary medical treatment: If you have been injured in a car accident, get any medical treatment you need, even if you don’t feel seriously hurt. If you delay treatment your injuries could get worse, and delay also makes it more difficult to prove that your injuries were a result of the traffic accident. If you receive treatment for your injuries but still have pain, follow up with another doctor to make sure you don’t have more long-lasting injuries.
- Notify all relevant insurance companies: Your insurance company obviously needs to be notified of your accident, but you also should notify the other driver’s insurance company, as it is possible that the other driver’s insurance company will be responsible for compensating you for your injuries. Contacting the other driver’s insurer puts them on notice of your claim.
- Collect any evidence you can regarding the accident: The more evidence you have, the better your claim is. Get the police report, any pictures that are available of the accident scene or damage to your vehicle, as well as pictures of your injuries, if applicable.
- Complete your medical treatment: If you have medical treatment ongoing, you should either wait until the treatment is complete before settling your claim or make sure that your settlement covers any anticipated future costs of unfinished treatment.
What Are the Steps Leading to a Settlement of My Claim?
If you have been injured and another party is at fault, whether in a traffic accident, workplace accident, or other circumstances where another party was at fault, you must complete certain steps to recover compensation for your injury. You may need to begin legal proceedings to prompt the other party to negotiate a settlement. If you have taken the proper steps to protect your claim, your attorney will be able to present your claim in the best light and maximize your recovery. Sometimes, that will include going through the courts. If so, the steps involved will include:
- Filing a complaint: Your complaint might be filed in small claims court or district court, depending upon the amount involved. Once your attorney has determined the correct court for filing, your attorney will file a complaint claiming damages from the party responsible for your injuries. Settlement negotiations are likely to begin at this point, and many cases settle well before trial. Where insurance companies are involved, settlement negotiations are more likely to succeed, as a settlement is typically less costly than trial, and insurance companies generally seek to reduce costs.
- Discovery: If there is no settlement early on, the court can order discovery to proceed once you have filed a complaint and the defendant (the person you are suing) has filed an answer. This means both parties are allowed to request evidence from the other party that can be used at trial.
- Pre-trial motions: Both sides can file what is known as pre-trial motions, which can seek to exclude evidence, to dismiss the case for failing to state an actionable claim, or for summary judgment, which means the party granted summary judgment wins without going to trial.
- Trial: If pre-trial motions do not resolve the case, the judge can order mediation or provide time for settlement talks. If those efforts fail, your case will go to trial. Each side will present its evidence, and a judge or the jury will decide the result.
Realistically, because of the costs involved, few personal injury cases actually go to trial. Most settle beforehand. In most cases, negotiations begin as soon as you hire an attorney. If fault is clear, the party at fault – or that party’s insurance company – will negotiate to minimize how much it has to pay. Where fault is less clear, it is possible that your attorney will have to file a formal legal complaint. Ultimately, the negotiations will follow the steps outlined above. If another party is clearly at fault, and damages relatively clear, that will drive negotiations. If negotiations fail to resolve the matter, litigation will follow.
If You Have Been Injured in an Accident in the Chicago area, Contact the Attorneys of Abels & Annes
If you have suffered injuries in an accident in the Chicago area, you should obtain professional advice to ensure you recover just compensation for your injuries. The aftermath of an accident can extremely stressful. The attorneys of Abels & Annes are here to help. Contact us to assist you in protecting your rights, while you focus on your physical recovery. You can reach us at (312) 924-7575 or through our website.