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Smartwatches and Distracted Driving

distracted driving lawyer in chicago illinoisLong before there were electronic devices, there were driver distractions. However, as technology has developed, the problem has grown. At any given moment during the daylight hours, researchers estimate that over 800,000 vehicles are being driven by someone on a handheld cell phone.

In recent years, smartwatches have become the latest digital device that poses a distracted driving risk. Most people are aware of the risks of using smartphones while driving, but what about smartwatches?

What Is a Smartwatch?

A smartwatch is a wearable computer in the form of a wristwatch. In addition to telling time, smartwatches provide wearers with instant messages, texts, alerts of incoming calls, and social network updates. Smartwatch software may also include digital maps, personal organizers, and health-related applications. Like other computers, a smartwatch gathers information from internal or external sensors, and it may control, or retrieve data from, other devices or computers.

Using a smartwatch, a driver can receive notifications of text messages or emails, read and respond to them; send reminders or calendar notifications; either answer or decline incoming calls; play music; or operate a GPS. The increasing use of devices and the dangers of distracted driving have concerned people for a long time. The dangers of texting or using a smartphone while driving is well-publicized. However, smartwatches bring new issues to the world of distracted driving.

What Is Distracted Driving?

Careful driving can be difficult under the best of circumstances. Driving while distracted is far more difficult and more dangerous. Distracted driving is driving while engaging in any behavior that could potentially take your attention away from the most important area of focus: the road in front of you. Like reckless driving, driving while distracted endangers yourself, but also any passengers, other drivers, and nearby pedestrians. In just one recent year, 2,841 fatalities took place because of distracted driving.

These three risky forms of distraction make driving more dangerous:

  1. Visual distractions, which means anything that takes a driver’s eyes from the road or even for a split-second.
  2. Cognitive distractions, which includes anything that keeps your mind from focusing on driving
  3. Manual distractions, which are often combined with visual distractions. It means taking your hands off the wheel for any reason.

Some activities involve multiple distractions. For example, texting while driving requires you to look at a screen, type using your hands, and think about what you’re writing. The effect of using a cell phone, whether it is handheld or hands-free, adversely affects a driver’s reaction time. In some cases, it delays drivers’ reactions to the same degree as a blood alcohol level of .08 percent.

Distracted Driving and Smartwatches

Some people assume that smartwatches are safer because their features are voice-activated. However, safety experts say that hands-free devices can be just as dangerous as handheld ones because they divert the driver’s attention from the road.

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), a U.K. based road safety group, warns that smartwatches are potentially more dangerous than smartphones, because while a driver can usually operate a smartphone with one hand, a smartwatch actually requires two hands. One hand wears the smartwatch and the other hand operates it. Even if the information just scrolls across the screen, you need to look at it, sometimes by raising the watch to eye level, to read the notifications.

Additionally, notifications and alerts are hard to avoid. The device on your wrist may be vibrating, making some kind of noise, or lighting up. Unlike phones, which can be left in a pocket or cup-holder and ignored, when a wearable device is going off, there is a strong temptation to check it.

The screens on many smartwatches are smaller than those on smartphones. It may take slightly more time to look at it. However, even a brief moment of inattention can be deadly. In one experiment done in the U.K., a driver’s reaction time was 1.35 seconds when he was holding a hands-free phone conversation. By comparison, reading a text on a smartwatch took an average of 2.52 seconds to react to an unexpected event, compared with 0.9 seconds when he was talking to a passenger in the car. He also veered out of his lane four times while using the smartwatch.

Distracted Driving Laws

Most states do not specifically discuss the use of smartwatches while driving. Is using a smartwatch a distracted driving offense?

Not in Illinois, for example, but there it does not make the use of such devices legal. Under Illinois law section 625 ILCS 5/12(b), “A person may not operate a motor vehicle on a roadway while using an electronic communication device.”

According to section 625 ILCS 5/12(a), “Electronic communication device” means any electronic device, such as a smartphone or laptop, but does not include a GPS or navigation system that is integrated into the car’s system.

This statute does not specifically list smartwatches as an example of an electronic device, but the statute may include electronic communication devices other than those specifically stated in the statute. Also, smartwatches are not specifically excluded in this statute. Therefore, the statute may characterize smartwatches as an “electronic communication device.”

Originally, under the 2014 law, a first offense for texting while driving was not a moving violation and thus did not affect the individual’s driving record. However, as of July 1, 2019, a person cited for driving while texting can receive a moving violation. The violation goes on their driving record and if a driver commits three moving violations within 12 months, their license may be suspended. In addition, the law established fines for first-time offenders. The penalty for a first offense is $75, $100 for a second, $125 for a third, and $150 for a fourth or subsequent offense.

The Risks of Smartwatches and Distracted Driving

Using a smartwatch while driving increases the risk of an accident. It may only take a second to glance at a smartwatch, but a second’s inattention may be all it takes for a crash to happen. A car accident can result in a lifetime of serious consequences, such as severe or even fatal injuries, medical bills, lost wages, and other losses.

Seeking Recovery for Rideshare Drivers

Passengers are not the only people who can get injured in ridesharing accidents. Our Chicago rideshare accident lawyers often represent Uber and Lyft drivers that sustain injuries due to the negligence of other motorists. Rideshare drivers may find themselves involved in, and injured from, accidents and incidents behind the wheel. Physical injuries can lead to significant medical and economic consequences for rideshare drivers, particularly when the injuries keep them away from work and unable to earn fares. Property damage, typically to a vehicle, can put a driver out of work for the immediate future. Modern vehicles are becoming harder and far more expensive to repair.

Rideshare drivers have the same rights to the road as any other motorist. Unfortunately, pursuing compensation from an at-fault driver, a large insurance corporation, or a multi-billion dollar rideshare company is rarely a simple task for anyone, including a rideshare driver. When a rideshare driver is injured or suffers property damage on the job, they deserve to have someone in their corner. This is where the trusted car accident lawyers at Abels & Annes come in.

Drivers’ Rights to Compensation

Drivers for a rideshare service have a right to receive compensation for injuries they sustain in the course of their work, including:

  • The costs of medical care necessary to treat an injury, from emergency medical care through long-term therapy.
  • The economic impact of wages lost because an injury prevented the driver from returning to work, and of future economic opportunities the injury forced the driver to forego.
  • The expenses associated with services the driver needs to retain to manage day-to-day life while recovering from or living with an injury, such as childcare or keeping house.
  • The non-economic impact of an injury, such as the physical pain and emotional suffering it causes, and its detrimental effects on a driver’s quality of life and close, personal relationships.

At Abels & Annes, we believe hard-working rideshare drivers deserve this compensation. Rideshare drivers are skilled professionals, and an essential aspect of modern transportation—they deserve the same protections as any other motorist, particularly when providing a service to others. We can help drivers recover the compensation they deserve no matter if it requires chasing down insurance coverage, taking legal action against a rideshare company, or suing an at-fault party.

If you’re on your way to pick up a rider or carrying one in your vehicle, Uber covers you with a $1 million policy—more than the personal policies that most Uber drivers or other motorists carry. Unfortunately, Uber’s insurance company is no more likely to offer an adequate settlement on a valid claim than any other insurance company. That’s where the Uber accident lawyers at Abels & Annes come in.

Our Chicago Uber Accident Lawyers Can Help Uber Drivers, Too

The Chicago legal team at Abels & Annes can help you obtain the money you deserve after sustaining an injury as a rideshare driver. We are prepared to analyze your unique situation and to explore all paths available to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve.

Depending on the circumstances of your case, our assistance can include:

  • Review of police reports;
  • Investigation of the accident scene;
  • Input from experts when required;
  • Consultation with witnesses;
  • Analysis of recovery options under all insurance policies and against all potentially liable parties;
  • Obtaining medical records and bills;
  • Preparing a settlement demand package and negotiating with the insurance carrier(s);
  • Negotiating and reducing medical bills;
  • Pursuit of an appropriate legal strategy, whether in or out of court.

Rideshare drivers are quickly becoming an essential aspect of our economy, and millions of Americans rely on rideshare drivers to get them where they need to be, whether for work or for pleasure. Accordingly, rideshare drivers should have an ally when the unexpected happens, even if that means going up against a large insurer or rideshare company to ensure you are made whole under the law. Contact Abels & Annes to protect your rights as a rideshare driver and to pursue the compensation you deserve.

Who Is at Fault in a T-Bone Car Accident?

A T-bone car accident, sometimes referred to as an angle collision, occurs when the front end of one car strikes the side of another car, forming a T. Some also call T-bones broadside collisions, if the impact occurs on the passenger side of a car. T-bone accidents are among the most deadly and dangerous of traffic crashes; they often occur at intersections, and determining fault is not always an easy task.

When a T-bone car accident occurs, multiple different parties can be at fault. In some situations, one party can be fully liable for a T-bone accident. In other crashes, two or more parties can share liability. We cover each of the potentially liable parties in a T-bone car accident below.

Putting your case in the hands of a trusted and experienced Chicago car accident attorney can help ensure as speedy and productive of a resolution to your claim as possible.

The Other Driver

T-bone car accidents can occur at large and small intersections alike. Some intersections have traffic control devices like stop lights or stop signs, and others are uncontrolled intersections. Remember that an intersection doesn’t only refer to where two roads meet, but can also refer to where a driveway and a road meet, or the entrance to a store or parking lot and a road.

No matter the type of intersection, one person has the right of way and the accident occurs because another driver did not yield to that right.

Specific driver behaviors that lead to a driver entering an intersection without the proper right of way include:

Who Is Liable for My Bills Following a T-Bone Accident?

While an attorney can help ensure the person responsible for the accident compensates you for damages (such as medical bills), you will still likely receive invoices for payment shortly after the crash.

This is why hiring a personal injury attorney is so important: Like many other victims of T-bone accidents, you likely have mounting medical bills, may miss time from work, and have enough to deal with focusing on your recovery. The sooner you can obtain compensation from the responsible party, the sooner you and your loved ones can get back to normal.

Your attorney can negotiate aggressively on your behalf to secure a fair settlement for your injuries. If necessary, your attorney can argue your case in court and ensure the best possible chances of a successful recovery. If you have trouble managing your bills in the meantime, your attorney can work with providers to ensure your care is delivered uninterrupted (such as asking the medical provider to file a lien or place your account on hold) while you work toward a settlement.

Holding even the most irresponsible of drivers accountable for their actions can require navigating a minefield of challenging and time-consuming insurance representatives, law enforcement professionals, opposing counsel, and possibly a judge and jury.

Third Parties Who Contributed to Driver Actions

Numerous negligent drivers choose to drive without insurance, and even then, many do not have the means to compensate the victim of a serious accident they cause. Even if your attorney successfully proves that the other driver was responsible for the accident, what happens if the other party lacks insurance or the resources to collect from?

The driver of the vehicle responsible for the collision may not be the only party potentially liable for damages—and if so, a car accident lawyer can work to hold third parties partially or fully liable for a T-bone car accident when their negligence contributes to driver behaviors that lead to an accident.

Possible scenarios where an attorney names a third party in a T-bone car accident claim or lawsuit might include:

  • Alcoholic beverage service. Under Illinois’s dram shop law, The Liquor Control Act of 1934, commercial establishments who serve alcohol, such as restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, open themselves up to liability if a patron drinks too much and gets behind the wheel. Private social hosts are excluded in Illinois law unless the drunk driver is underage.
  • Employers. Those organizations that allow or require employees to drive company vehicles can be held liable for an accident under a theory of agency. Further, they have a responsibility to perform background checks on their employees and train them properly if they are driving special equipment or vehicles. When an employee causes a T-bone accident in a company vehicle, Illinois courts can hold the employer liable. Similarly, employers have a responsibility to properly maintain company vehicles. Mechanical failures can lead to dangerous T-bone accidents and open an employer up to liability for a car accident.

Uninsured Motorist Claims

If an at-fault driver is without auto insurance, the most likely scenario is an uninsured motorist claim (UIM claim) with your own auto insurance carrier. Here, your auto insurance company steps into the shoes of the other motorist and pays on the claim. Due to the high rate of uninsured drivers, UM claims are very common and our lawyers handle them regularly.

A Car Accident Lawyer Can Make All the Difference

If you were in a T-bone car accident, you deserve compensation for your injuries when another party caused the accident. An experienced car accident attorney can investigate the facts of your case, handle negotiations with insurance companies, and ensure the party or parties responsible for the accident pay what you are owed under the law. Contact a car accident attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case.

Who Pays Medical Bills After a Car Accident?

car accident lawyer in chicago illinoisAccording to the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), more than 67,000 crashes on Illinois roads resulted in injuries in just one year. In severe car accidents, medical bills often pile up for those who are injured. This creates undue stress and economic uncertainty for many accident victims and their families; those who suffer injuries often cannot work, at least in the short-term. In the most extreme cases, some families may need to file bankruptcy, lose their homes in foreclosure, amass debt, and sometimes do not have enough money to cover even basic needs.

You are responsible for paying all medical bills you receive that are related to the treatment of injuries sustained in a car accident. Yet, the source of the funds you use to pay your medical bills will vary based on the circumstances of your accident, your insurance coverage, and the coverage of the other driver.

If you have sustained injuries in a car accident in Illinois as a result of another party’s careless actions, it’s in your best interest to consult with an experienced Illinois car accident attorney. Below, we provide an overview of Illinois insurance requirements and information about who pays medical bills in different insurance coverage scenarios.

Illinois Auto Insurance Requirements

Illinois has a fault-based insurance system, which means the party who causes an accident is liable for property damage and injuries related to the accident. Under Illinois law, all drivers must meet minimum insurance requirements. Coverage that applies to medical bills falls under bodily injury coverage.

Bodily Injury Liability Coverage (BIL)

Bodily injury liability pays for costs related to the injury or death of a driver or occupant in another vehicle or a pedestrian. In some cases, BIL also covers passengers in your car, if they are not a member of your household. Illinois law requires that drivers carry at least $25,000 per person in bodily injury liability coverage and a total of $50,000 per accident. Additionally, Illinois drivers must carry a minimum of $20,000 in property damage coverage.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM)

Uninsured motorist insurance coverage is similar to bodily injury coverage to the extent that it covers medical bills after a car accident. UM coverage kicks in when an uninsured driver causes your car accident. Illinois drivers must carry a minimum of $25,000 in uninsured motorist coverage per person $50,000 per accident.

Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM)

Illinois underinsured motorist insurance covers the gap in insurance that occurs when the at-fault driver does not have high enough insurance limits to cover the bodily injury or death in the accident they caused. Illinois only requires UIM coverage when policyholders purchase higher limits of uninsured motorist (UM) coverage.

Who Pays When You Don’t Have Car Insurance?

If you did not cause the accident, the at-fault driver’s BIL coverage will kick in to cover your medical bills up to their policy limit. Keep in mind that even if insurance covers your medical bills, you likely will have to wait months before you see a penny of reimbursement. Make sure to keep your medical providers informed of your situation, so they do not send your account to a collection agency.

Who Pays Your Medical Bills When the at-Fault Driver Has No Insurance?

If you are in a car accident with a driver who isn’t insured or doesn’t have enough insurance, you will initially have to pay all of your medical bills. Fortunately, Illinois requires uninsured motorist coverage. If you are compliant, you can file a claim under your UM coverage to receive compensation for your medical bills up to your policy limit.

Once you have met or exceeded your UM coverage limits, your lawyer will have to negotiate with your medical providers and work to reduce your medical bills accordingly. This typically includes using the Illinois Health Care Services Lien Act (770 ILCS 23/). Here, hospitals and doctors can only collect certain percentages of your settlement.

Uninsured motorist coverage also covers hit-and-run accidents. Hopefully, if an at-fault driver leaves the scene of an accident, law enforcement can track him or her down. This, however, is not usually the case, so your UM coverage will kick in to cover your medical bills up to your policy limit.

Who Pays When You Have Exceeded Auto Insurance Coverage Limits?

A wide array of expenses falls under the umbrella of car accident-related medical bills. An ambulance ride, emergency department visit, and a short stay in the hospital can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars. If you have suffered multiple traumas and severe injuries, expensive and lengthy hospitalization is likely. Medical bills also include surgery and accompanying costs, diagnostics, lab testing, rehabilitation, aftercare, and medication. Severe injuries can easily lead to medical bills totaling well into six figures, which can quickly exceed BIL and UM policy coverage limits.

You can rely on your health insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare to cover some costs for specific things, but sometimes you have to exhaust all other insurance alternatives before health insurance will start paying. After you have met or exceeded your health insurance limits, you could be asked to pay your medical bills out-of-pocket.

For some, this could mean amassing credit card debt, draining bank accounts, and selling personal items to earn more money. However, for those smart enough to work with an experienced accident lawyer, it means having that attorney negotiate your medical bills. There are no guarantees, but typically medical providers will want some portion of a bill paid over an unrealistic debt collection, and they will often settle.

If you were in a severe car accident that led to a stack of medical bills, you can get the help you need by consulting an experienced car accident attorney. An auto accident lawyer can help get the compensation they need and deserve for their medical bills. An attorney can investigate the facts of the case, gather necessary evidence, and build the strongest case possible against the at-fault party.

How to Get the Most Money From a Car Accident

chicago car accident lawyerSerious injuries from a car accident deserve compensation. Not only must you live with the limitations of those injuries, often for the rest of your life, but you may also need help paying your medical bills and managing the other expenses that go along with your injuries. How can you get the most money from a car accident?

Hire a Car Accident Lawyer

If you want to maximize the compensation you receive following a car accident, hire an attorney. You should contact that attorney as soon after your accident as possible. Hiring an attorney:

Prevents you from mistakenly minimizing your compensation. After a serious car accident, an insurance company could make a settlement offer. Often, this settlement offer fails to reflect the funds you really deserve for your injuries. In some cases, in fact, the insurance company may offer only a fraction of what you really deserve for your injuries. Some car accident victims may accept this offer because they believe they will not get a better one or because they think it represents the maximum compensation available for their injury. An attorney can give you a better idea of how much you really deserve for your injuries, preventing you from mistakenly minimizing the compensation you can receive.

Provides you with a full evaluation of all parties liable for your accident. Illinois drivers who carry minimum auto insurance may have insurance that provides only $25,000 in compensation for bodily injury as a result of the accident. The medical bills for many types of injuries, including burns, spinal cord injuries, and traumatic brain injury, may far exceed that amount. You can file a personal injury claim against all entities that contributed to your accident, which may maximize your compensation.

An attorney can:

  • Seek video footage of your accident. Video footage may include dash cam footage, security footage from local businesses, or traffic camera footage that clearly displays your accident.
  • Speak to witnesses. Witness statements can help an experienced attorney or expert witness put together exactly how the accident occurred and what factors contributed to that accident.
  • Check truckers’ logs and evaluate the trucking company, including taking a look at the driver’s past tickets and accident history. An experienced attorney may learn that a trucker has exceeded the number of hours he can legally spend behind the wheel or that the trucking company has a history of expecting drivers to meet unrealistic expectations or drive in unsafe conditions, for example.
  • Take a look at the maintenance history of the vehicle and evaluate whether, if mechanical failure caused the accident, the manufacturer or a mechanic who recently worked on the vehicle may share liability for your injuries.
  • Take a closer look at any other factors that contributed to your accident, including a poorly loaded truck or a mechanical defect.

Increases your understanding of the compensation you deserve for your injuries. You may question how much compensation you really deserve following a serious accident. An experienced personal injury attorney can improve your understanding of the compensation you deserve and provide you with a highly effective plan to proceed with your claim.

Most car accident victims include several common aspects as part of their claims, including:

  • Medical expenses. Your medical expenses may mount quickly, especially in accidents that include burns, traumatic brain injury, or spinal cord damage. An experienced personal injury attorney will help you evaluate all medical expenses associated with the accident, including emergency transport, treatment in the emergency room, surgeries and procedures, tests, and durable medical equipment. An attorney will also advise you about other expenses that count as medical expenses for the purposes of your personal injury claim. For example, you may need to make modifications to your home to accommodate a wheelchair after a spinal cord injury or amputation, or you may need ongoing personal care as a result of a traumatic brain injury. An attorney can help you understand how and when to include those expenses as part of your personal injury claim.
  • Lost wages. Severe injuries can prevent you from returning to work long-term—or, in some cases, prevent you from returning to work permanently. If you face lost time at work due to your injuries, you deserve compensation for those injuries. Your attorney will help evaluate the terms of those lost wages, including how lost vacation time as a result of your injuries could increase the funds you deserve in your personal injury claim.
  • Pain and suffering. While pain and suffering does not represent a tangible cost, it can add substantially to your personal injury claim. Many car accident injuries not only cause significant physical pain and suffering, they may leave you suffering from isolation or struggling to return to the activities that normally bring you joy. An attorney can help you determine how to calculate the worth of that pain and suffering.

Provides support as you deal with negotiations, mediation, and even go to court, if necessary. You may go through numerous stages of negotiation before you reach a resolution in your personal injury claim. In some cases, you may need to go to mediation to reach a resolution if you and the liable party, usually an insurance company, cannot come to an agreement about the worth of your claim. Failed negotiation results in your claim going to court. At every stage in this process, your attorney provides vital support that can help increase the compensation you receive for your injuries.

If you want to maximize the compensation you receive from a personal injury claim, start by hiring an experienced personal injury attorney. Many clients find that simply retaining an attorney increases the compensation the insurance company will willingly offer. In other cases, an attorney will manage the negotiation process or proceed to court for your claim. Contact an car accident attorney to discuss your case and learn more about how to obtain as much compensation as possible after your car accident.

How Long Does a Car Accident Settlement Take?

When someone crashes into your car, and you sustain serious injuries, you should initially focus on healing and your recovery. As you return to your usual daily activities, you may start thinking about settling your injury claim. It may represent a long-needed cash influx to restore your finances to pre-accident conditions.

However you envision your settlement, you are likely wondering how long the process will take.

The immediate answer is that personal injury settlements depend on the specific circumstances surrounding the accident and resulting injuries. They also depend on whether you hire a car accident lawyer who knows how to efficiently prepare and press your case.

Your Settlement Timing Is Unique to You and Your Claim

As you and your lawyer contemplate your settlement, you must ask several questions, just as you did when examining liability issues immediately after your accident. Your settlement’s timing will depend upon these answers.

What Is the Statute of Limitations?

In Illinois, you have a two-year statute of limitations for most personal injury claims, however they are defendants with a shorter one-year statute, such as municipalities. Your attorney must settle your claim or file a lawsuit by that date, or you lose the right to recover compensation altogether. In most cases an attempt to settle your case will be made well before the statute limitations, unless you go through extended medical care due to more serious injuries.

What Is the Insurance Company’s Position?

Insurance companies are often at the center of settlement timing issues. Their only legal guidance on timing is that they must comply with fair claim practices outlined in the Illinois Administrative Code. Illinois law requires insurers to affirm or deny liability “within a reasonable time.” They must also offer payment within 30 days, “if the amount of the claim is determined and not in dispute.”

When an injury claim presents complex legal and damage issues, insurers often consider them in dispute. When settlement negotiations begin, the disputed liability and damage issues often become a negotiation tool to reduce settlement values.

Some insurers initiate settlement negotiations when they perceive that the time is right—and that’s usually when you don’t yet have a lawyer and your bills are piling up. Others operate with brinkmanship tactics and may tiptoe around the settlement issue, withdrawing contact a few months before the statute runs to avoid bad faith allegations.

Negotiating with insurers is notoriously difficult. This is where an attorney can greatly simplify and expedite the claims process.

Have You Reached Maximum Healing?

If you still have serious questions about your recovery, your personal injury attorney can help estimate the full scope of your expenses, both present and future, and the best course of action for pursuing recovery, whether in or out of court.

Are There Any Outstanding Liability Issues?

If a defendant alleges that you caused or contributed to your injuries, several things could happen:

  • The defendant’s insurance carrier won’t make an offer.
  • The insurance carrier may defend its insured against your liability claim.
  • The other driver might file a liability claim or file a lawsuit against you.
  • The liability insurance carrier may offer a percentage of your damages based on your alleged liability percentage.
  • The insurance carrier might offer you a nominal settlement simply to get your name on a release.

Insurers are in the business of making money, and are in no hurry to resolve your claim, let alone pay you the full amount you need. Your car accident attorney will expect this, and can help you overcome the obstacles insurers are likely to put in place throughout the claims process.

Do You Know How Much Your Claim Is Worth?

Whether you sustained minor or catastrophic injuries, there is a good chance that you have no idea what your claim is worth. Insurance company negotiators take advantage of this. When they perceive that you are anxious or uninformed, they sometimes settle claims as economically as possible. This often leads to a quick but unfair settlement offer.

Have You Made a Demand?

Some insurance companies won’t begin negotiating with you until you and your attorney put a demand on the table. Once you do, it sets the parameters for future negotiations. Sometimes unless you file a lawsuit, these companies will never make an offer higher than your initial demand. Before an initial settlement demand is made to an insurance company, your personal injury attorney can perform a full accounting of your costs and damages, and develop the best possible demand to begin negotiating from.

Has the Liability Insurance Carrier Made an Offer?

Insurance claim representatives have their own policies about making offers and responding to demands. Some treat claim negotiations as a strategic game. While uncommon, they sometimes make an offer simply to get the ball rolling. But most of the time they won’t offer a single dime until your attorney tells them what you want.

Do You Know the Negligent Driver’s Policy Limits?

Policy limits are another factor critical to settlement negotiation parameters. When the responsible party’s policy limits are disclosed, it often speeds up settlement negotiations. It helps your lawyer understand what motivates the negotiator, and it also gives him or her time to search for supplemental coverage options.

  • If a claim negotiator sticks to an unreasonably low figure, they may have a small policy limit and/or are negotiating in bad faith.
  • Your lawyer can investigate uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage options with your own insurance company.
  • You can also look for excess policies that provide coverage to the responsible driver.

Will You Consider a Structured Settlement?

If you have serious or catastrophic injuries, some insurance companies will encourage you to settle your claim with a structured settlement. Customarily, an insurance company works with an independent company to set up an annuity-style payment arrangement.

If you agree to the arrangement, it often eliminates months of settlement negotiations.

  • The insurance company pays you a lump sum upfront.
  • The insurance company pays your attorney fees.
  • You, your attorney, and the insurance company execute a release of claims ith the annuity company.
  • The annuity company pays you a monthly or annual amount for either a specified period or for life.

Structured settlements aren’t for everyone, but they can work for you if you prefer both a cash payment and a guaranteed monthly income. The liability insurance company may introduce the idea during negotiations, and your attorney can help you determine what terms work best for your individual needs.

Should You Take Your Case to Trial?

If you want to avoid informal settlement negotiations and meet the negligent driver face-to-face in court, you have a right to do that. You should understand that it can cause a significant delay in resolving your claim. Pre-trial activities alone often extend liability cases and litigation can take years.

Judges have backlogged dockets, so they often prefer that injured plaintiffs resolve their claims through other channels. In Cook County, plaintiffs and defendants often participate in mediation before committing to a trial date. Your personal injury attorney can advise you if pursuing a trial is a viable (and advisable) option given your case circumstances.

Do You Need an Attorney to Settle Your Claim?

Things almost always work out more favorably for plaintiffs when they have an experienced personal injury attorney working on their behalf. Attorneys evaluate liability, damages, and statute of limitations issues, so a plaintiff doesn’t have to. Attorneys also deal with insurance carriers, claim negotiators, and negligent drivers, while their clients concentrate on healing.

Further, once a case is settled, unrepresented plaintiffs typically pay medical bills at 100% no questions asked, while a good lawyer will negotiate all your medical bills and put more money in your pocket.

When you call for a free consultation, you can discuss your case with an attorney and learn your legal options. Ultimately, you and your advocate can decide whether negotiation, trial, or mediation is the right option for you.

How to Tell Who Is at Fault in a Car Accident

Determining who is at fault in a car accident is best left to a car accident attorney. Reviewing police reports, accident scene photos, and speaking with witnesses are part of how a car accident attorney can investigate your accident. Once a car accident attorney identifies the responsible party, they can proceed with negotiating a fair settlement on your behalf.

If you experienced serious injuries in a car accident that was due to no fault of your own, consider contacting a Chicago car accident lawyer without delay. That’s the best way to protect your legal rights.

Immediate Steps Following a Car Accident

A car accident takes place so suddenly that you may not understand what occurred. Your last, clear memory may involve getting into your car to go to the store. While it is human nature to want to apologize when others experience pain, do not say you are sorry. By doing so, you may imply your responsibility for the accident.

Other than exchanging insurance and contact information, refrain from speaking with the other driver. Do call 911, and if you can, take pictures of the scene. If your injuries prevent you from doing so, ask a witness to help you. Collect the contact information for witnesses and always accept medical transport to the hospital if the ambulance crew advises it. A medical evaluation can serve as important documentation of your injuries when you pursue a car accident claim.

The next step is to contact a car accident lawyer. Most car accident attorneys offer free case evaluations. Upon review of your accident, an attorney can determine the best course of action for you.

How a Car Accident Lawyer Can Help You

Who you speak with and what you say regarding your accident can make a huge impact on your financial future.

Insurance companies may contact you soon after the accident. Do not speak to them because:

  • Insurance companies may try to assign blame for the accident to you.
  • Insurance companies may try to pressure you into accepting a settlement for less than you deserve. Some may even try to record you accepting a settlement offer over the phone.
  • The insurance adjuster will try to take a recorded statement from you. The insurance representative often asks misleading questions and the statement will inevitably be used against you later in the case.

The time immediately following a car accident is when you are most vulnerable so an attorney can help because they know how to negotiate with insurance companies. An initial settlement offer may appear like a large sum of money, when in reality it most likely isn’t enough to cover your medical needs. Giving in to their pressure and accepting the offer may prohibit you from pursuing possible civil action later should your medical condition worsen.

A car accident lawyer understands how insurance companies try to avoid paying victims fair compensation. If negotiations to settle your case out-of-court don’t succeed, car accident attorneys are ready to go to trial.

A car accident lawyer knows when to stand firm with insurance companies and how to treat clients with compassion. Their experience working with car accident victims helps them understand that this is a difficult time for you. By expressing empathy and keeping the lines of communication open, a car accident attorney can provide you important peace of mind.

You Must Act Now

The statute of limitations for a civil procedure is a strict deadline governed by state law. To prepare the best case possible, an attorney must begin work investigating fault immediately. Some accidents may involve more than one liable party. For example, a reckless driver who crashes a company vehicle and the company who owns the vehicle may both have liability for your injuries.

Your medical bills start to accumulate the moment you see a doctor. As your costs quickly mount and your ability to work stops, a car accident lawyer can help ensure you are not alone in your pursuit of justice.

Gary Annes Lawyer
Car Accident Lawyer, Gary Annes

Investigating a car accident is best left to professionals like that of law enforcement and car accident attorneys. They know what to look for, who to speak with, and how to determine who is at fault for the crash.

You may feel overwhelmed, putting off a call to a car accident lawyer is a bad idea. Without someone to protect your best interests, you may give in to insurance company representatives. Accepting blame or less compensation than you deserve can gravely hurt your future.

If you experienced serious injuries in a car accident caused by a distracted driving, drunk driving, aggressive driving, or otherwise negligent driver, seek legal representation. From the initial free case evaluation to the final outcome of your case, a car accident attorney serves you—their client—throughout the process. Open communication means you never have to wonder about the status of your case. A case update is just a phone call or an email away.

While there is no quick fix to your situation, settling for less than you deserve can make it worse. Your injuries may require a long recovery or involve permanent damage that results in a lifetime of care.

If you lost a loved one in an accident that was due to no fault of their own, you may be entitled to a wrongful death claim. Like a car accident case, a wrongful death claim requires an investigation into what caused the fatal accident.

If the reckless actions of another driver resulted in life-changing injuries for you, a car accident attorney can help you. If you lost a loved one, a car accident attorney can provide the legal representation you need during this difficult time. It is your right to pursue civil action against a negligent driver who caused you harm or the loss of your loved one.

Determining who is at fault in a serious car accident is best left to a car accident attorney. Contact an experienced attorney today and let us provide a free case evaluation for you today.

Abels & Annes
100 N LaSalle St #1710
Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 924-7575

How Much Is My Car Accident Claim Worth?

The value of car accident claims varies based on the severity of the crash and the severity of any resulting injuries. Extensive damage to a vehicle and serious injuries, especially long-term or permanent injuries, increase the value of a car accident claim. Additionally, intentional or grossly negligent actions on the part of the defendant may also increase the value of a claim.

What may add the biggest value to your case, however, is hiring a car accident lawyer who can evaluate your claim, thoroughly document and account for your injuries, and present a compelling case for the compensation you deserve.

Types of Injuries in a Car Accident

Some of the injuries that you might suffer in a car accident can cause long-term or even permanent suffering. More importantly, the full effects of a particular injury might not present themselves until hours or days after the accident. Seeking medical attention as soon as possible after a car accident not only documents those injuries for your car accident claim, it can make sure you receive the earliest possible medical intervention. In the case of internal bleeding, that can make the difference between life and death. In other instances, it can make the difference between full recovery and lifelong injuries.

Injuries might include:

  • Cuts, scrapes, bruises, and lacerations
  • Sprains, strains, pulled muscles, and other soft tissue damage
  • Simple and compound fractures
  • Head, neck, and shoulder injuries
  • Back and spinal cord injuries
  • Internal injuries
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Death

In many cases, on-site first aid is not going to address the injuries sustained in a car accident. Many car accident injuries require surgery, hospitalization, and long-term rehabilitation (such as physical or occupational therapy).

Recovering Damages

In general, you could potentially recover three types of damages after a car accident. Special and general damages are the most common. In some cases, you might also recover punitive damages.

Special Damages

Economic damages, or special damages, compensate for actual expenses.

Special damages attempt to make you whole again and may include:

  • Past medical expenses for those you’ve incurred as a result of the accident
  • Future medical expenses for those you will incur for continued care and secondary injuries that doctors attribute to the accident, including follow-up appointments, additional surgeries, and injuries that show up hours or days later
  • Past lost wages for the time you lost from work because of the accident
  • Future lost income for the time you will lose from work. Future lost wages may include the difference in your income if you can no longer do the work you used to do, but can go back to work at a job that pays less.
  • The expense for physical, cognitive, and psychological therapy.
  • The repair or replacement of personal property, including your vehicle and personal property inside the vehicle.
  • Burial and funeral expenses if you lost a loved one in a car accident.

General Damages

Non-economic damages, or general damages, also intend to make you whole again. While money does not heal an injury or bring back a loved one that you lost in an accident, it does relieve the financial stress of having less income while you recover or because you lost a loved one.

General damages may include compensation for:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of companionship if your spouse, a parent, or your children can no longer participate in daily family activities and events
  • Loss of consortium if you can no longer have a physical relationship with your spouse
  • Loss of use of a body part or function, such as a foot or your eyesight
  • Disfigurement, such as scarring
  • Loss of a limb

Punitive Damages

The court orders a defendant to pay punitive damages not to make you whole, but to punish the defendant’s intentional or grossly negligent behavior. In most cases, you must prove gross negligence. The court often looks at particular behaviors as grossly negligent, including driving under the influence, texting while driving, and driving at excessive speeds.

Negotiating With Insurance Companies

While many people believe that they can settle with insurance companies on their own without legal representation, never take that path, especially if the accident involves a commercial driver, such as a truck driver. These cases are notoriously difficult. If you’re not an experienced lawyer, for example, you will have trouble determining if a trucking company encouraged the driver to ignore the hours of service regulations or put off maintenance of a truck.

Additionally, insurance companies are in business to make a profit. That means that their first interest is protecting their bottom lines. The more an insurance company must pay you, the lower its profits. Thus, an insurance company will try its best to deny your claim or offer you the lowest amount possible.

When you retain an attorney, the insurance company knows your attorney is going to look out for your best interests and isn’t going to let the insurer take advantage of you. This means that you have a better chance of maximizing your settlement, since the insurance company does not want to spend money on a trial. However, in some cases, you will need to go to trial, such as when the insurance company’s offer is still too low.

If you suffer from car accident injuries, contact a car accident lawyer for a free consultation to discuss how a legal case can help you pay for your medical and other expenses.

When to Get an Attorney for a Car Accident

A car accident caused by a reckless driver can leave you with serious injuries. Mounting medical costs and missed time from work only add to your financial stress and anxiety. If your life changed in an instant due to a drunk, distracted, or otherwise negligent driver, consult a car accident attorney.

The sooner you speak with a car accident attorney, the sooner you can protect your chances of securing financial compensation.

Common Causes of Car Accidents

Once the immediate impact of a car accident is over, determining fault is at first left to responding police officers. Official police reports, accident scene photos, witness statements, and more can serve as valuable evidence for future litigation. Upon review of the details of your accident, a car accident attorney can identify the people and entities liable for your injuries.

The more common causes of car accidents include:

Distracted Driving

Advances in technology can make traveling easier—and more deadly—due to their ability to distract drivers. Navigational devices, stereo systems, and smartphones divert attention away from the road.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lists three main types of distraction:

  • Visual
  • Manual
  • Cognitive

Distracted drivers kill about nine people and injure more than 1,000 each day in the United States. A survey conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 78 percent of drivers believe texting behind the wheel is a significant danger. At the same time, nearly 35 percent of respondents admitted to texting or sending an email while driving.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol remains a serious problem on our city streets and highways. From underage drinking by inexperienced teen drivers to a driver high on opioids, the risk for encountering a driver with impaired judgment is very real each time you drive.

Aggressive Driving

Drivers who are in a hurry or short on patience and prone to anger are especially dangerous. Their unpredictable behavior places you at risk for serious harm.

Examples of aggressive driving include:

  • Speeding.
  • Changing lanes without signaling.
  • Purposely blocking another vehicle trying to pass.
  • Running red lights.

Aggressive driving can quickly escalate to road rage. When another driver purposely sideswipes your car or runs your car off the road, the result can devastate you and your family. Despite your efforts to drive defensively, you can generally do nothing to avoid the impact.

You should not have to pay for medical costs caused by the reckless actions of another driver. A car accident attorney can help you determine if you qualify for pursuing civil action against the driver responsible for your injuries. Most car accident attorneys offer free case evaluations, leaving you nothing to lose by discussing your accident with one today.

Types of Car Accident Injuries and the Impact on Your Life

A serious car accident and your injuries can damage your quality of life. You may never return to your career or the hobbies you once enjoyed. The financial toll of a car accident is another negative impact that results from such an event. Depending on the severity of your injuries or those of your loved ones, the need for medical care can easily reach millions of dollars annually.

Here are just two examples of severe injuries that leave a devastating physical and financial impact on victims:

  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI) – A brain injury occurs due to a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts normal brain functions. If your loved one experienced such an injury, they may require more care than you can provide. Skilled nursing facilities provide around-the-clock care—at a price. The average monthly cost for a nursing facility is more than $8,000 per month.
  • Spinal cord injury – A spinal cord injury typically requires significant changes to your life. A power chair for mobility, home modifications for the power chair, and accessible transportation are expenses that requirNoopenree replacements over time. Costs associated with a spinal cord injury continue throughout the victim’s lifetime. These costs can easily reach into the millions of dollars each year.

Other examples of serious car accident injuries include internal bleeding, broken bones, and burns. Your life may never return to the way it was before the accident. If you experienced serious injuries in a car crash caused by a careless driver, give careful thought to consulting a car accident attorney today.

Why You Need a Car Accident Attorney

Insurance companies often come calling soon after an accident. To protect their best interests, they want to settle the claim quickly and for the least amount of money possible. This isn’t fair, and you deserve proper compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Dave Abels Lawyer
Dave Abels, Car Accident Attorney

If your loved one died as a result of injuries, you may be entitled to pursue a wrongful death claim. Your time of grief is no time to deal with aggressive insurance company representatives. A car accident attorney can provide the representation you need to negotiate a fair settlement on your behalf. If an insurance adjuster is unwilling to offer the compensation you deserve out-of-court, your attorney will be ready to go to trial.

While each case is different, a car accident attorney works hard to achieve the best possible outcome for your case. Whether it is a car accident claim or a wrongful death case, you have a limited time to pursue civil action. The statute of limitations sets firm deadlines for filing your case. Once the deadline passes, you may lose your chance for compensation forever.

Do not speak with insurance companies—consult a car accident attorney instead. Car accident attorneys know how to handle insurance companies who use tactics to underpay or deny just compensation.

Your car accident injuries require your complete focus. Protect your best interests and secure legal representation without delay. When you know someone is fighting for your right to fair compensation, you can channel your time and efforts into your health, your recovery, and your family.

Abels & Annes
100 N LaSalle St #1710
Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 924-7575

How Much Does Car Insurance Go up After an Accident?

The last thing you want to worry about after a car accident is an increase in the cost of your premiums. You’re likely dealing with injuries, or even the loss of a loved one, with medical expenses that you can’t pay, and the inability to work. On top of all of that, you may worry that your insurance company might jack up your rates.

The fear of increased rates, however, should not prevent you from seeking the legal help you need to pay for injuries you didn’t cause. Any rate increases you might experience will usually pale compared to the financial recovery you will obtain from filing a claim.  Further, if you are not at fault in an accident and your insurance rates increase, any decent insurance broker should be able to find multiple carriers that wouldn’t be foolish enough to penalize you.

Dealing with insurance companies can be one of the most frustrating aspects of a car accident claim—however, a skilled car accident lawyer can protect your rights throughout the claims process, and more importantly, help you recover compensation for any injuries or damage sustained in an accident.

Illinois Is a Fault State

Illinois is a tort liability state, which means that you claim an accident on the at-fault driver’s insurance. In our experience, most insurance companies will not increase your rates if the accident is not your fault, especially for your first accident.

Thus, your car accident lawyer will contact the at-fault driver’s insurance company as soon as possible—and typically your own, too, because you will want to give notice to your insurance carrier of a medical payment claim and a potential uninsured or underinsured motorist claim.

Car Insurance May Not Increase

The amount of any increase depends on how an agency performs a study and which insurance companies give information. For example, Bankrate,, and said that insurance premiums in Illinois increased an average of 30 percent, or about $347, after an accident. NerdWallet, on the other hand, states that insurance premiums in Illinois go up by 52 percent after an accident.

Those increases, however, typically accrue to the person who caused the accident, not the victim. Even so, over a lifetime, a premium increase like those above are nothing compared to the cost of hospitalization, let alone a catastrophic injury like a traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury. Don’t let the unfounded fear of a rate increase prevent you from seeking the help of a skilled car accident lawyer.

Insurance Surcharges

Most insurance companies have a surcharge schedule, which means unless the insurance company agrees to waive those charges when an accident is not your fault, you might see an increase in your premiums. Thankfully, this is rarely the case: In reality, insurers rarely penalize you for an accident that was not your fault.

If your insurer attempts to raise your rates due to an accident caused by another party, an insurance broker can help you find a different (and maybe better!) insurer. You could end up saving money from being shopped around—even from your pre-accident premium—while pursuing compensation to pay for your accident-related expenses.

Insurance surcharges are a different matter, however, for customers that cause accidents. Some insurance companies, such as Geico, use a sliding scale based on points. For example, if you get four points and someone filed a claim against you alleging bodily injury and property damages, the insurance will hit you with a 32 percent increase on your premiums. Geico adds 20 percent if the accident claim includes personal injury protection coverage. Your Geico premiums will increase by 25 percent if you file a claim under collision.

If you feel the surcharge that your insurance company charges is too high, or that your insurer is penalizing you for an accident that was not your fault, you may file a complaint with the state, which will then review the surcharge to ensure that it doesn’t violate public policy. More importantly, if you disagree or are unhappy with the terms your insurer offers, an insurance agent can help you evaluate different options and/or different insurers.

How to Decrease Accident Insurance Rates

Considering the scope of potential damages in a car accident (whether medical bills or auto repairs), you should make a potential increase in insurance rates the least of your worries.

That said, if your insurance went up because you filed a claim against your insurance policy—perhaps because a hit-and-run driver injured you and you couldn’t find the responsible party—you can also decrease your rates by:

  • Increasing your deductible. However, keep in mind that you’ll have to pay that much more out of pocket if you file another claim against your insurance. Instead of a $500 deductible, you might increase it to $1,000 or even $2,500. You can avoid getting into a pinch if you set aside the amount of the deductible in a savings account.
  • Filing as few claims as possible. If you crack your windshield, you might consider paying cash for the repair instead of filing a claim against your insurance. Pay for other small claims yourself, including dent repairs or other minor things, such as replacing a bumper.
  • Shopping for a new policy. An insurance agent you trust can help with this. It’s a great way to save money.

After a Car Accident

Insurance companies review police reports to help them determine fault for an accident. However, the police report might not provide accurate information. After a car accident, if you can, take the following steps to help protect your interests:

  • Get the other drivers’ contact, registration, and insurance information.
  • Ask any witnesses for their contact information.
  • Take plenty of pictures of the accident scene, including distance and close-up photos.
  • Take your time giving your version of the accident to the police officer to make sure you provide a proper recounting.
  • Get medical attention as soon as possible if needed. Some injuries take hours or even a couple days to manifest.  Do not delay treatment.
  • Let your attorney contact your insurance company to let them know that you were in an accident, or, while not recommended, you can contact them yourself and give them very basic accident information and provide your lawyer’s contact information. Even your own insurance company may try to twist your statements to place the fault on you in an attempt to deny a claim.
  • Have your car accident lawyer contact the at-fault driver’s insurance company to file a claim. Never tell the at-fault driver’s insurance company anything about the accident, since you may pursue this insurance company to pay your claim. Refer them to your car accident lawyer if they contact you. Do not give a written or recorded statement.
  • Contact a car accident lawyer for a free consultation. Let your attorney discuss the accident with the insurance companies, as many adjusters to try to trap people into admitting fault or twisting statements to make it look like an accident was your fault.

Ultimately, never let concerns about potential premium increases dissuade you from pursuing a claim. An attorney can help ensure you recover full compensation for any damages sustained in an accident, as well as future costs. An increase in insurance expenses should not be a significant factor when evaluating the scope of a car accident claim—and always seek the counsel of a trusted attorney following a car accident.