Many victims of car accidents in the Chicago area are unsure of the laws that apply to their collisions. They often do not know what relief they are entitled to.
The situation may become even murkier if that victim is contacted by an insurance company following a crash. This is a common approach insurance companies use. They reach out to victims in an effort to settle a claim quickly and for as little money as possible. Read on to learn more from our experienced Chicago insurance dispute lawyers.
Beware of Calls From an Insurance Carrier After an Accident
When an insurance company calls, far too often, injury victims mistakenly believe that the insurance company and its employees are on that victim's side and will be taking the steps necessary to protect any of the victim's rights that may be at issue.
In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Insurance companies have their own interests following a collision. Unfortunately, those interests are almost always in opposition to the interests of a victim. This can be true even if the insurance company involved is the victim's own insurer.
Goals of an Insurance Company after a Car Accident
An insurance company is a business, and like any business, it needs to be profitable to continue operations. Insurance companies are in the business of receiving payments from those they insure and, when necessary, they make payments to those entitled to relief from accidents, incidents, or other misfortunes.
In the realm of car accidents, insurance companies make payments for damage done to a vehicle or other personal property. Further, they make payments for injuries that result from a crash, including medical bills. With this set-up in mind, insurance companies will take in as much money as possible while paying out as little as possible to maximize their profits.
Auto Insurance Carriers Want to Settle Fast and Cheap
Therefore, it is in an insurance company's best interests to settle a personal injury claim as soon after an accident as possible and for as little money as it can. A regular practice among some insurance companies that operate in Chicago is to reach an accident victim by telephone and offer them a lump sum payment as compensation for their injuries in the days immediately following an accident.
Often, the payment sounds attractive to a victim who has medical expenses and may continue to incur financial damages in the coming weeks and months. Many accident victims settle quickly because they are unaware that they have the right to obtain much more for their damages. Often they don't realize the offer is a final settlement and you can't ask for more later.
Insurance companies strive to settle claims as soon as possible because they don't want you to go get an attorney. Once a lawyer is on the case, insurance companies almost always need to pay substantially more to victims for their losses. Therefore, the insurance company will be out a greater amount of money.
Do I Really Need a Lawyer?
Insurance companies love it when accident victims don't work with a personal injury lawyer. It makes their life easier and they will save the company lots of money.
In reality, if you have been in a car accident and have injuries, it is in your best interests to contact a car accident attorney in Chicago. This gives you an opportunity to learn about your legal options and whether you have a valid claim.
To prevent an insurance company from taking advantage of you, contact a lawyer as soon as possible after a collision. You should do this to protect your rights and you can get the full payment that you deserve.
Minor Injuries Can Become Serious
The complexities of a claim for injuries are not simply into one or two principles of recovery or relief. Rather, they tend to be complex scenarios that can take months or years to resolve and may take difficult turns along the way.
For example, a sore back may turn into a disc herniation with surgery. Or, a sore should could be a torn rotator cuff. Sometimes an accident victim may settle a couple days after an accident, not realizing they have yet to incur tens of thousands in medical bills.
It is a good idea to utilize the services of a lawyer to ensure that an insurance adjuster does not take advantage of you. Though the laws in Chicago enable victims with the right to obtain financial compensation, those rights will be forfeited if proper protocols are not followed.
Even a minor mistake can nullify the rights of those who suffer from an injury. Without counsel, you may mistakenly allow an insurance company and an at-fault driver get away with paying next to nothing.
Common Mistakes Made By Those Without a Lawyer
Often pro se accident victims contact our law firm after trying to handle a case on their own. We see the same mistakes over and over that could be easily avoided with the proper advice from a trained professional. For example:
Giving a recorded statement to the defendant’s insurance company
Giving a recorded statement to the defendant's insurance company means that you have provided details about the accident in a recorded conversation to the opposing driver’s insurance provider. You should never do this.
Insurance companies will use these statements against you. They may twist your words. Then ask you leading questions to trick you into saying something that will reduce their liability. Their goal is to either reduce what they have to pay you or to find some way to outright deny your claim entirely.
Statements to the defendant’s insurance company will almost always hurt your case and result in you not getting the full compensation you deserve.
Settling shortly after the accident, without knowing your legal rights or the full extent of injuries.
By taking one of the quick settlements offered to you by the insurance company after an accident, you are signing a contract that says you will not be able to get any more compensation. You would be forfeiting your right to take legal action against the insurer in the future.
As mentioned above, lump sums can be tempting. But you should never accept them without an attorney reviewing your case. The simple fact that the insurer is willing to pay you anything is a clear sign that your case has value. By accepting the offer, you severely limit your compensation amount and legal rights. On top of that, you also fail to account for future costs related to your injuries.
If you accept a few thousand dollars and then find out that you need hip replacement surgery and will be out of work for weeks or months, you will have no course of action except to pay for those costs yourself.
This is why a personal injury attorney never accepts a settlement for their clients until they have a full picture of the injuries and their severity. Additionally, your attorney will forecast the need for future medical treatment. Calculating these costs are part of the fair compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Failing to seek necessary medical treatment within a reasonable amount of time after the accident.
Getting medical attention after an accident is extremely important. We cannot stress this enough. It not only protects your health and ensures that you get proper medical care. But it also documents your injuries in an official record.
One of the biggest mistakes we see clients make is delaying medical treatment after a car accident. Any delay in receiving medical treatment can and will be used against you by the insurance company. They will claim that if your injuries were severe enough, you would’ve sought immediate medical attention. This isn’t necessarily always true. However, you can see how it makes for an argument against you.
After a personal injury incident, adrenaline and shock can easily cover up serious injuries. In fact, this is the most common reason people delay going to the doctor. Others are afraid that they will not be able to afford the bills. It’s best to consult with an accident lawyer as soon as practicable to learn your options.
Signing a release of claims, believing the case can be reopened later.
A release of all claims form is a document agreeing to resolve the case and any disputes related to the case. It also dismisses the claim and releases the opposing party/parties from liability. Release of claims forms are also called liability waiver forms.
A release of claims form may be used by the insurer to get you to release them of any liability and obligation to pay you for the damages associated with the accident. Usually, insurance companies ask the involved party (you) to sign the release form without making any payments.
It is not uncommon for an accident victim to sign a release of all claims form thinking that they could reopen the claim later if necessary. That is not the case. Once you sign the form, you are responsible for any future costs associated with your car accident including medical bills, surgery fees, and lost wages.
Failing to check for medical or health insurance liens before settlement.
Many people are unaware that a third party may be entitled to some of their personal injury compensation. These third parties are lien holders. A lien is a demand for repayment from your personal injury claim. This can stem from a variety of scenarios.
Types of legitimate lienholders in personal injury claims can include:
- healthcare providers
- Medicaid and Medicare
- Veteran’s Administration and Tricare
- workers’ compensation insurers
- your own health and auto insurance companies
- state child support agencies
This is a common part of a personal injury case. However, not understanding what types of medical or health insurance liens are on your settlements before you accept the offer can severely limit the amount of compensation you receive. That is why it is best to consult with a personal injury attorney that is familiar with how the entire personal injury process works before you accept any offer or money.
Paying medical and doctor bills in full before your lawyer negotiates your bills.
A lot of people don’t know this. But it’s possible to negotiate with healthcare providers to lower your medical bills. Anything you get charged at a hospital or doctor's office is negotiable.
Not only are they negotiable, sometimes they need to be negotiated down since hospitals and other healthcare providers have been known to charge exorbitant fees for the simplest of things.
According to a Reader’s Digest article, some people have been charged:
- $15 for a single Tylenol pill
- $8 for a box of tissues
- $53 for a single pair of nonsterile gloves
- $6.25 for a nurse to hand you your pills
Clearly, negotiating medical bills is very necessary.
When you hire a personal injury attorney, they can negotiate with the medical providers on your behalf to reduce the amount you owe. By reviewing billing statements and negotiating with payment departments, an experienced attorney can greatly reduce the total amount you have to pay.
Every dollar that you don't have to pay in overinflated medical bills is money you get to keep. This can easily be in the thousands or tens of thousands.
Further, a lawyer will often use the Illinois Health Care Services Lien Act to negotiate and reduce medical liens and bills. Under the act, all of the medical providers are only entitled to collect 40% of a settlement and no one provider can collect more than one-third. In some cases, with significant medical bills and insufficient auto insurance policies, the lien law can help insure that the accident victim will receive his or her fair share of the compensation.
Failing to take advantage of additional rights under your own auto insurance carrier, such as medical payments and uninsured or underinsured coverage.
If you don’t fully understand your insurance policy or how a personal injury claim works, you may end up not utilizing significant parts of your insurance policy. For example, you may have medical payments coverage and not even know it. Or you may be entitled to compensation through your own uninsured or underinsured policy.
Hiring a car accident lawyer to thoroughly review your situation is the best way to avoid making these types of mistakes.
Letting the statute of limitations expire before resolving your case, barring any and all recovery.
A statute of limitations is a set amount of time that parties involved in civil matters have to file a lawsuit. For most personal injury actions in Illinois, that time limit is limited to two years after the accident has occurred. It is very important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible after an accident. That way you don’t lose your opportunity to get compensation because of a lapsed statute of limitations.
By working with a skilled personal injury lawyer, victims can rest assured that their rights will be both acknowledged and preserved. Further, if necessary, they will get their opportunity for a fair award in court.
A Claimant Without a Lawyer Has Little Bargaining Power
Many injury victims attempt to handle their claims themselves by negotiating with an insurance company. Any experienced lawyer will almost always recommend against that approach.
As an individual, you do not have the same bargaining power as a powerful insurance company. You will not be able to negotiate to the extent that a lawyer can. Why? Because you can't back up your demands in court or elsewhere. You don't really know the true value of your case, and the insurance adjuster knows it. This leaves a victim vulnerable to receiving only partial compensation for his or her injuries or for getting nothing at all.
It is common that people turn to a lawyer after attempting to handle their own case for some time. This is fine, but often the case has been damaged for many of the reasons stated above. A lawyer can often salvage much of the case, but that plaintiff may have otherwise had a much better case.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the valuation of a case by an insurance company varies significantly when a victim works with and without a lawyer. An offer to an injury victim without a lawyer may be pennies on the dollar of the actual case value. The offer might not even be enough to let the victim cover the expenses that stem from a crash. Instead, hiring a lawyer can substantially increase a settlement offer by tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Relief for Injury Victims in Chicago
The law firm of Abels & Annes, P.C. fights for the rights of those who have injuries. We fight insurance companies for the fair compensation that victims deserve. If you are an accident victim, we are standing by 24 hours a day, seven days a week to take your call at (312) 924-7575.
When you call Abels & Annes, P.C., you will have the ability to speak with a licensed lawyer about your accident. It's a free case consultation without obligation. Further, we will never charge you a fee unless a recovery is made on your behalf. We can also be reached online at any time.
At Abels & Annes, P.C., we fight for the best possible outcome in every case we take. If you have questions, if you need help, or if you simply do not know where to turn, call us now and let us get to work for you.
If you have been injured in an accident and your claim involves an insurance company, call Abels & Annes, P.C. now at (855) LAW-CHICAGO or Contact Us online for a free case consultation.
For more information about how to deal with your specific insurance company reference the list below.