Illinois car accident victims who seek compensation from the insurance company representing the party who is legally responsible for their injuries may find that all of the damages they suffered are not covered by the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. For this reason, all Illinois drivers are required to carry underinsured motorist protection coverage, which is used to compensate an injured party for their losses which exceed the policy limits of the other driver. A case recently decided by the Appellate Court of Illinois demonstrates some important issues that arise for injured drivers attempting to make an underinsured motorist claim to their own insurance company after an accident.
The plaintiff in the recently decided case was a man who was involved in two auto accidents in the fall of 2010 and suffered injuries from each crash. Neither accident was the plaintiff’s fault, and he made insurance claims with the companies who covered the other drivers, and was awarded the policy limit amount for each claim, which was $20,000 for each accident. Although the insurance companies paid out the policy limits and had fulfilled their obligation to the plaintiff, he still claimed that he suffered damages in excess of the amount he was paid, and made a claim with his own insurance company to collect additional damages under his own underinsured motorist bodily injury protection policy.
The plaintiff’s initial claim against his insurance company was referred to arbitration, which is an out of court proceeding where each party submits their case to a panel of arbiters, who are licensed attorneys in Illinois who have been additionally licensed to rule at arbitration proceedings. At arbitration, the plaintiff argued that he suffered a total of $45,000 in damages from the two accidents, and was entitled to such an award from his insurance company under his underinsured motorist protection policy. The arbitration panel agreed with the plaintiff and awarded him $45,000.
Although arbitration is mandatory in many Illinois car accident cases, the losing party has a statutory right to appeal an arbitration ruling to a circuit court to be tried again. The plaintiff’s insurance company did so in this case, arguing to the circuit court that the plaintiff’s damages must be set off by the amount he already received from the at-fault drivers’ insurance companies, and that the underinsured motorist coverage was only required to pay him the damages he suffered in excess of the primary insurance policy limits. The circuit court agreed, and the ruling was upheld by the Appellate Court of Illinois, who affirmed the lower ruing that the plaintiff was only entitled to a $4000 payment from his insurance company in order to fully compensate him for his loss from the accidents.
Have You Been Injured in an Illinois Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has been injured in an Illinois car accident and try to make a claim for compensation, you may be required to go through arbitration in order to make your case. Although arbitration is more informal than a trial and is not technically a court proceeding, the issues decided are the same as those in cases that proceed to trial. Insurance companies have attorneys representing them at arbitration proceedings, and accident victims should have qualified counsel by their side as well. If you’ve been injured, you could be entitled to compensation for the injuries you have suffered. At the Chicago personal injury law firm, Abels & Annes, P.C., our qualified car accident attorneys represent injury victims through all types of proceedings, including arbitration, trial, and appeal. To find out whether you may have a claim for damages, call 312-924-7575 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation today.