Over 319,000 car accidents happen annually in Illinois. Inevitably, most people will be involved in a collision at some point in their life. Sometimes these accidents are minor. At other times, they can result in injuries that can have serious consequences. When you are involved in an accident that causes injuries, expenses begin to add up fast.
You could need extensive medical care, including surgeries, hospital stays, outpatient care, and medications. You may also not be able to work for a long period of time or indefinitely due to permanent disability. Knowing where to turn for compensation can make a major difference. Filing a car accident injury claim can help to ease your financial worries. And it can give you peace of mind knowing that these costs don’t have to affect your personal budget. But who is going to pay for these costs? Who exactly am I suing when I file a car accident injury claim?
Am I Suing the Driver or Their Insurance?
First, the term “sue” is a bit of a misnomer. When you are injured in a motor vehicle accident and you intend to seek damages, you usually do this out of court resulting in what is known as a settlement. Nobody actually has a court case filed against them unless a reasonable compromise cannot be reached during negotiations.
However, generally speaking, you will most likely be pursuing the driver’s insurance company for compensation rather than the driver themselves.
The cost of your medical treatment, your lost wages, and other expenses related to the car accident (known as damages) are likely to exceed what most individuals can pay out of pocket. That is why we are all required to carry car insurance while operating a vehicle on Illinois roads.
Determining Car Accident Liability
The next step toward pursuing compensation and who will pay for that compensation is determining liability. When car accidents are settled out of court, generally insurance adjusters representing each driver’s insurance company will try to determine who is at-fault for the accident.
To make this determination, insurance agents review all available documentation related to an accident. This can include the police report, photos of the accident scene, witness statements, and the drivers’ own accounts of the accident.
It is important to note that the drivers’ own accounts of the accident is something all people who are involved in an auto accident should be weary of. It is best to avoid speaking to any auto insurance company directly, especially if you were injured in the accident and they may have to pay for the damage.
Insurance adjusters can twist your words in order to get out of having to pay for your damages. Their goal is to shift the liability to you or to at least diminish the severity of your injuries so they can pay out less and keep their company’s profits high.
This is where a car accident attorney comes in. Hiring a car accident attorney as soon as you are injured in a car accident is critical to getting the proper amount of compensation.
How a Personal Injury Attorney Can Help Your Case
If you were not at-fault for the accident, your car accident attorney will gather and evaluate evidence to demonstrate the other driver’s liability. Your attorney will also analyze your medical records and various other expenses to prove the value of your injury claim to the insurance companies.
This is where your attorney will begin seeking compensation from either the other party’s insurance company, your own insurance company, or both. At this point, nobody has been sued.
If an agreeable settlement cannot be reached, then your attorney may have to file a civil lawsuit and your case may end up going to trial.
Beyond Negotiations to Trial
In this situation, you should know that you are actually suing the person who injured you. Their name will be on the court records. However, it is the insurance company who will end up paying for those damages.
When a car accident case goes to court, attorneys representing the injured driver and the insurance company present the evidence to a jury who will decide which party is at-fault and how much compensation will be awarded for any damages. In this situation, your attorney will compel the jury to side in your favor by refuting the other side’s claims, detailing factors that contributed to the accident, and painting a picture of how your injuries have affected your life both physically, mentally, and financially.
Whether a case is settled in or out of court, more than one party can be determined at fault for a car accident. That is because Illinois uses what is known as a modified comparative negligence system. Even if you contributed to an accident, in Illinois you’re still eligible to collect compensation if you are found to be less than 50% at fault for an accident.
What if the Driver Doesn’t Have Insurance?
Even though Illinois requires every vehicle owner to have car insurance, some drivers fail to maintain minimum coverage. If you’re injured by an uninsured driver, you still have the option to pursue a case against the at-fault driver. However, drivers who aren’t paying for the minimum required insurance rarely have the means to pay for any damages from a car accident out-of-pocket.
Your attorney can advise you about whether this is a logical course of action under your specific circumstances.
It may make more sense to file an uninsured motorist insurance claim with your own car insurance company. Uninsured motorist coverage is a type of auto coverage that helps you pay for damages caused by a driver who doesn’t have car insurance.
You can also rely on your own uninsured motorist coverage if the driver is unidentified or if you are involved in a hit-and-run accident.
Uninsured motorist coverage is a policy you purchase through your own insurance company. Therefore, if you have to pursue this route you would be seeking compensation from your insurer. In this case, it is not the at-fault driver paying for your damages.
This is not always an either-or situation. Sometimes both the other driver’s and your insurance company will pay.
Take for example if the at-fault driver’s coverage is not enough to cover all your damages. This is common in cases with catastrophic injuries like traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries. In this situation, you can both pursue compensation from the other driver’s insurance policy and turn to your own underinsured motorist policy for compensation.
What About Suing Additional Parties that Caused an Accident?
In some situations, an auto accident may be caused by something not related to a driver. For example, if a vehicle’s tire blows out when it is only six months old, the tire company, dealer, or mechanic may be liable.
Claims against third parties in addition to a defendant’s insurance are common in accidents involving commercial vehicles. This is because so many other parties are involved in commercial trucking besides the driver.
For instance, after a truck accident it may be discovered that the driver’s employer acted negligently by requiring the driver to be on the road for longer than they are legally allowed. In this case, the trucking company could be the one held liable for your damages.
Other examples of third parties that may be at-fault are:
- rideshare companies
- vehicle manufacturers
- parts manufacturers
- mechanics or maintenance companies
A car accident attorney can be particularly helpful in finding additional defendants. This is because proving that a person or party who was not even at the accident scene was responsible may require extensive research and evidence. And your lawyer may have experience from handling similar cases.
Let an Illinois Car Accident Attorney Help You Get Compensation
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, speak to Abels & Annes. Our attorneys have successfully represented thousands of car accident victims throughout the state of Illinois in claims against drivers, insurance companies, and other negligent third parties. We will advise you about all of your options. And help you to pursue maximum compensation for your injuries and other damages. Call us today at 312-924-7575 or contact us online for a free, no-obligation consultation.