Important Things to Know about your case
Personal injury law involves injuries people suffer caused by the negligent or intentional conduct of others. An injured person can seek compensation for damages they experience including medical bills, lost wages, pain, suffering, loss of normal life, disfigurement and emotional distress which you incur or will incur, as the result of someone else’s negligence.
Until all of the relevant facts are evaluated, it is extremely difficult to determine what a case may be worth. Every case involves unique factors that help determine value. The value of the case is determined by assessing the liability of the parties, the nature of the damages suffered, the amount of the medical bills incurred and wages lost and whether the damages such as pain and suffering are permanent. The value of the case often depends on how the accident is affecting your quality of life and whether it will continue to in the future. Attorneys can often estimate case value based on their experience with similar cases and other factors.
If you have been seriously injured as the result of another’s negligence, you should immediately consult an experienced personal injury attorney to determine whether you may be entitled to compensation. The attorney can evaluate your claim and advise whether the case has merit. That attorney can also assist you in the handling of the claim and work to obtain the compensation you deserve.
Almost all personal injury attorneys work on cases without requiring a retainer and collect their attorney fee as a percentage of any settlement or verdict they obtain for you. If you get nothing from the case, neither does the attorney. Attorney’s fees are contingent on success and are usually 33% of the amount recovered. However, under some circumstances a slightly lower attorney fee may be charged. Any costs incurred in pursuing the claim will generally be advanced by the attorney and paid for at the conclusion of the case.
A contingent fee is when a lawyer receives a percentage of a settlement or verdict as payment for his or her services. Under this arrangement the attorney will only get paid if they are successful in recovering compensation for your injury.
Contingency fees require no out of pocket costs for you, making this difficult time in your life a little easier.
As soon after your accident as possible. A prompt visit with an attorney is important for several reasons. Some cases require immediate investigation in order to preserve evidence such as photographs, witness statements, road measurements, vehicle data. The opposing party’s insurer will almost always have an investigator looking into the facts and you too should have someone on your side. Also, your claim must be filed within certain time limits or it will be terminated. There are various time limits for certain personal injury actions, and thus, only an attorney can explain the limitations applicable to your specific case. Unless other factors are present, a negligence action in Illinis generally must be filed within two years of your injury. There are however some times such as when a governmental entity is involved that a shorter limitations period may apply.
If you have been injured in an automobile accident, there are several things you should do at the scene to protect your rights: (1) Do not state that the accident was your fault. Admissions at the scene of an accident are often made under the influence of shock or with a lack of knowledge; (2) Make sure you receive the medical care you need. If you are in pain, go to the hospital. If you continue to experience pain after emergency department care, see your primary care doctor for follow up. Delaying medical treatment can impact both your medical condition and legal case; (3) Carefully note the scene of the accident and position of the vehicles, exchange driver information and obtain the names, addresses and telephone numbers of all witnesses; (4) Report the accident to your own insurance company as soon as possible. Keep in mind that a claim may be made against you, even if you were not given a ticket and feel that the accident was not your fault. One of the advantages of liability insurance is that the insurance company will investigate and defend claims made against you. Also, your insurance company is obligated to pay your legal fees if a lawsuit is started against you.
You may decide not to pursue any claim for injury. However, if you are asked to sign a release, you should consult an attorney. A release is a legally binding document that forgives the other party’s liability without necessarily excusing your own liability. If you are offered money in return for signing the release, remember that the full extent of your injury may not become apparent until later.
Do not post descriptions of the accident, statements about your injury or physical condition or anything else accident related on social media. This includes Facebook, Instagram and Twitter or any other social media platform. Ask your friends and family to similarly refrain from posting or commenting on social media.
Insurance is a critical factor in determining whether or not to pursue your claim and may impact the total amount of compensation available. In Illinois, a passenger vehicle must carry a policy of insurance which provides liability insurance with a minimum amount of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. For taxi and other delivery drivers the law requires liability coverage of $250,000 person.
If the other driver does not have insurance, you may be able to make a claim under the uninsured motorist coverage of your own policy. This is a type of coverage that you pay a seperate premium for every month and is designed to protect you when injured as the result of a driver without insurance. An uninsured motorist can be a hit-and-run driver. Many policies require evidence of contact between your vehicle and the vehicle which fled. Uninsured motorist coverage may also provide coverage for you and your family members if you were not in the automobile when the accident occurred. For example if you were walking down the street or riding your bike. An experienced personal injury attorney can help determine what insurance claims are available to compensate you for your claim.
Sometimes the other driver has insurance, but his policy limit is too low to cover your damages. For example, your injury claim is worth $100,000 but his policy has a $25,000 limit. Your underinsured motorist coverage would apply if you have a higher policy limit than does the at fault driver. In the above example, you would be able to recover the $25,000 from the defendant’s insurer and the remaining $75,000 pursuant to your underinsured motorist coverage. Underinsured motorist coverage is designed to put you in the position you would be in if the other driver carried the same liability policy limits your underinsured motorist coverage provides.
A premises liability case involves an unsafe condition on someone else’s property. For example, the owner of a building who forgets to repair a broken steps, has stairs of uneven height or fails to provide a handrail where necessary. This may also involve a hotel owner failing to provide adequate security for guests. All property owners must generally exercise reasonable care. You must also exercise care for your own safety. Your negligence which contributes to the injury will reduce your recovery or may bar your claim entirely. Premises liability claims can be complex and consulting an attorney promptly to preserve evidence where necessary, take pictures and perhaps inspect the site of the fall before any condition on the property is changed is critically important.
In most cases, you can’t sue your employer or co-workers for negligence regarding a work-related injury. Usually, Worker’s Compensation claims are your only remedy, but it provides only limited benefits and permits no financial recovery for your pain and suffering. Other persons or companies responsible for causing your injury may, however, be pursued. For instance, if you are working on a punch press and the machine unexpectedly recycles and injures your hand, you may sue the manufacturer of the machine for negligence or failure to provide for your safety. In the event you develop a lung disease as a result of exposure to asbestos at work, you may have a right to sue the manufacturer or supplier of the asbestos for not warning you of the dangers of exposure. Or if your injury is caused by the negligence of an employee of another company or an independent contractor, you may have a right to sue.
If you have suffered a work-related injury, you should talk to an experienced personal injury attorney for an evaluation of your potential third-party claim. The importance of this evaluation increases with the severity of the injury because worker’s compensation may only pay for a fraction of your total damages.
Not all personal injury claims are worth pursuing, even if you deserve to receive money for your injury. The severity of your injury is an important consideration. But other factors should be considered, including the level of fault of the wrongdoer, your own liability for the injury, and the ability of the wrongdoer to pay for the claim. Therefore, insurance is a critical factor in determining whether or not to pursue your claim. Suing an uninsured defendant of limited means may be worthless.
Intentional torts are generally not covered by insurance and, therefore, may not be worth pursuing. However, what may appear to be an intentional tort may, in fact, be merely negligence. For instance, you may be the victim of a practical joke that misfires and injures you. Although the practical joke was intentional, the injury was not. Your injury in that case may be covered by available liability insurance.
If an accident was partially your fault, and assuming another driver was at fault, then you may still be able to collect damages. Many times, multiple parties can be found at fault in an accident. Illinois is a comparative fault state, meaning that the fault of multiple parties is determined on a percentage basis. If the case were to be tried in front of a jury, a question similar to this is asked and the jury may determine percentages of fault (Taking the percentage of fault that caused the collision to be 100%, what percentage to you attribute to: the defendant, ____% and the injured plaintiff, ____%).
A finding of fault on the part of the injured party or plaintiff typically reduces the damage awarded to that person. If an injured party is more at fault than any defendant, the injured party recovers nothing.
An experienced attorney will help you assess these issues at the beginning of your case and throughout your claim.
You will need to provide documentation that shows your losses from the accident. This may include:
McDevitt & Cobb has spent over 30 years successfully representing clients who have suffered serious injury as the result of someone else’s fault. It’s the only type of case we have ever handled. It is very likely that we are familiar with the issues that will need to be addressed in your case and have the knowledge and experience necessary to maximize your financial recovery.
We prepare every case like it’s going to trial even though the vast majority of cases resolve by settlement. Being ready, willing and able to go to court maximizes your financial recovery and yields better settlement agreements for our clients.
This is a question that is difficult to answer. The length of your personal injury case will depend on many factors including how long you receive medical treatment and how quickly you recover from your injuries. Whether litigation is necessary, the complexity of the issues involved, the relative fault of the parties is also of importance. The insurance company is also a major factor, how long it takes for them to make a reasonable settlement offer.
For most personal injury cases, you have two years from the time the accident occurred to file your claim. However, certain types of cases have a shorter time period, so do not delay in contacting an attorney.
You can seek compensation for both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include your medical expenses, property damage, and lost wages or earning potential resulting from your injury. Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment from the inability to engage in your favorite activities, and loss of consortium from the impact of your injuries on personal relationships.
Consultation with an attorney and medical experts can help you determine how much compensation you should seek to account for all damages incurred. An attorney can also help you gather evidence to prove the negligence of any liable parties, and file a claim with their insurance companies. Your attorney will attempt to negotiate on your behalf with the insurance companies to reach a fair settlement, or file a lawsuit in which a jury would ultimately decide on the liability and damages of your case in a trial.
Before a trial, there will be a discovery period during which your attorney and the defendant’s attorney will ask questions and exchange documents related to each side’s claims and defenses. This period also includes depositions, in which you, the defendant, and all other witnesses will be asked to provide testimony regarding the accident, injuries, and lasting impacts.
Personal injury attorneys almost always try to reach a settlement through negotiation or mediation before resorting to a trial. Minor injury cases are often more likely to settle out of court, but in severe injury cases where you are seeking large damages, a trial may be more likely, especially if settlement negotiations break down or if the defendant is an insurance company that is attempting to avoid a fair payout amount.
Since you will not receive payment until after the settlement or trial on the liability claim aspect of your case, you will need to explore your options for covering medical bills and other expenses in the meantime. If you have health insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid, it can cover many of your medical expenses, and car insurance can cover damages to your vehicle. Once you receive compensation, you will likely need to reimburse your insurance providers for expenses. You may also have medical payment insurance, or “med-pay,” with your automobile liability insurance, which can alleviate expenses in the event of an accident. If you do not have insurance coverage, or if it does not cover all expenses, your attorney may be able to help negotiate with the hospital or medical provider for a payment plan or for the provider to assert a lien and receive payment at the conclusion of your claim.
Most personal injury damage awards include compensation for medical costs and lost wages arising out of the injury. When appropriate, we also pursue recovery for other types of harm, including the pain and suffering you endured and your spouse’s loss of consortium. When negotiating a possible settlement in your case, our attorneys always seek a result that accounts for each type of harm caused by the incident.
Often, it is in the interest of all parties to reach a prompt settlement to save time and expense. No matter how strong your case is, there is always some risk bringing it before a jury. However, if a fair settlement offer is not forthcoming, we have the skills and experience to deliver a strong case in court and prepare you thoroughly for any required deposition and trial testimony.
Things to Do/Not to Do for Your Personal Injury Claim
Here are some things that you can do to make your personal injury claim proceed more smoothly.