Have you or a loved one been severely injured from an auto accident? Call our Naperville car accident attorneys to get started on your claim.
Experiencing a car accident, no matter how small, is traumatic. If you’ve been injured in a car accident due to someone else’s negligence, you probably feel even more vulnerable, and you deserve compensation.
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been injured in a car accident caused by negligence. You’re probably in pain. You may have missed work, causing worry over paying the bills. You’re probably looking for someone to help you with a car accident claim.
We are here to help. Our firm offers free legal consultations. Call our Naperville car accident attorneys today.
You don’t need money upfront to get answers to your car accident claim questions. Give us a call as soon as you can and schedule a free legal consultation.
The information on this page will help you understand what’s involved in a car accident claim. We’ll start by showing you the mistakes to watch out for that can ruin your claim. Next, we hope to answer a few more of your questions through sharing a client story. Please read to the end to learn as much as possible. Then give us a call; we’d love to discuss your specific claim.
Common Car Accident Claim Mistakes
There are a number of common mistakes people make in their car accident claims that can ruin their chances for compensation. Check out the errors below to avoid making the same missteps in your claim.
Refusing a Medical Exam After the Accident
If you’ve been in a car accident, it’s important to get a medical examination right away. You may not feel the true damage of your injuries at the time, but this doesn’t mean you haven’t been seriously hurt.
The body’s defense mechanism in traumatic situations is a flood of stress hormones to dull pain while boosting energy and strength. If you’re wondering why this is the body’s first response, think back 12,000 years. Our biology is going back to the days when our nomadic ancestors needed strength and speed to run from dangerous, hungry predators, often while injured.
Today, this “fight or flight” response gets in the way more than it helps, causing many people to believe they don’t need a doctor. Don’t go by how you feel after an accident; get checked to make sure you’re okay.
If you skip the medical check and start to feel pain the next day, you’ve handed the insurance company a convenient gap in the timeline between your accident and subsequent exam. They may suggest you are not as badly injured as you now claim, since you didn’t go right to the doctor. Or, they may claim you injured yourself in an unrelated accident a day or more after the accident and are now looking to them for undeserved compensation.
Either of these scenarios is insulting and unfair. If you’ve been injured in a car accident because another driver was negligent, you deserve to pursue compensation. Going straight for a medical exam will provide you with evidence of injury in the same timeframe as the accident.
Illinois is not a no-fault insurance state. This means that a driver who injures you through carelessness is responsible to compensate you. It also means that to succeed with a car accident claim in Illinois, you need to prove you suffered damages. Having a medical record of injury is valuable evidence toward this goal.
Not Adhering to Your Doctor’s Treatment Plan
When you are discharged from the hospital after the accident, you will be given a treatment plan to follow. It’s crucial to stick to it carefully.
If you ignore or forget to take your medications according to schedule, skip physical therapy appointments, or fail to follow anything else your doctor recommends, the insurance company may try to blame you if your recovery hits a snag.
Keep in mind that in addition to keeping treatment appointments and taking your meds, following your treatment plan means refraining from activities you aren’t ready to return to. If the insurance company finds you’ve been overexerting when you should be resting, your claim may be ruined.
Insurance companies still conduct investigations to confirm plaintiffs are as badly injured as they claim, and some companies still employ private investigators.
The insurance companies say that investigators help keep insurance premiums reasonable, by helping to prevent fraud. This may or may not be true, but if an investigator catches you at the gym or on a bicycle against doctor’s orders your claim may be at risk.
Get the rest you need and follow your treatment plan to help you heal as quickly as possible and help preserve the value of your claim.
Don’t Agree to Give the Insurance Company a Recorded Statement
You can expect the insurance company to call after the accident and ask you for a recorded statement. You may think this is routine, but it’s actually one of their tactics to devalue your claim. Say no to the call.
Most people assume they are required to speak to the insurance company. They may imply the statement is necessary to process your claim as quickly as possible. They may sound empathetic and lead you to believe they are helping. The truth is, they are hoping to catch you on record saying something they can use to turn blame for the accident back on you.
The best thing to do when the insurance company wants a statement is refer them to your Naperville car accident attorneys.
Not Hiring an Attorney Quickly Enough
People who’ve been seriously injured in car accidents are often so distracted by pain and the trauma of the experience that they shove contacting a lawyer to the bottom of a to-do list. Some people leave the lawyer off the list entirely. Doing either is a mistake.
It’s understandable and to be expected that you’ll be wrapped up in dealing with your injuries for a few days or even weeks. It’s important, however, to make a note to hire a lawyer as soon as you’re able. The longer you wait, the weaker your claim will become.
Even if you think you’ve got plenty of time to find a lawyer, the Illinois statute of limitations is only two years from the date of the injury. And if the accident involves suing a municipality, such as a state or local government or an agency related to the government, your timeline is probably going to be cut in half.
An attorney will know the deadlines for your filing specific claim, but you should get started on the accident investigation as soon as possible. When you’ve got a lawyer to handle your claim, that person can start the investigation while you’re still recovering.
The evidence you need to support your claim is not going to wait around to be collected, and witnesses can “disappear” if their contact information changes. Even if you’re able to track down a witness after months have passed, the person’s memory is probably much fuzzier than right after the accident.
Don’t take chances with the evidence, get started with your claim as quickly as you can. The longer your lawyer has to build your claim, the stronger it will be.
Not Hiring an Attorney at all
Skipping the lawyer entirely because you plan to “save money” by handling your claim by yourself is almost always a costly mistake.
Statistics show that people without lawyers are awarded many times less than those with lawyers handling their claims. There are numerous reasons for this.
An attorney has the experience to help you figure out your damages to ensure you don’t miss out on compensation you are owed.
A lawyer will know what kind of tactics the insurance company is likely to throw at you and can sidestep them to preserve the value of your claim.
An attorney will be able to evaluate settlement offers with the objectivity necessary to prevent jumping at a lowball offer or rejecting an offer that has merit.
Having an attorney makes it clear to the insurance company that if they refuse to offer a reasonable settlement they’re going to be sued.
Without a seasoned personal injury attorney fighting for your rights, the insurance company is likely to delay and deny your claim, giving you “the runaround.” They know that if you fail to negotiate a settlement, there’s little chance you’ll battle their attorneys in court and win.
Having an experienced car accident lawyer handling your claim has many benefits, not least of which is the ability to focus on your recovery while your claim is handled with expert attention.
Turning to the Wrong Attorney for your Car Accident Claim
Once you’re ready to get an attorney started on your claim, you’ve got to make sure you’re hiring the right person.
Not every attorney is experienced in personal injury. Like doctors, lawyers have many paths to choose from within the law profession. You wouldn’t turn to an ear, nose, and throat doctor for eye surgery. Don’t call on your uncle’s estate lawyer to handle your car accident claim.
In addition to making sure the lawyer you hire is a personal injury lawyer, make sure they are a trial lawyer. While most claims are resolved through a settlement, some need to go through trial to bring the victim the compensation they deserve. If your claim ends up in the courtroom, you’ve got to have an attorney experienced at winning at trial.
The best person to handle your car accident claim is a personal injury trial attorney with a winning record resolving car accident claims.
Naperville Car Accident Client Story
The client story below is intended to answer additional questions you may have about your car accident claim. While we’ve edited the details and names to preserve our client’s privacy, you’ll learn a lot from the information. Be sure to read to the end to learn more about car accident claims. Then, please give us a call to talk about your particular claim.
On a hot Friday afternoon not so long ago, twenty-year-old DeAndre Fox exited one of the largest trucking companies in Chicago, carefully maintaining his composure as he walked to his car. Opening the door of the small gray Honda, he got behind the wheel, pulled the door closed again, and screamed.
It was the end of a long, hot summer for DeAndre, pounding the pavement in search of work after graduating from diesel mechanic school. After two months of worrying he’d be unable to find a job after his mom Ada spent the last of her savings to send him to the school, he exhaled and called her.
“Ma, I got it!” He shouted, beaming as he held the phone at an angle to deflect Ada’s own scream of joy.
“DeAndre, I knew it, I just knew this one was for you. You’ve worked so hard, son, and I am so proud of you,” Ada said, her voice choking up. DeAndre’s own voice broke as he told his mom he loved her and was on his way home.
“Bring home a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs, would you, baby? We’re out of milk and there aren’t enough eggs for tomorrow’s breakfast.”
“You got it, Ma,” DeAndre promised, pulling back onto the street to head back down I 94 to South Shore. When he exited onto E 75th Street, he stopped at a corner store for eggs and milk, and continued east toward the apartment he shared with his mom and two younger siblings.
As he pulled up to the light at Jeffrey Boulevard, he thought about the future. Things were coming together, and DeAndre had big plans. One day, he was going to get his mom a better place to live; maybe in the suburbs west of the city.
That’s when a drunk driver slammed into his car from behind.
DeAndre woke up in the hospital with his neck in a brace. He had no memory of the accident, but months later would dream of a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs exploding in slow-motion, upward across the dashboard, into the windshield.
DeAndre’s neck hurt, but as his mother told him about the accident, he realized with growing dread that he couldn’t feel his legs. In fact. The doctor checked on him an hour later and gave him the rundown.
“You’ve got damage to the vertebrae in your lower back, DeAndre,” said the doctor, holding up calming hands when he saw panic in the young man’s eyes. “This does not automatically mean you’re paralyzed.
“Right now, there is swelling in your spinal cord due to the accident. We’re hopeful that full sensation and motor function will return to your legs as the swelling subsides.”
The doctor went on to say DeAndre would remain in the hospital for two weeks, at which point they hoped to transfer him to a rehabilitation facility.
Over the next fourteen days, Ada could see her son sliding into depression. She’d offered to contact the company who’d just hired him, but he said he needed to make the call himself, which turned out to be no easy feat with the neck brace on.
The guy that had offered him the job wished him well in his recovery and encouraged him to get back in touch when he was ready to return to work; perhaps there may be something open. They parted cordially and the manager promised to keep his information on file.
“Well, so long as he keeps me ‘on file!’” DeAndre said aloud after the call ended, staring at the ceiling tiles, trying unsuccessfully to will the tears away.
“Do they realize how hard it is to find good jobs in my neighborhood?” he asked aloud, squeezing his eyes shut. “I was so, so close,” he said, his voice choked.
Ada wiped a tear from her cheek. “You know, I was speaking to Mr. Woodson next door, and—”
“Oh, you speaking to the neighbors about me now?” DeAndre turned on his mom. “I’m just a big joke, huh? Almost made it. I bet you still so proud!”
“DeAndre Matthias Fox, you close that mouth if you know what’s good for you,” Ada said, pulling herself up to her full height of 5’1”.
Her son’s grief overflowed and spilled down his cheeks. “I’m sorry, Ma. This isn’t your fault,” he said miserably. They cried together for a while, then DeAndre took a shaky breath, squeezed his mom’s hand and said, “Tell me what old Mr. Woodson had to say, Ma. Please.”
That’s when DeAndre learned about the Naperville firm of Chute, O’Malley, Knobloch & Turcy. Mr. Woodson told Ada they helped him with a slip and fall claim back when he broke his hip last summer. He said they offer free legal consultations.
DeAndre called that afternoon and requested a free legal consultation.
How much does it cost to hire a car accident lawyer?
Personal injury attorney Colin J. O’Malley met with DeAndre and Ada the next morning in DeAndre’s hospital room.
“Before we get too far with the consult,” DeAndre said cautiously, “how much does it cost to hire your firm for a car accident claim?”
Attorney O’Malley answered that there is no upfront cost. “Our firm works on a contingency fee model, DeAndre. We cover all case expenses: accident investigation, research, administration, and if necessary, litigation. We only get paid after we’ve brought your claim to a successful conclusion.”
“That so?” DeAndre asked, giving O’Malley the once-over with suspicious eyes.
“It is,” O’Malley said with a smile.
How much is my claim worth?
“Okay,” DeAndre relented. He outlined what happened at the light at E 75th Street and Jeffrey Boulevard, adding, “Can you tell me what a claim like this is worth?”
O’Malley told them that it’s not truly possible to estimate the value of a claim out of thin air without any information. “You see, DeAndre, even looking at three or four different car accident claims, the type of accidents may be similar, but the health of the injured parties before the accident will vary, the nature of the accidents will vary, the severity of injuries will vary, and each person’s capacity for recovery will vary.
“I can tell you, however, what we’ll need to give you an estimate you can count on.
“The first thing is an accident investigation. The second thing is for you to reach what’s called ‘maximum medical improvement.’
“Maximum medical improvement means recovering back to your pre-accident level of health — or as close to it as you can get. It also means the doctors are confident you’re done with surgeries and they have a clear idea of what any future care of your injuries looks like.
“Your job, DeAndre, is to focus on getting better. Get rest and do everything your doctor advises; medications, physical therapy, whatever they recommend. Follow your treatment plan, but go as slow as you have to in order to heal well. Think ‘marathon,’ not sprint,” O’Malley said.
“When you get to maximum medical improvement, we’ll know your damages and can tell you the true value of your claim. We understand it’s frustrating to learn that it’s not possible to get a claim value right at the beginning of your case, but it wouldn’t be ethical or accurate of us to guess without any information,” O’Malley said.
“No, no,” DeAndre responded. “It makes perfect sense when you explain it that way. The ways an accident devastates a person’s life are as unique as they are. You need to know a person’s health and life has been impacted and will be impacted by their injuries.”
“Exactly,” said O’Malley. “And I suggest you maintain a healthy skepticism of anyone who just tosses a case value at you without any information to go on.”
“Okay, thank you,” said DeAndre.
How long will my claim take?
“Can you tell us how long DeAndre’s claim is likely to take?” Ada asked.
“That too will depend on a couple of factors,” said O’Malley. “The first is how long it takes DeAndre to reach maximum medical improvement, because we can’t contact the insurance company to ask for compensation until we know what his damages are.”
“Makes sense,” said DeAndre, “What’s the second factor in my claim timeline?”
“How the insurance company responds to our demand letter for compensation for those damages. If they are agreeable, we’ll be able to wrap up your claim without further delay. If they fight us, though, we’ll take them to court.
“Please don’t let the possibility worry you, though,” said O’Malley. “As I mentioned, if litigation becomes necessary, that too is covered by the firm as a case expense. Besides, our firm has a long and successful record of resolving car accident claims via settlement and in front of juries.
“The insurance company is likely to have heard of us. They may even decide to settle to avoid taking us on in the courtroom. There are no guarantees as to how a claim will go, but it’s happened before.
“Just know that no matter which way your claim goes, DeAndre, we’ll be there to aggressively pursue the compensation you deserve. That’s why we recommend you hire a personal injury trial attorney, no matter which firm you decide to go with.”
What does ‘comparative fault’ mean with regard to my claim?
DeAndre then asked, ‘So, I’ve read that Illinois is an ‘at-fault’ state regarding car accidents, but then is the ‘modified comparative fault’ rule? Does it mean everybody’s insurance pays for the accident?”
“Good question,” said O’Malley. “You are correct about the ‘no-fault’ designation. It means that if the other driver is entirely at fault for the accident, they pay you to compensate for lost wages, medical bills, and other damages for what you’ve suffered.
“If you were partially at fault for the accident, the comparative fault law means you could still recover damages, so long as you were no more than 50 percent responsible. If you met that requirement, you’d be able to recover compensation equal to the percentage the other driver was at-fault.
“If you were over 50 percent responsible for the accident, however, the comparative fault rule says you don’t get to collect anything,” said O’Malley.
“Oh, okay,” said DeAndre, nodding. “So comparative fault allows me to collect compensation from the other driver. Even if I’m up to 50 percent at fault, without having to meet the ‘serious injury’ requirement listed in the no-fault state rules for collecting beyond personal injury protection?”
“Right. You know, DeAndre, you may want to consider becoming a lawyer,” said O’Malley.
“Or an insurance broker,” said DeAndre, as everyone laughed.
DeAndre was satisfied with the answers he received in his free legal consultation. He retained Chute, O’Malley, Knobloch & Turcy, and we are happy to say Attorney O’Malley got him over six times the amount the insurance company initially offered, including punitive damages.
Call Our Naperville Car Accident Attorneys Today
Were you involved in an accident with a driver who was negligent or careless in Illinois and have questions about how a car accident lawyer can help? Contact our experienced Naperville car accident attorneys today for a free consultation and case evaluation.
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