Car Accident Lawyer - Frequently Asked Questions
Can you explain the court process if I file a lawsuit against the other driver that caused my auto accident?
When a lawsuit is filed, the parties begin the process of “pre-trial discovery”. This means that we send questions to the defense to answer, and a request for the defense to give us relevant documents. The defense will do the same and ask us to identify each doctor you went to, the dates of your treatment, the amount of your bills, the amount of your lost wages from work, the outcome of your medical care, the names of all your expert witnesses along with a detailed statement of their opinions.
The court will also set a schedule imposing deadline for taking “depositions” of parties and witnesses. A deposition is testimony given before a court reporter, usually in an attorney’s office, to find out in advance of trial what that person knows about the facts.
If the case is not settled before trial, the jury will decide the issues and the court will enter a “judgment” on the “verdict” of the jury.
The time to file a lawsuit is governed by a “statute of limitations”. A “statute of limitations” is a period of time within which an injured person must start a lawsuit. In motor vehicle accidents against private persons in Illinois, the statute of limitations in Illinois is two years from the date of the accident. In Wisconsin, the statute of limitations involving private parties, is three years. However, the important thing to remember is that a statute of limitations is a period of time within which you have to start a lawsuit – not finish one.
Generally, the damages in an auto negligence case include compensation for your:
- Pain and suffering.
- Lost income.
- Disability/loss of normal life activities.
- Medical expenses.
- Emotional distress.
- Increased risk of future harm.
There is no precise formula for determining the amount of money a person receives for their injuries. This is determined by a jury or judge after a trial in court.
Yes. When you are all done getting medical treatment for your injuries, we obtain all your medical records and bills, proof of lost wages, and other evidence of injury and submit them to the other party’s insurance company to start the settlement negotiation process. If you reach a “settlement”, this means that the other driver’s insurance company pays you an agreed amount of money, and you sign a ‘release” which says you give up all your legal rights to make a claim against him/her for damages in the future.
The driver that caused my accident got traffic tickets from the police. Does that mean I win my case?
No. The traffic ticket case is separate from the auto negligence case. Even if the court rules that the other driver is guilty of the traffic violations, that decision does not bind the judge or jury in your negligence case; however, if the other driver pleads guilty to a traffic violation, that plea of guilty (an “admission”), can be introduced in to evidence in the negligence case.
The driver that caused my accident had very little insurance coverage — not nearly enough to pay for my injuries — is there anything I can do to get more money?
If the other driver’s insurance is not enough to compensate you for the extent of your injuries, the next step is to see whether you had “under-insured motorist coverage” on your vehicle at the time of the accident. If so, you may be able to make a claim on your own policy for the damages that exceed the amount of the liability coverage. Let me give you an example: You are rear ended in a car accident. The person who rear ended you had $100,000 of liability coverage to pay for your injuries. However, the value of your claim is $250,000. Let’s say you had $250,000 of under-insured motorist coverage on your own policy for the vehicle you were driving at the time of the accident. In this example, you might be able to recover $100,000 from the at-fault party, plus an additional $150,000 in under-insured motorist benefits from your own policy.
In Illinois, all drivers are required to have liability insurance on their motor vehicles. If the other driver did not have insurance as required by law, you may be able to make a claim against your own auto insurance company, on the “uninsured motorist” provision of your policy, if you purchased it.
The insurance company said I was partly at fault for causing the accident. Does this mean I can’t get any compensation for my injuries?
You can still get compensated, so long as you were not more than 50% at fault for the accident.
The other driver was at-fault for causing my accident. Isn’t his insurance company required to pay my medical bills?
The other parties’ insurance company is not obligated to pay your medical bills as they come due. The other driver is not obligated to pay anything to you until such time as a court of law rules that the other driver is responsible for your injuries, and a judgment is entered by the court awarding you damages. Until then, you have to pay your own medical bills. You can do this with your auto “med pay” insurance, your group or “regular” insurance, or Medicare/Medicaid if you have it.