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Who Pays For Car Accident Compensation In Illinois?

Experienced car accident lawyers break down this complex process

The cost of a single car accident can be immense. Medical bills. Lost wages. Pain and suffering. Damage to your vehicle and other property. And if you didn't cause the accident, you shouldn't have to pay - but getting the compensation you need for your losses can be difficult.

The car accident attorneys at Coplan & Crane have decades of experience fighting and winning for those who have lost in car accidents. Here's what you need to know about getting the compensation you need.

Illinois is an "At-fault" insurance state

This means that after an auto accident, the driver who is found at fault for the accident is liable for any damages (financial compensation) arising from the accident. If multiple parties are partially at fault for the accident, then liability is divided between them according to the principle of comparative negligence.

There are three ways to seek compensation for a car accident in Illinois:

  • File a claim with your own insurance company (a "first party" claim).
  • File a claim with the at-fault driver's insurance company (a "third party" claim).
  • File a lawsuit in civil court against the at-fault driver.

Additionally, there can potentially be compensation available through an at-fault driver's employer or even members from the at-fault's household.

Your right to compensation in a first party claim

Depending on your insurance policy, you may be entitled to certain benefits from your own insurance carrier in the event of an accident. Some of those benefits include:

  • Medical payments coverage (MedPay). This coverage pays your medical expenses arising from the crash, such as hospital bills and the cost of prescription medication, up to the policy limit.
  • Collision coverage. This coverage pays for damage to your vehicle, or a replacement if your vehicle is declared a total loss.

If another driver was at fault for the accident, your insurance company may pursue reimbursement from the at-fault driver's insurance company. This is called subrogation, and depending on the size and nature of your claim, it can make it more difficult for you to recover all of the compensation you need, as some of the damages you recover go to your insurance company instead of you.

However, an experienced attorney can negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf and help you get full compensation. We have experience working with insurance companies to reduce or waive subrogation in order to help our clients get all of the compensation they need.

Taking action against the at-fault driver

While coverage under your own insurance policy may provide you with some compensation, it is unlikely to cover the full cost of an accident causing significant injury. Medical payments coverage tends to be fairly limited and does not cover non-medical expenses, such as lost wages from time away from work. To recover for all of your losses, you need to take action against the at-fault driver.

In Illinois, the following time limits, called the statute of limitation, apply to lawsuits arising from a car accident:

  • Two years after the date of the accident to seek compensation for your injuries.
  • Five years after the date of the accident to seek compensation for damage to property.

Technically, these limits only apply to filing lawsuits in civil court, and an insurance company could in theory pay a claim after the statute of limitations has expired. However, you will have much more leverage in negotiations with the insurance company if you still have the option of filing a lawsuit.

What if the at-fault driver doesn't have insurance?

Under Illinois law, all motorists are required to carry liability insurance, but some drivers choose to break that law. If the at-fault driver does not have insurance, he or she can be held personally liable for damages caused in the accident. Likewise, if the motorist does not have enough liability coverage to pay for all of your expenses, he or she can be held liable for anything above and beyond the policy limit.

This means that you still have the option of filing a lawsuit and trying to recover compensation directly from the at-fault driver's assets. However, seizing an individual's assets is a much more complex, time-consuming and difficult process than recovering from an insurance company, and the at-fault driver may not have significant assets to recover in the first place. A more practical option is to file an uninsured motorist claim with your own insurance company.

In Illinois, all motorists are required to carry uninsured motorist protection. If you are involved in an accident caused by an uninsured driver, your insurance company will pay for any damages that would have been paid by the uninsured driver's liability coverage, up to the policy limit. Uninsured motorist protection also applies if the at-fault driver's identity is unknown, as in a hit-and-run accident.

An experienced attorney can help you recover full compensation

The process of filing a claim after a car accident is complex, and the insurance companies are experts at delaying, reducing and denying such claims. That's why it's so important to have a strong, legal advocate on your side, fighting for your rights. If you've been injured in an auto accident, the Oak Park auto accident lawyers at Coplan & Crane can help. Contact us today for a free, confidential consultation.