In Chicago, serious car accidents happen every day. Most people, however, don’t know what to do after they’ve been injured in a bad crash.
While they are still disoriented and in pain, people expect a lot out of accident victims. The other driver, police, and insurance agents will have a lot of questions about what happened. They’ll be looking to get answers from you—the person who is injured and trying to recover.
Whether you were in a car accident at Chicago’s notoriously risky Lake Shore Drive at East 57th Street intersection, rear-ended on the Dwight D. Eisenhower Expressway going through Oak Park, hit by a car while crossing at Harlem Road and 2nd Street in Rockford, or involved in another type of car accident in the greater Chicago area, there are steps you can and should take right away to protect your legal rights.
The legal team from our law firm has put together a list of dos and don’ts for Chicago area crash victims. Here’s what you should know.
Chicago car accident Dos and Don’ts
Regardless of the type of accident (e.g., rear-end, sideswipe, multi-car, etc.), you’ll want to start working on gathering evidence for your claim at the crash site. Only attempt these steps if you are well enough to move around and doing so does not put you or others at additional risk of injury.
Here are some general tips on how to best handle your car accident.
Do know your rights
Illinois is an “at-fault” state, which means that the driver, drivers, or other people responsible for your crash (and by extension, their insurance companies) are the ones who will compensate you for your injuries and other losses. The liability is divided among those who caused the crash and, sometimes, includes the victim. If you are found to have some portion of fault for the accident, your final compensation will be reduced proportionately by your percentage of fault. For example, if you are found to be 20% at fault and you are awarded a $100,000 settlement, your payout would be reduced by 20% to $80,000.
Do file a claim
There are three ways to file a claim after an accident. You can seek compensation by filing with:
- The at-fault driver’s auto insurance company
- Your own insurance provider (the company then has the option to recoup this money from the at-fault driver’s insurance provider)
- Civil court. Sometimes a lawsuit against the driver and/or other people responsible for the crash is necessary to recover the compensation you deserve
There may be others who also share some of the blame for your accident. If you were hit by a commercial vehicle, for instance, the trucker, trucking company, freight owner, and/or others may be liable for your damages (accident-related expenses).
In Illinois, there is a statute of limitations for accident victims seeking compensation through the courts. Accident claims should be filed as soon as possible with insurance companies. If you want to file a lawsuit, the deadlines are:
- Seeking money for injuries? You have to file a lawsuit within two years of the incident
- If you want money for damaged property, you must file within five years of the incident
This may seem like a lot of time, but the legal process can take a long time. Accident victims usually exhaust negotiations with insurance companies before filing civil lawsuits.
Do stick to the facts
People generally have a lot of questions after an accident, but you don’t have to answer them right away. You should be polite and cooperate with the police as well as the insurance agents. You should not give them extra information that can be used against you later. Tell the truth and stick to the objective facts of the accident. Avoid making generalizations or speculating about anything you aren’t 100% sure of, such as your injury status. “I’m receiving medical treatment” is a perfectly acceptable response to “How are you feeling?” and will prevent your words from being taken out of context or misunderstood.
Don’t discuss your accident with others
After an accident, it is important that you do not discuss the details of the incident with anyone but your lawyer. This is because anyone you talk to can be interviewed by insurance adjusters. Don’t post anything online about your crash either, including social media. Anything that’s attributed to you online could potentially be used to dispute or deny your claim.
Do call a lawyer
A car accident lawyer can investigate, preserve and collect evidence, put together an accurate estimate of how much it will cost for you to recover, handle all the paperwork, deal with insurance adjusters, negotiate for compensation, and — if necessary — file a civil lawsuit on your behalf.
Don’t believe the hype
Too many people think they can’t afford legal help after a crash, but car accident lawyers offer free case evaluations and represent clients on contingency. That means there is no retainer or hourly rate for you to pay, and attorney fees are a percentage of your final settlement or verdict. With a contingency fee agreement, you pay no fees unless you win.
Get the legal help you need
Coplan & Crane has years of experience fighting for the rights of Chicago, Oak Park, and Rockford area accident victims. We understand what is at stake for you and your loved ones. That’s why we dig deep to build strong cases and create rock-solid arguments in pursuit of maximum compensation.
If you were injured or a loved one died in an accident, contact us today to schedule a free case review. A member of our team will listen to you and then help you understand how the law applies to your specific situation. We are ready to hear from you today.