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Can You File a Car Accident Claim On Your Own?

October 3, 2022

If you’ve been hurt in a wreck and are wondering whether you can file a car accident claim on your own, it’s important to understand that you are not technically required to hire a lawyer to make an insurance claim.

However, in cases of serious injury, it is almost always in your best interest to discuss your case with an experienced lawyer. 

Insurance companies are in the business of making profits, not paying out claims. An attorney will determine the full value of your losses and advocate on your behalf for the full and fair compensation to which you may be entitled under Illinois law.

Coplan + Crane has built a reputation for excellence in Chicago. We understand the challenges faced by car accident victims and the hardships they must overcome. We are committed to helping our clients recover fair compensation and move forward after a serious injury.

Filing a Car Accident Claim in Illinois

Illinois is an “at-fault” insurance state. This means that after a vehicle collision, the at-fault driver is liable for any losses that occurred due to the crash. Illinois also adheres to the principle of comparative negligence, meaning that if fault for the crash is shared between multiple parties, liability is divided between them.

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

1. File a Claim with Your Insurance Company (a “First Party” Claim)

In the event of an accident, you may be entitled to specific benefits from your own insurance carrier, depending on the details of your policy. These benefits may include:

  • Collision coverage: This covers vehicle damage or vehicle replacement if it is declared a total loss.
  • Medical payments coverage (MedPay): This covers medical expenses (up to the policy limit) that arise from the accident, including emergency care, hospital bills, prescription medications, etc.

If the accident was caused by another driver, your insurer may seek reimbursement from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. This is referred to as subrogation. Essentially, subrogation occurs when an entity—usually an insurance company—requests reimbursement for prior payments made on your behalf.

Depending on the nature of your claim, subrogation can make it more difficult to recover the full compensation you need, because some of your recovery goes to the insurance company instead of you.

This is where a car accident lawyer can help. Your attorney can negotiate with the insurance company for the full value of your claim on your behalf. Coplan + Crane has extensive experience working with insurance companies to reduce or waive subrogation. This can help you get the maximum compensation you deserve. If you file a car accident claim on your own, you will likely not get the full and fair amount you need to move forward.

2. File a Claim with the At-Fault Driver’s Insurance Company (a “Third-Party” Claim)

There are three parties in a third-party insurance claim:

  • The insured driver
  • The insurance company 
  • Another individual (such as you, the injured party)

Liability claims are the most common type of third-party insurance claims. If you were injured in an accident caused by someone else, you can be a third party who files a claim against the other driver’s insurance company.

In this case, because there is no contract between you and the at-fault driver’s insurance company, you are entitled to make claims for compensation that may not be covered under your policy, such as medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Third-party claims are often called liability claims because another party is liable for the injuries suffered by the third party.

If the insurance company is unwilling to settle with you, it may be time to take your case to trial. The legal process can be extremely complex. If you are dealing with serious injuries, trying to learn the intricacies of legal actions can be overwhelming. An attorney is highly knowledgeable in these matters and has substantial experience in both negotiations and litigation. You would be best served to discuss your case with a car accident lawyer rather than represent yourself in court.

3. File a Lawsuit in Civil Court Against the At-Fault Driver

Although your own insurance policy may cover some of your losses, your coverage alone will not likely cover the extent of damages you suffered as a result of someone else’s negligence.

Medical coverage is generally limited; non-medical expenses, such as time away from work and lost wages, will not be covered by your insurance policy. To recover the full value of your claim, you may need to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. If you file a car accident claim on your own, you may not know when it is finally time to take your case to court.

You only have a limited time in which to file a lawsuit after an accident. This is known as the statute of limitations. While you have five years after the date of the crash to pursue compensation for property damage, 735 Illinois Compiled Statutes section 5/13-202 states that “Actions for damages for an injury to the person…shall be commenced within two years next after the cause of action accrued.” This means you only have two years after the date of the crash to file a personal injury lawsuit.

A lawyer can ensure that your lawsuit is filed correctly, on time, and with the appropriate court. Your attorney will investigate the facts surrounding your crash, gather evidence and witness testimony to support your case, and represent you at trial.

Read more: How Do I Know If I Have a Car Accident Lawsuit?

Call a Chicago Car Accident Lawyer for Free

If you were seriously hurt in a wreck, don’t file a car accident claim on your own before talking to a Chicago car accident lawyer at Coplan + Crane. The insurance company may use anything you say to devalue, delay, or deny your claim. Our experienced attorneys can ensure your rights and best interests are protected. 

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