Car Accident Auto Insurance Claims
After a car accident in which you are injured, you may need to file an insurance claim for damages. When another driver causes the crash, you can file a first-party claim with your own insurer if you have the right coverage for it, or you can file a third-party claim with the other driver's insurance company. The laws related to these claims are different. If you are concerned about car accident auto insurance claims after suffering injuries in a crash, the Chicago car accident lawyers at Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca are ready to assist you.Car Accident Auto Insurance Claims
In a first-party car insurance claim, you have a contract with the insurance company. Your insurer is supposed to fulfill the terms and conditions of the insurance policy, which is a contract. You pay premiums to ensure that the insurer fulfills its duties toward you. However, in a third-party claim, you do not have a direct contract with the insurance company. Instead, its primary obligation is to its policyholder.
Under 625 ILCS 5/7-203, most drivers must carry bodily injury and property damage liability insurance to pay for the damages that they cause in a car crash. The minimum amount that a driver is supposed to carry is $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident for bodily injuries. However, these are just the minimum amounts of coverage required. Some drivers, who are aware that this would not be enough to cover damages in case of catastrophic injuries and want to reduce the exposure of their personal assets, carry more. Other drivers disobey the law and do not obtain insurance, in which case you may need to turn to your own uninsured or underinsured coverage.
In most cases, if you have a third-party claim, you should retain a personal injury attorney. This is partly because the statements that you make to the insurer for another party in an accident are not protected. They can be used to build a case against you so that you cannot recover damages. In some cases, an insurer for an at-fault party may try to get rid of a claim by offering a lowball settlement in exchange for a release of damages. The release means that you are agreeing that what they are offering you is the only amount that you will ever get from the other driver and his or her insurer.
You should not accept a settlement or sign anything without consulting an attorney. In most cases, it is not immediately clear what the total damages will be. It is conceivable that injuries will be minimal and damages will be low. However, in some cases, it can take up to a year to know the total damages arising out of an accident. Sometimes internal organ damage, for example, is not immediately apparent. Sometimes a traumatic brain injury is much worse than what was initially believed. Sometimes a victim is unconscious and paralysis is believed to be temporary, but it is later discovered to be permanent. Sometimes the full amount of medical treatment and vocational rehabilitation necessary is not apparent initially.
Often, in a third-party claim, the insurer will try to find ways in which you, as the plaintiff, were at fault. Illinois follows a modified comparative negligence law, whereby you can only collect damages if you are 50% or less at fault for a car accident. You are barred from recovering damages if you are found to be more than 50% at fault. Your damages are reduced by an amount equal to your percentage of fault if you are 50% or less at fault for an accident. For example, if the total damages are $100,000, and you are found 25% at fault for the accident, while the other driver is 75% at fault, you can only recover $75,000 from the at-fault driver. Knowing this, insurers may ask questions to probe whether you think you are at fault and why. They may use your statements against you, or use a statement to build a different story about what happened. It is important not to talk to an at-fault driver's insurer without consulting an attorney.Consult an Experienced Car Crash Lawyer in the Chicago Area
If you have been hit by a distracted or otherwise careless driver and are concerned about pursuing a car accident auto insurance claim, you should contact a knowledgeable Chicago attorney. At Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca, we also represent people in Aurora, Springfield, Champaign, Rockford, and Quincy, as well as other areas of Cook, Kane, Sangamon, Champaign, Winnebago, and Adams Counties. You can call us at 312-263-6330 or toll-free at 800-444-1525, or contact us online, for a free consultation.