Chicago Car Accident Injury Law FAQ's
There’s never a good time to get injured in a car accident. Unfortunately, no matter how safely and responsibly you drive, you are always at risk for being involved in a crash when you share the roads with drivers who are inattentive or reckless.
At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC, our Illinois car accident attorneys know the physical, emotional and financial impact a car accident can have on you and your family. Our Chicago law firm has experience representing thousands of individuals in all types of car accident cases across Illinois, and we have compiled a list of car accident-related frequently asked questions that we hope will help you in understanding your rights following a collision.
If you have questions about your personal auto accident case, we welcome the opportunity to discuss your situation with you without any expense or obligation on your part. We handle car accident cases on a contingency fee basis—meaning there is never a fee charged unless we obtain financial recovery for you.
Below is a compilation of common questions people have about car accidents involving themselves or a loved one. If you have questions about your specific situation, we welcome the opportunity to discuss your case with you in person. Call us any time at (888) 424-5757.
Chicago Car Accident Injury FAQ's
If I Missed Work due to my Auto Accident Injuries, can I Recover my Lost Wages?
Yes, so long as you can prove that your injuries caused you to be unable to work and can demonstrate your wage losses, you can recover for lost wages.
One of the aspects of damages in a Chicago car accident settlement or lawsuit is lost wages. Your settlement must put you in the same position as if you had never been injured at all in an accident. This includes economic damages such as lost wages because you would have been able to work at your job had you never been injured.
In some instances, your injuries may be so severe that you are not able to return to work shortly after your accident or even not at all. Some employers do not offer ample sick leave or any at all so, at some point, your time out of work ends up coming out of your paycheck. This is even worse for jobs that require physical labor where your injuries may prevent you from ever returning to your job. For example, if you work in construction or in a factory, you will not be able to stand on your feet if you have permanent injuries. Lost wages will present you with financial difficulties because this is the money that puts the roof over your head and food on the table.
So long as you can document the wages that you lost, you can receive them paid back to you in a settlement. Oftentimes, this is a point of contention when you are negotiating a settlement because the insurance company will try to minimize both the extent of your injuries as well as the amount of earnings that you have lost. This is where a car accident attorney can help because they can establish exactly what you have lost and they will know exactly what is compensable. Make sure that you have your pay stubs and tax returns handy so that you are able to persuade the insurance company to pay you what you deserve. If not, you can take the matter to court to recover what you are due.
If I was in a Chicago Auto Accident With a Company-Owned Car, is That Company Responsible for Paying Damages?
Yes, if the car was driven by an employee who was acting within the scope of their employment at the time of the accident.
When an employee is on the job, they are considered to be an agent of their employer. Any acts that they do while at work, their employer is legally responsible for in a lawsuit. Thus, if the other driver was at work while behind the wheel of the car when they had the accident with you, their employer will be liable for your damages. This benefits you because the company has deeper pockets to pay you the financial compensation that you deserve.
Of course, many times the legal issue is not as simple as it appears on the surface. Some companies classify those who drive for them as independent contractors. This classification, while seemingly a legal fiction, includes some truck drivers as well as Uber and Lyft drivers. When a driver is an independent contractor, there is no employment relationship and the driver is representing themselves as opposed to any employer. This means that you can only recover from the driver and their insurance as opposed to the company which can limit the amount of your recovery.
Another important issue that will decide whether the company is liable is whether the driver was acting within the scope of their employment when they had their accident. For example, if the employee was not on the clock and was acting for their own personal benefit, it would not be considered within the scope of employment. However, if they were performing work tasks, such as driving to or from picking up a delivery, the employer would be responsible. However, in Illinois, driving to or from work in the company car is not considered to be within the scope of employment. Pyne v. Witmer, 129 Ill. 2d at 356 (Ill. 1989). Oftentimes, this will become a matter of factual dispute that your car accident lawyer will have to argue on your behalf in court since companies and their insurers will do whatever they can to avoid liability.
Can I Sue my Spouse for Injuries That my Child Suffered in an Illinois Car Accident?
Yes. Your spouse can be sued for negligence if your child was injured in a car accident while they were driving.
The important thing to remember here is that the right to recover for injuries sustained in a car accident belongs to the minor child instead of to the spouse. Even if it is awkward, it may be in the best interests of your child and their care to pursue a legal action against the spouse because the money will be there for them when it is necessary to fund medical care.
Illinois law allows one spouse to sue the other for torts committed during the course of the marriage. The Rights of Married Persons Act (750 ILCS 65/1) allows you to sue both for injuries that you have sustained as well as your child. If your child successfully recovers money, it would go into a trust to pay for the costs of their care. Oftentimes, considering that the money would come from an insurance company, this may actually be the prudent course of action to act in the best interests of your child because your spouse will not be paying from their own pocket.
Similarly, you also have the ability to file a lawsuit against other family members for injuries that your child sustained when riding with them. You should always do what is best for your child, even if it may present an awkward or uncomfortable situation. Theoretically, the right to recover belongs to your child and you should think twice before electing not to pursue remedies on their behalf. If you do not file a lawsuit on behalf of your child, the child themselves has two years after they turn 18 to file their own cause of action. (735 ILCS 5/13-211).
Can the Medical Professional who Treated Me Place a Lien on my Chicago Car Accident Settlement?
Subject to certain limitations on amount, a surgeon or other physician can place a lien on your settlement or award to make sure that they are paid for their services.
One of the unpleasant facts about a Chicago car accident settlement is that it takes some time to negotiate the settlement and then for it to be paid to you. This is even more pronounced if your claim goes to trial because the legal process can take several years to play out from start to finish. In the meantime, there may be several different types of professionals who have provided you with services for which you are not yet able to pay. One of these classes is medical professionals and surgeons. They need to know that they too will get paid. As a result, they are able to put a lien on your future settlement to make sure that they will get their money.
The good news for you is that your surgeon and the hospital where you were treated cannot place a lien that would entitle them to receive your entire settlement. Under Illinois’s Health Care Services Lien Act (770 ILCS 23/10), the total amount of medical liens on your settlement cannot exceed 40 percent. This ensures that there is money left over for you and you will not be left without anything if the insurance settlement does not cover the full amount of your medical expenses.
You may have the doctor and the hospital that have placed liens on your settlement or verdict. In this case, each of them may place a lien on twenty percent of your settlement amount. If it is just the doctors that are placing a lien, then they are limited to 33 percent of the settlement. Medical providers must share proportionally in your attorneys’ fees when they are reimbursed from the proceeds of your settlement.
What Kind of Monetary Damages am I Entitled to in a Chicago Car Accident Settlement or Verdict?
You are generally entitled to three different types of damages in a Chicago car accident: economic damages, non-economic damages and punitive damages.
Economic damages are meant to compensate you for the money that has either come out of pocket or that you have not been able earn due to the injuries that you suffered in an accident. Here are some examples of different types of economic damage:
- Lost wages due to time missed from work both in the past and the future
- Costs of medical care including ambulance transfer, hospitalization and costs of treatment both inside and out of the hospital
- Damage to your vehicle and costs to repair your vehicle as well as money that you had to spend to rent a car in the interim
- Costs of home health care and modifications to your home to accommodate your injury
Non-economic damages are the intangible losses that you have suffered that now must be quantified when it comes to your car accident settlement. These may include losses in terms of your quality of life and other pains and inconveniences that you have suffered as a result of your injuries. The good news is that you can recover for these after a car accident because your settlement is supposed to put you in the same position as if your accident never happened. Here are some examples of non-economic damages:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
In rare cases, you may be entitled to punitive damages from the other side, but only if the case goes to trial. Insurance policies will generally exclude punitive damages so collecting on them is not always easy even if you are able to get them. Juries will want to send a message that significantly egregious conduct must be punished and they do so by assessing punitive damages. There must be reckless or wanton conduct such as a drunk driving case or traveling at extreme speed. Note that punitive damages in a personal injury lawsuit are exceedingly rare and are only awarded for the worst of conduct.
I was Involved in a Chain Reaction Auto Accident. How is the at-Fault Party Determined?
The facts are circumstances of the particular accident will have to be examined closely, but the actions of all of the drivers will be scrutinized in order to determine and apportion fault.
In a multi-car pileup, it is often difficult to determine who is at fault. The car that hit you may not be the vehicle whose fault the accident is. This is often a complicated analysis, and it is helpful to have an attorney on your side if you have been in a multi-car crash. The driver at fault for the first collision may not automatically be responsible for the entire accident depending on what the other surrounding drivers may have been doing.
A multi-vehicle accident usually starts with one collision which is then followed by a number of secondary collisions. One car may rear end another and then a number of cars behind that car cannot stop in time. Alternatively, one driver may lose control of their car and then careen across the roadway, starting a chain reaction crash.
In some cases, it can be one small simple failure of one driver that can spark a chain reaction. For example, one driver can make an improper lane chain, causing a crash. Then, other drivers traveling behind are unable to avoid the crash. Add to this the fact that a third driver who is collected in the crash may have been speeding and you are left with a situation where each driver may bear a portion of the responsibility. As a result, what each driver was doing at the time of the accident, including their rate of speed and what they could have done to avoid the accident will be scrutinized by an insurance company or a court. No matter what role you played in the accident, you will need to carefully account for your actions when it comes to determining liability so that you may recover for any injuries or damage that you suffered.
Have More Questions About a Chicago Car Accident?
The Chicago car accident attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers are here to assist you with any questions that arise after a crash. We've helped thousands of clients injured in auto accidents across Illinois. Contact our office anytime for a free consultation about your legal rights and options for recovery.