Car Accident Lawsuit FAQ's
How Long do You Have to File a Lawsuit When You Have Been Injured in a Car Accident in Illinois?
You will need to file a Chicago car accident lawsuit within the statute of limitations, which is two years in Illinois.
In Illinois, as in any state, you do not have an indefinite time period to file a lawsuit should you fail to reach a settlement agreement. This is out of fairness to the other party in the lawsuit who should not be made to have to defend themselves in court many years after the incident occurred. As a result, Illinois law requires that you file your car accident lawsuit within two years of the time that you knew or should have known of your injuries. (735 ILCS 5/13-202)
Note that we just said that the key point is when you knew or should have known that you were injured as opposed to the date of your accident. In most cases, these two times are the same because you know what your injuries are right after your accident. However, in some cases, you may not realize that you have been hurt at the time of the accident. This is true when you have physical damage such as a back or neck injury that may not start to hurt until some time after the accident. The applicable date for the statute of limitations would be when you knew that you were hurt, but you may not want to take the chance to delay until that date because, if you are wrong, you will lose the right to sue. Also, since the statute of limitations begins to run when you should have known that you were injured, you cannot ignore obvious signs of an injury for too long.
Cases take some time to prepare so you will not want to wait too long to file your lawsuit. At the same time, your complaint that you file with the court will need to be strong enough to survive if the other party tries to file a motion to dismiss. You must lay out enough facts to persuade the court that they will feel that they need to hear more. This means that you should find a lawyer soon after your injury so that your claim can be fully investigated and filed with the court before the statute of limitations runs. This deadline is a hard deadline and your case will be barred forever even if you only miss it by one day.
How Long Does it Take to settle an Illinois Car Accident When There are Injuries?
This depends on the complexity of the case and how clear-cut the issue of liability is.
When you have filed a personal injury lawsuit after an Illinois auto accident, one of the first things that you are wondering is when you will be able to get your money if the case settles. You may have bills and expenses or are missing time from work and are understandably facing a financial crunch. Unfortunately, we cannot give you a definitive clear-cut answer. The best response that we can give you to this question is that it depends. You can expect that your case will take between several months and several years to settle. Then, we can explain to you some of the factors that are involved in how long it takes to settle your case.
The first issue that will decide whether your case settles and how long it will take is the question of liability. Sometimes, it can take a while to figure out who was responsible for the accident. An insurance company will generally settle a claim when they think that they are doing it for less than they would be required to pay if the case went to court. Then, the issue of damages needs to be resolved. It may take some time for the two sides to agree on what the proper amount of damages is, especially when the injuries increase the amount of the settlement. There may be some items such as lost wages that are in dispute. In other words, settlements take time and may not happen overnight. In many cases, your claim will not settle until right before trial if it is being litigated because the insurance company is not motivated to settle before then.
In terms of timing, you should not be overanxious to settle your claim because you need the money. The insurance company knows that people want to settle and may make you a lowball settlement offer to see what you will accept. Your Illinois car accident lawyer can advise you as to what is a fair settlement amount. Insurance companies are known to take advantage of parties who do not have legal representation since they have superior knowledge when it comes to the value of your claim.
How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Chicago Auto Accident Lawyer to Represent Me in a Lawsuit in Illinois When I Have Been Injured in an Accident?
You will pay nothing out of your pocket and your auto Chicago accident lawyer is only paid if you recover money for your injuries.
Personal injury lawyers who handle car accidents work on a contingency basis. Broadly stated, this means that if you do not get paid, neither do we. This means that no money comes out of your pocket. If you are not successful in your claim, you will not be facing a bill for our services. When you talk to your prospective personal injury lawyer, your initial consultation will be also free. At that point, you will learn what the lawyer’s contingency fee is. Should you choose to retain the lawyer to represent you, the amount of the contingency fee and any other fee arrangements will be in writing in the representation agreement that both you and your lawyer will sign. In other words, everything is spelled out and nothing will be a surprise.
Unlike other lawyers, an attorney in a personal injury case is not paid on an hourly basis but is compensated as a percentage of your settlement. Typically, a lawyer will charge roughly one-third of your financial recovery as their fee. Your financial recovery is defined as either your settlement or jury award. Many lawyers will charge a slightly higher percentage if your case goes to trial because it is more of an investment of time and effort on their part. Your lawyer will not want to spend a great deal of time on a case if they do not think that there is at least a good chance that you will receive money because it means they will be working uncompensated time.
Accordingly, your lawyer will be paid out of the proceeds of your settlement or award. You will receive a check for the amount of your settlement minus your attorney’s fees and court costs. Some attorneys will not expect you to pay any court costs if you are not successful. However, some Illinois attorneys will require you to pay court costs and fees if you are not successful. This will not be a surprise bill at the end of the case if your attorney does require payment for court costs since it will be in your signed representation agreement.
What Happens if the Other Driver Pleads Guilty in Traffic Courts for Their Actions in Your Car Accident?
This can be considered evidence that can help further your claim in court.
A traffic offense is a criminal offense and evidence of a criminal offense is admissible in a civil trial if the party has admitted to it. For purposes of your accident, the police should always be called after the accident to write an accident report. Sometimes, the police will decide to issue a citation to one of the drivers in the case. For example, one driver could have run a red light that led to the crash, and they will receive a traffic citation when the police officer arrives at the scene.
In Illinois, a guilty plea in a traffic case is considered an admission. (Hartigan v. Robertson, 87 Ill. App. 3d 732 (Ill. App. Ct. 1980); Cogdill v. Durham, 43 Ill. App. 3d 940 (Ill. App. Ct. 1976)). A guilty plea is an acknowledgment that certain facts occurred as alleged, and it is done in a court with the full recognition of the consequences of the guilty plea. The fact that the other driver has pled guilty means that they are assumed to understand the ramifications of their guilty plea. Your lawyer can obtain a certified copy of the guilty plea, and it will be admissible evidence in your civil case.
Note that this only applies when the driver pleads guilty. If the driver is found guilty or not guilty after a trial, it would have a different result. In reality, drivers should never plead guilty to a ticket that is issued after an accident since it is considered an admission and they should have an attorney advising them of that fact. When they do, your car accident lawyer can use it to your advantage when your civil case goes to trial.
What is the Impact on my Case if the Other Driver was Found Guilty of DUI in my Accident?
Depending on the other driver’s conduct, you may be able to pursue a claim for punitive damages if the other driver was found guilty of driving while intoxicated.
Punitive damages are extremely rare in most personal injury cases. Ordinarily, in order to receive punitive damages, the actions must be so egregious that the jury feels the need to send a message by punishing the other party. In most ordinary negligence cases, the facts are not present to support this. One of the few exceptions to this is motor vehicle accidents when one party is driving under the influence.
Ordinary negligence is not enough to warrant punitive damages. The standard will require conduct that rises to the level of recklessness or wanton indifference. There are several steps that must be taken before you can ask for punitive damages in a car accident case. Generally, there must be some facts to support punitive damages so there will be a preliminary hearing to determine whether these facts are present. You also must be entitled to compensatory damages first in order to be able to seek punitive damages. Finally, you must request leave from the court to ask for punitive damages from the other driver.
Punitive damages require a high standard in Illinois. The Illinois Supreme Court has held that punitive damages require that the “defendant acts with such gross negligence as to indicate a wanton disregard of the rights of others.” Kelsay v. Motorola Inc. (72 Ill.2d 172, 186 (Ill. 1978)). In Illinois, driving under the influence is sufficient to constitute gross negligence since it is wanton and willful conduct. Note that there is a limit to the amount of punitive damages that you can receive in Illinois. You cannot be awarded more than three times the amount of your economic damages as punitive damages.