Legal Steps to take to Initiate a Trial

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  • Complaint

    Lawsuits in Illinois are initiated when the plaintiff files a complaint with the clerk of the court of the relevant county. The complaint must state a number of facts to be legally sufficient. For instance, it must identify the parties involved in the automobile accident, the facts surrounding the crash, the basis upon which your lawsuit stands, justification for the court’s jurisdiction and venue, the damages you suffered, and the relief which you are seeking. Also, if your lawsuit seeks damages related to personal injuries, it must be brought within two years of the time accident (735 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/13-202), and if it seeks damages related to your car or other property, it must be brought within five years of the time of the accident (735 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/13-205). Below are some examples of automobile accident complaints:

    • Complaint 1 - In this complaint, a driver sued two people when their car failed to yield to a red light and entered the plaintiff’s lane and collided with his vehicle. It sought over $50,000 in damages.
    • Complaint 2 – In this complaint, the plaintiff sued a driver and the driver’s employer under the theory of respondeat superior. He argued that because the driver was negligently acting under the control and employment of the company, it should too be liable for his damages arising out of the car accident.
    • Complaint 3 – In this complaint, the plaintiff sued the insurance company after a car accident. It sought to compel the company to pay according to the terms of the policy.
    • Complaint 4 – In this complaint, the defendant hit and killed the plaintiff with his car while the plaintiff was getting his mail.

  • Answer

    Whether required or not, the defendant will more than likely file an answer to the plaintiff’s complaint. The deadline for filing an answer may be the date of the appearance for trial, a short time after the date of the appearance for trial (such as ten days), or any date set by the judge. Within the defendant’s answer, he or she must admit, deny, or state he or she does has insufficient knowledge to either admit or deny every statement made by the plaintiff in the complaint. However, if the defendant chooses the last option, he or she must file an affidavit swearing to such insufficient knowledge. Also, the defendant can raise new issues in the answer-called affirmative defenses-but these new prayers for relief and the plaintiff must respond to all of them. These issues are called counterclaims and can be raised against either other plaintiffs or other defendants but certain claims can be waived by not raising them early enough. Below are examples of answers raised in automobile accident cases:

    • Answer 1 – In this answer involving a collision between two cars, the defendants admitted the factual circumstances of the crash but denied fault.
    • Answer 2 – In this answer, an insurance company denied the obligation of payment under the terms of a plan the plaintiff ostensibly purchased satisfactorily through the defendant company.

  • Consent to Settle

    If negotiations following the complaint and answer go smoothly with the defendant, a settlement agreement might foreclose the need for a trial. In that case, you need to send a consent letter to the defendant’s insurer giving notice of the agreement and seeking release. This is properly used following the demand that should be sent to the insurer at the onset of the case-even before the complaint is filed. (Go here for example demand letters). Below is an example consent to settle letter:

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