Illinois Personal Injury Lawsuit FAQ's
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC represents people with severe injuries suffered in accidents such as motor vehicle collisions, work-related accidents and other types of professional negligence including medical malpractice. Our law firm has collected a series of personal injury lawsuit accident FAQs related to the medical and legal aspects of an accident involving injuries caused by the negligent actions of others. Should you have additional questions, we invite you to contact our office for a free review of your legal rights.
No one is ever prepared to be a victim of a severe accident or event that causes them harm. Unfortunately, these events often produce life-shattered consequences. Fortunately, by law, any individual who has suffered an injury, harm or damages caused by the negligent actions of another has the right to file a personal injury claim for compensation.
The personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC have compiled a comprehensive list of the most frequently asked questions involving personal injury cases and posted the answers below. Many families use this information to determine how to take legal action for justice and to obtain the financial compensation they deserve for their injuries and damages.
What are the Basics of a Chicago Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Basically, a Chicago personal injury lawsuit is a type of case brought in Chicago for physical, emotional, sexual, mental, or similar harm sustained due to the wrongful actions of someone else. They can sue a person or entity (even Cook County) for compensation that the personal injuries caused them plus any consequential expenses and losses. There are a few different categories of personal injury lawsuits and these all relate to the defendant’s conduct. If the defendant intended the wrongful conduct that caused the personal injury, the plaintiff can bring an intentional tort claim. If the defendant did not intend to commit wrongful conduct but still acted unreasonably for the circumstances, the plaintiff can a negligence claim for any damages that followed. Finally, if the defendant’s legal breach caused the plaintiff’s personal injuries, then the plaintiff can file a negligence per se cause of action. These broad categories of cases give greater meaning to what exactly a personal injury lawsuit is. See 735 ILCS 5/2-1116.
What Makes a Good Illinois Personal Injury Case?
Good Illinois personal injury cases contain all of the elements needed to bring the underlying cause of action (i.e. negligence, intentional tort, strict liability, etc.). These elements normally include fault or liability, damages, causation, and recoverability. The absence of any of these elements might eliminate a personal injury case.
What is the Average Illinois Personal Injury Settlement or Jury Award?
On average, Illinois personal injury cases obtain several thousand dollars. They often range from ten to one hundred thousand dollars. Of course, some cases might get more, and some personal injury cases might get less. The specific recovery of any particular claim depends upon a number of factors including 1) the victim’s damages 2) the defendant’s culpability and 3) any intervening forces.
What Compensation is Available in a Chicago Personal Injury Lawsuit?
In Chicago, Plaintiffs can seek compensation in a personal injury lawsuit for all the damage that the defendant’s wrongful conduct caused including compensatory, special, and punitive damages. Normally, these are broken up along economic and non-economic lines. The former includes tangible costs the incident incurred upon the plaintiff such as hospital bills, ambulance fees, lost income from missed work, and property loss or damage. The latter includes losses for more intangible damage like disfigurement, suffering, reduced quality of life, and disability. Typically, a judge or jury has more flexibility to assign the value of non-economic damages. On the other hand, economic damages are more fixed and ascertainable. Consequently, awards for these injuries must closely follow the identifiable loss.
What is the Deadline to File an Illinois Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Generally, Illinois law prohibits plaintiffs from bringing claims for personal injuries two years after the date of the accident so that is the deadline to file a case. If personal injury victims wait longer than two years, they will not be able to seek compensation for their harms and losses from those incidents per 735 ILCS 5/13-202:
“Actions for damages for an injury to the person...shall be commenced within two years next after the cause of action accrued.”
To comply with this Illinois law, plaintiffs must serve all defendants with the complaint and summons before this time period elapses. Some exceptions may be made (I.e. if the plaintiff had reasonable grounds to fail to understand he or she had a legitimate claims) but in most instances this time period will close two years from the date of the accident which caused the person’s personal injuries.
What do You Need to Prove in Order to Win an Illinois Personal Injury Case?
In order to win an Illinois personal injury case, you must establish the prima facie case elements for the underlying lawsuit. The following elements constitute the most common types of personal injury cases. They illustrate what a plaintiff must plead and prove in Illinois court to win a personal injury lawsuit.
Intentional Tort Cases:
- An intentional act that
- Is wrongful (I.E. trespass, false imprisonment, assault, battery, etc.) and
- Causes damage or injury to the person.
- Negligent conduct (unreasonable for the circumstances) that
- Breached a
- Duty owed to the plaintiff and
- Caused the plaintiff damage or injury.
Negligence Per Se Cases:
- The defendant broke a law and that
- Caused the plaintiff
- Damage or injury.
Can I Handle My Own Chicago Personal Injury Case?
Yes, plaintiffs in Illinois and other states are legally entitled to file and try their own personal injury cases. But the question really becomes: should they? Personal injury litigation requires a considerable amount of experience, skill, and resources. Even seasoned attorneys commonly step into traps set by older professionals. Some studies suggest that claimants with counsel assisting them win more frequently and win at greater rates by wide margins. For example, one such study claims that plaintiffs with a lawyer beat defendants in personal injury matters almost twice as much as plaintiffs without a lawyer. Also, it reported that their award or settlement was nearly four times larger than the award or settlement of plaintiffs representing themselves. To read more about that study, click here. Therefore, while anyone can bring their own personal injury case, studies highlight the consistent advantage that a lawyer will offer someone filing such a lawsuit.
How Long is the Illinois Personal Injury Claims Process?
Illinois personal injury litigation has three distinct phases and typically lasts between six to eighteen months but may run longer. Each phase presents different opportunities and challenges to plaintiffs seeking recovery for their damages. Here is a review of the personal injury claims process broken down by these different periods:
- Pre-Lawsuit: This phase runs from the time of the accident to the subsequent filing of a lawsuit. In this phase of the personal injury claims process, the most important objectives are to seek medical and legal attention. The former will ensure your injuries don’t get worse. The latter will ensure your potential claims are preserved and investigated. Then, with your counsel, you can determine if you have a case for your personal injuries (and under what theory) and what you need to do to obtain relief.
- Pre-Trial: The period between the filing of the personal injury lawsuit and commencement of a case trial is critical for a plaintiff. They must interact with the defense counsel to try and resolve the dispute. A successful resolution will save the victim time and money. To do that, the two sides must agree on the value of the plaintiff’s claim, if any. A plaintiff must be able to artfully demonstrate the true loss the incident incurred upon him or her including the complete medical impact.
- Trial: If the personal injury case actually gets to trial, and most of them don’t, personal injury plaintiffs must use law and fact through evidence, testimony, and argument to explain to a jury why Illinois law allows their recovery. The trial will start once the discovery process concluded. During discovery, both sides exchange information and items relevant to the case. At ant point, either party can initiate settlement negotiations and that is preferred as it conserves judicial resources.
Are Details of Chicago Personal Injury Cases Kept Private?
As a general rule, information regarding Chicago personal injury cases is not private because Illinois citizens are allowed to inspect court documents. Common law, the First Amendment, and state law (705 ILCS 105/16) protect this general presumption. This prerogative applies broadly to things filed in court such as pleadings, docket information, motions, orders, transcripts, evidence, etc. However, note the whole swathe of things that does not include, such as: things exchanged between parties but not introduced at court (including settlement information); matters related to juveniles; or items specifically sealed by the court. Therefore, some items of your Illinois personal injury case can be kept private depending upon the circumstances.
Are Personal Injury Case Proceeds Protected From Bankruptcy?
Yes, in some situations, Illinois personal injury case compensation may be protected from bankruptcy proceedings. If you brought the personal injury case after filing for bankruptcy, then you may still be allowed to keep a substantial portion of the award or settlement. Most federal and state bankruptcy laws allow for exemptions from general liquidation provisions of a debtor’s assets. This can apply to personal injury jury award or settlement amount by as much as $10,000. The exact number will depend on the case and the circumstances of the bankruptcy filing.
How do You Determine the Value of a Chicago Personal Injury Claim?
You can estimate the value of a Chicago personal injury claim by totaling the accident costs (i.e. medical bills, lost income, etc.) as well as any intangible effect (scarring, pain, disability, etc.) the incident had on the victim. If the defendant’s conduct was particularly outrageous, you might obtain punitive damages too. It’s not uncommon for personal injury cases to fetch tens of thousands of dollars on average. However, your recovery will depend solely on the circumstances of your incident and injuries. Analyzing the value of your costs and non-economic losses will provide a reasonable estimate.
How are Expert Witnesses Used in Illinois Personal Injury Cases?
In Illinois personal injury litigation, expert witnesses are primarily used to 1) establish defendant fault and legal liability as well as to 2) support a plaintiff’s right to and amount of compensation. An expert witness is someone whose field of expertise allows him or her to support or refute claims during a trial based on his or her own knowledge and experience. They are instrumental in proving fault, determining the economic impact of injuries and countering arguments that are presented against your claims. Some examples of useful expert witnesses include accident reconstructionists, economists, and medical specialists. They are usually required when you want to offer evidence that contains “scientific, technical or specialized knowledge.” Lundy v. Whiting Corp., 93 Ill. App. 3d 244, 256, 417 N.E.2d 154, 48 Ill. Dec. 752 (1st Dist. 1981). This is normally implicated in personal injury cases involving medical malpractice, products liability, and other complicated matters. To determine if an expert witness is needed in your case, “[e]xpert testimony is proper when the subject matter of the inquiry is of such a character that only persons of special skill or experience in that area are capable of forming a correct judgment with respect to the applicable facts.” Harvey v. Norfolk and W. Ry. Co., 73 Ill. App. 3d 74, 83, 390 N.E.2d 1384, 28 Ill. Dec. 794 (4th Dist. 1979).
Will My Settlement or Award be Taxable?
No, settlements or awards for personal injuries are not taxable. Although, they are still regarded as income and should be reported on your tax return. If a portion of those proceeds are used for attorneys’ fees, then that should be put on your itemized deductions. Here are some other things related to personal injury cases that are taxable:
- Emotional distress awards or settlements.
- Punitive damages
- Interest on any award or settlement
- Attorneys’ fees and expenses
Looking for More Information About a Specific Type of Illinois Accident or Malpractice Case?
If you have more questions or wish to discuss your particular situation with an attorney, our family of lawyers, nurses and support staff at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC is here for you. We welcome you to email or call our office where we can arrange for a telephone, video or in-person discussion of your particular circumstance. As with all of our legal services, we never charge a legal fee for a consultation. All of our Illinois personal injury and medical negligence cases are handled on a contingency basis where we only earn a fee when there is a recovery for you.
Time constraints may impact your ability to recover from an at-fault party. If you believe that you have a viable accident case, we urge you to contact our office at (888) 424-5757 to begin the process of assembling the most powerful case for your situation.