Any person injured in an auto accident in Illinois may pursue the at-fault party in a civil action to recover financial compensation for medical bills associated with his or her physical injuries, lost income, and property damage, and in some cases also for emotional distress and other “noneconomic” damages.
As with other types of personal injury cases, a car accident plaintiff (injured person) has the burden of proving that the driver's negligence was the cause of his or her injuries. After proving causation, an injured person may seek monetary damages for injuries and future physical disabilities arising from the accident. While the specific amount of damages may vary from plaintiff to plaintiff, damages usually consist of economic and noneconomic damages—both for expenses incurred immediately following the accident (medical care, surgeries, physical therapy) as well as expenses that are likely to be incurred in the future.
Economic damages encompass anything related to a tangible expense, and cover not only costs incurred up until the time of the lawsuit but any anticipated future costs associated with the accident.
Economic damages typically include charges for:
- Ambulance transfer to a hospital
- Emergency room treatment
- Medical care provided by specialists including orthopedists, neurologists, radiologists, or neurosurgeons
- Hospital room
- Physical therapy
- Lost wages or income for the duration of time you are unable to work
- Special modifications to your home or vehicle to accommodate your accident-related disability
- Property damage to your vehicle
- Car rental expenses
- Attorneys’ fees charged by your personal injury lawyer
(735 ILCS 5/2-1115.2)
Though somewhat more difficult to quantify, an injured person may also recover compensation for the noneconomic damages, or intangible losses, related to an auto accident. In addition to facing significant medical bills, a person seriously injured in a car crash often must face the reality of living a life that is very much changed from the life they formerly knew. They may have to cope with chronic pain and may no longer be able to engage in activities they once enjoyed. They often have to surrender a large degree of freedom and independence they once took for granted. Noneconomic damages are a way for the legal system to attempt to compensate injured persons for having their lives turned upside down through no fault of their own.
Noneconomic damages usually include compensation for:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress/mental anguish
- Loss of normal life
- Loss of consortium (for the injured person’s spouse)
- Loss of society (in the case of a fatality where the family of the deceased has brought a wrongful death action)
(735 ILCS 5/2-1115.2)
The specific amounts awarded for each of the above damages are usually only determined in situations where a jury is hearing the case in a trial, in which case the jury determines the amount s (Schaffner v. Chicago N.W. Transp. Co., 161 Ill. App. 3d 742 (Ill. App. Ct. 1987)). In most Illinois car accident settlements, a global settlement agreement is usually reached in which all types of damages are covered in the settlement amount without allocating a specific amount for each particular element.
In some cases, in addition to compensation for their tangible and intangible losses, car accident plaintiffs may be awarded punitive damages from the defendant. Punitive damages are generally awarded only in cases where the defendant’s conduct was particularly egregious or outrageous, and are designed as a means of punishing the behavior and deterring future similar behavior. For punitive damages to apply, the at-fault party must have crossed the line from mere negligent—or careless—conduct to outright reckless, willful, wanton or even criminal conduct that disregards all concern for human life or public safety. Drunk driving (DUI) is a good example of a case where punitive damages may be awarded.
While some states have imposed caps on the amount of punitive damages a plaintiff may receive, Illinois currently has no such cap on punitive damages arising from auto accidents.
Our Experienced Car Accident Lawyers Can Maximize the Value of Your Case
Some people injured in Illinois car accidents believe they can handle their case on their own. While this may be true in a case where damages are minimal, auto accident cases involving serious injuries generally require the work of a skilled accident attorney who can fully maximize the value of the case. Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC has helped thousands of people recover the financial compensation they were entitled to following an Illinois car accident. All of our cases are handled on a contingency fee basis, meaning there is never any out-of-pocket cost to hire our firm. Call us today for a free, no-obligation review of your case.
You can read about some of the settlements our personal injury firm has obtained for Illinois car accident clients here.