If you or somebody you care about has sustained an injury caused by another person, company, or entity, then you may need to file a personal injury lawsuit against the alleged negligent party to recover the compensation you need. Unfortunately, personal injury cases in Illinois can become complicated. Victims in these instances often run up against a brick wall when it comes to investigating their claim and ensuring the lawsuit is filed on time. Here, we want to discuss a brief step-by-step guide personal injury cases in Illinois.
Be aware of time limits for personal injury cases
Perhaps one of the most important things to keep in mind with filing a personal injury case in Illinois is the statute of limitations. Illinois state law says that victims have two years from the date an accident occurs to file a personal injury lawsuit against an alleged negligent party. Failure to file a lawsuit within this two-year window will result in a victim being unable to recover the compensation they deserve.
If an injury victim has to file a personal injury claim against a government entity (state, county, city), then they will have only one year to do so. If you are considering filing an injury claim, contact our Chicago personal injury lawyers as soon as possible.
Steps to filing a personal injury claim in Illinois
1. Seek medical care and continue treatment
The most important part of a personal injury case is for the victim to seek medical care for their injuries. Simply put, if there are no injuries, there is no personal injury case. Make sure you are fully evaluated by a medical professional. It is vital that you continue seeking medical care and follow all doctor’s orders until you have reached maximum medical improvement. If you discontinue medical care against a doctor’s orders, it will be more difficult to prove your total damages in a personal injury case.
2. Be careful when speaking to insurance carriers
In many injury cases, insurance carriers will be involved. Please understand that these companies are not your friends and they will do what they can to limit the amount of money they pay you in a settlement. You should never give any recorded statements or agree to sign over your medical records to an insurance claims adjuster, regardless of how hard they push you to do so. Claims adjusters are trained to get you to say and do things they could limit the amount of money you receive in a settlement.
3. Stay quiet on social media
It seems natural to post about our lives on social media, but this is a bad idea in the aftermath of sustaining an injury. You can be sure that insurance carriers or attorneys for the at-fault party will monitor your social media accounts to ensure that you are telling the truth about the incident and your injuries. Even if your account is set to private, you never know what your friends or family member’s account settings are posted to. If they share a picture of you swimming in the ocean after you have claimed you are too injured to work, this could be a serious problem for your case.
4. Gathering evidence to prove negligence
Beginning as early as possible after an injury happens, you need to gather as much evidence as you can. This can include photographs or video surveillance from the scene of an incident, statements from eyewitnesses, accident reports, and more. If your personal injury claim is against a company or property owner, it may be necessary to gather company safety records, personnel records, and internal company memos. Properly conducting an investigation can be costly and difficult, which is why we strongly suggest you seek assistance from a skilled personal injury attorney in Illinois.
5. Find a skilled attorney you can trust
Please understand that not all attorneys are personal injury attorneys. You need to find a lawyer who has vast experience handling the type of injury you have sustained. Since most personal injury lawyers offer free initial consultations for a case, you should speak to two or three attorneys and find someone you are comfortable working with. An attorney will have vast resources that they can use to conduct a full investigation into your case in order to prove the negligence of the at-fault party.
Most personal injury cases are settled through negotiations with insurance carriers before a lawsuit is even filed. An attorney will be able to handle this process for you. Initial settlement offers from insurance carriers are often well below what you should be receiving for your injury. An attorney will understand the tactics used by insurance claims adjusters and be able to counter the offers to ensure you receive a fair settlement. However, it may be the case that an insurance carrier denies a claim or refuses to offer a fair settlement amount.
7. Filing the lawsuit
If an insurance carrier refuses to offer a fair settlement or denies a claim, your attorney will file a lawsuit on your behalf. Even when this happens, most cases are still settled before they reach a full jury trial. Once a lawsuit is filed, and litigation begins, attorneys for both sides will enter the “discovery phase” in which further investigations will be conducted, both sides will ask questions of one another, and evidence will be exchanged. Negotiations will continue, often with a mediator, before a trial is scheduled. If a fair settlement is still not reached, the case will be heard by a jury who will evaluate the evidence, make a ruling on the case, and award damages.
What kind of compensation is available for these cases?
There are various types of compensation that may be available to victims of personal injuries in Illinois. Something most common types of compensation awarded to victims include the following economic and non-economic damages:
- Coverage of all medical bills related to the injury
- Lost income effectively cannot work
- Loss of future earnings or future earning potential
- Loss of personal enjoyment damages
- Pain and suffering damages
- Possible punitive damages against an alleged negligent party
How much will a personal injury attorney cost?
Understandably, personal injury victims will be concerned about how they will be able to afford an attorney. The good news is that most personal injury lawyers in Chicago will take these cases on a contingency basis. This means that there will be no upfront or out-of-pocket costs related to the case, and clients will only owe legal fees after they receive the compensation they need through a favorable settlement or verdict.