Chicago Car Accident - $500,000 Settlement
While driving her car in Chicago, our client was involved in a serious head-on collision with an off-duty Chicago police officer who crossed the centerline median into oncoming traffic and was later charged with DUI. Our client was immediately taken by emergency ambulance to the hospital due to her life threatening injuries. Once admitted to the ER, it was determined that in addition to the many other types of injury she sustained, she had suffered multiple fractures to her pelvis and leg as well.
Many surgeries, a great deal of therapy and over $150,000 in medical expenses were incurred over the following years as this courageous woman fought to regain her health. We were gratified to ultimately negotiate a settlement of one-half million dollars on her behalf. This settlement represented the maximum policy limits available under the other party’s insurance policy.
Determining Who Can be Sued in a Car Crash
Car crashes happen hundreds of times a day in cities from Chicago to Quincy to Arlington Heights and every place in between. In Illinois, the law requires drivers to maintain at least minimum insurance coverage on their vehicles, although many people unfortunately violate the law and drive uninsured. If you are hit by an uninsured person, there may little chance to recover any money for your damages unless you have paid for what is referred to as "uninsured/underinsured" coverage on your own policy.
So if the other person was insured, you would file a claim against their policy, but in circumstances in which they were uninsured, you may need to file a claim against your own policy. Of course, you still could file a lawsuit against an uninsured driver directly, but unless that person has substantial assets, your chances for recovery are limited and the other person might simply file a bankruptcy (unless the accident was drug or alcohol related) to avoid paying out on any judgement.
Even if the other driver was personally uninsured, it may be possible to file a lawsuit against another party who might also be responsible under the law. For instance, if the other person was driving during the course of their work, an experienced attorney would file suit against that person’s employer as well, thereby bringing the employer’s insurance company into the equation as an additional source for financial recovery.
Time limitations (known as statutes of limitation) apply to every car accident, and if the lawsuit is not filed within the specific period, you will forever lose your right to any monetary recovery. Although the general time limit is 2 years in Illinois, under some circumstances and exceptions, it may be shorter (or longer). So it’s important to immediately consult with an attorney to determine what statute of limitations applies to your particular case.
Determining Liability in an Automobile Collision
But as you might imagine, simply because the other party is insured or has a source of insurance doesn’t mean that you’ll win your lawsuit. That’s because the other vital component to any successful claim is determining “liability”. This basically means that you must prove that the other person was at fault in the accident. If this can’t be shown, you will lose and no money will be recovered, regardless of the extent of the injuries or even if a death occurred.
So in any car, truck, motorcycle or bus crash, both “damages” (the monetary value associated with the injury or death) and “liability” must be shown. Even so, insurance companies never wish to pay out settlements. After all, they are for-profit businesses and the less money they pay out, the greater the profits for the business. That’s the unfortunate reality of auto insurance companies. Substantial settlements are not made because they believe it’s the “right” thing to do, but rather, insurance companies settle when they are forced to do so by experienced lawyers who know how to properly apply pressure.