Answers To The Most Commonly Asked Questions About Personal Injury Cases And Process
Injuries are often unexpected. Sometimes we can follow all of the rules and be as safe as possible and still get hurt. When an injury is caused because someone else was reckless or careless, you may have a personal injury case. The skilled and experienced team at Shifrin Law Group in Chicago provides client-centric, results-driven guidance and representation. As trial attorneys, we are prepared to take on big business, big insurance and your case. Don’t see your question below? Call our firm for a free case analysis and consultation: 312-766-4223.
What is a personal injury/tort claim?
Under the rules of Illinois and federal law, if a person was physically or psychologically injured through the negligent, reckless or intentional actions of another person, company or government agency, they are entitled to compensation for that harm.
Why do I need a personal injury lawyer?
From the moment that an injury or accident occurs, insurance companies for the at-fault party are investigating the occurrence and gathering any and all evidence that will lessen their risk to a potential claim. Insurance companies tend to have large staffs of investigators, lawyers and adjusters who begin evaluating your claim right away. Because of this, it is important that you retain legal counsel promptly to ensure an equal opportunity to fight for your rights. We at Shifrin Law Group can represent you in your claim with insurance companies, file a lawsuit on your behalf and take your case all the way to trial if needed.
What types of damages and losses can be claimed in a personal injury case?
There are two types of damages awarded in personal injury claims and lawsuits; compensatory and punitive.
Compensatory damages are the most common and are defined as money awarded to compensate for damages, injury or another incurred loss. Compensatory damages are awarded in civil court cases where the loss has occurred as a result of the negligence or unlawful conduct of another party. Compensatory damages can be further broken down into two categories, special compensatory damages and general compensatory damages.
- Special compensatory damages are economic losses such as loss of earnings, property damage and medical expenses. Usually, these are the costs directly associated with the accident. In other words, actual damages strive to make a plaintiff “whole” by repaying them in an attempt to place them in the position they were in before the accident.
- General compensatory damages are noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering and emotional distress. A few examples of general compensatory damages are:
- Mental anguish – Emotional or mental distress brought on by the accident, such as anxiety, humiliation and grief
- Pain and suffering – Physical pain associated with an injury or accident
- Loss of companionship – Emotional pain brought on by the death of a loved one
Punitive damages are awarded to an injured plaintiff when the wrongful behavior of the defendant was found to be especially harmful. Illinois courts have held that a jury may award the plaintiff punitive damages where a defendant’s underlying conduct, resulting in harm to the plaintiff, is willful and wanton, outrageous or where the defendant acted with actual malice, fraud, deliberate violence or gross negligence. Where punitive damages are assessed, courts will administer punitive damages to punish and/or as a warning and example to deter the defendant and others from committing similar offenses in the future.
A plaintiff may seek punitive damages in the following types of actions:
- Bodily injury
- Physical damage to property
- Product liability based on strict tort liability. (735 ILCS 5/2-604.1).
In determining the amount of punitive damages to be awarded, there are several factors that a jury should consider:
First, the jury must consider how reprehensible the defendant’s conduct was. Second, the jury should consider what the actual and potential harm was caused to the plaintiff. Finally, the jury should consider what amount of money is necessary to punish the defendant and discourage the defendant from future wrongful conduct.
How are damages calculated in a personal injury case?
Calculating your damages in a personal injury case is directly related to what your injury has cost you financially, physically and mentally. There are different types of damages in a personal injury case and can be calculated based on these categories:
- Medical expenses (current and future) – Medical expenses are classified as compensatory damages which are intended to compensate the injured party for their losses. Generally, you can claim all medical-related costs related to your injury.
- Lost wages (current and future) – The time out of work can be detrimental to both your future and everyday life. If you are unable to perform the duties of your job while you are recovering, your lost wages can be compensated for in your claim or lawsuit.
- Property loss – If you experience any property loss due to your injury, your property damage can be compensated for. Damages entitled to reimbursement typically include repairs to or replacing your vehicle, towing expenses, rental car expenses, damage to personal items and other property caused by the accident.
- Pain and suffering (current and future) – You can be entitled to compensation for noneconomic damages such as pain and discomfort you experience as a result of your accident and for ongoing pain that is acquired due to the accident.
- Emotional distress – Different from pain and suffering, some clients may experience some sort of emotional distress in addition to physical pain. Symptoms such as fear, anxiety, shock, grief, mental suffering, shame and embarrassment are some examples one can face from a traumatic accident and should be calculated in your overall damages.
- Loss of consortium – A serious accident can leave the victim in major pain and permanently disabled. Personal injury laws permit the spouse or a family member of the injured person to make a claim for their losses. Referred to as “loss of consortium” damages, this includes when the person who was injured or if they were killed or died as a result of their injuries cannot provide his or her spouse or family member with the same love, affection, companionship, comfort, society or sexual relations that were provided before the accident.
I have been injured in an accident. What do I do now?
If you are injured, you need to call 911 and ask for assistance. When law enforcement and paramedics arrive, ask to be transported to receive immediate medical attention even if you believe you are only minimally harmed.
Have a family member or friend obtain the names and contact information of everyone involved in the accident along with the names and contact information of every witness. Write down license plate numbers and insurance information.
Have your friend or companion use their phone to take pictures of the scene of the accident.
Have them look around to see if the accident was captured by any recording devices. Often, stores, traffic lights or even public buses have cameras on site which may have recorded the accident.
If you are injured, don’t wait to get treatment. The doctor providing care at an emergency facility can perform a comprehensive physical examination and order X-rays and other tests to identify your injuries and provide appropriate treatment to begin the healing process.
Contact an attorney so he/she can start working on preserving any and all evidence.
- First off, make sure the police are called.
- Make sure to take pictures of all the vehicles involved, including your own, and the surrounding area if you can safely do so.
- Do not say that the accident was your fault – whether it’s fully or partially. If you admit to being at fault, it can be used against you later.
- If the other driver admits to fault or anything along those lines, write it down. This can be crucial later.
- If needed, seek medical attention. Your health is your first concern following an accident.
- Wait for the police to arrive so they can record information about the accident.
- Make sure to ask for a copy of the police report if one is made. This will include all necessary information of the other driver, including their contact and insurance information.
- If any witnesses were present, get their contact information.
- Call a personal injury attorney. The sooner you contact one, the better. An experienced personal injury attorney will ensure to preserve evidence and talk to relevant witnesses.
What can I be compensated for if I am involved in an accident?
When you retain our team, we will file a claim for monetary recovery against every party at fault for causing your damages, injuries or losses. Our legal team can handle every aspect of your case to ensure that you are compensated adequately for your injuries, including payment for:
- Hospitalization costs
- The emergency room bill
- Most medical treatment
- Hospital cost
- Ambulance bills
- Imaging and diagnostic testing
- Prescribed medications
- Lost wages
- The loss of future earning capacity from your inability to work due to your accident-related temporary or permanent disabilities.
- Noneconomic damages, including pain, suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress and psychological trauma associated with the accident.
- Damages including property damage, embarrassment, loss of affection and companionship, loss of enjoyment, permanent scars, disfigurement and out-of-pocket expenses
How long can I wait to file my lawsuit?
In Illinois, there are specific statutes of limitations that apply to different types of cases. The statute of limitations is typically 2 years from the date of injury. However, there are exceptions to this such as when you are pursuing a lawsuit against a government agency or you are filing a worker’s compensation claim. Due to the complexities of different statutory limitations, it is important to contact us immediately so we can take immediate action and make sure you are able to file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires.
How will having an attorney impact my case?
The entire team at Shifrin Law Group is committed to fighting for you to receive the settlement you deserve. Having an experienced personal injury attorney will significantly increase your chances of receiving a settlement. In 2017, a personal injury study was conducted by Martindale-Nolo Research, where they surveyed their readers. They found that 91% of those injured in a car accident and who hired a lawyer received a payout. In comparison, only 51% of people injured that did not hire a lawyer received a payout. The study further found that the amount of payouts was significantly higher in cases with an attorney. The average payout for those who hired an attorney was $77,600, while the average for those without an attorney was only $17,600.
What type of damages can I recover from being injured in an auto accident?
You are entitled compensation for the damages caused by the accident. These include:
- Medical expenses and the cost of future medical expenses
- Disabilities and/or impairments caused by the accident
- Previous wage loss or lost earning capacity
- Pain and suffering and emotional/psychological damages
- Other losses that were caused by the accident
Our goal is to maximize your compensation, and we will aggressively fight for the compensation you deserve.
Who pays for this compensation?
In Illinois, all drivers must have car insurance. After being injured in an auto accident, the most common source of compensation is the insurance company of the at-fault driver. A majority of the time auto accident claims are settled out of court with an insurance company.
An insurance company will try to do anything they can to deny your claim or pay you as little as possible. That is why it is so crucial to contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can skillfully negotiate a higher settlement.
What if the other driver doesn’t have insurance?
Although Illinois law requires drivers to have car insurance, some drivers either don’t abide by this requirement, cannot afford insurance or have insufficient insurance. In Illinois, drivers may also have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. If the at-fault driver does not have sufficient insurance coverage to compensate you for your injuries, you may be able to file an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim with your own insurance company. These claims are tricky, so it is vital that you contact an experienced personal injury attorney.
If I’m in an accident and am contacted by the other driver’s insurance company, should I tell them anything?
Never. Decline to sign anything or make any statements until you’ve spoken to an attorney. Remember, everything you say will be recorded and used against you in a court of law.
The accident was partially my fault. Can I still file a lawsuit?
This would fall under Illinois’ comparative fault rules. You may still be entitled to compensation for your injuries and damages, but these damages will be adjusted to reflect the percentages of fault.
As long as you are not found to be more responsible for the accident than the other driver – 51% or more – you can still file a personal injury claim to pursue damages you sustained. However, if you are partially responsible for the accident, the damages awarded by the court will reflect your responsibility for the accident. For instance, if the court finds that you suffered $10,000 in damages but you were 25% responsible, you would only be awarded $7,500 in damages.
What will you charge for handling my case?
Unlike criminal cases, you do not pay the attorney hourly for your case. Generally, the attorney only gets paid if the personal injury claim is successful. Typically, the attorney receives 33-40 % of the global settlement.
We represent you on a contingency basis – meaning we only get paid if you do. We will fight for you to get the highest settlement amount we possibly can so you don’t have to worry about medical bills and other costs associated with a motor vehicle accident.
How soon should I file a claim after an injury?
It’s important to contact an attorney right away. This will ensure that all the evidence of the accident is preserved.
How can I prove my claim to the other driver’s insurance company?
First and foremost, contact an attorney. If you are injured at all, seek medical treatment. Having documentation of all medical records and bills is important in determining a settlement. It is also important to provide documentation of wages lost during recovery.
What damages am I entitled to recover?
If you are successful in your personal injury claim, you may be allowed to recover the following expenses and damages:
- Previous and future medical bills
- Wage loss
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional damage
- Property damage
Get All Of Your Questions Answered In A Free Consultation With Us.
We know you have questions about compensation, doctor visits, timelines and what to expect. We will offer our perspective and advice and counsel you as to what to expect. We will also tell you how we can help. The consultation with our Chicago personal injury team is absolutely free of charge. Our founding attorney speaks fluent Russian, making us capable of serving you in either the English or Russian language. Call our office at 312-766-4223 or connect with us by using our online request form.