A car accident is a nightmare none of us wants to experience. Unfortunately, that nightmare becomes a reality for thousands of Chicago drivers every single year.
Auto accidents can change your life in the blink of an eye. While automobiles have gotten safer over the years, they've also gotten faster and bigger. Even after taking all possible precautions and practicing defensive driving, someone else's mistake or recklessness can leave you or your family member injured, hospitalized, or worse.
From distracted and drunk driving to icy streets and potholes, Chicago motorists deal with many hazards. If you get injured because of an auto accident, you're not alone. You’ve likely got a thousand questions about what to do next.
Your life could look completely different after your car accident. You may need physical therapy with injuries that may or may not fully heal. You might have hospital bills and other long-term expenses that affect your family’s financial future. Your insurance company might give you a hard time or cover less of your costs than you’d expected. You may even be grieving the profound loss of a family member because of a car accident.
While a lawsuit can never make up for your loss, the law has ways to “make you whole” to the fullest extent possible, as if the accident never happened. That means paying for any expenses, hospital bills, lost wages, and pain you’ve suffered as a result of your accident.
At Kramer Injury Law, we’re passionate about our clients. No case is too small. Auto accidents can be devastating, even if it's just a fender bender or your car wasn't totaled. You may not realize the full severity of your injuries until you get a medical assessment. While the bills are stacking up, you may have to fight your insurance company every step of the way.
Let us fight for your rights while you take the time to recover.
Our personal injury law firm is here to help you get what you’re owed to the full extent of the law. You have rights both as a driver and as the holder of your car insurance policy. At Kramer Injury Law, our award-winning legal team works tirelessly to make sure you’re covered and to get your life back on track as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Without a lawyer on your side to look out for your interests, any settlement offer you receive for your car accident is likely to be a lowball offer. Insurance companies – whether yours or another driver’s – want to pay you the least amount they can get away with. Kramer Injury Law will fight for you to get you what you're fully owed under the law.
Don't settle for less than you’re owed. Call our Chicago car accident personal injury lawyers now at (312) 775-1012 for a free case consultation. You may also request a free case evaluation online.
Right now, you shouldn’t worry about whether you can afford a lawyer or not. That's why at Kramer Injury Law LLC we often take personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis. That means you don't pay us unless we recover damages for your injuries.
What Should You Do After a Car Accident in Chicago?
Your actions immediately after a car accident are extremely important. You may be disoriented, especially if you’ve hit your head. The rush of adrenaline might make you overlook your injuries. You may forget details of the accident shortly after it occurred.
Check for Any Immediate Injuries
First, check on your condition and anyone else in the car. If you can, make sure the drivers and passengers in other cars are also okay. Exchange insurance and contact information with any other drivers in the crash. Call 911 to get police or medics to the scene if necessary. An officer who witnesses the scene can help establish what happened. You can file a police report with the officer at the scene or later at the police station.
Get Medical Attention and Treatment
You should get checked out by a medical professional as soon as possible immediately, but in no event longer than within a few days of your accident – even if you feel okay. Some injuries may not become obvious right away as the stress from the event can cause an adrenaline rush which masks your pain. A small injury can turn into a much, much bigger problem if left untreated.
Car accident injuries can range from bruises, scrapes, cuts, lacerations, burns, muscle sprains, scars, disc herniations, bulging discs, broken bones, comminuted fractures, and other internal injuries. You may have hit your head without realizing it, putting you at risk of concussion, which can have serious effects on your health, cognition, and mental state. Even a mild traumatic brain injury causes permanent brain damage if left untreated, which is more frequently undiagnosed than detected by your doctors. You may have issues with your spine, intervertebral discs, or other joints. A shoulder joint SLAP tear or hip joint Labral tear are common auto accident injuries. Your accident may also exacerbate injuries you already had and make them much worse.
Although you may be tempted to just walk it off due to fear of medical bill expenses, it's vital that you seek a thorough medical evaluation, especially when the facts of your case are fresh. Insurance companies fight hard when clients do not seek immediate treatment because juries often understand the argument that “injured people seek treatment,” which implies to the jury you are faking an injury from an accident if you did not seek immediate treatment. You don't want to find out weeks or months down the line that the small ache or tweak you felt after your accident is now a bigger, chronic issue.
Your medical evaluation will play a major role in your personal injury case. Your diagnosis and treatment will determine how much you get in damages for your injuries.
Document Evidence of the Accident
Once the dust settles at the scene of the crash, if you are physically able, make sure to document whatever evidence you can. Take photographs of any injuries, the accident itself, the vehicles involved, and the surrounding site of the crash from many angles. Place a coin of some type into the tire treads of the car that hit you and photograph how high up the coin the tread covers, photograph this as it is important evidence of over-worn tires that need replacement.
While memory can get muddy and unclear, photographs and videos help preserve the site of your accident as it was at the time. This is important because your surroundings may change by the day or even by the hour. An overgrown tree that blocked your view may get trimmed the next day. The sun might have shined at just the right angle in the evening to obscure another driver's vision. The most unexpected factors can play a role in determining responsibility for your accident, which is why you want to document as much as possible.
When it comes to personal injury lawsuits, the more evidence you have, the stronger your case. You can negotiate a much better settlement offer with an insurance company if you have solid evidence to back up your claims. Photos and videos carry a lot of weight.
When you work with Kramer Injury Law, we’ll help you gather the most compelling evidence to present your best possible case. That may include:
- Footage from traffic or security cameras in the area
- Eyewitness statements from bystanders
- Cell phone records and other electronic data
- Medical or work records, especially if a commercial driver is involved
- Event data recorder (EDR) information – the “black box” of your car
- Manufacturer records or recalls that show a car defect
In addition to photographs and videos, write down everything you recall from your point of view of the accident – as soon as possible when the details are freshest in your mind. Make sure to get contact information from any bystanders or witnesses.
Common Car Accident Injuries
No matter how safely engineered a car may be, the physics of today's high-speed, congested roads can still cause catastrophic injuries when accidents happen.
You may be tempted to skip going to the doctor to save time or money after your accident, especially if you feel okay. This would be a mistake. Many auto accident injuries are latent, which means they might not show up and get your attention until weeks or months later.
It's critical to get examined by a doctor as soon as possible after your accident. You can document your injuries and start a treatment plan to recover. A personal injury lawsuit can help cover the cost of your medical treatment, especially if your accident wasn’t your fault.
Car accident injuries fall into two categories:
- Impact injuries, such as hitting your knee on the dashboard; your head on the side window of your car; fractures or torn ligament from the force of the other vehicle colliding with you; and
- Penetrating injuries, such as lacerations, abrasions, cuts and scrapes caused by shattering glass or loose objects sent flying inside the car.
The most common types of car accident injuries include:
- Soft tissue injuries like muscle sprains, partial ligament tears, and tendon damage
- Broken ribs or bones that might require surgery, collar bone fractures caused by a seatbelt are common
- Whiplash to your neck or back, where your muscles and ligaments are suddenly stretched from the force of the collision suffering micro-tears in the tissue
- Stress on the spine from damage to surrounding soft tissue, like a bulging or herniated disc or inflammation from vertebral spine fractures
- Cuts and scrapes that can cause blood loss and require stitches to repair, leading to disfiguring scars
- Head injuries from the sudden force of the collision can cause scrapes, bruising, fluid or tissue damage inside the skull, concussions, mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), traumatic brain bleed, subdural hematoma, epidural hematoma, brain hemorrhage, or brain damage
- Chest injuries including bruises, contusions, lung collapse, internal hemorrhaging, rib fractures, sternum fractures, other internal injuries, and bleeding
- Limb injuries to your arms and legs from the impact including collar bone fractures, Superior Labrum tears, torn ligaments, and torn tendons
- Knee injuries like contusions, ligament tears, or patellar (kneecap) fractures from hitting the dashboard
In a worst-case scenario, someone close to you may have died in a car accident. In such a case, your estate could file a lawsuit for wrongful death.
If you wait, you may run out of time to file a personal injury lawsuit under the Illinois statute of limitations. In Illinois, the statute of limitations to file a personal injury lawsuit is 2 years from the date of the car accident. If you wait long enough that you pass the statute of limitation, you may lose the chance to get compensated for your injuries.
Types of Damages Awarded in Car Accident Lawsuits
Damages are the law’s way of compensating you for harm or injury you suffered because of someone else's actions. Usually, damages in auto accident cases involve money.
In Illinois, personal injury lawsuits typically include two main categories of damages and sometimes three:
- Compensatory, Economic damages cover the out-of-pocket costs you’ve suffered as a result of the accident, such as medical expenses, loss of income, and property damage. They also cover future out-of-pocket damages like future medical expenses, caretaking expenses, and inability to continue working.
- Non-economic damages compensate you for pain and suffering, emotional distress, disability/loss of normal life, increased risk of harm, disfigurement, and shortened life expectancy.
- Punitive damages are rare and require court approval, but these punish the responsible party for especially bad conduct to deter them and others from repeating the offensive and reckless behavior. In Illinois, you can get punitive damages if the responsible party’s actions were intentional, malicious, reckless, or done with “outrageous disregard or indifference” to the safety of others. An accident involving a DUI can result in punitive damages to the harmed party.
So how do you calculate damages for your case? If your personal injury claim ends up going to trial, a Chicago jury would consider the “nature, extent, and duration” of the injuries you’ve suffered in each of the categories. Many of the damages, like past and future medical expenses, past and future emotional distress, etc. have a separate line on the verdict form for the jury to assign a specific value to your case. When negotiating a settlement, even if your case doesn't go to trial, the amount you can expect to receive will be based on the same factors.
The compensatory damages you receive could include:
- Property damage to your car.
- Economic losses to cover lost earnings and future earning capacity if you become unable to work because of your accident. This also covers other costs you’ve suffered in the aftermath, such as rental car fees, repairing your car, or buying a new car.
- Medical expenses such as ambulance fees and all past, current, and future medical costs related to the treatment of your injury.
- Non-economic damages covering “pain and suffering,” emotional distress, and the other more intangible aspects of life that have been taken from you as a result of your injury.
If your loved one has died in an auto accident, you may have a claim for wrongful death.
You don't want to fall into the trap of accepting a quick settlement offer shortly after your accident. Insurance companies usually lowball their first offer, hoping you'll take it. This is especially true if they know you do not have a lawyer, research indicates that attorneys will receive up to 350% more value by retaining a qualified personal injury attorney. In other words, you should always consult a lawyer to get a better idea of where you stand before signing a settlement. The difference could literally mean hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars if you have a catastrophic injury.
A Chicago personal injury lawyer can review your car accident and give you a realistic idea of what to expect. Your attorney may even uncover rights for you that you didn't know you had. Call the Kramer Injury Law Chicago offices now at (312) 775-1012 to get a free consultation. You may also request a free case evaluation online.
The Legal Process After a Car Accident in Chicago
Once you contact a local personal injury attorney about your case, you can start the process of filing a lawsuit or responding to a settlement offer you've received.
Documentation and Investigation
Personal injury lawsuits are deeply fact-dependent. The outcome of your case depends on the circumstances of your car accident. Who was at fault? Was anyone driving recklessly or under the influence? Did the road have active construction or any other obstructions at the time? Do you share responsibility or is the accident another driver’s fault?
As a result, solid evidence is critical to establishing the facts of your case. The documentation process starts immediately at the scene of your auto accident. You should document everything about your accident in detail as soon as possible, while the scene is fresh – photos and videos of the scene as well as eyewitness accounts and their contact information.
Your personal injury attorney will investigate critical pieces of evidence to back up your case. This could involve subpoenaing and tracking down medical records, electronics or phone logs, video footage from nearby businesses, and other relevant documentation.
The stronger your body of evidence, the better position you hold in settlement negotiations. At Kramer Injury Law, we prepare every case as if it's going to trial – even if it never does. In fact, the stronger your case is in settlement negotiations, the less likely it is to ever go to trial.
Our lawyers track down all the evidence we need to make the strongest case from the beginning. When negotiating with insurance companies, the better you can show your likelihood of success in court, the more likely they are to settle for the amount you actually deserve.
We work hard so that you can recover and move on as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Before going to trial, your attorney should try to negotiate a pre-trial settlement with the other involved parties – your insurance company, the other drivers, and their insurance companies.
Illinois courts encourage settling out of court because it helps speed up the dispute resolution process. When you settle, you can avoid the lengthy hassle of trial, which can take months and sometimes even years to conclude. If you're able to come to a settlement agreement, you can get compensation for your medical bills and other expenses sooner rather than later.
That doesn't mean you should settle for just any offer, though, and a qualified Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer will know how to value your case during settlement negotiations.
When you accept a settlement offer, the terms of the settlement become legally binding, like a contract. Unless courts determine that you accepted the offer under duress or another type of misconduct, you can’t bring up a new lawsuit for the same accident again.
Your lawyer can help you understand the value of settlement offers and what makes for the best settlement you can get. Your attorney acts as your advisor – the decision whether or not to accept a settlement negotiation is ultimately up to you.
Going to Trial in a Personal Injury Case
If you're unable to come to a settlement agreement with all of the other parties in your car accident, your personal injury lawsuit will go to trial in civil court.
At trial, the outcome of your case falls to the jury. Similar to settlement negotiations, the stronger your evidence, the better chance you have at winning in court.
Contingency Fee Arrangements in Car Accident Lawsuits
The last thing you need to worry about after your car accident is whether or not you can afford a lawyer to help protect your rights and get the compensation you deserve.
That's why at Kramer Injury Law we take car accident cases on a contingency fee basis.
With a contingency fee arrangement, you don't pay us until we recover compensation for you. If you’ve been in a car accident, you're already dealing with lost wages and extra expenses like medical treatment or physical therapy. If you’ve lost a loved one in a car accident, you’re grieving and making necessary arrangements. You don’t need additional financial stress.
Call our Chicago personal injury law firm today at (312) 775-1012 for a free case consultation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is It Worth Getting a Car Accident Lawyer?
Yes. A seasoned professional injury lawyer, like those at Kramer Injury Law LLC, will know how to navigate your case and maximize its value. Research shows injury lawyers can obtain up to 350% more for a case than those where a plaintiff does not hire one. Because our lawyers take personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis, you don't pay any money upfront so you get legal representation at no financial risk to you. With each client we begin with a free, confidential consultation whether you decide to hire us or not. You may request a free case evaluation online.
Personal injury and wrongful death claims put a lot on the line for injured parties, they almost always involve traumatic and stressful events. Talking to a lawyer can help you uncover rights to damages you didn't even know you had. Without a lawyer on your side, you may end up settling for much less than what you're really owed – especially when you’re facing off against a large insurance company. Your personal injury lawyer is there to even the field at the negotiation table and look out for your best interests at all times.
Is It Worth Getting a Lawyer for a Minor Car Accident?
Absolutely – because the fallout from a minor car accident can add up. Even with health insurance, medical treatment and physical therapy come with co-pays. You might have to pay out of pocket on your deductible. You may need mechanical or bodywork on your car, neither of which comes cheap. Even the loss of a few days or weeks off work could amount to lost productivity and thousands of dollars in earnings.
Ultimately, insurance companies prefer to pay out the least they can get away with. Without a legal representative, you’re bound to receive a low settlement offer. Research shows injury lawyers can obtain up to 350% more for a case than those where a plaintiff does not hire one.
Your claim will almost always benefit from a personal injury lawyer. Every car accident has different circumstances that can affect your settlement. An expert personal injury attorney can help you navigate the law to get the best outcome for your situation.
When Should You Call an Attorney for a Car Accident?
You should contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after your car accident. Do not delay. Personal injury cases are highly fact-specific and every minute that passes, important evidence is often lost. You must start documenting evidence immediately when the events are still fresh. Once you and the other drivers get your insurance companies involved, they’ll want to know the facts to determine who’s at fault. Hiring an attorney from the beginning helps you present your strongest case.
How Much Do Car Accidents Usually Settle For?
The answer depends on the specifics of your car accident – the amount of damage to your car and the extent of any injuries you’ve suffered. Based on the severity of both, you may receive compensation for damages from several thousand to millions of dollars. You can expect higher settlements for more serious, permanent, or debilitating injuries. Certain case valuation elements simply cannot be determined until medical treatment is complete. What were your total medical bills? Did you fully recover or will you require treatment in the future? How much work was lost? Can you return to work? You may have additional factors of legal importance for valuing your claim as well. As you can see, a qualified personal injury lawyer will know when and how to place a valuation on your claim.
In addition, in rare circumstances, you may receive punitive damages if the driver responsible for the accident was under the influence, driving recklessly, extremely negligent, or acting intentionally to harm. Illinois has no cap or limit on the amount of punitive damages you can get and they offer the jury an opportunity to financially punish the defendant.
Can You Get Compensation if You Were Partly at Fault?
Some car accidents are clear-cut where one party is completely at fault. But many car accidents are more complicated, with both parties sharing responsibility.
Illinois is a modified comparative negligence state. You can get compensation for your personal injuries if you are less than 50% at fault for the accident. If a jury determines you are 51% at fault, you receive nothing.
If you’re partly at fault, the amount you can recover in a lawsuit becomes reduced in proportion. So if a court finds you 15% responsible, your total damages would be reduced by 15%. Your attorney can help you determine your proportion of fault based on the details of your accident.
What Is a Good Settlement Offer?
Settling allows you to avoid going to trial. A good settlement offer comes close to the judgment value of your case, or what you might expect to get had you gone to court. It accurately reflects the fault of the parties in the accident. If one driver is clearly at fault then the other has a stronger position from which to negotiate. The same is true the stronger your evidence.
Your attorney’s job includes analyzing the settlement offer you receive in relation to where you stand legally. The final decision to accept a settlement offer is always yours but your lawyer can help point you in the best direction and keep you from settling too low. As mentioned previously, so many value driving factors can come into play that you truly need a professional injury attorney to make sure you demand compensation for all of them, protecting your legal rights.
How Do You Respond to a Settlement Offer?
Everything should be in writing. Your personal injury lawyer will help you respond in writing to any settlement offers you get after your car accident. Although an injury is deeply personal, you have to set aside your emotions and look at settlement offers with an objective and analytical eye. If the settlement offer you receive is too low, your lawyer will draft a counter-offer in response.
How Is a Settlement Paid Out?
Personal injury settlements can be negotiated to pay out in periodic payments or a single lump sum. In either case, the money you receive will almost always be tax-free.
What Happens If You Don’t Accept a Settlement?
During the settlement process, you will receive settlement offers and make counter-offers. If all the offers are rejected and you’re unable to come to a settlement agreement for your car accident, you may have no choice but to go to trial. At Kramer Injury Law, we handle your personal injury lawsuit whether you settle or go to trial. We’ve got your back in either case.
What Is Fair Compensation for Pain and Suffering?
“Pain and suffering” covers your non-economic injuries from the accident. These figures can be more difficult to determine because they're more subjective than out-of-pocket expenses. In court, a jury would evaluate each of your claims based on:
- The level of medical treatment you need for your injuries
- How your injuries impact your job performance or leisurely activities
- Whether you’ve suffered any long-term impairments or permanent injuries
- If the accident aggravated any pre-existing conditions
- Whether you experience daily pain, discomfort, or emotional distress
The state of Illinois has no limit on pain and suffering damages.
How Can You Prove Your Pain and Suffering?
Although pain and suffering and emotional distress can be subjective, you can show proof to strengthen your claims. Proof could include:
- Medical diagnoses, records, and bills
- Expert testimony about your condition
- Psychiatric or mental health records
- Pain medication prescriptions
- Length of treatment
You can also prove pain and suffering through testimony of your actual experience – any anxiety, depression, inability to sleep, or other emotional injuries you may have.
How Can You Tell if You Have a Car Accident Lawsuit?
Because every car accident is different, a lawyer will have to consider all the facts of your case to tell whether you have a strong lawsuit. Call the Kramer Injury Law Firm at (312) 775-1012 now for a free consultation with a Chicago personal injury lawyer.
How Long Will Your Car Accident Lawsuit Last?
The length of your personal injury case depends on:
- The severity of your injuries
- The length of your medical treatment
- How long it takes to gather all the necessary evidence
- Whether you reach a settlement agreement or go to trial
A minor injury could resolve in a settlement agreement within a few months. But a complex injury or wrongful death trial could last a year or longer. Your lawyer will help you assess all your options at every turn to get the best possible outcome for your case.
How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help Your Car Accident Case?
A car accident is a traumatic event, whether it happens to you or someone you love. You might suffer tremendous losses even if you aren’t at fault for the crash. At Kramer Injury Law, we work passionately to protect your legal rights so that you can focus on getting better. Those rights include being compensated for injuries caused by someone else.
Our legal team is dedicated to helping Chicago area car accident victims. Call our offices now at (312) 775-1012 to get our award-winning lawyers on your case. You may also request a free case evaluation online.