Knowing what to do after a car accident can make a significant difference in your ability to recover compensation for your property damage, bodily injuries, and other losses. After an accident, it is crucial to assess the situation and stay at the scene, exchange information with the other party, report the accident, document and gather evidence, and seek medical treatment. Following these steps can help you steer clear of legal problems and ensure that you get the most out of your settlement.
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How to Preserve Your Legal Rights After a Car Accident in Illinois
Consult a lawyer of your own choice if you are unsure of your legal rights. The insurance company will have trained adjusters or attorneys to represent them. Don’t let the representative of the other party influence you against the advice of your own attorney.
Burden of Proof
In a legal case, the burden of proof determines which party has the responsibility of proving a specific claim and determines how much evidence is needed. The plaintiff, who is requesting the court to take action such as ordering the defendant to pay compensation, has the burden of proving their case. The plaintiff must prove that the claim is more likely to be true than not true.
To meet the burden of proof, it is essential to have evidence. However, even with evidence, it might still be challenging to meet the burden of proof, particularly if the evidence is scarce. There may be situations, such as when you are injured in a head on crash, where fault may not be apparent. Hence, it is necessary to make strategic legal arguments to highlight the strength of the evidence and meet the burden of proof.
In personal injury lawsuits, defendants, by default, do not have the burden of proof as they are not asking for anything. However, there are exceptions. For instance, when they claim comparative fault, or if they assert an affirmative defense against the plaintiff’s claims. An affirmative defense is not a denial of the plaintiff’s claim, but rather a justification for why the plaintiff should not win.
Illinois Comparative Fault
Comparative negligence, also referred to as comparative fault, is a legal principle that assigns blame to two or more parties based on the degree of negligence each contributed to the incident. In the case where partial responsibility for an injury lies with the victim, the amount of compensation they can receive will be reduced proportionally.
Illinois uses modified comparative fault to determine damages in personal injury lawsuits. Comparative fault reduces the claim against an at-fault person or party. It reduces the amount awarded may be reduced to reflect the victim’s contribution to the accident, as long as his or her blame is less than 50%.
If a victim is assigned 20% responsibility for an accident, for example, and is granted $10,000, the award will be lowered by 20%, resulting in an $8,000 payout. However, if the victim is found to be responsible for more than 50% of the accident, the claim will be dismissed.
Steps After a Car Accident in Illinois
The following steps can help to ensure a successful car accident claim.
Assess the Situation and Stay at the Scene
If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident in Illinois that results in injury or property damage, it is mandatory for you to:
- Stop your vehicle at the scene or as close to the scene as possible.
- Provide reasonable assistance to anyone who has been injured.
Failing to stop and help can lead to serious consequences, such as hefty fines or even imprisonment.
To ensure the safety of everyone involved, stop your car as soon as possible without obstructing traffic or endangering anyone or anything else. Take necessary measures to warn other drivers and prevent further accidents. If anyone is hurt, provide whatever assistance you can to the injured person.
Exchange Information With the Other Party
Under Illinois laws, any driver involved in an accident is required to provide their name, address, and vehicle registration number to the other party. Additionally, if requested, the driver must also present their driver’s license to any other party involved in the accident.
Report the Accident
If you are in a motor vehicle accident, it is advisable to contact the police department. In Illinois, it is compulsory to report the accident if it resulted in death, bodily injury, or caused property damage worth more than $1,500. Maintain the scene of the accident as much as possible, and not move any vehicle unless it is obstructing traffic. If you need to move a vehicle, make sure to take note of its position and take photographs if possible.
Informing the police will initiate a paper trail, resulting in an accident report that can prove to be valuable if you decide to file a claim or a car accident injury lawsuit in the future.
Document and Gather Evidence
After an accident, gathering your own evidence can help protect your rights. The other parties involved may make false claims about the incident, but having evidence, such as tire marks and the location of damage, can prove their claims to be inaccurate. Additionally, documenting and preserving evidence of your injuries right after the accident can help you connect them directly to the crash, which can prevent insurers from alleging that injuries occurred after the accident.
Documenting and preserving evidence of the accident and your injuries can help determine who is at fault and the seriousness of your injuries. To put together your evidence, you can:
- Capture photographs of the damages to your car.
- Take pictures of any physical injuries that you may have sustained.
- Maintain a record of the doctors who have treated you, and keep all your medical records and bills in order.
- Request the police report.
- Write down your medical progress in a diary.
- Keep the contact information of all individuals and witnesses involved in the accident.
It’s important to gather evidence to support your damages after an accident. Keep a file of all bills and receipts related to the injuries or property damage. Keep records of every medical appointment, repair estimate, and lost wages.
Seek Medical Treatment
Do not be initially concerned about who pays for medical bills after an accident. Instead, seek treatment immediately. You may have sustained injuries that are not immediately apparent. Therefore, you should consult a doctor, even if you feel fine. A medical professional can document any injuries you may have sustained, which can assist you in making a claim for compensation.
To ensure that you are meeting the expected level of care for your injuries and to prevent insurers from alleging that you have worsened your condition by neglecting your prescribed care regimen, be sure to attend follow-up medical appointments. Physical rehabilitation services should not be declined if offered, as this may be used by insurers to challenge the severity of your injuries or your willingness to recover.
Consider Hiring an Attorney
After a car accident, hiring a car accident attorney is essential to protecting your interests. He or she will:
Negotiate With the Insurance Company
After presenting all your expenses and relevant information to the adjuster, he or she will determine the full value of your case and offer you a settlement on behalf of the insurance company.
It’s crucial that the insurance adjuster has access to all your medical records and bills before commencing negotiations. This kind of research is best left to an attorney.
In most cases, the first offer of settlement made by the insurance company is lower than the actual worth of your case. Your attorney may need to argue on your behalf and present evidence of how the accident has impacted your life before the insurance company agrees to a reasonable amount for settling your case.
File a Lawsuit
If the driver responsible for the accident does not have enough insurance or is uninsured, or if the settlement offer from the insurance provider is not enough to cover the damages, you may need to consider filing a personal injury lawsuit.
A lawyer can take care of the process and file the lawsuit on your behalf to recover damages. Your lawyer will have:
- A comprehensive knowledge of the regulations governing civil procedure and evidence presentation.
- Proficiency in crafting and submitting a complaint that effectively highlights your claims.
- Familiarity with the process of conducting discovery to locate the evidence that can increase your chances of success.
- Experience in negotiating with legal representatives of insurance companies.
- Experience in litigating car accident cases in front of both judges and juries
Chances are that the insurance company or the other driver will have attorneys representing them. Your best chance of achieving success in your case includes having a car accident attorney on your side. Without an attorney, you may fall victim to the insurance company’s bad faith tactics intended to deny or devalue your claim.