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FAQs – Personal Injury/Wrongful Death

I have talked to the insurance adjuster, who seems very nice, and very willing to help me out.  Can’t I trust her/him?

No.  The insurance adjuster is an employee of the insurance company and is acting on behalf of the person or corporation that you are making a claim against.  Their job is not to protect you.  Their job is to protect the interest of the person that you are making a claim against!  Further, their job is to save money for their employer, the insurance company.  Why are they being so nice to you?  Think about it.  They want you to accept what they say.  They want to stop you from getting proper legal advice.  For instance, they frequently say to send the bills, or sometimes they will actually say send the bills and they’ll pay them.  Try asking them if they have actually paid the bills that you sent them!

By what date am I required to file a lawsuit for a personal injury? 

The statute of limitations determines when you must file a lawsuit.  It would be nice if there was a simple answer to the question of when your case must be filed in court.  There is not.  The general law is that in Illinois a person has two years to file a personal injury lawsuit.  There are many exceptions to these laws.  Some of these exceptions decrease the time to file.  Some increase the time.  Some exceptions require notice of the claim even before you file a suit.  There are different rules for claims for children.  There are different rules if you make a claim against a school, a local government, the CTA, the State of Illinois, or against an estate of a deceased person.  There are different rules depending on what type of lawsuit you are filing: malpractice, products liability, construction, dramshops (liquor serving establishments). 

One bar association puts out a book for attorneys that has 37 pages of listings of statute of limitations!  Thus, the only way to apply the statute of limitations to your case is for an attorney to review the facts of your case.  Do not wait until it is too late.  There is almost never an acceptable reason for filing late.

Am I suing (or making a claim against) the insurance company?

Although we generally are dealing with insurance companies in handling a lawsuit or claim for you, the actual claim/lawsuit is made against the person or entity that caused your injury.  In an auto accident the claim/lawsuit is against the other driver and the owner of the vehicle.  Once the claim is made, their insurance company handles the claim, and if a lawsuit is filed, the insurance company hires and pays for the attorneys to represent them.   In most other claims (malpractice, construction, falls, product liability) we again deal with insurance companies, although occasionally large corporations will be self-insured and thus handle the claim/lawsuit themselves.

If I had an auto accident while working can I have both a personal injury claim and a worker’s compensation claim. 

Yes.  If traveling during work, or traveling overnight, or traveling other than to your normal workplace, you can make a worker’s compensation claim along with a personal injury claim.  This is especially advantageous when you are missing time from work or have what is likely to be a permanent injury.

What is my case worth?

The value of your case is dependent on many factors.  First is the likelihood of showing the other party was at fault.  Second is the likelihood that you will be found to be partly responsible (for instance, historically juries frequently find both parties at fault when someone makes a left turn and causes a collision).  Most important is the seriousness of the injury.  This is usually determined by what the doctors put in your medical records.  Of related importance is whether the doctor is a specialist such as an orthopedic surgeon or a neurosurgeon.  Also of importance is the extent of your medical care, the extent of your medical bills, whether you missed time from work, and whether the missed time is supported by a doctor’s recommendation.  Another factor of importance is the consistency of the medical treatment.  Insurance companies, attorneys and juries look at whether there was immediate medical care, whether the patient followed the advice of the doctor, and whether there are large gaps of time with no treatment.

In many cases prior medical care is relevant.  Although the fact that you have aggravated a pre-existing condition does not prevent you from making a claim, the claim may be more difficult depending on such factors as when you last received medical care before the accident and what the doctor indicates in those prior records as to the seriousness of the condition. 

When we determine a value on a case we consider all this information and more.  We also compare your case with similar cases.

Can I make a claim for an injury that aggravates a pre-existing condition?

Yes.  This is a frequent occurrence, especially in motor vehicle accidents.  Many people have suffered neck and back injuries or pain.  However, this does not bar them from making a claim when their condition is aggravated by a new accident or occurrence.  However, the pre-existing condition may make proof of the claim more difficult.  Important facts include the date of last medical treatment before the new accident or occurrence, the diagnosis at that time, and the symptoms at that time.  Each of these cases is very unique.  Thus, the strength of your case depends on the facts of your case.  Consult with a lawyer to determine whether you have a claim.

Why can’t I just handle this myself?  Why do I need a lawyer to talk to the insurance company?

People who try to handle their cases on their own are attempting to deal with a trained professional insurance adjuster who knows the ins and outs of handling a claim.  Their job is not to pay you what you are due.  Their job is to resolve a claim at the lowest amount possible.  Shouldn’t you also have a trained professional in your corner?  If you do not, then how will you know how to deal with a request by the insurance company to take your statement?  What will you do with your medical bills until a settlement is worked out?  If your bills are paid by your auto insurance or health insurance while you wait for your settlement, how will you deal with your insurance company’s lien/subrogation rights on the settlement?  How will you know if what the insurance company is offering is fair?  Are you going to sign the insurance company’s authorization allowing them to contact your doctors?  Are you able to read medical charts and understand the legal significance of what the doctors put in their charts?  Are you going to know what laws apply to your case?

I live in Illinois, but I was injured out-of-state.  Can I hire an attorney in Illinois?

Yes.  We handle numerous cases that have occurred out-of-state.  Some of those cases can be filed in this state.  Others must be filed in the state of the occurrence.  We either handle those cases ourselves, or, where appropriate, we hire attorneys in that state, to handle the case or to work with us.  There are no extra fees to the client.  When we hire attorneys out-of-state we always hire experienced attorneys through the American Trial Lawyers Association.  In the larger cities we already have attorneys that we have worked with in the past.

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