Vehicle collisions kill or seriously injure millions of Americans every year. In serious injury cases, medical bills alone often exceed $100,000. Most health insurance companies refuse to pay these costs and most Illinois families do not have the funds to cover them.
A Rockford personal injury attorney does more than obtain financial compensation for these losses. An attorney also arranges for victims to obtain the medical care they need. Frequently, this medical care comes at no upfront cost. Attorneys usually negotiate with providers to reduce the amount due, so many victims get to keep more of their settlement money.
Some car wreck cases settle almost immediately. Others do not settle until the jury is ready to begin hearing evidence. Most of them settle somewhere in between these two points. The time varies, but the process is usually the same.
If students do their homework, they usually do well on the test. The same is true of personal injury attorneys. If they diligently evaluate the case, they usually obtain results, which exceed their clients’ expectations.
Evidence collection is an important part of case evaluations. Traditional evidence includes the police accident report, witness statements and medical bills. But these items are not always available and if they are available, they are sometimes incomplete or inaccurate.
Other sources of evidence include electronic evidence, like a vehicle’s Event Data Recorder. This gadget measures and records operational information like brake application, vehicle speed and steering angle. An attorney, often in partnership with an accident reconstructionist, can use this evidence to put together a compelling picture for the jury.
An attorney must also determine the proper legal theory to use. Some common doctrines in car crash claims include:
- Ordinary Negligence: Basically, negligence is a lack of care. Most drivers have a duty to drive defensively and avoid accidents when possible. If they fail to do so, perhaps due to intoxication, fatigue, or another form of impairment, the negligent driver (tortfeasor) might be responsible for damages.
- Negligence Per Se: Sometimes, a safety law establishes the standard of care. If a tortfeasor violates a safety law, and that violation substantially causes injury, the driver might be liable for damages as a matter of law. There’s no need to prove a lack of care.
- Defective Product: Driver error causes about 90 percent of all the car wrecks in Illinois. Unsafe tires and other defective products cause most of the rest. Manufacturers are strictly liable for these damages. Once again, there’s no need to prove a lack of care.
There are some other factors to account for as well, such as the insurance company’s identity. Most insurance companies settle claims rather quickly. It’s usually cheaper to pay them than fight them. Other companies, however, bitterly contest these claims. The insurance company’s negotiating stance often affects the amount of money an attorney demands, as outlined below.
Once medical treatment is at least substantially complete, attorneys usually send demand letters to insurance companies. As the name implies, the attorney demands a sum of money in exchange for a liability waiver.
This sum usually includes the economic damages, such as medical bills, along with a claim for noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering. Usually, attorneys multiply the economic losses by two, three, or four to ascertain a fair amount of noneconomic damages.
If liability is reasonably clear, insurance companies have a duty to settle the claim within a few weeks. However, insurance company lawyers frequently use legal loopholes, like contributory negligence, as an excuse to drag their feet.
Therefore, to put pressure on the insurance company and to preserve the victim’s legal rights, most attorneys file legal paperwork in court.
At this point, most Winnebago County judges refer claims to mediation. During mediation, a neutral third party, who is usually an unaffiliated Rockford personal injury attorney, listens to brief arguments from both sides. Then, the mediator tries to facilitate a settlement between the two parties.
Assuming both parties negotiate in good faith, which means they are willing to make sacrifices to reach an agreement, mediation is usually successful.
Contact a Dedicated Attorney
Car crash victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced Rockford personal injury lawyer, contact Fisk & Monteleone, Ltd. Home and hospital visits are available.