The Five Stages of a Car Crash Claim

David Monteleone
Illinois Accident and Wrongful Death Lawyer

  Posted  |  Category : Personal Injury Attorney

Personal Injury AttorneyEvery year, car wrecks kill or seriously injure millions of Americans. Driver error causes more than 90 percent of these incidents. Not all driver error is negligence, or a lack of care, but most of it qualifies as such. But a personal injury claim is not about “blaming” anyone. We all make mistakes, and we must all face the consequences of our mistakes.

All car crashes, even seemingly straightforward ones, involve complex legal and factual issues. For that reason, every wreck is different. However, they all follow the same general outline. Successful Rockford personal injury attorneys follow this outline in order to obtain maximum compensation.

This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may be available as well, in some extreme cases.

Evidence Collection

The victim/plaintiff has the burden of proof in court. So, evidence collection is always the priority. Much of this evidence, like the police accident report, medical bills, and the victim’s statement, is rather easy to collect, especially for an experienced attorney.

Other evidence, however, is more difficult to obtain. A vehicle’s Event Data Recorder is a good example. All cars have EDRs, which are like the black box flight recorders in commercial jets. Since EDRs contain information like vehicle speed and steering angle at the moment of the crash, they are often valuable in court.

However, these devices are technically sophisticated. An attorney needs a lot more than a screwdriver and a laptop to access them. Moreover, Illinois has very strict vehicle data privacy laws. So, attorneys usually need court orders before they can access EDRs.

Demand Letter

Largely based on the evidence, an attorney sends a demand letter to the insurance company. If liability is reasonably clear, the insurance company has a legal duty to settle the claim quickly.

The demand must include both economic and noneconomic damages, as outlined above. To determine noneconomic damages, most attorneys multiply the economic damages by two, three, or four, depending largely on the facts of the case.

Other factors to consider in making the demand include any legal defenses the insurance company may have, such as contributory negligence.

Filing Suit

If the claim does not settle immediately, an attorney may need to file legal paperwork, to protect the victim’s rights.

In response, insurance companies often file motions claiming the victim/plaintiff has no case and the judge should throw it out of court. These motions very rarely succeed, especially if the attorney was diligent in the evidence-collection process outlined above.


During the next phase of the suit, the parties exchange information about their claims and defenses. Types of discovery include depositions, document requests, medical examinations and property inspections. Many cases settle during discovery.


If the case remains unresolved, most Winnebago County judges refer the matter to mediation. If both sides negotiate with open minds, mediation is usually successful.

During mediation, each attorney makes brief opening arguments. Then, a mediator, who has reviewed the evidence in the case, tries to facilitate a settlement between the two sides. Statistically, less than 5 percent of personal injury cases go to trial. So, in almost all cases, mediation is the final stop.

Contact Assertive Attorneys

Car crash lawyers work hard to obtain maximum compensation for victims. To get a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Rockford, contact Fisk & Monteleone, Ltd. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.