Every year, vehicle collisions seriously injure millions of people in the United States. The pain and suffering these individuals deal with is just the beginning. Additionally, these victims often face excessively high medical bills which their health insurance companies refuse to pay. All the while, insurance company representatives call constantly, trying to settle the claim. But, the Rockford victim simply has no way of knowing for sure if the offer is fair.
Once the case goes to court, the insurance company’s intransigence usually continues. These lawyers look for legal loopholes to reduce damages or deny liability altogether. An aggressive Rockford car crash attorney is ready to deal with defenses like the ones listed below.
In many car crash cases, multiple fault is an issue. For example, the insurance company might admit that the tortfeasor (negligent driver) made an illegal lane change. But, the company may claim that the crash happened because the victim was rolling down the window and had one hand off the wheel. Arguments like these are the essence of comparative fault.
Legally, there is a two-step process involved in Illinois. First, the insurance company must convince the judge that there is sufficient evidence of comparative fault to put the issue before the jury. To return to the previous example, rolling down the window is technically distracted driving. But almost no one would consider such act a breach of the duty of reasonable care.
Secondly, the Rockford insurance company lawyer must convince a jury that the victim/plaintiff’s behavior contributed to the wreck in a significant way. Illinois is a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent threshold. So, if the tortfeasor was at least 51 percent responsible for the crash, the victim/plaintiff receives a proportional share of damages. The jury decides the percentage split, such as 50/50 or 80/20.
This doctrine often comes up in pedestrian injury cases. It applies if the tortfeasor:
- Reasonably reacted to
- A sudden emergency.
This clip from Tommy Boy illustrates both prongs of the sudden emergency defense. The hood fly-up is a “sudden emergency” because it is a completely unanticipated event. The same result applies in something like a tire blow-out. But a large pothole, jaywalking pedestrian, or stalled car are not “sudden emergencies.” These things, though somewhat unexpected, are actually rather common.
But Tommy could not use this defense because he did not react reasonably. Instead of pulling over to the right, he drove recklessly, even crossing into oncoming traffic.
Last Clear Chance
This doctrine is similar to sudden emergency. Last clear chance often comes up in rear-end crash cases.
Some people are familiar with the “swoop-and-squat” insurance fraud scam in Illinois. An unscrupulous person pulls out in front of an unsuspecting driver and then hits the brakes, inducing a rear-end crash.
This scam does not work because of the last clear chance rule. A driver cannot create the circumstances for a crash and then collect damages when the crash occurs. Similarly, if a driver had a good opportunity to avoid a crash yet did not do so, that driver is not liable for damages. To return to Tommy’s reckless driving, if he collided with one of the cars on the wrong side of the road, that driver had a responsibility to avoid the crash if possible, perhaps by changing lanes.
Note that there is a difference between the last clear chance and the last possible chance. The opportunity to avoid the crash must be more than theoretical.
Reach Out to Experienced Attorneys
Substantial compensation is available in car crash cases, but the insurance company does not just give this money away. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Rockford, contact Fisk & Monteleone, Ltd. An attorney can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no money or insurance.