If liability is undisputed, Illinois law requires auto insurance companies to settle claims within 30 days. The settlement offer must be reasonable. The insurance company cannot tender a “low-ball” offer which does not amount to fair compensation.
In minor property damage claims, like dents and scratches, early settlements are pretty common. The insurance company wants to resolve the matter quickly. But if more money is involved, insurance companies usually find liability questions and other reasons to delay payment.
The quick-settlement responsibility also applies in other types of insurance, such as homeowners’ policies and health insurance. However, since these policies usually do not involve personal injury, the dynamics are a little different.
Building a Case
While insurance company lawyers look for legal loopholes to reduce or deny compensation, a Rockford personal injury attorney starts building your claim. Without evidence of liability, you are at a disadvantage when you negotiate with the insurance company. That’s why it’s so important to have a lawyer at this stage.
The police accident report is an important starting point. It gives key information about locations, witnesses, and other crash facts.
However, it’s only a starting point. The accident narrative is not necessarily accurate. Even the most experienced emergency responder is not an accident reconstructionist. Additionally, if the victim was seriously injured or killed, the narrative only contains one side of the story. Finally, most emergency responders do not mess with paperwork until all their other jobs are finished.
A good attorney should reach out to the listed witnesses directly and see what they have to say. Furthermore, an attorney or private investigator should also seek out additional witnesses. For various reasons, some people do not like talking to police officers. So, where there are one or two witnesses, there are probably more who did not voluntarily come forward at the scene.
There is also electronic evidence which is unavailable at the time of the crash. A vehicle’s Event Data Recorder is a good example. The EDR tracks information like:
- Vehicle speed,
- Steering angle,
- Engine acceleration/deceleration, and
- Steering angle
Numbers like these are vital in a Rockford car crash claim. Additionally, unlike an eyewitness, the EDR is never mistaken or biased.
Assessing the Settlement Value
Partially based on this evidence, an attorney can properly assess a case’s settlement value. Some other factors include:
- Accident Location: Larger and more populous counties, like Winnebago County, usually have more liberal jurors than smaller counties, like Ogle County. Liberal jurors are more likely to side with victims against insurance companies.
- Legal Issues in the Case: A legal defense, like assumption of the risk or sudden emergency, changes things quite a bit. If successful, these defenses can completely derail a claim for compensation.
- Victim’s Financial Status: Some victims need to settle their claims quickly. If that’s the case, an attorney might reduce the settlement demand to move things along more quickly.
Based on all these factors, and others as well, attorneys usually assign a multiplier to the economic damages. This multiplier, which usually starts at three, determines the demand for noneconomic damages.
These intangible damages include things like pain and suffering, loss of consortium (companionship), emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment in life.
Partner with Hard-Hitting Attorneys
After a serious crash, insurance companies are never “on your side.” For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Rockford, contact Fisk & Monteleone, Ltd. Home and hospital visits are available.