There are several factors that determine the legal merit of a car accident injury and whether your personal injury attorney will accept it. You should be an informed participant in the process so you can make good decisions when confronted with choices such as reaching a settlement, going to trial or even how long the process will take and your chances of receiving compensation.
Liability and Damage
Under Illinois law, before a person injured in an accident is entitled to compensation, you must first prove negligence by another person who caused your accident. If there is no negligence, there is no value to your case.
Negligence – Who Caused the Injury
Proving negligence does not require the other person to be 100% at fault. Illinois is a “comparative negligence” state. This means that if the other person is found 50% or more at fault, you win. Your own negligence in the matter reduces the case's value proportionately. So if your case is worth $50,000, assuming 100% negligence by the defendant, and you are 10% at fault, you would receive $45,000. Statements given by the parties, witness testimony, physical evidence, expert testimony, and of course, the law, are evaluated with regard to proving negligence and each party’s contribution to negligence.
Damages – What is the Value of Your Case
Damages refer to the value of your case. Factors that contribute to the value of the case include:
- What injuries resulted?
- What medical treatment occurred?
- What is the cost of treatment?
- How much time was lost from work?
- How long was it post accident before you were able to return to your regular social/recreational activities?
Obviously, the more serious the injury, treatment and recovery period before you regain pre-accident status, the higher the value of your case.
Right Law Firm
Your case may have value to you but not to the law firm you selected. Not all law firms are the same. Some will accept only the most consequential motor vehicle cases, where anticipated damages are extremely high and there is sufficient insurance to pay those damages. Other firms handle smaller cases.
Each time a call comes in, a law firm has to make a business decision. Sometimes the decision is not to accept a case that has considerable legal merit. You may be led to believe your car accident injury claim has no value when, in fact, it actually has no value to the particular law firm.
Just like in other areas of commerce, insurance can be purchased in large or small amounts. Illinois law requires that all drivers maintain vehicle insurance of at least $20,000 in liability coverage. Sometimes the coverage is considerably more than this minimum.
Insurance protects your assets. The more you have to lose, the larger your insurance policy should be. The same goes for businesses. You don't want to pay out of your own pocket for injuries caused by your negligence. Insurance does not cover intentional tortious (ie. wrongful) acts, only accidents.
Uninsured or Underinsured Motorists (UM/UIM) Insurance Coverage
The absence of sufficient insurance - either by the negligent driver, or under your UM/UIM- may be a reason why a law firm would reject your case.
A little known fact is that Illinois law requires insurance companies to offer uninsured or underinsured coverage whenever you purchase liability coverage. UM/UIM coverage is your protection against the other person having no, or insufficiently low, liability coverage to adequately compensate you for your injuries.
You can purchase this form of coverage up to the amount of your liability coverage. So for example, if you have a $100,000 liability policy, you can pay for $100,000 of UM/UIM coverage. Or less. It is not expensive coverage. In the event that you get
into an accident with someone with a minimum policy, and your damages are greater, your UM/UIM coverage could be an additional source of recovery.
If your case has limited value or there are questions of liability and negligence and the expenses required to pursue the matter are high, it may not be worth pursuing. These expenses could be for expert witnesses, laboratory testing and other costs associated with putting together your case.
Car Injury Case Value
All lawsuits take time to conclude. They require effort on your part and they all have expenses. You should insist on being drawn into the decision making process of your case, so you can decide whether, and how to pursue it (trial vs. settlement). If your case has big damages, but the insurance is minimal, you may not be happy to find yourself awarded little money in comparison to your injuries.
You should know well in advance:
- If your case has significant anticipated expenses.
- If proving the defendant's negligence is a problem
- If there is a possibility of you being found comparatively negligent
The end of your case should not be a time of surprise. You should know in advance the value of your car injury case as well as the likelihood you will realize any or all of that value.