Car Accident Injuries?
The Ultimate Guide to
Car Accident Injury
The Ultimate Guide to Car Accident Injuries in Illinois
This is the PERFECT GUIDE providing a WEALTH of "must-know" info for people who have been injured in a car crash (or any kind of motor vehicle injury or crash).
You can learn to: protect your rights; know that they aren’t going to get screwed over by an insurance company; get the medical care you need; get your car fixed; and get everything the law allows by learning exactly how car accident injury cases (really, all motor vehicle injury cases) work. Basically, everything you need to know about car accident injuries and compensation.
It is all right here in this Ultimate Guide, 100% free.
Congratulations for realizing that you need to know the truth about car accident cases and claims. It really is true that most people walking down the street do not know any of this information..and that's too bad, because EVERYONE should learn this. That even includes some lawyers and Judges, believe it or not.
HERE'S HOW IT WORKS: YOU EITHER KNOW THIS STUFF OR YOU DO NOT. If you do not know how these car accident injury cases work, you are at a huge disadvantage. Your case could be at risk right now, and you do not even know it.
This Ultimate Guide is intended to be a COMPLETE resource to learn just about everything anyone needs to know about injury after a car accident in Illinois. It doesn't matter whether you or a loved one is dealing with life-threatening car accident injuries or minor car accident injuries. It isn’t short, and it probably has MORE information than you need right now.
But the whole purpose is to educate injured people who have been involved in any kind of motor vehicle crash -- whether it be car, truck, motorcycle, bicycle or pedestrian versus another motor vehicle -- so that injured people know what to do and what to look out for.
Best of all it's free and here whenever you might need it or if you want to show it to a friend who might need it.
It's written for you, so I hope you like it and enjoy it.
Why Are You Giving All of This Valuable Information Away For Free?
My legal career is dedicated to helping injured people. In some ways, it's that simple.
Yes, it's 100% free. 🙂
But I also have very personal reasons for doing all I can to help injured people.
It isn't mandatory viewing, but you can check out my personal "why" right here if you'd like to.
Who Is The Guide For?
This Ultimate Guide is written specifically for people who have been recently injured in a car, truck, motorcyle or other motor vehicle accident. It is designed to be easy to read and understand, but to give you all of the info you need to protect your rights.
But, it is available for anyone. So even if you had questions about an old crash, or want to read it in case you or a loved one is hurt in the future, by all means, have at it.
Here's What You'll Find In The Guide...
I want to keep this information easily accessible, so I broke it down in Chapters for you.
This way, you can access the entire Guide or jusut learn about the part of Car Accident Injuries you have questions about right now.
Here are the Chapters:
Chapter One: Car Accident Injury 101: The Truth About EVERY Car Accident Injury
This is the Foundation that everyone needs to know before going any farther.
It is best to know what car accident cases are about right from the beginning. Learn what car accident cases are all about, what they have in common, and what you are up against, and "The 4 Truths of Car Accident Injury" cases.
Chapter Two: The Two Parts of Car Accident Injury Cases No One Will Tell You About
There are two parts to every car accident injury case that almost no one will tell you.
Unless you know both of these parts of an injury case, you aren't going to win your case. Even if you've heard some of this before, I'll bet no one ever explained it to you. All will be explained here.
Chapter Three: The Five Things You MUST DO After Every Car Accident
If you do these, you increase your chances.
After 20+ years and thousands of car crash cases, I know that these are the things people should do after every car accident, whether they are injured or not. Find out about them here.
Chapter Four: The Five Things You SHOULD NEVER DO After A Car Accident
If you remember to avoid doing these things, you help your case.
Some common mistakes after a car crash literally turn good injury cases bad. Learn what they are and how to avoid them here.
Chapter Five: Car Accidents and Property Damage: The Stone Hard Truth About Getting Your Car Fixed
The definitve answer to a very common question after a car accident.
The truth of getting your car fixed after a crash is hard to hear. But knowing how it all works means you can work towards getting your vehicle fixed knowing how it works and what to expect. That's what this Chapter is about.
Chapter Six: Do YOU Have A Good Case? How To Evaluate A Case Like A Lawyer...
The central question every car accident injury victim has gets answered.
In this Chapter, I give a simple process so that you can make a reasonable initial evaluation about your car accident injury. Is it good? Is it a tough one? The entire, simple process is laid out here.
How Much of the Guide Do I Need to Read?
You can read it all in one sitting but it is pretty long so you might want to download it to read later. This way, you can read the parts you need to know and will have it handy any time you have a question or concern. You can use it as a resource and read the parts that hold answers to the questions you have right now.
Disclaimer: What this Guide IS...and Is Not...
Illinois Law Requires a Disclaimer when a lawyer gives people information. Here's mine.
I produce a lot of free information for injured people, and I give it away for free. I do it to help people because I talk to lots of folks who wish they had it 'after the fact', but also so you'll know who to call if you ever need a lawyer.
None of the information I provide is legal advice. It does not substitute -- and cannot substitute -- for the advice of a licensed lawyer in possession of your case facts. Every case is different. If you have a case, you should talk to a lawyer of your choice right away.
Reading, watching or listening to my informational materials does not make YOU a lawyer. It also doesn't make ME YOUR LAWYER. You have to formally hire me in order for me to be your lawyer. Unless you sign a contract hiring me as your lawyer, after a full (free) consultation, then I am not your lawyer and cannot give you any legal advice. I cannot help with your case or protect any deadlines for you unless we have a free consultation and know about your specific situation.
A lot of people outside of the State of Illinois find and read or watch my stuff. Injury law varies from State to State. If you need a lawyer in your State, consult with one, or give me a call and maybe I can find you one. I have friends who do this all over the place. The information in these materials may or may not be the same in your State. You have to protect yourself. Don't just assume that the info in these materials applies to your situation.
I know: this is common sense. But I am required to tell you anyway. Glad that's out of the way...
Updates & Questions
My goal is to make this Guide as complete and comprehensive as possible, so I will add to it when new sections occur to me to add. If you have a questions, send me an email and I’d be happy to add a section which addresses your concerns.
The information in this Ultimate Guide is game-changing stuff. A lot of people who never know this information end up short-changing themselves in their injury case. And most people who have been injured in a car crash or truck accident need to know these tips and secrets. All of it is free and available for you, right here.
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Car Accident Injury 101 - The Truth About EVERY Car Accident Injury
Before we talk about the details of car accident cases and what you need to know to make sure you can get necessary medical care, car repairs and the other things the law allows you to get, you have to understand some basic, foundational things about all motor vehicle crashes.
Without knowing the ‘Basic Lessons” it will be hard for you to understand why things work the way they do in car crash cases.
So here we go…
TRUTH #1: Insurance companies are involved in almost every injury case.
Auto insurance is mandatory in Illinois. Almost everyone driving has it.
That means that in almost every car accident case or claim, an insurance company is ultimately the one spending money and paying bills when someone gets hurt. (Well, that’s the way it is supposed to work, anyway). These include medical bills, time off work, car repairs, all of it. When someone is insured, the insurance companies is supoposed to pay all of the ‘damages’ that result from the crash.
The thing is that they DON’T WANT TO PAY!
The insurance business model is to collect premiums from people, but DELAY AND DENY claims. This way, they collect money but discourage people from making claims, because they make it such a fight and hassle, many people give up.
Does that sound nuts? It isn’t. A pretty big percentage of people who get hurt in a crash will give up and go away, collecting a very little money or even NONE.
And that’s how insurance companies profit: they COLLECT premiums, but make sure they pay out as little as possible to injured people. The money they don’t pay to injured people is their profit, and they want their profit to be as high as possible.
If you are hurt in a car accident, then whether you know it or not, an insurance company is involved, and they will do almost anything to deny your claim or pay you as little as possible.
TRUTH #2: Insurance companies CONTROL the car acccident cases.
Every insured person has a duty to cooperate with their insurance company.
If you do not cooperate with your insurance company, then your insurance company can DENY COVERAGE.
The duty to cooperate includes the duty to inform the insurance company of a crash right away. If you don’t they might deny coverage.
And once you inform the insurance company of the car accident, they assign an ‘insurance adjuster” and they have access to insurance company lawyers who start planning how to beat the case.
As soon as the insurance company is on the case, they control every detail.
And when a car crash case goes to Court, almost 100% of the time, it is an insurance company which refuses to make an offer. The lawyer defending the case is hired and paid for by the insurance company.
So the insurance company DIRECTLY controls the entire defense case.
It ISN’T the person being sued who decides whether to settle, or what witnesses to call or what arguments to make.
The insurance company controls every minute detail of the case.
And they do it for one reason: to make sure an person injured in a car accident is treated bad and gets little or no recovery, no matter how serious or permanent their injuries are.
There’s always an insurance company involved, and they call all the shots and make all the decisions on the defense side of an injury case.
TRUTH #3: FEAR is the only thing that helps people hurt in a car accident get a fair shake.
I’d like to take a moment to think about the huge advantage an insurance company has over the average car accident victim.
After a car accident, a person is usually upset. They are worried about how their car is going to get fixed. They are worried about being hurt. They wonder “Are my injuries going to be permanent? Will I run up lots of doctor bills? How can I afford to pay those bills?” They worry about missing time from work and having no income, or even worse: getting fired for missing work.
When a person is worried, they sometimes are not thinking as clearly as they could or normally would.
Add in the fact that the average person hurt in a crash DOESN’T have access to a lawyer or decades of experience dealing with car accident and truck crash cases.
On the side of the Insurance Company, their entire business is built around knowing all the laws and rules of car crash cases. They have lawyers on staff. They have claims adjusters who do not really care about you or your claim, and they know that if they hassle you enough, you might give up and abandon your claim.
The point is that in most car accident cases, insurance companies have a huge advantage over the injured person.
Hiring an injury lawyer removes some of this advantage, but if you hire a lawyer without a proven track record, it isn’t going to impress the insurance company.
Insurance companies keep track of the settlement and trial verdict record of lawyers. So if you hire a “TV lawyer” who never takes a case to Court, the insurance company is not afraid. Or if you hire a lawyer who does insurance defense himself, or a lawyer who does mainly real estate cases, the insurance company isn’t going to be afraid.
Your best bet is to find a lawyer who devotes his or her law practice to only representing injured people, and who has a track record of good settlements and verdicts.
But since every case is different, lawyer reputation is only going to help you so much. You need a lawyer who will strategically put the case together to make the good points as strong as possible and who has the knowledge and experience and know-how to make the bad parts of the case (virtually every cases has them) into good ones.
When an experienced car accident lawyer puts a case together, then insurance companies start to worry.
What do they worry about?
They worry that you can go to Court and beat them, and win a lot of money, or more money than they think the case is worth.
Insurance companies make profits when they manage the amount of money they pay out by denying claims or paying less than they are worth.
But when you have a case that looks like it has been put together in such a way that its value in front of a Judge or Jury could be 10x what they thought, then the insurance company gets worried.
When insurance companies have FEAR then they come to settlement table with better offers.
You can try to charm them. You can try to dazzle them. None of it works.
Only making them fear what will happen at trial gets them to pay fair money on cases where people get hurt in a car wreck.
The only thing that gets you a fair shake in a car crash case is if the insurance company is afraid.
TRUTH #4: After A Car Accident, You Discover That There Are Good Insurance Companies...and Bad Ones. Make Sure YOU Have A Good One.
A major part of any case is how much insurance there is, and what insurance company is involved.
Some insurance companies (called “substandards”) are so bad that many injury lawyers will not even take cases against them because: (1) They never pay fair money; and (2) they will do anything including lying and cheating to win a case
And over the years, even some of the better insurance companies have adopted the same strategies.
The insurance industry shares dirty tricks and bad behavior that the System lets them get away with, and it results in less money paid out.
Whether we are talking about a substandard insurance carrier, or a better one, remember that they are driven by PROFIT.
So even the best insurance companies are going to do what they can to pay nothing or very little.
But dealing with a better insurance company instead of a really low end one can make a case a little smoother. And the better insurance companies tend to write insurance policies for more money, so there will be more insurance money to collect.
When you are buying car insurance, consider spending a little more for ‘name brand’ car insurance instead of “substandard” insurance. Get higher insurance coverage than the State minimum coverage. If you finance a car, buy “GAP” insurance and full coverage that will fix your car.
This can make a major difference for you if you get into a crash with an uninsured driver. It’s a little more money on a month to month basis, but it will save you a lot of money and hassle if you are ever in a serious car accident.
Dealing with a crappy insurance company makes a car accident case harder, but none of them make it easy. Get the best insurance from the best company and highest limits you can afford.
Now that you know about the role insurance plays in virtually every car accident, we can move on to a more real-world practical lesson.
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"Hiring Scott was one of the best moves I have made in my life....5 star first class act who really knows his stuff."
The Two Parts of An Injury Case No Other Lawyer Will Tell You: The "Law" of the Case and The "Story" of The Case.
There's a part of a car accident injury case that very few people know about. That includes lawyers.
These are the two parts of the case:
- The “Prima Facie” (PRY-muh FAY-shuh) Case (The Law of the Case); and
- The “Story” of the Case (The Facts That Actually Win The Case For You).
Law school and most of the lawyers careers dedicated to learning the "Law" of the case. That means the legal things someone has to prove if they've been injured in a car crash case in order to win the case.
In other words, these are the legal requirements of the things you have to prove. If you can't prove the legal requirements, your case can get thrown out of court.
As you might imagine, insurance companies know the legal requirements so if you can't show an insurance company that you can prove the legal requirements, they will never offer you any money on your case.
That goes back to what we talked about in the previous chapter. Insurance companies only settle cases if they are afraid about what might happen at trial. And they are going to be afraid if they don't think you can prove your legal case.
PART I: The Law Of The Case
So what are the three things that have to be proven in car accident case?
I'm going to tell you what they are right now. I am going to give you the legal name that lawyers use as well as a label that describes what it really means in regular language. They are:
- Who's fault was it? (Liability)
- What bad things happen because of it? (Damages)
- Are the bad things related to the bad actions that caused the crash? (Causation)
So let’s talk about each of these in order.
A. PROVING LIABILITY IN A CAR ACCIDENT CASE
To prove liability in a car crash case let's take a step back here. Injured people have what is called the “burden of proof”. That means we have to prove our case. It also means we have to prove the facts around the case.
How do we prove a case?
We prove a case by paper documents, photographs, and what people say, commonly referred to as “testimony”. We call witnesses at trial who say what they saw and to explain what the photographs show and what the documents show.
To prove liability in a car crash case, we start with the police report...
The police report tells us who the witnesses are. Talking to witnesses to find out what they saw and what they remember is very important.
We primarily prove liability by showing to the insurance company or a Judge and/or Jury what the scene of the crash looks like. We can do that with photos and also with the testimony of people. In other words, people saying whether the street has two lanes or four, whether the intersection has a stop sign or a traffic light or no traffic control devices at all.
Once we establish when and where the crash happened in a general way, we call witnesses and show photos of the scene to demonstrate how the crash occurred.
Obviously, we have to set up our description of how the crash occurred using an approach which makes it clear that the crash was the other guy's fault. We have to be careful about how we put the case together because it requires a solid knowledge of the rules of the road and other traffic laws.
We always want to assemble the case and put it together in a way that as clearly as possibly shows what the defendant did wrong, while at the same time showing that you followed the traffic laws and safety rules. We never want to put a case in on liability where it looks like the injured person did something wrong to cause or contribute to the crash.
Insurance defense lawyers try to do the same thing we do. They try to tell the story of liability to show that the person who was hurt contributed to the crash. Or they try to show that the person who got injured caused the entire crash.
The reason for this is that if the insurance defense lawyer can show that the injured person is more than 50% responsible for the crash, the injured person gets nothing. And if the injured person caused some percentage of the crash under 50%, then any money damages that the injured person is awarded is reduced by their own percentage of fault.
That sounds a little complicated.
Let me give you an example.
Let's say that your case goes to court and a Jury decides that the defendant (the other driver) caused 90% of the car crash and you caused 10% of the car crash because you were going a little too fast on a rainy day.
If the Jury awards you $100,000 for your injuries, you will actually receive $90,000. The reason why is that $100,000 reduced by 10% (your percentage of fault in causing the crash) reduces the $100,000 by 10%, meaning you get $90,000.
If the Jury decides that the crash is 50/50, you would get $50,000. That's $100,000 reduced by 50%.
Now, understand, most times people who got hurt in a car crash do not believe it wsas their fault at all.
But we are talking about what a JURY decides.
In almost every case, the insurance company defense lawyer can be counted on to come with some evidence or argument that you are somehow partially to blame.
Now here is a big one.
Maybe you know this and maybe you do not, but a lot of people I talk to do not know that this is how it works over at the Courthouse...
If the Jury decides that you were 51% or more responsible and the defendant was 49% or less responsible, even with $100,000 in damages, you would get nothing.
So you can see that the defense has a strong incentive to attack liability on cases because they might be able to win the case outright and pay no money or at least reduce how much money the insurance company is required to pay.
That's why assembling witnesses, photos, video of the crash, any things like that which establish exactly what happened is very important to have in any sort of motor vehicle crash case.
B. PROVING DAMAGES IN A CAR CRASH CASE
The first question that we have to talk a little bit about is what can you claim as damages in a car crash?
In other words, what are you even allowed to ask for if you get hurt in a car accident?
The law MUST recognize your right to a particular kind of damages if you have any hope to be reimbursed for it.
Here's a list of the things that you can claim:
- Current and future medical bills
- Current and future wage loss or time lost from work
- Past and future pain and suffering
- Past and future disability or loss of a normal life
- Past and future disfigurement (for things like scars or missing limbs).
- Emotional damages
- Psychological damages
- Property damage
These are the most common damages claimed in car crash cases. Every car crash case is different and every person injured in a motor vehicle crash has unique effects on their life. But these are the most common.
Dealing with insurance companies on property damage claims is a topic all on its own, so I intend to write a chapter that will appear later in this Ultimate Guide that will tell you just about everything you need to know about handling a property damage claim, in other words damage to your vehicle, after a car crash or a truck crash.
How Do We Prove Damages After A Car Accident?
It all starts with the medical records and medical bills.
In my office we do a detailed summary of the medical records in every case.
This is because we like to make sure that we only claim things that are related.
In other words, if you had your appendix removed and that appears in the medical records, we probably cannot claim that as part of the damages you suffered as a result of a car crash. Although that will be up to your doctor.
So after we have gone through your medical records to make sure we are only claiming the medical treatment related to your car crash, then we go through your medical bills. We match up the dates of service and treatment in the medical records to the charges in the medical bills. This gives us a total of medical charges for your medical care.
It's important for you to know that in a car accident case or really any injury case, we claim the full billed amount of medical bills.
So, for example, if your doctor gave you a $10,000 bill, but your health insurance company only paid $3,000 of the bill, we still claim the full $10,000 of the medical bill. So if you're handling or trying to handle an injury claim yourself, always make sure to claim the full amount the doctor, hospital or clinic charged. Not just the amount that was paid.
Medical records and bills are a great start, but there are a couple of other things that I pay a lot of attention to and I think actually are more persuasive to a Judge and Jury at trial.
The first is photos. I always encourage my clients to take photos of an injury that is visible right after the crash, and then at various stages of healing. If a surgery is involved, I always tell injured people I represent to take photos before the surgery, immediately after the surgery and then as the injury heals. Then, we need relatively recent photos if we are going to trial or a settlement conference so that we can show the decision-maker, whether that's a Judge or a Jury or some sort of arbitrator or mediator, what the scars and injuries look like now.
Another very important part of proving damages is having witnesses. Not only witnesses to the crash, but witnesses who knew you before the crash and after the crash and most importantly, during the time that you were recovering from your injuries.
Lawyers call these witnesses different things. I've heard them called damages witnesses, or lay witnesses, or before-and-after witnesses.
It doesn't matter what you call them. I always like to have at least a couple damages witnesses who are friends or families or especially coworkers, friends from church, whoever was in a position to see you struggle with the injuries and who can honestly say that they've been in a position to observe you before and after the crash and who can say how you are different.
For example, I had a client who was in a bowling league for years. After a car crash, he could never bowl again. He tried to join the league after he was released by his doctor but he couldn't do it. He would occasionally stop by the bowling alley to say hello to his friends but now he had a limp. And he couldn't bowl. He tried to bowl a few times but he was no good at it anymore because of the limp and it caused him pain.
Now, the injured person could tell that story. But it is much more credible and powerful if one of his buddies from the bowling team came to court because his buddy has no dog in the fight.
Judges and Juries, and especially insurance companies, will assume that an injured person will lie to get money. But if we bring damages witnesses to court to explain what they have seen without exaggerating, it's amazingly credible.
So in addition to medical records and medical bills, proving damages includes your description of how you feel and what you felt and how you are doing, but also includes things like photos, video, and other people, damages witnesses.
C. HOW TO PROVE CAUSATION IN A CAR ACCIDENT INJURY CASE
Proving Causaion means to show that what the other driver did caused your injuries in your car accident.
For lawyers, causation is a very complex topic. There's lots of cases that discuss it, lots of laws and legal articles about it. But I'm not going to go into all of that.
All you really need to know is that in addition to proving that the other driver did something wrong and that you received injuries, we also have to prove that what the other driver did wrong caused your injuries.
In a lot of cases, this is pretty simple and straightforward.
Here's an example.
Let’s say you are crossing the street and you have a green light and cross traffic has a red light and somebody runs the red light. They run into you and the front of the car strikes you in your right leg and you immediately feel the bone break. You’re immediately taken to the hospital where you are diagnosed with a broken leg.
In this situation, it will be very, very hard for an insurance company or an insurance company defense lawyer to fight us on causation. It's obvious that you were walking across the street before the car hit you and after the car hit you on your right leg, the doctor and paramedics immediately diagnosed you with a broken leg.
But let's take a more complicated example.
Let's say that you have an old leg injury from years ago. When it rains it would hurt you. The old injury would resurface if you had to walk around and be on your feet for a lot. It didn't really affect your life very much, but it was always there. Then the same car driver runs the red light and hits that leg again and breaks your leg.
Now, the insurance defense lawyer and the insurance company can claim that your leg was already pretty bad anyway and that any permanent part of the injury you claim from the car accident was already there before the car accident. This is called a “Preexisting Condition”.
If you have a “Pre-existing Condition”, it makes analysis of the causation element of your car accident case more complicated. It makes it easier for the insurance company to fight us on it.
I know lots of ways to position a case so that a prior injury or Preexisting Condition is actually a strength, and not a weakness.
Not many lawyers know how to do that. Insurance companies always think a preexisting condition is a strength for them and a weakness for you. Do not be surprised if you get a crummy offer or a lowball offer in your car accident case if you have a preexisting condition.
It's not that they would argue that the car didn't break your leg. A smart defense lawyer would say that it did and wouldn't fight about that part. What they would fight about is how much worse is your leg now after the car crash because it already wasn't perfect before the car crash. In other words, what ongoing pain or damages do you have as a result of the car accident, versus as a result of your old injury?
If you have your car crash when you're 30 years old and you expect to live to 75, that's 45 years of leg pain that we and the insurance company will be fighting about, so it's a fight worth undertaking.
But you can see that this is just one of the ways that insurance companies can muddy the waters. You have to prove causation and it is not always easy to do. It might seems simple, but in most cases, insurance companies find a way to make up a causation defense.
PART II: The Story Of The Case
The other side of proving a personal injury case is the Story of the case.
Even if you prove the prima facie case (Liability, Damages and Causation), you may not able to convince the Judge or Jury to give you much if any money. That goes for the insurance company too.
What really motivates a person to give money to someone hurt in a car accident?
It isn't just making sure you check all the boxes on the Prima Facie case.
It is the story of the case that will determine whether you get a fair settlement or verdict in a case. Obviously you have to prove your prima facie case but merely proving the prima facie case doesn't motivate anyone to give you fair compensation. It just keeps your case from being thrown out of court by the Judge.
The study of assembling the story of a case is something that I've spent years and tens of thousands of dollars on. Many lawyers give little or no thought at all to the story of a case when presenting it to an insurance company for settlement purposes or even to a Judge and/or Jury. That's a big mistake.
Law schools don't prepare most attorneys well enough with respect to deciding what story to tell to the Judge and Jury so that they understand what the case is really about.
Here's an example to give you some idea what I'm talking about.
Story Number One
Harry was in the middle of a divorce. His head was killing him from the drinking he did the night before. He only got 4 hours of fitful sleep the night before, and was on his 15th hour of driving his semi-truck
Harry knew his truck was overloaded, and knew that he was probably in violation of the driving rules that limit how many hours a truck driver can drive in a week.
But his boss told him “Get that load delivered.” And his boss said it in that final, direct way that Harry knew it meant his job.
It was getting dark on the expressway, and the speed limit was 65. Pushing the limit is something Harry learned to do all the time at this job. Harry felt his eyes getting heavy as it got dark outside, but he had to get his load delivered.
Unbeknownst to Harry, in front of Harry and Harry’s semi-truck, a man named Jim was driving his car home from work.
On the way home from work, Jim was in a great mood. It was his son's seventh birthday. In the trunk of his car, Jim had the bicycle that his son had wanted all year. Jim worked overtime to save up the money for the bike. He was excited to see the look he could already imagine on his son’s face.
As he headed home on the expressway, traffic ahead of Jim slowed, and stopped. So Jim slowed, and stopped.
Jim never saw it coming.
The next thing Jim remembers is waking up in a hospital, three months before his son's eighth birthday.
Story Number Two
A man named Jim Smith got rear ended on the expressway and got hurt real bad. He was hit by a semi truck and was in the hospital for almost a year.
He had a lot of doctor bills. He lost a lot of time from work. It affected his life in a lot of ways. He has scars on his body. He had a lot of surgeries.
It has set him back on all of his bills. It has created a lot of stress on his family. He cannot do the activities he enjoys.
We believe that Jim deserves a million dollars for his injuries.
Both of these case summaries tell the story of the case, but the first one is much more engaging, whereas the second one is much more "who, what, when, where, why?
I'm not sure this is coming across but it is important to include the details of a crash, but the story of the crash and the story of the human losses is what the case is really about.
Choosing the story of the case to tell IS NOT about trying to get sympathy from the Jury.
In fact, the Judge at every car crash trial will tell the Jury that they cannot consider sympathy in deciding the case. And it is a really big mistake to try to do that in this day and age. Any trial lawyer who thinks sympathy is their path to winning a car accident injury trial is...shall we say..misinformed.
But it is about making sure that the Jury understands that the case isn't just about numbers.
The point is that different stories have a different effect on a Jury.
I will be frank with you: the story of the case is less important when it's being evaluated by an insurance company as compared to a case being evaluated by a Judge and/or Jury. In fact, it may be a mistake to submit anything but the facts and data to an insurance company, because that's all they care about. That's how they see injured people. That's how they evaluate cases. That's all that matters to them. Dollars and cents, who, what, when, where, why.
But in front of a Judge and/or Jury or a mediator or arbitrator, the story of a case makes a huge difference.
Your best bet at winning your case is to make sure you have someone who can tell a compelling Story of the Case, while also making sure to cover the three parts of the “prima facie” "Law" of the case.
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The Five Things You Always Must Do After A Car Crash.
Now you understand that in every car crash case you are up against an insurance company that does not care about you or your case and is only a business seeking to save money. And now that you understand what must be proven in order for you to win a case or scare an insurance company into believing that if you went to court you would win your case, it is time for some more practical advice.
There are a few things that have to be done in every case. Many of these things, I think you will find, are logical given what you know now.
Let's talk about the five things you should do first.
THE FIVE THINGS YOU SHOULD DO AFTER EVERY CAR CRASH.
ONE: After every car accident case, make a police report.
I don't know how else to say this other than to say: you should make a police report after every car crash, no matter how minor, and even if you don't think you're hurt initially.
I talk to at least half a dozen people every year who are in a crash, sometimes even a serious crash with lots of damage, who just don't want the hassle of going to the police station. If cars are drivable, or if all the police officers are busy, many police departments will ask people to drive to the nearest police station to make a report. That can be a hassle.
It's a hassle even if police come to the scene because you have to wait, and that can take some time.
Why is making a police report so important?
The first thing you have to understand is that in a car crash case, we have to identify who the driver is and who the owner is, as well as information like their license plate number and the VIN or Vehicle Identification Number of their car.
We need this information in order to figure out who their insurance company is so we know who we will be negotiating with, as well as knowing who to sue if we can't get a settlement.
Without a police report, we have to rely on you quickly scribbling down the make, model and license plate number of the vehicle or vehicles who hit you.
A police report contains all of this information and also contains insurance information we need to evaluate your case.
A lot of people avoid getting a police report because they don't think there was a lot of property damage or they don't think that they were hurt. But a lot of people who are hurt in car accident cases don't feel the symptoms until hours or days later. Once you leave the scene of a crash without the contact information of the other driver, there's no way for us to get it. So making a police report is very important.
In fact, some insurance companies require you to make a police report and if you do not make a police report, they will try to deny your claim. And some police departments will not make a auto collision crash report for you more than 24 or 48 hours after the crash. So you have to do it right after the crash.
TWO: Keep your cool and talk to the police after the crash.
In most more serious car crashes, police do arrive at the scene of the crash. They show up, talk to the drivers and witnesses if any, and write a police report.
One of the things that they do on that police report is decide who they think caused the crash. It is standard that whoever is listed as "Unit One" on the police report is considered to have been at fault for the crash.
Now, that doesn't bother me. I have successfully represented dozens of people who were initially listed as Unit One on a police report but who actually didn't cause the crash and were not responsible for it. Police are not perfect. They make mistakes in police reports all the time.
But, insurance companies place a lot of weight on whether a driver is listed as Unit One or Unit Two, or if a police officer gives a ticket for a moving violation to one of the drivers. If you are listed as Unit One, and you are given a moving violation ticket, the insurance company is unlikely to ever want to settle the case with you. They will force you to trial and that means a delay while your case is litigated in the court system. And the wheels of justice turn slowly.
That's why I tell people all the time that if police arrive on the scene, control your emotions. Take a deep breath, settle down, and be respectful to the other driver and the police officer.
I actually have video of one of my clients because she took out her cellphone and began recording while the police officer was investigating her car crash.
The other driver is calm, the police officer is calm, but my client unintentionally recorded herself yelling at and being disrespectful towards the other driver and the police officer.
She ended up as Unit One on the police report and she got two tickets.
Police are public servants, but a little bit of respect goes a long way. I don't think police officers would intentionally write a police report the wrong way, but if you are rude to them, they will get your driver's license and talk to you very briefly and then tell you to go stand by your car. Then, they will y talk in detail to the other driver, who can then tell the police officer any story he or she wants. If a police officer is getting respectful and seemingly-plausible information from the person who caused the crash, we are more likely going to end up with an inaccurate police report.
Sometimes, you cannot talk to the police officers at the scene of the crash because you have to be removed from the scene of the crash by ambulance. This happens quite a lot. Many times, my clients receive a copy of the police report at the emergency room, but never get an opportunity to speak with the police officer.
In those circumstances, we can file an amended report or an addendum to the police report, but even that is often not necessary.
It makes things go smoother if you speak with the police and make sure to do it in a respectful, calm way.
THREE: If you are hurt in a motor vehicle collision, seek medical care IMMEDIATELY...or as soon as possible.
I know this is sort of self-explanatory. But you would not believe the number of people I talk to who are involved in a car crash or truck crash or motorcycle accident or bicycle accident and they feel a little bit banged up, but they don't want the hassle of going to a doctor.
They refuse an ambulance ride and don't go to the hospital. They go home and wait. Over the course of hours and days, the pain increases and it increases, until they are forced to seek medical care.
Insurance companies see anything but prompt and immediate medical care as an opportunity to dispute your claim.
Insurance companies see anything but prompt and immediate medical care as an opportunity to dispute your claim. Simply, if you make no complaints of pain to a paramedic or an emergency room doctor on the day of a crash, they will argue or imply at trial that it's possible you got hurt in some other way after the car crash.
That sounds like a weak argument, but sadly, it works. It turns out insurance adjusters, as well as jurors and some Judges, expect people injured in a car crash to do things that they themselves never do: namely, going to the doctor right away after an injury.
You increase the chances of you settling a case if you go to the doctor if you are experiencing any pain, as soon as you begin to experience it.
FOUR: Make sure you report ALL of your injuries to the doctor.
I have represented dozens and dozens of people who had two parts of the body that were injured. For this example, let's say a neck injury and a knee injury.
What ends up happening is that the neck injury is more serious and painful and the knee injury is not. The patient is referred to a neck specialist and receives a lot of treatment to the neck to the point where the neck injury is resolved but the knee injury remains. The patient's medical records don't reflect a consistent knee complaint.
In other words, if all of the medical records close in time to the car crash repeat that the patient complains of neck pain, but rarely or never notes the real knee pain because it wasn't as urgent or painful as the neck pain.
This is something that insurance companies love. They want to argue that, in this example, the knee pain is related to something else. Maybe it's an old injury that was there before the crash. Maybe it was something like you twisted your knee at a wedding sometime after the crash.
There's one thing is true, and that is insurance companies and jurors expect an injured person to report everything that hurts, as soon as it hurts. This is maybe not a realistic standard for human beings, but you make your claim stronger by doing it.
FIVE: Document your injuries and the property damage with photos and video.
Like we talked about earlier, car damage photos make a big difference.
In fact, photos of a lot of car damage can result in a win at trial and a better offer during settlement negotiations. Photos which show little or no damage to car also have been known to result in very small verdicts for people hurt in a car crash.
That’s because no matter what an injured person or their doctor says, it is natural for people to believe that a major crash caused injuries and such car crash injuries that require surgery. And, it is natural to believe that photos of minor or no damage mean that the car crash was less likely to cause injuries, or serious ones. It turns out tht people can be hurt in very low speed crashes, but that goes against ‘common sense’.
Injury cases with no photos at all, of course, depend more on testimony, but the Jury will usually wonder why no one is showing them pictures of the car damage, and a suspicious Jury is an unconvinced Jury, and that’s bad news for people getting hurt in a car crash.
That also goes for pictures of the injuries. If you have a broken bone, people want to see the X-Ray, even if they don’t really know what they are looking at. If you have a bad neck or back, they want to see the MRI or CT scan. If you have an operation, they want to see a video or at least images and a good explanation.
If you have bruises, or your arm was in a sling, or your injuries show in a photo, one photo is worth 1,000 pages of medical records.
So always get photos and/or video of the car, truck or motorcycle damage and always get photos of your injuries.
Those are the things you always have to do after any kind of car accident.
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The Five Things To NEVER DO After A Car Accident
THE FIVE THINGS TO NEVER DO AFTER A CAR ACCIDENT
Here are the five things you should never do after a car accident under any circumstances.
I have spoken to many, many people over the years who have done these things. After getting hurt in a car crash, if you do these things, you may be seriously hurting the value of your case and your chances at any recovery at all.
ONE: Accept the first offer, accept a quick offer.
Insurance companies love to call injured people immediately after a crash. If you tell the insurance company that you are hurt and that you went to the doctor, they will ask you how you are doing.
Shortly after that, and sometimes during the same phone conversation and sometimes after a week or two has gone by, insurance companies love to talk to the injured person and offer them money.
They like to offer a low ball dollar amount. They like to talk the injured person into believing that they aren't really hurt and that it's no big deal.
Insurance companies do this because they know that most injuries get worse over time. Literally, almost every car accident victim I've ever spoken to in my legal career maybe felt some pain on the day of the accident but over the week following the accident, the injuries get worse and worse.
Insurance companies know this, and they also know that if they can settle your case for $500 or $1,000, or even $5,000, it makes economic sense for them to do it.
If they settle your case before you have an opportunity to realize how serious your injuries are or how much your medical bills are going to be, they save the insurance company lots of money.
Let me give you an example.
I spoke with a gentleman who was involved in a crash. It wasn't even that big of a crash. He sent me photos of his crash which he took on his cellphone. There was a little bit of damage. Believe it or not, his main injury was his toe.
After getting into the car crash, this guy went to the hospital and complained of his toe and then went to his family doctor. It was several days after the crash when he called me. His toe was still bothering him. He told me his toe might even be a little bit worse than it was on the day of the crash. He told me he had a slight limp.
The insurance company had already offered him $6,000 to settle his case. He thought that was weird, so he called me.
I gave him the same advice I am giving you. Do not accept the first offer and don't settle your case until you have a clear understanding of what your injuries are and how long they are going to last.
In this guy's situation, he ended up needing surgery on his toe and foot as a result of the crash. His doctor told him he needed a second surgery as well.
Luckily, he followed my advice and didn't settle for $6,000. His medical bills ended up being over $60,000, so his case had a value well in excess of that.
But if he would have accepted the first offer, and the quick offer, before knowing the value of his case, he would have been stuck with tens of thousands of medical bills and no recovery for himself.
Never accept the first offer or any quick offer immediately after the accident until you know absolutely for certain the nature of your injuries.
TWO: Sign insurance paperwork.
Here's a true story that will tell you everything you need to know.
I got a telephone call a number of years ago from an older gentleman. He was laborer before he retired. He had admitted to me that he didn't read too well. He hurt his back in a car crash, and the insurance company called him. He went to the doctor but he was still having back pain.
The insurance company told him that they were going to send him papers so that they could send him a check for $1,000 and that they would take care of the rest of the case later.
I asked the gentleman to send me the paperwork that he signed for the insurance company. He wasn't sure what the papers said because the papers the insurance company sent him had all kinds of legal language in it. He didn't really know what he signed.
Sure enough, he signed a general release, releasing the insurance company from paying him anything else and completely ending his case.
I always tell people to send me paperwork before they sign it so that we can both be sure that the insurance company isn't trying to rip them off or cheat them.
It is a really bad idea to sign any paperwork that an insurance company sends you after a car crash unless you are 100% certain what you are signing and why it is necessary for you to sign those papers.
THREE: Give the insurance company a recorded statement
Insurance companies will tell you that they have to record you in order to evaluate the claim. This isn't true.
Now, I am not talking about you calling the insurance company and having an automated message at the beginning of the phone call that says "This call is being recorded for quality assurance" or things like that.
I'm talking about when an insurance adjuster asks you whether they can take a recorded statement and record your version of what happened. It will sound something like this "Mr. Smith, I have your permission to record this conversation. Is that correct? Okay, I am turning on the tape recorder now. You understand that this call is being recorded?" And then they will go on to ask you details about the crash and your injuries.
The thing you have to understand about giving a recorded statement to the insurance company is that insurance adjusters are trained professionals. They are given scripts and questions to ask by insurance defense lawyers. The purpose of them taking that recorded statement is to lead you into answers that will ultimately hurt your chances of getting a fair settlement or verdict after getting hurt in a car crash.
The police report and other documents in cases like this pretty much tell the entire story about when the crash happened, how it happened, all that stuff. The insurance company doesn't really need to take a recorded statement from you to understand the basics of the crash.
And your medical records tell them all they would ever want to know about what your injuries are. It isn't really required that they take a recorded statement for that purpose either.
The primary and sometimes exclusive reason why they want to take a recorded statement from you before you have had an opportunity to consult with a lawyer is so that they commit you to a version of what happened and to try to limit what your injuries are. They also ask trick questions and "leading" questions used to lead you into answers which will hurt your case.
It is always a good idea to consult with an attorney before giving a recorded statement. Before a lawsuit is filed, I never let my clients give recorded statements because they are a waste of time that only benefit the insurance company and can only hurt injured people, not help them.
FOUR: Inconsistent medical treatment.
No one likes to go to the doctor. Going to the doctor stinks. It is no fun.
Even injured people don't like going to the doctor. Especially if you have to go to the doctor repeatedly, or going to the doctor is difficult because your car is in the shop and you have to take the bus or catch a ride with someone. It is very inconvenient.
Add to that the fact that when you don't feel good, you don't feel like leaving the house. If your car crash has prevented you from going to work, you may also be worried about being able to pay for the doctor's care.
So there are a million reasons why people don't like to go to the doctor. Or they will go to the doctor and have some appointments, but will miss others or reschedule others.
Unfortunately, inconsistent medical treatment is a powerful tool used by the insurance company to justify giving you a low settlement or no settlement.
And in front of a Jury, they will use that to argue that you weren't really hurt because you were not taking your medical treatment very seriously because you missed appointments, and rescheduled appointments, or terminated your treatment early altogether.
It is always a very good idea to keep all of your doctor's appointments after a crash to give yourself the best chance at recovery and a fair settlement.
FIVE: Not following doctor's orders.
You get one body in life. And your health and your decisions about your health are your, and yours alone.
Unfortunately, you open up your decisions regarding what medical procedures you are willing to undergo up to scrutiny after a car crash.
The insurance company, and ultimately, a Judge and Jury, will be asked to evaluate your case and your injuries. That includes deciding whether you are really hurt or really hurt to the extent that you claim.
Despite the fact that undergoing medical procedures or surgeries is always a very personal decision that really isn't anyone's business but yours, insurance companies and juries will Judge you.
If your doctor orders a surgery or an injection or a particular course of treatment and you refuse to follow the doctor's orders, I can promise you that the insurance company as well as the Jury will Judge you for it. The insurance company will try to argue that you didn't undergo the procedure or the surgery because you are exaggerating your claims of pain. And the Jury will wonder why you did not undergo the injection or the procedure. They will wonder "Doesn't he or she want to get better?"
I always tell my clients that they have to make the right decision for themselves with respect to what medical care they get and what medical care they refuse to get. But you have to enter into this thing with your eyes open.
Refusing medical procedures when you have big complaints of pain or disability after getting into a car accident is going to have an effect on your case.
After a car accident, you should decide on medical care based on what's best for your health, but you should also understand what those decisions could do to the prospects of you getting a full and fair recovery on your case.
I wish everyone knew these 5 things I just shared with you.
If they did, a heck of a lot of injured people would be doing better after a car crash, and a heck of a lot of insurance companies would be less rich because they'd be forced to pay people injured in a car crash more money.
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Car Accident and Property Damage: The Truth About Getting Your Car Fixed.
Questions about getting car damage fixed after a car crash is one of the most common things that injured people ask me in my law practice. This chapter is intended to answer the most common questions.
Lawyers and insurance companies call damage to your car after a car accident “property damage”.
ONE: Insurance companies have a separate insurance adjuster for property damage.
The first thing you have to realize is that if you are dealing with an insurance company, they assign separate adjusters for the injury part of the case and the property damage part of the case.
Even if you have a lawyer, it makes sense for you to contact the insurance company to arrange to have your car inspected and an estimate prepared. It makes sense for you to deal directly with the adjuster for that, and if they agree to repair your car, then great.
But what insurance company should fix your car?
Should you use your own insurance to fix your car, or use the other guy's insurance to fix your car?
There are several factors that go into these decisions.
Most of the people I talk to want the other guy's insurance to fix their car because, after all, they didn't cause the crash, so why should they have to pay their deductible for their insurance in order to fix their car?
There are a couple of situations where it makes sense to have your own insurance fix your car. Here are the reasons:
A. You have good car insurance and the defendant has NO insurance or low-end, bad insurance.
If you had insurance with a reputable insurance company and the other driver has bad or no insurance, believe me when I tell you that it makes sense for you to bite the bullet, pay your deductible, and have your car repaired by your own insurance company.
Even if your insurance company isn't great, they have an economic incentive to treat you better because you pay them premiums. Since you pay them money, they have some interest in trying to keep you happy.
I don't want to mislead you, though. If your insurance is with a "substandard" insurance company, you are likely to be in for a rough ride. Getting your property damage adjuster on the telephone, and getting them to arrange an appointment to get your car looked at will be very frustrating. You will also discover that they never want to pay the full price of the estimate. They make up all kinds of excuses.
Unfortunately, there's not a lot that can be done about that. You can complain to the Illinois Department of Insurance, but they have a very small staff and budget, and the complaints against substandard insurance are many. The state of Illinois simply does not have the manpower to investigate all the complaints against these crummy insurance companies.
So if you have good insurance, you might want to avoid the hassle and the phone calls and the waiting and the delay and just get your car fixed through your own insurance.
B. There is a question of who caused the crash.
It seems like it's pretty rare that both parties in an accident can agree as to who was at fault for the crash.
In my experience, it's much more likely for each side to blame the other, even in a situation where one person rear-ends the other, or one person runs a red light. Shockingly, people are still willing to argue that it wasn't their fault.
You and I have no control over what the other driver tells his insurance company. He or she may out-and-out lie to their own insurance company, or make up a story like you were speeding or something so that their insurance company comes to the conclusion that you were at fault completely or at least in part.
If the other insurance company believes that you are partially or fully responsible for the crash, they are not going to agree to fix your car. However, if you have full coverage insurance, your insurance company is legally required to fix your car.
So if there is a question, legitimate or not, as to whose fault the crash was, you should fix your car through your own insurance company.
TWO: Why getting an injury lawyer involved in your property damage claim is probably a bad idea.
Many people who call my office after a car crash want me to handle the property damage.
That is usually a bad idea. It isn't because I'm lazy or don't want to help people. The truth is, I do make phone calls and help people on property damage claims related to a car crash all the time.
But there are a couple of things you really need to know about the economics of property damage that make having a lawyer handle the property damage a bad idea sometimes.
A. Injury lawyers get paid hourly or on a percentage.
When I represent an injured person for their injuries, I only get paid if I win. And I get either 1/3 or 40%, depending on the case and the circumstances. That means the injured person doesn't pay me anything out of their pocket.
In a property damage claim, the economics are rarely such that allow me to represent somebody for property damage only or for the property damage in an injury case. As I said, I will often do it as a favor, but it doesn't actually make economic sense to do so.
After all, a lawyer either has to be paid out of your pocket if they represent you in a property damage case or they have to be paid a percentage of what we win.
Let me give you an example both ways so that you can see why having a lawyer represent you in property damage is not necessarily going to make economic sense for you.
Let's say you have $10,000 worth of car damage, and a lawyer agrees to represent you for property damage only. The insurance company will not pay. Most lawyers charge between $150 and $350 per hour. Litigating a property damage case can easily take 25, 50 or even 100 hours.
Do the math.
$200 per hour times 50 hours is $10,000.
It does not make sense to pay a lawyer $10,000 to recover $10,000.
You will win the case but get no money, and your car doesn't get fixed.
Let's look at it the other way.
Let's say the lawyer is handling the case on a percentage basis, let's say 1/3.
You have $10,000 worth of car damage but case costs are $2,000 and attorney's fees are 1/3 of $10,000 or $3,333.33.
That means out of the $10,000, you are paying a lawyer $5,333.33.
That leaves you with less than $5,000 to cover $10,000 in car repairs.
And in both of these scenarios, the cost estimate is conservative. In most car crash cases, we have to hire and pay an expert to testify regarding the damage estimate and the cost of repair. That can easily cost another $500 or $1,000 or even more
While it is frustrating dealing with a substandard insurance company in a property damage claim, or haggling over car rental and storage charges, it often does not make economic sense to hire a lawyer to handle a property damage claim for you.
B. The Quality of Your Insurance and Coverage Amount Matters Alot!
The sad reality is that when it comes to property damage, the quality of the involved insurance company has almost everything to do with how frustrated you are likely to be.
A good insurance company picks up the telephone and speaks with car accident claimants. They get a property damage adjuster to look at the car quickly, tow it to a repair facility, and they ensure that the car is repaired to a reasonable standard with quality parts.If any mechanical damage is later revealed to be related to the crash, they fix that, too. They will often give you a rental car as well
But if you are dealing with a crummy insurance company, you are in for a real frustration.
They ignore your calls, never call you back, and take forever to have your car estimated. Then, even if the estimate comes back at, say, $5,000 in repairs, they are likely to only offer you $2,000 or $3,000, knowing that you have limited or no recourse through the court system.
The insurance company knows that you're not going to be able to find a lawyer to represent you over a $2,000 or $3,000 dispute. They will know that you won't be able to afford to hire an expert to testify about the car damage in a dispute involving $2,000 or $3,000.
When it comes to property damage, you might be stuck with an unfair outcome if you are dealing with a substandard, crappy insurance company.
THREE: Gap insurance in car accident cases.
Everyone should have gap insurance if they finance a car. Period.
Gap insurance is special insurance you buy from the place that finances your car. It is insurance that pays the difference between what you owe on a car and its book value.
Here's how it works.
Let's say you buy a car for $10,000. That's what the car dealer charges you. The truth is, the minute you drive off that lot, that car is probably worth $8,000.
Is that fair? No. But it's the way the world works.
Let's say on your way home with your new car, an uninsured driver destroys your car in a head-on collision and then flees the scene. Your car is a complete and total loss.
Without gap insurance, the insurance company will step in and pay the value of the car, namely, $8,000. They are not obligated to pay the $10,000 you owe.
That means you end up owing $2,000 on a car you can't drive, for a car acccident that wasn't your fault.
How does the math with WITH Gap insurance?
With gap insurance, your insurance steps in and pays the $8,000 actual value of the car, and the gap insurance steps in and pays the difference or "gap" between what you owe on the car and what the car is worth.
Much better, right?
I talk to at least a dozen people every year who did not get gap insurance and end up with a wrecked car and yet still owe a car payment.
That's why I tell everyone to get gap insurance to protect them if they are involved in a car crash.
Get the best insurance company you can afford, get full coverage on your car, and always buy GAP Insurance if you finance a car.
FOUR: The property damage claim cheat sheet.
I know all of this can get complicated quickly. It took me YEARS as a lawyer to kind of figure all of this out and know how it all works and what is th ebst road to take if a client calls me after getting into a car accident.
So, I have created a property damage claim cheat sheet that summarizes and provides lots of good information when you are deciding who you should make your property damage claim with and what you can expect.
This is a pretty complex topic, and of course there are exceptions and special circumstances. But the property damage claim cheat sheet, pictured below, is a nice summary for you which explains how all of it works. I have also included a link below where you can download a PDF document which summarizes all of this.
So if your head is spinning a little bit, take a look at the “Property Damage Sheat Sheet” below. I hope it will help you know what your next step is.
Use the "Property Damage Cheat Sheet" to figure out your situation!
You can download a PDF copy for free here.
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DO YOU Have A Good Injury Case?Introducing
The "Car Accident Injury Score Card"
The two most common questions people ask me when they call my office after getting into a car crash is "Do I have a good case?" or "What is my case worth?"
It's pretty natural.
People are worried about having a case or claim and they want to know whether they are likely to be treated fairly and get fair compensation for their injuries or whether they will get their hopes up and end up with nothing.
So I put together the criteria that I use in my office to determine whether somebody's likely to have a good case or a bad case after being involved in a car accident.
This way, you will be able to evaluate your case using some of the same crriteria lawyers use to find out whether a case is good or…shall we say…has some challenges…
Factor One: What Kind of Motor Vehicle Crash Was It?
It is important first for us to know whether the car crash was a car accident or a crash involving a truck, motorcycle, bicycle or pedestrian.
It's important to know because pedestrian versus car, bicycle versus car and motorcycle versus car crashes almost always have more serious injuries. Motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians have far less protection from being hit by a car or truck than another car or a truck does.
Also, whether you are walking or riding a bicycle or operating a motor vehicle can have consequences for evaluating liability in the case, because drivers of motor vehicles often are required by law to yield to people on foot or riding a bicycle. So that's the first factor.
Factor Two: What Are the Details of the Crash?
Most of the motor vehicle crashes can be broken down into the following types of crashes.
- Rear-end collision
- Other driver disobeys a traffic sign or traffic light or stop sign
- Other driver turns left in front of our vehicle
- Other driver crosses the center line or dips into our lane causing a crash
- Other driver exits a private driveway or parking lot causing a "T-bone" type car crash
This is important to know because as we discussed in the liability section of this Ultimate Guide above, it's important for us to know what rules of the road the defendant broke in order to make a strong liability case.
So, for example, if you are rear-ended while stopped at a red light, that is a very strong liability case.
On the other hand, if the defendant dipped into your lane and side-swiped your car, that is the kind of case that the other driver can turn into a "he said, she said” kind of case because in those lane change kinds of cases both drivers almost always blame one another. So that sort of crash can result in contested liability. And as we discussed previously contested liability makes for a more difficult case.
Factor Three: Does the Other Driver Work For A Big Company Or Do They Have Good Auto Insurance With High Policy Limits?
Once we have a pretty good indication that the other guy who caused the crash is really at fault and will be held responsible, or so we believe, if we have to go to court, the next question is whether there is insurance or a big company who can pay a judgment or settlement.
That's why we need to know whether a company truck hit you or a private citizen's truck hit you, and whether that private citizen has good insurance, bad insurance, or no insurance. Obviously, a McDonald's truck, a Coca-Cola truck has plenty of insurance and even if they didn't, Coca-Cola is a multi-billion dollar company and can afford to pay any settlement or verdict we are likely to get.
On the other hand, if you are hit by a truck and the truck is an old, beaten-up truck and the police report indicates that there is no insurance, we are unlikely to be able to get you money from a person who doesn't have any money and doesn't have any insurance.
There is insurance coverage called uninsured motorist coverage which you can buy on your insurance policy which will cover you in these circumstances. So it's also important to know whether you have good insurance and what your insurance limits are.
Remember, always buy full coverage insurance from a reputable company, including Uninsured Motorist Coverage and GAP Insurance if you finance your car.
Obviously, if the other driver is with a big company or has good insurance, that makes your case stronger. If the details of the crash support that you have good liability in your case, then your case is better.
Factor Five: Do You Have A Good, Qualified Lawyer?
There's three categories of lawyers you do not want to work on your case.
The first category of lawyer is the "I do it all" kind of lawyer.
This is the kind of lawyer whose website advertises real estate, criminal law, wills and trusts, and personal injury. Over the years, personal injury law has become more specialized and detailed. You are better off dealing with a lawyer who sort of zooms in on injury law and concentrates their practice in that area. There is so much detail in every area of law at this point that it is probably impossible and at least very very difficult for a lawyer to practice in many different areas and still be top notch.
The second kind of lawyer you don't want to hire is what I call a "TV lawyer".
A lot of these guys don't even really practice law in Illinois. Many of them are out-of-state lawyers or trust fund kids or people who come from wealthy families and come into the market and dominate all the billboards and televisions. They spend millions of dollars in advertising. I have to admit, some of their commercials are really good.
But whether their commercials are good or not good, none of the guys you see on the commercial ever go to court. Literally, you will never see one of those guys at the courthouse taking a real case to trial.
The third kind of lawyer you definitely don't want is the lawyer who also represents insurance companies or does insurance defense work or who has done insurance defense work most or all of their career.
I know at least a dozen lawyers like this. They mainly do defense but they occasionally handle a case for an injured person. They still feel loyalty to insurance companies, not injured people.
Why do you want a guy who has dedicated his career to saving insurance companies money by screwing injured people out of their fair compensation?
Why do you want to hire somebody like that to help you in your case? Their sympathies will never be with you. You are just a way for them to make extra money.
Or, they got fired from their defense job and now have no other choice but to "hang out their shingle" and open up a law office. Then, they take any case they can, including representing injured people after a car accident.
I know several of these kinds of guys too. Several of them have tried to become plaintiff lawyers representing injured people. None of them can win a trial, because representing injured people in this Court system stacked against the little guy and in favor of insurance companies is 10 times harder than representing insurance companies and beating up on injured people and their cases.
Defense lawyers think they are the greatest lawyers in the world by repeating the same dirty tricks when they work for insurance companies. But when they try those dirty tricks representing injured people, it doesn't work. It does not motivate a Jury to pay money. In my opinion, these lawyers have been poisoned in a way that it is not easy to overcome, and people sense it. They sense that way deep down, these lawyers don't really care about the client, and only see a payday.
I'm not going to lie, I hate it when I see a nice person with a legitimate injury case being represented by an attorney who currently or used to represent a substandard insurance company. It drives me nuts.
Having a good, qualified attorney who you like, who communicates with you, and focuses his or her law practice on representing injured people is the best way to make your case as strong as possible and increase your chances of a good outcome for you.
Factor Six: The Nature and Extent of Injuries Suffered In The Car Accident.
This criteria is pretty simple. It is subject, however, to the skill of the person presenting your damages to a Judge, insurance company and/or Jury.
You already know the general rule: the bigger the injury, the more the case is generally worth.
That means if you have a truly horrible situation of a death in the family or paralysis or partial paralysis, then you have what anyone could consider a strong, big case.
Cases with major surgery or tears to a rotator cuff or knee meniscus or ligaments or discs in the spine can be considered injuries with irrefutable uncontestable objective findings. These kinds of cases are very strong.
Even cases involving scarring or bruising, if you get photos of those injuries can be worth some money in the hands of a skilled attorney. Many car crash cases are of the "strain/sprain" or whiplash variety, and in the hands of a skilled attorney, they can be maximized and pushed to their full value, but cases like this are rarely ever going to be as big or considered as "good" as a death case or a serious surgery kind of case.
So as you can see, the bigger injury, the bigger the case.
Factor Six: Age of the Injury, How Long Ago Did Your Car Accident Happen?
Any lawyer worth his or her salt will want to know when your car accident happened.
That's because there are deadlines in injury cases.
In Illinois, the deadline to file a lawsuit on a case if it can't be settled is usually two years after the date of the crash. If the crash involves a city or state vehicle, the deadline is probably one year from the date of the crash, because governments get special protection under the law when they cause injury to people.
The other thing to consider is most lawyers want to handle a case right at the beginning so that they can make sure that evidence gets assembled and the case gets put together the right way, right from the beginning.
So, treating your case as if it's going to trial and will have to be proven right from the beginning is a good idea. The only way for that to happen is to come to that realization and/or hire an attorney as close to the date of your car accident as possible.
So in other words, if you start thinking and understanding that you are in a war to protect the value of your case from day one your case is probably going to end up much stronger than if you start realizing that the insurance company has been out to screw you since day one, and you only come to that realization after a year has gone by.
And obviously, if you get serious about your case three years after the case, it is very possible that your deadline or "statute of limitations" has passed already. In that case, you may very well be out of luck.
I will warn you though, there are tons of exceptions and ways to extend statute of limitations on cases.
So if you are worried about a deadline on your case, definitely consult with a lawyer. Consulting with injury lawyers is usually free. Almost all injury lawyers offer a free consultation.
These criteria are the same criteria I use in my office to evaluate whether a case is a good case or a case with lots of problems. I know that it is a lot of information and difficult to process.
Do you want an EASY way to know whether you have a good case or a bad case?
Almost everyone does. It literally is the number one question people ask when they call me for a free consultation. But sometimes you aren't ready to talk to a lawyer or you don't have the time for a free consultation.
That's why I have developed the “Car Accident Injury Scorecard”.
Why Is It All Blurry?
It is brand new, and only available here. No one else offers this. No other lawyers, no other law firms in the world.
I do not want to give this very valuable tool to the insurance companies, insurance defense lawyers...or other injury lawyers...
But for injured people, I am giving it away for free.
Here's What You Have To Know...
- The "Car Accident Injury Scorecard" Gives You A Step By Step Way To Get An Initial Answer to "Is My Case Good?"
- This isn't available ANYWHERE ELSE -- this is a WORLD EXCLUSIVE. No one else makes this tool available to injured people.
- It Takes 23 Seconds To Fill Out and Get An Answer.
- It is FREE to YOU (and all injured people) but NOT AVAILABLE TO INSURANCE COMPANIES or LAWYERS.
- Downloading and using it doesn't make me your lawyer -- you have to hire me -- and it is not legal advice. Get a free consultation if you have questions about your situation. Call me at 1-888 HURT-318 (1-888-487-8318) for a free consultation.
- You have TWO (2) Easy Options to score it...
- You can score it yourself.
- Or, you can fill it out and my office can score it for you. Just take a picture of the filled out form with your cell phone and TEXT IT to 312-895-0545 or email a picture taken with your cell phone of the filled out form to [email protected] and my office will score it for you.
Download Your FREE
"Car Accident Injury Scorecard"
Congratulations! You Finished The Ultimate Guide!
Thanks for making it all the way through.
I truly hope this information helps you if you or a loved one is ever involved in a car crash or any kind of motorcycle, car, truck, or other motor vehicle crash.
What If I Still Have Questions?
Of course, if you have any questions, or you need to reach a lawyer, please feel free to call or email my office at [email protected] or 312-500-4500.
You can ask a question or give me feedback on the Ultimate Guide, or you can talk to me about taking your case.
No matter what, it is always free to call, and no obligation.
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