Three Critical Disputes In Illinois Auto Accident Cases

In an auto accident case, there are three central questions:

  • Can you prove the driver of the other vehicle was at fault?
  • Can the other driver prove you were at least partly at fault?
  • What injuries can you prove from the auto accident?

At first glance, these three questions may appear quite simple. However, you may be amazed how complicated they can become when the other driver’s insurance company begins to mount a defense. Indeed, since you have the burden of proof, the outcome of your case is not based on what happened, but what you can prove happened. This article examines each of the three critical disputes in Illinois that can make or break your auto accident case and all three require proof.

Establishing Fault – Proving Negligence

To recover in an auto accident case , you must prove the driver(s) of the other vehicle(s) was at fault. In Illinois, fault is generally established by proving the other driver was negligent. Negligence is the failure to exercise reasonable care; that is, the care a reasonable person would have exercised under the same or similar circumstances. In Illinois, a driver’s failure to follow the rules of the road can be used to prove negligence.

Common examples of negligent driving include:
  • Failing to keep a proper lookout
  • Distraction while on a cell phone or eating food
  • Speeding or traveling to fast for conditions
  • Tailgating
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

However, simply proving the other driver was negligent is not enough. You must prove the other driver’s negligence caused or contributed to the accident. Thus, even if the other driver was given a ticket for speeding and pled guilty, you must still prove that driver’s speeding was a cause of the motor vehicle accident. After all, the other driver may argue a third vehicle cut in front of him, causing him to lose control and crash into your vehicle. For these and other reasons, a thorough understanding of the law surrounding auto accident cases in Illinois, including how to anticipate and defeat common defenses, is critical to successfully proving the first contention of your case—the fault of the other driver.

Were You At Least Partially At Fault – Comparative Negligence

Assume you have proven the other driver was negligent and their negligence contributed to the accident. Unfortunately, you still may recover nothing in Illinois. In most cases, the other driver (through their insurance company or insurance company attorney) will argue you were at fault for the accident. For example, even if you were rear ended from behind on the highway, the other driver may argue you came to a “sudden stop.” The sudden stop defense is a common defense in rear end accidents. These and other defenses may be pivotal to your case given Illinois’ comparative negligence law, as described below.

Under comparative negligence, you cannot recover under Illinois negligence law if you were 51% or more at fault for the accident. If the defendant proves you were less 50% or less at fault, your recovery will be reduced by the percentage of your fault. For example, if the jury returns a verdict in your favor for $100,000, but finds you were 40% at fault, your ultimate recovery will be reduced to $60,000. Because of comparative negligence, the insurance company attorney for the defendant will usually fight very hard to prove you were at least partially at fault. Your ability to refute these arguments can mean the difference between recovering nothing and recovering everything.

Your Damages

If you can prove one or more persons were at fault, and you were less than 51% at fault, you must still prove your injuries and damages. Aside from property damage, you may be entitled to one or more of the following types of damages in an auto accident case:

Personal Injuries: Pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, and emotional distress suffered (and if applicable, reasonably likely to suffer in the future).

Medical Expenses: Past medical bills incurred from the accident (and, if applicable, the amount reasonably anticipated in the future).

Lost Wages: The amount of wages or earning capacity lost as result of the accident (and, if applicable, the amount reasonably anticipated in the future).

Pain and suffering is the category of damages that is used to describe the physical pain and mental suffering that resulted from the auto accident. Pain and suffering is generally established through medical evidence based on the nature, extent and duration of your injuries. Medical evidence is proven through the medical records and, in many instances, medical testimony. Often times, one or more of your treating physicians can be used to prove your injuries. Occasionally, a retained expert is necessary and justified.

Disability represents your inability to do something you used to be able to do, which you cannot do as well, or which is no longer as enjoyable because of the injuries you sustained. Disfigurement is an element of damages that generally involves scarring, but may also involve the loss of a limb or eye. Emotional distress from an auto accident often manifests in post traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD) but can include other psychiatric conditions. Finally, lost wages may be recovered in an auto accident case and are generally proven through employment and tax records.

Choosing A Personal Injury Lawyer For Auto Accident Case

There is no guarantee an insurance company will provide you a fair settlement. Filing suit may be required. Regardless, you can take steps to increase your chances of a full recovery. Selecting a smart, hardworking, and skillful personal injury attorney can maximize your recovery. Chicago trial attorney Jason M. Kroot has recovered over 25 million dollars in settlements and verdicts for our clients, while providing the highest degree of personal service. If you or a loved one has suffered serious personal injury or death from an auto accident, contact Kroot Law, LLC, for a free consultation.

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