By Adam B. Lawler | May 12, 2022

​Can I Sue After a Car Accident?

​Can I Sue After a Car Accident?

A study conducted by the U.S. Justice Department found that 60 percent of personal injury cases involve car crash injuries. You can sue after a car crash, and many hundreds of thousands of people do just that every year. Here is some information about when to file a lawsuit after a car crash and what you need to prove to win.

Do I Need to File a Lawsuit to Get Injury Compensation?

No, you probably will not need to file a lawsuit to get compensation for your car crash injuries. Illinois uses a fault-based car insurance system. Every registered car owner in the state must carry insurance with bodily injury liability (BIL) coverage and property damage liability (PDL) coverage. After a car crash, the person who caused that crash will bear liability for all resulting property damage and bodily injuries. Instead of filing a lawsuit, you will file an insurance claim with the at-fault driver’s insurer. The insurance company will assign an adjuster to your claim. The adjuster will:
  • Investigate your accident
  • Review your losses
  • Accept or deny your claim
  • Offer a settlement if the insurer accepts the claim
If you prove their policyholder negligently caused the crash, Illinois law requires the insurer to make a good faith attempt to offer a prompt, fair, and equitable settlement.

The Role of the Personal Injury Lawyer in Insurance Claims

This does not always mean accident victims receive fair settlement offers. Insurers have a financial incentive to deny or reduce claims. The insurer knows that you need money to pay for your medical treatment and living expenses. The insurer also knows that your injuries might prevent you from working. As a result, the adjuster may use your desperation to push you into an unfair settlement. The insurer may deny your claim. Or it might reduce your claim by refusing to pay for some of your expenses. Some grounds an insurer might use to refuse to settle your claim on fair terms include:
  • The policyholder did not cause the crash
  • The policyholder was not negligent
  • You contributed to the cause of the crash
  • The crash did not cause your injuries
  • You exaggerated or faked your injuries
  • You worsened your injuries through inaction or returning to work too soon
  • Your treatment was not necessary
  • You overpaid for your treatment
Before filing your insurance claim, you should consider speaking to a personal injury attorney. An attorney has the experience of preparing a claim that is less likely to get denied or reduced. An attorney can also respond to a claim denial or reduction with additional documents or legal arguments. When the insurance company offers a low settlement, an injury lawyer has the experience to negotiate for a fair settlement. And if you cannot settle the case, a lawyer can prepare and file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver and the insurer.

What Do I Need to Prove to Win a Car Crash Lawsuit?

If you cannot settle your claim with an insurer or the driver lacks insurance, you may need to file a lawsuit to recover injury compensation. Every driver owes a legal duty to other road users to exercise reasonable care while driving. A driver who intentionally or negligently injures motorists, pedestrians, or bicyclists will bear liability for those injuries. When the driver has auto insurance, the insurance policy requires the insurer to pay any liabilities created while driving. If the driver negligently causes a car crash, the insurer must pay the driver’s liabilities up to the policy limits. Suppose that you suffer $40,000 in losses due to your car crash injuries. The minimum policy in Illinois includes $25,000 in BIL coverage. If you win a lawsuit, the insurer pays $25,000, and the at-fault driver pays $15,000 of your damages. Your car crash attorney has two tasks to get injury compensation for you:

Proving Negligence

Negligence has four elements. Your lawyer must prove all four elements to win a car crash lawsuit. The elements include:
  • Duty
  • Breach
  • Causation
  • Damages
All drivers owe a duty of care to other road users. A driver breaches this by driving in a way that creates an unreasonable risk to others. Some examples of a breach include:
  • Speeding
  • Tailgating
  • Failing to yield
  • Distracted driving
  • Intoxicated driving
In many cases, the police crash report will help you prove liability. If the investigating officer issued a traffic citation to the other driver, you could use this as evidence that the other driver was at fault for the crash. Even if the other driver did not get a ticket, you could still use witness testimony and physical evidence, like skid marks, to prove the other driver acted negligently. The other driver's actions must cause your injuries. This means the breach must fall within the events that ended with your injury. Most car crashes have a clear causal link between the negligent act and your injuries. You can also get compensation for unusual accidents if you trace the cause back to a negligent act. Suppose that a distracted driver hit a utility pole. The utility pole fell into the road an instant before you collided with it. Even though you did not crash into the other driver’s car, the other driver still caused your crash.

Proving Damages

You must prove your damages to establish negligence and show the jury what it must award for a fair outcome. Your damages will include your economic and non-economic losses. Economic losses cover tangible financial costs, including:
  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Loss of income or earnings
  • Property losses
Non-economic losses cover anything that reduces your quality of life, including:
  • Physical pain
  • Mental suffering
  • Disability
  • Disfigurement
  • Loss of consortium
  • Inability to perform tasks or participate in activities
You will often prove your damages with medical records that show the severity and duration of your injuries. More severe injuries will require more treatment and have a greater impact on your ability to work and enjoyment of life. Similarly, permanent injuries will cost more to treat and cause long-term disabilities. Car crash lawsuits often require a lawyer to analyze whether the other driver acted negligently. A lawyer must also evaluate your potential damages to determine whether you will recover enough compensation to justify a car crash lawsuit. Call a car crash lawyer and schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.

Adam B. Lawler

Attorney at Law / Partner

Adam Lawler is the founder of Lawler Brown. Adam is a 2004 graduate of Saint Louis University School of Law. Adam worked for a local firm until founding the Lawler Brown in 2009. Adam’s practice areas focus in Personal Injury, Business, Real Estate, Probate/Trust/Estate Administration and general litigation.

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