By Adam B. Lawler | June 3, 2022

​Who Pays When You Sue in a Car Accident?

​Who Pays When You Sue in a Car Accident?

Illinois uses an at-fault system of car insurance. After an accident, the at-fault driver bears liability for every injured person’s damages. These damages include the economic and non-economic losses resulting from the injuries. They can include losses like your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. But who pays for these losses? Read on to learn who pays your losses when you sue in a car accident.

Car Accident Liability

Car crashes happen for many reasons. Road or weather conditions can cause you to lose control over your vehicle. Mechanical failures can send you into oncoming traffic. Another driver can hit you while reading a text instead of watching the road. Sometimes you get into an unavoidable accident. The accident happened even though everyone did everything correctly. In these cases, you have no liability claim against anyone even if you got injured. For example, suppose someone traveling at a reasonable speed slides through an intersection on icy roads during snow and bumps your car. There might have been nothing that anyone, from the city snowplows to the other driver, could have done to prevent the accident.

Negligence in Car Accident Cases

If your accident happened due to someone else’s fault, you may have a negligence claim. Negligence happens when:
  • Someone owed you a duty of ordinary care
  • They breached that legal duty
  • You suffered damages
  • The breach caused your damages
When this happens, your car crash lawyer can sue the negligent party. Car accidents can result from negligent driving by many entities, including:
  • Drivers
  • Businesses, through their employees
  • Governments, through their workers
Negligence can also arise from improperly performed work by a repair shop, unsecured loads by a trucking company, or even poorly designed parking garages and roadways.

Strict Liability in Car Accident Cases

Product manufacturers bear strict liability for product defects. If a manufacturer sends a defective car into the stream of commerce, it must pay for any damages that result from that defect. Suppose your car had defective brakes when it left the manufacturer due to a design flaw that caused the power brakes to lose pressure. If you got into an accident because your brakes lost pressure and you could not stop at an intersection, your car accident lawyer can sue the auto manufacturer.

Liability Insurance

Understanding which party bears liability for a car accident only answers part of the question. Most people and businesses have liability insurance. Liability insurers pay damages on behalf of the insured party for accidents that fall within the scope of the liability policy. Liability policies include a policy limit. The liability insurance will pay damages up to this limit, and any damages above the limit will fall on the liable party. If your car crash lawyer sues a delivery company and you win, the insurer will pay your entire damage award if it falls below the policy limits. If your damage award exceeds the policy limits, the liable party must pay the difference. For example, if the liability policy has a $50,000 policy limit and you win a $75,000 damage award, the insurer pays $50,000 and the liable party pays $25,000.

Car Insurance

Illinois requires all car owners to carry car insurance. The state requires all car insurance policies to include $25,000 per person up to $50,000 per accident of bodily injury liability (BIL) coverage. If the driver causes an accident that injures one person, the insurer will cover up to $25,000 in damages for the accident victim. If the driver injures multiple people, the insurer will pay up to $50,000 for the accident victims to share.

Business Liability Insurance

Businesses often carry insurance for liabilities incurred by their employees. For example, a business might have both commercial auto insurance and business liability insurance policies to cover accidents caused by its delivery drivers.

Product Liability Insurance

Some manufacturers carry product liability insurance. If the manufacturer’s products injure someone, the insurer will pay for the damages. This policy will usually cover both customers and non-customers injured by the product. Thus, if another driver’s brakes fail and the driver hits your car, both of you might have a product liability claim against the manufacturer.

Who Pays When You Sue in a Car Accident?

When you file a lawsuit for a car accident, your car accident lawyer will name all of the parties with liability for the accident. This will likely include the other driver, but it could also include the car manufacturer, the other driver's employer, or other entities based on the facts of your accident. After they receive the lawsuit, those parties will inform their insurers. Those insurers will usually join the case as a necessary party. They will also provide a defense for the policyholder. Through the course of your case, your car crash lawyer will try to negotiate a settlement with the insurer. The insurer must indemnify the policyholder up to the policy limits, so it has an incentive to try to dispose of the case if you can prove your case. If you cannot settle, the case will go to trial. At trial, your car accident lawyer will present evidence of the at-fault party’s liability and the damages you suffered. The insurance company’s lawyer will present evidence that its policyholder does not bear liability for your injuries. At the close of evidence, your case will go to a jury or judge, depending on whether you requested a jury trial. The jury or judge will return a verdict. If you receive a damage award for less than the policy limit, the insurer will pay the whole amount. If you receive a damage award above the policy limit, the insurer will pay the policy limit and the at-fault party will pay the rest.

Collecting Your Judgment

Insurers will usually send you a check within 30 days after the judgment. But if the insurer appeals the verdict, it can hold your payment until an appeals court reviews the decision. Most people and businesses do not keep cash on hand to pay judgments. You might need to garnish wages and attach assets and bank accounts to satisfy your judgment. Alternatively, you might negotiate a settlement with the at-fault party to get what you can without spending additional money trying to collect your judgment. To discuss what you can seek for your car accident in a lawsuit, call a lawyer for your free consultation.

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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