When you or a family member are the victim of a serious Illinois auto accident, you should hire an experienced Illinois car accident attorney. The medical expenses, lost wages, and future, long-term consequences of a serious injury from an Illinois accident may be the basis of an Illinois car accident suit. However, the Illinois mandatory minimum amount of liability insurance is $20,000, which does not go very far after a serious car accident. In order to make sure that you are compensated as fully as possible, you owe your family a thorough investigation to ensure that all of the potential sources of compensation are identified. As experienced Chicago personal injury lawyers, we investigate the following issues in every car accident suit involving wrongful death or serious injuries:
- Was drinking and driving was involved? If so, that could expose the at-fault driver to liability for punitive damages, which increases the pressure on his or her auto liability insurance carrier to make a reasonable settlement offer. As important, where the at-fault driver became intoxicated at a bar, restaurant, or other licensed liquor establishment, the seller may be liable under the Illinois Dram Shop Act. Further, if the drunk driver was a minor, there is liability on the part of the persons who provided liquor to the minor. Being able to identify a dram shop or person who provided liquor to a minor allows the injured parties to reach additional insurance policies which serfve as sources of compensation for the death or injuries.
- Can we identify who owned the vehicle? In Illinois, the law is that the insurance policy follows the vehicle. This means that any permitted driver of the vehicle is covered by the insurance which was purchased for that vehicle. In cases where the at-fault driver was operating a company vehicle, it does not matter whether the at-fault driver was doing something for the business (in fact, they do not even need to be an employee of the company), you will still be able to reach the insurance for the business that owned the vehicle.
- Does respondeat superior apply? The legal doctrine of respondeat superior holds employers liable for the negligence of their employees, even when they are driving their personal vehicles. We handled a case where an machinist was making a service call for work in a personal vehicle when he was involved in an accident. Four our client, the difference was that she was not limited to the $50,000 of insurance held by the employee and could reach the $1 million in coverage held by his employer. This greatly increased the settlement our client received. In serious car accident cases, as a condition of settlement, we require the at-fault driver to provide us with an affidavit establishing that they were not doing anything employment-related when the accident happened.
- Is there a basis for an automotive product liability suit? Many serious injuries are caused by failures of the vehicle itself. Where there are truly catastrophic injuries or death and the remains of the vehicle still exist, it may be worth considering an automotive product liability suit based on defects in the design or manufacture of the vehicle.
- Did defective repair work cause the crash? If so, there may be liability for the mechanic or repair shop. We handled a case where the client suffered a brain injury in a car accident caused by the wheel coming off another vehicle. Had this avenue not been explored, our client’s recovery would have been limited to the $25,000 in liability coverage from the other driver, while the repair shop carried significant coverage. This made a significant difference in the settlement received by our injured client.
- Can you make an underinsured motorist claim? The difference between uninsured motorist claims and underinsured motorist claims differ is that with an underinsured motorist claim, the at-fault driver has some coverage (but not enough) instead of none. It is critical that all possible insurance policies be identified to ensure proper compensation. Underinsured motorist claim can be quite complex, so you should hire an experienced Illinois personal injury lawyer to assist you.
- Can you make an Illinois uninsured motorist claim? The worst drivers often carry no liability insurance at all. When the other driver carries no liability insurance, you are entitled to make an uninsured motorist claim on your own auto insurance policy, assuming you carry uninsured motorist coverage. Other policies besides yours may provide coverage, so this is carefully reviewed in cases with serious injuries or wrongful death. Also, Illinois law deems hit-and-run drivers as uninsured motorists.
- What other insurance is there? Sometimes, other insurance policies which provide additional layers of coverage are purchased. Known as umbrella policies, their existence is not always voluntarily disclosed by insurers. Where there is umbrella coverage, this provides significant additional insurance coverage to benefit the injured party. We also require an affidavit from the defendant that there was no additional insurance coverage before entering into a settlement agreement.
With many car accidents involving wrongful death or serious personal injury, there is more than meets the eye, and obtaining the services of a lawyer who knows the right questions to ask to identify all possible sources of compensation is key to making as full of a recovery as possible.