One question that we ask of virtually all potential clients who contact our office for representation is if you know whether the person that was responsible for your accident had liability insurance. This strikes many potential clients as strange, but it is one of the crucial questions that we need to answer at the outset of any personal injury case.
Our goal in every case is to provide our client with the maximum amount of compensation for the injuries that they suffered in the accident. As a result of the personal injury suits that we file, we hold wrongdoers accountable for their actions and sometimes change the way that companies do business so as to prevent future accidents, but the main thing that we are trying to accomplish to is obtain compensation for our clients for their medical bills, their lost wages, pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, and other damages.
Every case that we handle results in medical expenses, often tens of thousands of dollars and sometimes in excess of one hundred thousand dollars. Even where the client has health insurance or other health care coverage, most insurers pay medical expenses contingent upon being reimbursed the money that they have spent. Further, even though we work on a contingency fee basis, the case must still generate enough money to cover the fees and case file expenses. Therefore, if the personal injury suit is going to provide significant economic benefits to the client — the main reason that we accept cases — there needs to be a source available that is going to have the financial resources to pay a judgment or settlement that is large enough to cover the medical expenses, the fees and case file expenses, and still provide significant economic benefits to the client.
For most cases, the source of the money to fund the settlement is through liability insurance. Most individuals, and many small businesses, simply do not have the financial resources to pay a judgment or settlement out of pocket. Therefore, in every personal injury case, the availability of liability insurance is an issue which must be addressed at the outset. There are some situations where that is not a serious concern, such as when we are dealing with an Illinois construction accident where the financing for the project would not go ahead without adequate liability insurance or a Chicago trucking accident, where there are minimum insurance requirements for trucking companies. In some cases where there are large institutional defendants, the availability of insurance is also not a concern. However, for the vast majority of cases, it is a question that must be answered.
When there is insurance coverage, the insurance company has the right and duty to defend the case. This means that they get to select the lawyers who will handle the defense. They also get to make decisions about whether a settlement offer will be made and if so, for how much. The identity of the insurance carrier and the amount of insurance coverage available often makes a huge impact in how and when the case is resolved.
Where there is no liability insurance coverage, unless we are dealing with a person or entity that has the resources to pay a settlement or judgment, there is often nothing that we can do to help. The only real exception to this is where you are in an Illinois car accident and that other driver has no insurance in violation of the Illinois mandatory auto insurance law (and there are increasing numbers of uninsured drivers in Illinois or going without adequate insurance in Illinois), in which case you can make an Illinois uninsured motorist claim through your own insurance policy, assuming that you or a family member carried uninsured motorist coverage on your vehicle at the time of the accident. Otherwise, there is not likely to be any money to compensate the victim of the accident.
The same holds true when your injuries are the result of an intentional act, such as an assault. Almost all insurance policies exclude intentional acts from coverage. When the injuries you suffer are due to an intentional act, there is likely to be no insurance coverage, and this is something that we would not be able to assist you with.