Illinois Car Accident Claims
If you are involved in a car accident and wish to file a claim
against the person you believe responsible for the incident in
an Illinois court, you should make yourself aware of the basic
laws the State of Illinois employs in determining liability and
awarding damages to plaintiffs.
Every individual operating a motor vehicle within Illinois
has a duty to exercise reasonable care in the operation of that
motor vehicle. The burden of reasonable care makes drivers accountable
for acts which they knew would likely result in personal or property
injury and for acts which they should have known would likely
result in personal or property injury. Illinois state law identifies
a driver's failure to use reasonable care as negligence. Negligence
represents the first requirement for a successful lawsuit.
Once you have established the negligence of a party, you must
show that their negligence caused the accident that resulted
in your lawsuit. "Causation," in a legal sense, can
be a complex issue, but suffice it to say that if the negligence
of the party resulted in the injury to person or property for
which you have sued, causation exists.
Finally, in order to maintain a suit as the result of an automobile
accident, you must prove that you have suffered damages. Damages
include economic injury, such as lost income or wages, medical
and funeral expenses, lost support and services, and replacement
value or repair costs of personal property damaged in the accident.
In addition, damages may include non-economic injuries such pain,
suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience as a result of bodily
injury that result from the accident.
A court may reduce your damages, if the defendant can establish
that actions on your part contributed to the accident. This principle,
known as "comparative negligence," holds that a court
can reduce your damage award by the percentage for which a jury
found you responsible for the accident. For example, if you establish
damages in the amount of $10,000, but the jury finds that your
negligence constituted twenty percent of the reason the accident
occurred, then your damage award would be reduced by twenty percent,
Illinois law also allows the reduction of damage awards by
any amounts you might have received from public or private insurance
to compensate you for your losses. Under this rule, known as
the "Collateral Source Rule," if you received $1,000
from your auto insurer to cover your medical expenses after an
accident, a court may reduce your damage award, if it includes
medical expenses, by $1,000.
STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
You should note that Illinois law requires a plaintiff to
file suit within a specified period of time, depending on the
type of claim the plaintiff makes. For claims concerning personal
injury, seeking compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering,
and lost wages, Illinois law specifies a two year statute of
limitation. Regarding claims of property damage, such as damage
to the plaintiff's automobile, or other property, Illinois specifies
a five year statute of limitations. This means that for personal
injury claims, you may only file your suit within two years from
the date of the accident and for property claims within five
years from the date of the accident. Illinois law prohibits any
suit filed after the expiration of the statute of limitations.
If you think that you might have a claim against another party
as the result of a car accident, you should consult a qualified
attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your suit is filed
within the applicable statute of limitations.
PARTIES YOU CAN SUE
Illinois law allows you to sue not only the operator of the
vehicle but also the employer of the operator of the vehicle,
if the operator was acting in his capacity as an employee. In
cases where the owner of the vehicle was not the operator, you
may also be able to sue the owner in addition to suing the operator.
In order to sue the owner, however, you must establish that the
owner was a passenger at the time of the accident, or that the
operator acted as an agent of the owner during the time in which
the accident occurred. Illinois law also holds owners liable
if the plaintiff establishes that the owner knew or should have
known that the person the owner allowed to operate the vehicle
was a reckless, incompetent, or inexperienced driver.
Illinois law mandates a certain minimum automobile liability
insurance coverage for all automobiles registered in the state.
Depending on the terms of the individual policy, liability insurance
typically covers the cost of property damage, including the cost
of repair or replacement for any property damaged as the result
of an accident. Liability insurance also pays medical bills and
lost wages as a result of bodily injuries incurred in an accident.
Illinois law requires that each car registered in the state
have a minimum of $20,000 in insurance coverage for one person
injured in an accident, and a minimum of $40,000 for all persons
injured in an accident. In addition, Florida requires a minimum
$15,000 in coverage for property damage. Illinois law also mandates
$10,000 in coverage for when you are involved in an accident
with an uninsured, underinsured, or hit-and-run driver.
Beyond this compulsory insurance, you may wish to purchase
additional insurance coverage. As the owner of an automobile,
a court may hold you personally liable for any damages in excess
of your insurance coverage for any accident your vehicle caused
through negligent operation. Purchasing additional coverage could
protect your personal assets in case of a suit.
Basic Reparations or Medical Payments Coverage, Collision
Coverage, and Comprehensive Coverage are three types of additional,
optional insurance coverage. Basic Reparations Coverage covers
bodily injury and medical expenses of an at-fault driver who
does not have medical insurance. Collision coverage pays for
damages incurred by the at-fault driver in accidents involving
collision. Finally, Comprehensive Coverage pays for damage to
a vehicle not caused by collision, including damages caused by
theft, vandalism, flood, fire, and explosion