How long does an accident claim take? There is no definitive answer. Each case is unique, and the length of time that your claim takes will depend on the circumstances of your case. Generally, this process can be quite prolonged, taking between weeks and even months to reach a resolution. If the case ends up in a personal injury lawsuit that results in a negotiated settlement, the average time for a car accident settlement is a year or more to conclude.
Illinois Car Accident Statistics
According to recent data, in the first half of 2023, there have been 833 fatal motor vehicle crashes in Illinois, resulting in 905 deaths. This number is 29 fewer deaths compared to the same time last year. Out of the total number of fatal crashes, 127 involved motorcyclists, 138 involved pedestrians, 24 involved bicyclists, and 97 were caused by a collision with a semi-truck. Additionally, 193 (21%) of these crashes involved passengers who used a seatbelt improperly or not at all, while an equal number involved passengers who used seatbelts correctly.
Types of Car Accidents
It’s important to consider the type of accident when making a claim, as it can impact the extent of the victim’s injuries and the value of the claim. Some accidents can also suggest who may be at fault. Car accidents can be categorized as:
- Rear-end collisions when the driver from behind crashes into the vehicle in front of them.
- Head-on collisions happen when two vehicles traveling in opposite directions collide.
- T-bone accidents occur when the front of one vehicle hits the side of another, forming a “T” shape.
- Fixed-object crashes involve colliding with a stationary object rather than with another vehicle.
- Sideswipe accidents happen when one vehicle crashes into the side of another vehicle.
Common Injuries From Car Accidents
Car accidents can cause a range of injuries, including brain and head injuries, neck injuries, spinal cord injuries, back injuries, broken bones, and internal bleeding. Psychological injuries, such as emotional distress and anxiety, can also occur. It’s important to seek medical help even if there are no obvious injuries, as some injuries may not show up immediately but can cause long-term damage.
What Are the Steps in an Accident Claim Process in Illinois?
Report the Accident
It is crucial to inform your insurance company about any accident, regardless of who is responsible. Failure to do so may have an impact on your ability to make a claim later on. Depending on the damage caused to property or injuries sustained, you may be obligated to notify law enforcement officials. Even if it is not required to involve the police, having them at the scene can be beneficial because their investigations can provide significant evidence to support your claim.
To make a claim for your losses resulting from an accident, you will have to provide evidence of fault and damages.
Evidence to Prove Fault
It is important to have evidence to prove fault. Just saying that the other driver was at fault may not be enough. Evidence such as third-party witnesses, like pedestrians or uninvolved drivers who can confirm your version of events, or physical evidence, like video from a red light camera, can make your position stronger.
Evidence can come in many forms, such as police reports, photographs, witness statements, witness testimony, medical bills, and medical records.
Evidence to Prove Damages
After an accident, you can claim damages for medical expenses, vehicle damage and repairs, lost income, and lost work opportunities. To do so, you’ll need to provide evidence of your expenses and losses.
For medical expenses, collect all bills and records. You may need to obtain records for ambulance, hospital, and doctor bills, radiology and lab work, physical and occupational therapists, medical equipment, and nursing care.
For vehicle damage, collect repair estimates to support your case.
For lost income, keep track of missed workdays and wages. Provide pay stubs, direct deposit records, tip records, or tax returns as proof of income. If self-employed, track lost jobs and opportunities.
If you have a permanent disability, talk to a lawyer to recover damages for reduced earning capacity.
Evaluating the Claim
When considering making a claim, you should consult with a lawyer, who may conduct an investigation, collect all available evidence, and evaluate the merits and value of your claim.
You should ensure that you have a valid claim before beginning any legal action. Your car accident attorney will be knowledgeable about all the legal principles involved and advise you on whether there is sufficient evidence to prove the other party’s fault.
Calculating your damages before making a claim is vital to ensure that you claim maximum compensation. Documenting all your damages is critical to proving your losses and getting fair compensation. Your attorney will also be able to evaluate your case’s value to make sure you don’t settle for less than what you’re entitled to.
Investigation and Liability Assessment
After a car accident, you may need to file an insurance claim to recover damages. Illinois law requires motorists to carry liability insurance. Insurance adjusters investigate claims by following specific steps, such as reviewing policies, collecting evidence, interviewing drivers and witnesses. Once they have enough evidence, they determine liability and damages, report findings to the carrier, and explain who was at fault and why.
Legal Proceedings and Resolution
An auto insurance adjuster assesses the value of the claim and offers a settlement. If the other driver has no insurance, they will make an offer directly or through an attorney. If a settlement is reached, the matter is resolved.
If not, your attorney may file a lawsuit. The process of a lawsuit involves filing a complaint, followed by the discovery phase for evidence gathering. Finally, the matter moves to trial, and if found at fault, the other driver will pay compensation at an amount decided by the judge or jury, and the matter will be concluded.
Negotiation and Settlement Agreements
When you get into a car accident, the other driver, or his or her insurance company, may offer you a sum of money to stop the issue from going to court. This is known as a settlement offer. The adjuster will inform you of the amount the insurance company is willing to compensate you.
You don’t have to accept the first offer made. Your lawyer can make a counteroffer and negotiations can take place until a mutually agreed upon settlement amount is reached.
Impact on the Claim Duration
Negotiations can happen at any point during a legal process. Settlements can be reached up until the trial happens. If the parties involved reach a settlement early on, the duration of the claim will be shorter than if it goes to trial. However, if there are prolonged negotiations, this can lengthen the process, particularly if you delay filing a lawsuit in the hope of reaching a settlement. Therefore, depending on how negotiations go, they can either shorten or lengthen the duration of your claim.
Factors That Influence Settlement Offers
The average settlement for a car accident depends on several factors.
Parties’ Willingness to Compromise
If you and your insurance company are willing to reach a compromise, it can affect the settlement process. Some insurance companies realize that settling early can save them money compared to going through a lengthy trial, and may be open to making compromises.
In some cases, the injured person may face financial pressure and want to settle quickly to cover medical bills or lost wages. If neither party is willing to compromise, the case will have to go through the entire process, including trial.
It’s possible for parties involved in an accident to have different opinions regarding who was at fault and the extent of the injuries caused. In Illinois, there are comparative fault laws in place, which means if you were partially at fault, your claim will be reduced by the percentage of your fault. If you were more than 50% at fault, you lose the claim entirely. If there are disputes regarding the extent of injuries or fault, parties will need to gather concrete evidence to support their claims. Inadequate evidence may result in a reduction in the size of your claim.
Other factors affecting settlement offers are:
- Whether the at-fault driver has insurance, and who the insurance provider is.
- The number of plaintiffs or defendants involved in the case
- The complexity of the case.
- The extent and severity of your injuries.
- The strength of evidence you have to support your claim.
- Whether you have reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI).
It is helpful to have an experienced lawyer for your insurance claim. What does a car accident lawyer do? A lawyer can help you file a claim for all valid damages and streamline the process. Your lawyer will also negotiate with the insurance company for the maximum settlement.