Chicago, IL Auto Accident Lawyers and Determining Liability
When you’re in an auto accident, everyone wants to figure out who to blame. Sometimes, that’s immediately clear, like if one party was under the influence or demonstrably negligent. When the situation is more open to interpretation, though, you may need an car accident attorney to take on the complexities of the case. No matter how sure you are of what happened, when it comes to working inside the legal system, you need someone in your corner who understands the best strategies for presenting your side of the story and making it clear that you were the victim in the situation.
Researching and Representing Your Case
An effective auto accident and injury attorney may have to take an in-depth, hands-on approach to proving your case and assigning liability to the other driver. For example, an attorney may report to the scene of the accident to investigate, or take other steps to recreate the circumstances of the accident and demonstrate what went wrong and who was at fault. An experienced auto injury lawyer knows how to present the facts of the case in an objective, scientific and authoritative manner.
Special Auto Injury Cases
The stakes are even higher when you’re the victim in a car accident and you yourself were not driving. For example, if you were a pedestrian at the time of the accident, or you were on a bicycle, your injuries may be significant and devastating. Even responsible bicyclists and pedestrians can be seriously injured or killed by reckless drivers, and if it’s happened to you, you need an auto accident and injury lawyer that can get you the compensation you deserve. A serious accident and the ensuing injuries can cause serious impairments with lifelong consequences, including spinal cord damage, brain damage, paralysis and more. Even if your injuries won’t last a lifetime, you shouldn’t be responsible for your own medical expenses and time off work when your injury was caused by someone else’s dangerous driving. An auto accident lawyer can help.
Finding an Auto Accident Attorney
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, time is of the essence, so don’t wait—get representation today. Contact Malman Law for more information and a free consultation.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1) What photographs and other documentation will be helpful to my attorney in pursuing my claim?
Lawsuits and even settlements are won on evidence, and the more relevant evidence you can produce, the stronger your case will be. In addition to interviewing witnesses, it would also be helpful to collect the following:
- Photographs of your injuries. Don’t rely completely on medical records – have someone photograph your injuries for you with an eye toward using them as evidence in court.
- Photographs of your damaged vehicle and any other damage caused by the accident. This will not only help you establish a property damage claim, it will also help establish the severity of the accident.
- Photographs of the scene of the accident. Skid marks in particular can help you establish that the accident was the defendant’s fault.
- The police report of the accident, at least if it favors your side of the story. Keep in mind that since the policeman who fills out the police report typically did not witness the accident, police reports are often wrong and can be used as evidence by the defendant.
- Medical records and medical bills, including prescriptions and records of pharmaceutical purchases.
- Documentation of any lost wages, if you missed work or lost your job because of the accident.
All photographs should be taken as soon as possible after the accident, even if you have to have someone else take them for you, in order to ensure their effectiveness and admissibility. They will even be useful in settlement negotiations. If you retain a personal injury lawyer early enough, your law firm can take these photos for you.
2) If the other driver violated a traffic law, do I automatically win the case?
Not necessarily. In Illinois, proving that the faulty driver violated a traffic law immediately prior to the accident is considered “prima facie” evidence of negligence – in other words, it shifts the burden from you onto the defendant to prove that he or she was not negligent, which would be greatly helpful to your case.
If the defendant cannot prove that he or she was not driving negligently, in principle you can win damages as long as you can show that (i) negligence was a substantial cause of the accident, and (ii) you suffered actual damages. Your odds of victory are high (although less than 100 percent) if the other driver was legally intoxicated at the time of the accident. Even if you prove all this, you could still be denied damages if you were also at fault (please see below for further explanation of comparative negligence).
3) If the party at fault is a commercial driver, can I sue the company he or she works for?
It depends. If the other driver was an on-duty employee of a company at the time of the accident, you can generally sue the company. If the employee was off-duty at the time, you generally can’t. If the driver was an “independent contractor” rather than an employee (as is the case with many long-distance truck drivers), you generally cannot sue the company.
The court will decide whether the driver was an independent contractor or an employee, independently of how the company categorizes him or her – it all depends on the degree of independence from the company that the driver enjoyed. The more independence that he or she enjoyed, the more likely he or she is to be declared an independent contractor, thereby relieving the company of liability.
In some cases, you can sue the company even if the driver was an independent contractor – if the driver had a history of DUIs, for example, and the company negligently failed to check his or her driving record before it retained the worker.
4) Will I lose the case if I was partly at fault for the accident?
Illinois personal injury law provides for the situation in which both parties are at fault for an auto accident. Known as “comparative negligence with a 50 percent bar,” this system allows the court to assign a percentage of fault to each party. Any party whose fault was at least 50 percent will receive nothing, while any party whose fault was less than 50 percent will see his or her damages reduced in proportion to the assigned percentage of fault.
If your damages were $20,000, for example, and your percentage of fault was 10 percent, you would only be eligible for 90 percent of your damages, or $9,000. If the court finds you more than 50 percent at fault, the defendant may be able to file a lawsuit against you.
Contact our offices today to schedule a free no-obligation consultation with an experienced personal injury and car accident attorney.