Every state is unique with how they handle personal injury claims. In Illinois, you have several state-level laws that will affect your case, and these are important to know if you ever have a personal injury lawsuit you need to file in the future.
These rules apply when you are filing insurance claims for an accident, but also if you are filing the lawsuit in court. They also apply to any settlement negotiations you might have between yourself and the insurance company.
While you should know these laws, it is equally important to speak with an attorney. An attorney can advise you about which laws apply to your case, and how to go about collecting the compensation you may be entitled to.
The Laws You Need to Know About Personal Injury Claims in Chicago, Illinois
It does not matter if you have been in a car accident, tripped and fell, or you were injured at work. You need to know these laws and how they affect you before you attempt to file a claim and seek compensation for your injuries.
All states have a time limit on how long you have to file a claim against the insurance company or a lawsuit. They do this so that a company or person is not sued years after the fact – when there is no evidence available to disprove or prove a case. The time limit is officially known as the statute of limitations.
In Illinois, you have two years to file your lawsuit in the civil court. That two-year limit starts from the date of the accident or date you knew that someone else caused your injury (which typically correlate with one another).
There are instances where you can go past the two-year mark, which is known as the “discovery rule.” The discovery rule states that you can file two years from the date you discovered you were injured rather than the time of the event.
Special Rules for Filing Claims Against the Government
If you need to file your injury claim against the government or an entity of the state of Illinois, for cities and counties in the state you only have one-year to file that lawsuit. If you are submitting against the state itself, then you still have two years; but you must file the formal claim within one year to file your suit later.
Negligence Laws Fall Under §735 ILCS 5/2-1116
The state’s negligence laws are in the statute, which falls under code section 735 ILCS 5/2-1116. The state describes negligence as a situation where one person owes a duty to another person and breaches that duty; thus, resulting in injuries. We will go further into depth on this law later in this article. However, it is vital that you know that the statute governs all personal injury cases. That means that the judges overseeing these cases will follow the statute and previous case law to determine how to rule in your case.
Comparative Fault in the State of Illinois
Comparative fault is when a person can collect damages even if they were partially at fault. The courts would simply reduce the settlement value based on the percentage of fault of the plaintiff. Illinois uses the modified comparative fault rule, which is used to determine damages even if the plaintiff was partially at fault for his or her injuries.
Comparative fault is rather simple to understand. If you were in a retail store and you read a label without seeing where you were walking, then you tripped and suffered an injury – you could technically be partially at fault for your injuries. After all, you were not watching where you were going, and you have a duty to act in a way that limits injuries as well. In this case, the store could be found to be 95 percent at-fault, while you would likely be about 5 percent at-fault.
When the jury awards you a settlement of $100,000, the courts reduce it by the 5 percent of your contribution, taking away $5,000 from what you receive.
When You Contribute 50 Percent or More
There is a limit to how much you can contribute to your injuries and still seek compensation. If you contribute 50 percent or more in an accident, your settlement drops to zero, and you cannot receive compensation. Therefore, you must be 49 percent or less at-fault to seek compensation.
These rules may be used in settlement negotiations too; therefore, do not be surprised if the insurance claims adjuster tries to reduce your settlement based on your fault or the fault they assign to you – whether you truly contributed or not.
There Is a Fault System for Car Accidents
Most states, including Illinois, have a system in place to determine fault in a motor vehicle accident. Using the fault system, an injured party can go to court to prove fault and receive compensation from the responsible party or their insurer.
Most people will start with filing a claim against the at-fault party’s insurance company; then they will negotiate with their attorney and the insurance claims adjuster to find the settlement. If for some reason no one can agree on a settlement or the insurer refuses to settle, then the victim can file a lawsuit in civil court.
Damage Caps Could Apply
Damage caps will reduce personal injury cases from receiving more compensation than is constitutionally fair. All states have their way of handling damage caps, and some caps only apply in certain types of cases, such as medical malpractice.
In Illinois, there are no damage caps, even in medical malpractice cases. There was an instance in 2010 where a damage cap was applied to non-economic damages; but was struck down as being a direct violation of the state’s constitution.
The Law Requires the Plaintiff to Prove the Elements
As the plaintiff, you carry the burden of proof. In this case, you must show that the defendant breached their duty of care. But you must also show that your case is eligible for compensation by proving that you have all the required elements. These elements include:
- Duty – You must prove to the judge or jury that the defendant owed you a duty of care. For example, a motorist owes a duty of care to follow all applicable laws and do their best to avoid causing an accident.
- Breach – Next, you must show the courts that the defendant breached the essential duty you established. Driving intoxicated is an example of such breach.
- Cause in Fact or Proximate Cause – A “cause in fact” shows that had the defendant not breached his or her duty you would not be injured. A “proximate cause” shows that the breach of duty (and nothing else) caused your injury.
- Damages – Even if you can prove the three above elements, you still must have damages to collect compensation. The law allows you to collect various forms of damages, including non-economic and economic damages.
Recent Verdicts and Awards Play a Role
The value of your injury case, including what a judge might award you, is influenced by other verdicts in the jurisdiction on similar cases. A judge or jury typically will reach similar results if the injuries and circumstances are the same. If you have not filed an official lawsuit, the insurance company and your attorney may also use past verdicts and awards to determine a settlement amount. The insurer may find it is cheaper to offer a settlement close to recent decisions than incur the costs of going to court and paying the same award.
You Must Prove by a Preponderance of the Evidence
In a personal injury lawsuit, you are not proving the elements of your claim beyond a reasonable doubt. That high standard of proof is for criminal trials only. Instead, you are proving your civil case by a preponderance of the evidence, which essentially means “more likely than not.” Therefore, if you have enough proof tipping the scales in your favor, you could be awarded compensation.
Evidence comes in numerous forms but might include photographs, witness statements, expert witness testimony, police and accident reports, and past violations or claims filed against the same defendant.
Your attorney determines what evidence is needed to prove your case.
Injured? Seek Legal Assistance for Your Injuries
Illinois has a wide variety of complicated tort laws that may apply to your case. Injury cases range from slip and fall to malpractice to automobile accidents – and a minor section of an applicable statute can significantly impact your compensation value. Therefore, it is in your best interest to speak with an attorney in the area about your case.
Finding an attorney that has a deep understanding of the personal injury laws of Illinois can increase the chances that you will receive maximum compensation for your injuries.
Contact an attorney from Malman Law right here in Chicago today. We serve as your advocates and we not only help you file your claim, but we will aggressively seek compensation. Schedule a free consultation today by calling 888-305-5043 or request more information online.