At some point in your life, you are likely to find yourself injured by another person. Not that they planned to harm you, but their negligence caused an accident, which in turn led to your injury.
Whether you were in an auto accident on 79th Street or you slipped on the floor of your local farmer’s market, these injuries have left you burdened with extensive medical costs and no way to pay them off. In some cases, you might be permanently disabled and unable to return to work. If you did not cause the accident, you might explore the idea of filing an injury claim against the party that did.
Personal injury claims compensate you for your losses. To file a complaint, you need to know the proper procedures, including where to file your claim. Ideally, you should speak with an injury attorney. Personal injury cases are more than filing the case with the civil court and receiving compensation.
Instead, you might find yourself going up against an insurance company and a team of attorneys ready to fight against your claim. If you want to increase your chances of getting the compensation you deserve, talking to an attorney might help.
Filing an Injury Lawsuit in Chicago, Illinois
In Illinois, if you are seriously injured and want to file a claim for compensation, you must do so within two years from the date of the accident. The Illinois statute of limitations protects people from being named as defendants in injury claims years after the fact – but in a way, they protect you too. They ensure that you file your claim quickly so that witnesses still remember what they saw, and evidence is always available to prove your case.
Once the two-year mark passes, you cannot file a lawsuit. If you were to try, the judge would dismiss the case.
Deciding Which Court to File In
Where you file depends on factors like the compensation value, whether you were in Chicago at the time of the accident, and if you are a Chicago resident.
At the Cook County Circuit Courts’ Civil Division, you can file a claim if the case involves compensation of $30,000 or less. If your case seeks damages over $30,000, you must file within the Law Division of the Cook County Circuit Court. Any branch allows for filing as long as you meet the filing requirements.
Drafting a Complaint
To file a case with the court, you must first write your complaint. This is your official document that explains your legal basis for filing the lawsuit. Your complaint is not a novel; instead, it is succinct and to the point. You must be specific enough to show the defendant that you are serious and have evidence proving your case. Your complaint is filed, and you pay a fee for filing the case with the court.
Once you file, you are not done. The complaint is only the first step. Afterward, you must also serve the defendant, keep proper documentation that they were served, and wait for their response. If you are injured, handling the filing and serving is a burden that is unnecessary. You should be focusing on your recovery instead of waiting in line at the County Clerk’s office to file a claim or hunting down a defendant to serve them.
Understanding Your Injury Case’s Requirements
Injury claims are based on negligence.
Negligence refers to the defendant’s failure to provide a standard of care, and that failure to exercise the acceptable standard caused your injury.
The burden of proof in an injury case lies on the plaintiff (the victim). You must prove, using a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant was negligent and their negligence led to the accident, which caused your injuries.
The preponderance of evidence works like a scale. One side of the scale is the defendant; the other side is the plaintiff. Your amount of evidence must tip the scale onto your side, showing that your evidence is stronger compared to the counter-evidence provided by the defense.
While this sounds simple enough, this is only part of the battle. The obligations of the plaintiff extend much further than you might realize – only furthering the burden you experience when you attempt to represent yourself.
Getting Evidence Accepted
You know that the burden of proof is on you to show, using a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant:
- Was negligent;
- The defendant’s negligence was the cause of the accident;
- The accident was the cause of your injuries; and
- You suffered injuries.
While this sounds simple, realize that you must successfully get the evidence entered at court. The defense might enter a motion to have some of your proof excluded, especially if you did not follow proper protocol when obtaining it or entering it.
The evidence is crucial in an injury claim. Not only do you need evidence to establish the defendant’s fault, but you rely on it to prove the damages you have requested, too. Any evidence excluded due to successful motions by the defense harms your case and makes it that much harder to prove.
Knowing Courtroom Procedure
The courtroom is an official place where each side presents evidence, argues to the court, and follows specific procedures. Attorneys know the protocols because they were trained for them, but also, they practice with each case they take on. Most have years of experience at trial – something you cannot compare with when you represent yourself.
Therefore, you must realize that the other side is likely to have an attorney, especially if you have named the insurance company as a defendant or the amount is more than $30,000 in damages.
The judge will not excuse your lack of knowledge of courtroom procedures. Therefore, not knowing how to enter evidence, address the court, enter a motion, or object could be detrimental to your case.
Fighting Claims of Comparative Negligence
A common defense strategy is to put as much of the blame on the plaintiff as possible so that the defense can at least reduce the compensation they pay. Illinois adopted the modified comparative negligence laws. This means the fault is divided by party and damages reduced based on the percentage of fault.
If the court finds the plaintiff more than 50 percent at fault, they cannot seek compensation. While you might have enough evidence to prove that you are not more than 50 percent at fault, do you have evidence to counterclaims that you are 10 or even 20 percent at fault?
Realize that the court reduces your compensation – the funds you need to pay medical costs, cover expenses when you cannot work, and more – by your fault percentage. Losing 10 percent of your compensation could be detrimental.
For example, you are awarded $100,000, but the court found you 10 percent liable. Therefore, they reduce the compensation by $10,000. That is $10,000 that you cannot use to pay for your living expenses while you are recovering from your injuries or $10,000 that you cannot use to buy a new car, replace personal items damaged, or cover medical costs.
An injury attorney is prepared for the comparative fault defense strategy. They prepare arguments, evidence, and are ready to fight back when the defense tries this common strategy.
The Benefits of Hiring an Injury Attorney
Hiring an attorney can benefit you in numerous ways. Not only will you have someone there ready to handle the courtroom protocols, fight back against claims of comparative negligence, and argue on your behalf, but you have an advocate who is there to fight for your rights.
Just some advantages to using an attorney over trying to file a personal injury claim alone include:
- Higher settlement values. Plaintiffs that file their lawsuits with attorneys tend to see a higher settlement than if they negotiate one alone. Attorneys know how much a case is worth, and they also are skilled negotiators who know how to present the evidence so that they get the results their client needs.
- More time to focus on healing. You were seriously injured in an accident. You need time to rest, recover, and not worry about making deadlines. With an attorney, you do not have to handle the paperwork; instead, you have a team working for you to settle your case.
- Less stress overall. Filing an injury claim, dealing with insurance companies, and handling meetings can be stressful. While you are recovering from a severe injury, the last thing you need is more stress. An attorney eases the pressures on you and your loved ones by handling the tasks, dealing with insurance companies, and ensuring you get compensation quickly.
Schedule a Consultation Today
After a serious accident, you need an attorney equally serious about getting you the compensation you deserve. Speak with an attorney from Malman Law today to explore your options. We have been offering our legal services for more than 25 years, and we are more than happy to meet with you for a free, no-obligation consultation.
Discuss your case risk-free at 888-625-6265, or request more information about our services online.