The Progressive Corporation is the nation’s fourth-largest private auto insurer, writing over $20 billion in premiums. When negotiating with Progressive, it is important to remember that this company is a private, for-profit business and you are asking them for money. Since Progressive makes money by selling policies and loses money by paying claims, they are not on your side, since their interests are in direct opposition to yours.
In most cases, the victim of a car accident caused by the negligence of the other driver file claims against the negligent driver’s auto liability insurance policy. In some cases, however, this may not be enough. If the driver was breaking Illinois auto insurance law by driving without liability insurance, for example, you may be forced to rely on your own insurance, unless the driver possesses enough personal resources to pay your claim. Even if the other driver was insured, his or her policy limits might not be enough to fully satisfy your claim – Illinois law requires only $25,000 in coverage per victim, up to a maximum of $50,000 per accident. If the negligent driver cannot pay the remainder, you may have to rely on your own insurance to cover it. Finally, you may be forced to rely on your own insurance for your claim if you were victimized by a hit and run driver who disappeared immediately after the accident. In any of these cases, you can rely on your own Progressive auto liability insurance policy, which is required by law to include uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance of at least $20,000 per victim and $40,000 per accident.
If your injuries were minor, you may be tempted to forego the services of a lawyer. Even then, however, there may be good reasons to retain a lawyer to represent you. If your injuries were substantial, it seldom makes any sense at all to “go it alone.” Considering that an experienced Chicago car accident lawyer might be able to secure you several times the amount of the verdict or settlement that you would be able to secure on your own, your choice of attorney is likely to be the most important decision you make during the entire case. Following are some of the benefits of making that decision wisely:
To win a personal injury lawsuit, you must prove three elements – negligence, causation, and damages. In some cases, such as when the driver was an on-duty employee, you can sue the negligent driver’s employer as well. In this case, you can win a lawsuit against the employer by proving these three elements against the driver alone, even if the employer was not negligent at all.
To prove negligence, it is not enough to prove that an action committed (or omitted) by the driver caused the accident – you will need to prove that the driver failed to exercise the ordinary care that a reasonably prudent driver would exercise under the same circumstances. This will be easier if you can show that the driver was breaking the law by, say, texting and driving; however, it is possible for a driver to be negligent without actually breaking any traffic laws.
You will also need to prove that the driver’s negligence was a substantial cause of the accident. If the driver rear-ended you, for example, you probably cannot win the case by proving that his or her brake lights were malfunctioning. Finally, you will have to prove that you suffered damages. Furthermore, you cannot recover for emotional distress unless you suffered a physical injury, as well.
Under Illinois law, an injured minor (under 18) cannot file a personal injury lawsuit in his or her own name, even if he or she is represented by a lawyer. Instead, a parent or legal guardian must file the lawsuit on their behalf. If the child is awarded damages, the money will probably not be sent directly into an account accessible to the minor. Instead, proceeds are likely to be placed into a protective bank account accessible to a parent or guardian, to be used only for the benefit of the minor.
Probably not, but it is possible. In Illinois, punitive damages are awarded only for outrageous conduct – mere negligence is not enough. The classic case justifying punitive damages would be if the defendant rammed into your car intentionally in a carjacking or to satisfy a personal grudge against you. In some cases, drunken drivers are subject to punitive damages awards. If you are awarded punitive damages, they will be awarded in addition to the normal compensatory damages. Unfortunately, unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are taxable.
It depends on the legal relationship between the trucking company and the driver. If the driver was an employee of the trucking company, the trucking company is generally responsible for all damages caused by the negligence of the employee, unless the employee was off-duty at the time of the accident. If the employee was an “independent contractor,” however, the trucking company will not be liable unless they were negligent themselves – by negligently hiring a driver with a bad driving record, for example.
Most trucking companies retain drivers under an independent contractor arrangement, because they wish to limit their liability in case of an accident. Nevertheless, the trucking company cannot arbitrarily classify a driver as an independent contractor instead of an employee – a court will decide that question based in how much control the trucking company exercised over the driver.
Absolutely not, unless it is a written statement prepared by your lawyer. Insurance company adjusters will attempt to secure the lowest possible settlement, and they have many time-tested ways of tricking you into “admitting” something that could hurt your case. They might, for example, insist that you provide them with the exact time for the accident, so that they can later assert that the accident occurred because you were looking at your watch instead of paying attention to the road. A good Illinois personal injury lawyer knows these tricks and will not let you fall for them.
2 years ago I was involved in a trucking accident involving a 14-wheeler truck that nearly disabled me for life. Steve fought to make sure that I received the most possible compensation for my injuries. I was about to take the insurance company’s lowball offer, but decided to call Steve first – it was the best decision I’ve made yet
NOAH TAFFELPersonal Injury Victim