Personal injury involves injury to an individual. If you were injured, you can sue in a private action called a civil action, otherwise known as a tort. Any accident or injury can constitute a tort – whether it’s in a car accident, through the use of a product, or in the negligence of a professional. Some of these specific areas of personal injury are discussed more fully below.
For general personal injury, different degrees of fault exist and several elements are necessary to prove in court. Sometimes more than one person or party is at fault and financial and legal responsibility is portioned among all of the wrongdoers. In other instances, even the victim may be partly at fault, but that does not mean they do not have a right to bring a lawsuit. They will simply consider the injured persons conduct as a percentage of the liability against the party being sued – for example, maybe you were driving your car a little over the speed limit when someone hit you, so the jury considers you 20% at fault and the other party 80% at fault.
If you are successful, you can recover a number of damages: medical bills, lost income, future medical bills and care, and other economic damages that you have. Other damages may be more difficult to quantify, but are nevertheless very real: pain and suffering, disfigurement, and loss of consortium. Keep in mind that generally in Illinois you must file any such claim for these damages within two years. The exact timing of the statute can vary, and it is important to see an attorney to determine the applicable time limit for your case.
INJURY CASE PROCEDURE
For any type of injury case that we handle, we always take certain steps as we work through your case. In general, you can expect for your case to occur as set out below.
Step 1: Investigation: During the first thirty days, we begin an investigation into your case and gather and document all the facts. This includes interviewing potential witnesses, gathering evidence and verifying insurance coverage. We also obtain police reports and medical records, and take photographs of your injuries and the accident scene if important. During the investigation process, our goal is to secure all of the evidence that will help to establish your case.
Step 2: Treatment Phase: Until all of your injuries have been identified and your condition has stabilized, you should follow your doctor’s advice and remain under the doctor’s care. We will keep in touch with you and the doctors will keep us up to date on the progress that you are making. BE SURE TO TELL YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT ALL OF YOUR COMPLAINTS. Be certain to follow your doctor’s advice. The treatment phase can last for quite a while. It is important to make sure all of your injuries have been identified and that none of these inquiries are likely to worsen. If your condition worsens after the case is settled, there is usually nothing that can be done to reopen your case. We will gather all of your medical reports, records and bills, and loss of earning records, so we have evidence to support the value of your case.
Step 3: The Demand: Once you have completed all your medical treatment and we have obtained all of your medical reports and records, we submit a demand for settlement to the insurance company. The size of the demand depends upon the nature of the injury and your condition. When we send the demand to an insurance company we include information regarding the facts of your accident establishing liability and outlining your injuries, your medical bills, and your loss of earnings Our job is to put your case in the best possible light so that the insurance company recognizes the value of your case. To enlighten the insurance company, sometimes we take special photographs of your injury: we might have a medical illustration drawn; in some cases we’ll do a “day in the life” film. We want the insurance company to understand the severity of the injury. One of the most important factors in presenting a demand to the insurance company is timing. We must have all of the relevant items of evidence established before we make the demand.
Step 4: Negotiation: More than 95% of all personal injury cases settle in the negotiation phase. Fewer than 5% of personal injury cases go to court for trial. If we can settle your case for an amount acceptable to you, you’ll get your money sooner and avoid the tremendous backlog of court filings. You have the option of accepting or rejecting an offer of settlement. The final decision is yours.
Step 5: Lawsuit and Trial: Before the expiration of the statue of limitations, we file a lawsuit of your behalf. We continue to negotiate your case after filing the lawsuit. Many times we do not receive an acceptable offer until the insurance company sees that the lawsuit has been filed. After the lawsuit is filed, we begin the process called “discovery”. A lawsuit goes through the following discovery phases:
- Phase A: Interrogatories: These are formal written questions that the other side can demand that you answer under oath. Our paralegal sends you a letter asking you to come into our office to answer these questions. She will be there to help you answer them. We also send written interrogatories to the defendants in your case seeking information within their control. They have the same responsibility to answer our interrogatories as we do to answers their’s.
- Phase B: Depositions: Next, the attorneys for the other side will ask you questions face to face. Your attorney will be there with you. A court reporter is also present, recording everything you say. Your answers are given under oath. Before your deposition, your attorney will meet with you and thoroughly explain the ground rules and what is likely to happen. We’ve been through this many times and know how to handle these situations. Again we also take depositions of the defendants and of the witnesses with knowledge of your case. These depositions are taken under oath, just as yours is, and constitute evidence in your case. Here, too, a court reporter takes down everything that is said.
- Phase C: Defense Examinations: Whenever there is a claim made for personal injuries, the other side can demand that you be examined by a doctor whom they choose. You have to cooperate and submit to this examination. We will advise you, so you know what to do at the examination.
- Phase D: Trial: If your case cannot be amicably settled, then it will proceed to trail. If your case goes to trial, you’ll be represented by one of our three attorneys. The attorney is fully supported by our entire team, which does everything possible to win your case, including hiring expert witnesses, medical illustrators, economists, etc. We will always keep you informed about what is happening and explain each step we take in advance.