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When Is It Too Late to Get a Lawyer for a Car Accident in Illinois?

Is There a Time Restriction On Filling an Auto Claim In Illinois?

If a car accident injured you in Illinois, you can seek compensation for the financial and emotional costs of your injury. However, if you miss the state’s statute of limitations for filing your claim, you may lose your opportunity to sue, and an auto accident attorney cannot help you with your claim.

Read on for more information about how the Illinois statute of limitations controls the amount of time you have to file your claim and other issues that can prevent you from obtaining a car accident attorney to assist you with your claim.

To begin working on your personal injury claim to ensure it is filed before the statute of limitations expires, trust an experienced legal team. They can help you understand this important time limit, provide other information about the personal injury claims process, and explain the services they can provide to ensure your right to seek compensation for your injury through the courts.

The Statute of Limitations on Illinois Car Accident Claims

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According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, more than 300,000 accidents occur on state roadways each year, with about 20 percent of those accidents resulting in injuries. About 12 percent of these crashes result in serious injuries, and Illinois traffic accidents injure about ten people every hour of every day. Speeding is a factor in around a third of Illinois’ car accidents. Here, the most common type of motor vehicle accident is a rear-end collision.

Illinois is known as a “fault state,” which means that victims of accidents caused by someone else’s negligence can use the state’s civil court system to seek compensation for their injury. However, to do so, the car accident claim must be filed in court as a lawsuit within two years of the date on which the accident occurred, in most cases. This deadline for filing the claim is known as the statute of limitations.

What Exceptions Apply to This Deadline?

Two notable exceptions will provide an extension to file a claim:

  1. The claimant was a minor or legally incompetent when the injury occurred. People under 18 cannot file lawsuits in Illinois. The child’s parent or guardian must file claims involving minors within two years or two years of their eighteenth birthday. Those incapacitated by their injuries must file their claim within two years of when they regain legal competence.
  2. The claim is against a government agency. Generally, car accident claims against the government involve accidents caused by an employee in a government-owned vehicle. You must file these claims with the Clerk of the Court within one year of the date of the accident. The claimant must also file a notice of the claim with the state attorney general within one year.

What Is the Purpose of the Statute of Limitations?

The purpose of the statute of limitations is to ensure a fair legal proceeding for both sides by preventing an excessive passage of time that can result in evidence disappearing or the memories of witnesses clouding. It also prevents defendants from facing accusations over events that are long past.

Each state’s lawmakers set the statute of limitations in state law. These deadlines can vary widely, with some states allowing car accident claimants to file their claims four or five years after their injury, while others only allow a year.

If You Have Already Agreed to a Settlement, It Is Also Too Late

It is not unusual for the at-fault party’s insurance provider to contact you shortly after you have been injured in an accident, particularly if your case presents clear liability on the part of their insured.

While the insurance adjuster who speaks with you can seem very kind and concerned, you must understand that an insurance adjuster’s primary job is to save money for the insurance company. To do this successfully, the adjuster must reduce or eliminate claims. Helping you obtain fair compensation for the expenses you incurred from your injury is not in their best interest.

Offering an early settlement is one of the most common tactics insurance companies use to reduce the amount they pay out on third-party insurance claims. By contacting you early and making their offer, you are less likely to have spoken to an attorney or understand the true value of your claim, which is based not only on the severity of your injury but also on expenses and impacts you already incurred as well as those you will likely face.

Finally, if you have not yet spoken to an attorney, the insurance adjuster hopes you don’t understand how the personal injury claims process works and will be thankful for the opportunity to resolve your claim quickly.

The problem with these early settlements include:

  • Once you agree to a settlement and an agreement is in place, you cannot go back to the defendant’s insurance provider to request more money if you discover that the amount you agreed to was not enough to pay for the injury. Hiring an attorney will not help you in this case.
  • Early after an injury has occurred, it is impossible to have a full picture of how much the injury will cost or how it will affect your day-to-day life. Therefore, you can’t evaluate the offer to determine if it fairly compensates you.

Other Common Insurance Tactics That Can Hurt Your Claim

While a settlement is one way an insurance adjuster can reduce the value of your claim, this is not the only action insurance companies take to avoid big payouts to those unrepresented by attorneys.

Some of the other tactics are:

  • Telling you they won’t pay you non-economic damages. Non-economic damages involve compensating you for the psychological impacts of your injury, and any personal injury claimant can seek compensation for the effects of their injury.
  • Telling you that you must give a recorded statement or authorize the release of your entire medical history for their investigation. While these can seem like reasonable requests in light of an adjuster’s need to understand the details of your accident, there are only limited pieces of information that need to be shared with the at-fault party’s insurance provider and only for specific purposes. An adjuster with your entire medical history in their hands and a recorded statement that does not state the details of the accident in the same way as the police report will almost certainly be used to undermine liability and shift the blame to you.
  • Delaying correspondence with you about your claim. Insurance companies are required to provide a determination of a claim or offer a settlement within a short and reasonable amount of time. Insurers are again banking on the fact that you do not know that they are required to respond and that they can delay responding to you about your claim until you are in danger of missing the statute of limitations. Experienced personal injury attorneys know how long their client has to file a claim. They also know what insurance actions constitute bad faith and can result in additional compensation.

How a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help With Your Illinois Car Accident Claim

Adam J Zayed, Founder & Trial Attorney
Adam Zayed, Truck Accident Lawyer

Managing the deadlines of your claim is one of the essential services your attorney can provide, as it ensures your right to seek compensation for your injury through the court if the at-fault party’s insurer fails to pay the claim or offer a fair settlement. Managing communication with the insurer also protects your ability to seek compensation, as it prevents you from falling victim to bad-faith insurance practices and sneaky tactics meant to reduce or eliminate the value of your claim.

Other services that an attorney can provide to help ensure your right to the highest amount of compensation available include:

  • Determining all liable parties. Many car accidents are not a simple matter of one source of liability and one victim. In truth, accidents can have several sources of liability, all with their insurance. While it makes a claim a bit more complex, attempting to portion out how much each party is responsible for paying, one positive aspect of multiple liable parties is multiple insurance policies that can pay your compensation. This helps prevent your claim from being devalued by policy limits. Multiple liable parties do not always mean that several negligent drivers contributed to the accident (although it can mean precisely that). Sources of liability can also include government agencies tasked with maintaining roadways so they are safe for all types of traffic, as well as the manufacturers of defective auto parts, the entity responsible for servicing the vehicle, or even a bar or restaurant that furnished alcohol to an individual who became intoxicated and caused an accident as the result of drunk driving.
  • Finding the best evidence to prove your claim. An experienced personal injury legal team has the resources to obtain expert testimony from professionals in medical or accident reconstruction fields. It can also easily obtain police reports, medical documents, information from your employer, and more to prove who caused the accident and how much the accident cost you, both financially and emotionally.
  • Giving you have a deep understanding of the value of your claim and whether an offered settlement fairly compensates you. You make all the important decisions of your case, including whether you hire an attorney, accept a settlement, or file a lawsuit in court. Your attorney’s role in the decision-making consists of providing the information you need to make a decision that reflects your best interests.
  • Negotiating a settlement while simultaneously preparing your court claim. Your attorney understands that you have two options for obtaining compensation. While up to 96 percent of personal injury claims resolve outside of court through settlement, there is no way to accurately predict which cases will settle and which ones will involve litigation. With only two years from the date of your injury to file your claim, your legal team will be multi-tasking to ensure that your claim is lawsuit-ready while still leaving the door open for a settlement.
  • A legal team. You and your attorney will not be working on your claim in a bubble but rather with the assistance of a team of legal professionals who can handle the amount of work involved in proving liability and damages.
  • The ability to wait for payment. Many people are hesitant to hire a personal injury attorney to assist them with their Illinois car accident claim because they do not think they can afford one. Most personal injury lawyers’ contingent fee billing method ensures that anyone who needs legal assistance can obtain it because they are not required to pay for their services until there is a positive resolution for their case. If you obtained a negotiated settlement or a court award, they can collect your compensation and will collect payment for their services at that time.

Would You Like to Talk With an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer About Your Claim?

If your injury occurred less than two years ago and you have not accepted a settlement, it is not too late. For your free case evaluation, contact a car accident lawyer today.

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