Chicago is an at-fault state for accidents and personal injuries. Victims must prove the legal elements of their claim to recover compensation for damages. Many personal injury cases are based on general negligence, strict liability, or intentional torts.
Most victims begin by filing a claim with the liability insurance company for the at-fault party. Most personal injury claims are resolved with settlements. However, if the insurance company refuses to settle, the victim can file a personal injury lawsuit against the party who caused their injury.
The timeline of a personal injury case depends on many factors. However, most cases follow specific steps on their way to settlement or trial.
Steps Involved in a Chicago Personal Injury Case
Your case is unique. It will follow its own timeline. However, you can expect to follow most of these steps in the process of receiving compensation for your damages:
You Sustain an Injury
No one expects to be in an accident or sustain an injury. When it happens, you are likely to be in shock. If possible, try to remember to collect evidence at the accident scene.
Evidence can include:
- Photographs and a video of the accident scene
- Names and contact information for eyewitness
- Information from the other parties
- Notes about things you remember regarding the accident
- Pieces of a defective product that caused your injury
- Copies of police reports and accident reports
Do not admit fault for causing the accident. Saying you are sorry could be misinterpreted as admitting fault. Avoid making a formal statement for the insurance company or answering their questions until you meet with a Chicago personal injury lawyer.
Seeking Medical Treatment for Injuries
It is crucial that you seek immediate medical care for your injuries. Medical records are necessary evidence in a personal injury case. They help link the other party’s actions to the cause of your injuries.
Prompt medical care also helps avoid allegations that the accident did not cause your injuries. Also, following through with your treatment plan helps avoid claims that you failed to mitigate damages.
The extent of your injuries is a significant factor in the timeline for a personal injury case. You do not want to settle an insurance claim or personal injury case until you complete medical treatment. Until then, you cannot know the severity of your injuries, whether you sustained a permanent impairment, or the extent of your damages.
Consult a Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer
Schedule a free consultation with a Chicago personal injury attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer will advise you of your rights and explain how they can help you with your case. A law firm has the resources that you do not have to investigate your claim and gather evidence proving your case.
Furthermore, experienced Chicago personal injury lawyers understand the law and how it applies to your case. They also know the tactics insurance companies and defense lawyers use to undervalue claims.
Document Damages, Gather Evidence, and File Insurance Claims
Your attorney will identify all parties who could be liable for your damages and verify their insurance coverage. The lawyer files insurance claims with applicable insurance companies.
While you recover and complete your medical treatment, your lawyer will work to gather evidence proving your claim.
For a negligence claim, you have the burden of proving beyond a preponderance of the evidence that:
- The party you accuse of injuring you owed you a duty of care
- That party breached the duty of care by failing to act reasonably based on what a prudent person would do in the same situation
- The party’s conduct was the direct and proximate cause of your injuries
- You sustained damages because of your injuries
In addition to gathering evidence, your attorney will document your damages. Damages can include economic damages, such as medical bills, property damage, and lost wages. Your attorney will also document your pain and suffering or non-economic damages.
Your attorney calculates the value of your damages based on the actual financial losses you incur, the extent your injury impacts your life, and other factors.
Prepare a Demand for Settlement
The next step is sending a settlement demand letter to the insurance company. The demand letter gives the insurance company the information it needs to evaluate your claim. The company has been investigating your claim and gathering its own evidence to determine fault.
A demand letter generally includes the following:
- Details of the accident or incident causing your injury
- A discussion of the laws and legal theories that establish fault and liability for damages
- A summary of your injuries and damages
- An amount you are willing to accept to settle the case
Insurance companies often decline the initial settlement offer and make a counteroffer. This begins back-and-forth settlement negotiations. Many cases end with an insurance settlement.
However, if the insurance company refuses to pay a fair amount for your claim, your attorney will discuss the pros and cons of filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
If you proceed with a lawsuit, you can expect at least a year before your case will go to trial. Of course, your case could settle before reaching that point.
The typical steps in a personal injury lawsuit include the following:
- Filing a complaint
- Waiting for a response (the insurance company usually hires a lawyer to defend the lawsuit)
- Discovery phase (gather additional evidence and information from witnesses and the opposing party)
- Settlement negotiations, which could include mediation and/or arbitration
- Pre-trial motions
- Jury trial and verdict
A trial does not guarantee that you will receive money for a personal injury claim. Even if the jury awards you damages, the defendant might not pay. Insurance companies are only liable for damages up to the policy limits.
Furthermore, the at-fault party could raise one or more affirmative defenses, including comparative negligence.
Comparative fault decreases the amount of compensation you receive for your claim. Therefore, if the jury decides you are partly at fault, your compensation could be reduced by the percentage of fault the jurors assign to you for causing your accident. You’ll receive nothing for your claim if you are more than 50% to blame.
Therefore, going to trial for a personal injury or accident claim could be risky. An experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer can advise whether a settlement offer is the best option or going to court is better.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Chicago Personal Injury Lawyers To Discuss the Timeline of Your Case
Zayed Law Offices Personal Injury Attorneys will work to resolve your personal injury claim as quickly as possible without compromising your compensation. Call our office at (312) 726-1616 or contact us online to schedule your free case evaluation with an experienced Chicago personal injury attorney.