The insurance company won’t respond to your demand letter – File a lawsuit in Cook County

What happens if the insurance company won’t respond to your demand letter? If you tried to represent yourself (called “pro se” representation), and the insurance company won’t respond to your demand letter or to your efforts to contact them, call our office for a free consultation at 847-305-4105. We can help you file a lawsuit in Cook County or elsewhere in Illinois.

The Situation

You are involved in an auto accident in Glenview, Cook County or anywhere in the state of Illinois. You file a claim with the defendant’s auto insurance company. Normally, they are relatively quick to respond. Though the insurance company may not be prepared to compensate you for your property and other damages until they see the police report and/or investigate the accident.

But let’s assume for our purposes that your car is repaired, you’ve obtained and completed your medical treatment and you are prepared to demand compensation from the insurance company for your medical bills, pain and suffering and lost wages, among other things. What comes next? Normally, you will submit a demand letter to the insurance company.

The form of demand letters vary. They can range from 13 page long letters to a short and very brief demand to be compensated. However, they should be in writing. In addition, when you submit the letter, make sure you attach copies of your medical bills and records and confirmation of the amount of your lost wages.

Normally, after submission I will give the insurance company 30 days in which to respond to the demand letter (assuming you have time to do so based on the statute of limitations). But what happens if the insurance company won’t respond to your demand letter?

Does the insurance company have to respond to your demand letter?

Generally speaking, the answer is no. The insurance company does not have to respond to your demand letter. This doesn’t often happen with Allstate or State Farm and any other “decent” insurance (the irony of the word “decent” is not lost on me). However, these major insurance companies have the workforce and processes in place to ensure you are responded to.

The situation I’m referring to often arises when you’re dealing with a sub par insurance companies – and there are quite a few of them in Chicago. They are local companies that only write minimum ($25,000) insurance policies.

Why do they act the way they do? That’s a conversation for another blog. The bottom line is, they will do everything they can to make your experience with them miserable and that includes ignoring you.

What are your options?

In most cases, your only option is to file a lawsuit. This week my office filed a lawsuit in Cook County on an auto accident case. We submitted our demand over six weeks ago and the insurance company never responded to it or to our subsequent inquiries. As such, we were left no choice but to file a lawsuit.

Where do you file suit? The accident I referenced occurred in the northern suburbs of Cook County. As such, we were able to file a lawsuit in Cook County at the second district Skokie Courthouse on Old Orchard Road by Old Orchard Mall. Where you file suit will depend on in what county your accident took place.

Which court you should file a lawsuit in is also determined by how much your damages were. The vast majority of auto accidents result in minor damage and injuries. If you want to represent yourself and your damages were less than $10,000 you can file suit in small claims court. The filing fee is modest and the process for pursing the claim is much easier.  If your damages are over $10,000, I suggest talking to a personal injury lawyer before taking any action.

Electronic Filing

As of July 1, 2018, if you file a lawsuit in Cook County or most of the other counties in the state of Illinois, beware that the courts have gone to e-filing. You no longer can go to the courthouse and file your lawsuit with the clerk.

The e-filing process in Cook County at least has been difficult for many attorneys since it begun on July 1, 2018. As such, be prepared for some issues getting set up to file online. And if you have a statute of limitations issues, do not delay. Contact the court and/or an attorney immediately in order to protect your rights

Bad faith

Finally, you may have heard the phrase “bad faith.” This is a situation when an insurance company engages in vexatious conduct by failing to pay you for your damages. It’s a complicated claim and will not be discussed here. In my many years of practicing, I have threatened it only a few times. It often spurs an insurance company to act but not (for me at least) to increase their offer. In short, it’s not regularly used in auto accidents cases except in extreme situations.

If you seek to file a lawsuit in Cook County because the insurance company won’t respond to your demand letter, contact our office at 847-305-4105 for a free consultation.

Recorded Statement – A Risky Gamble

Tens of thousands of auto accident claims are filed every day with insurance companies. Shortly after each of those claims, the accident Auto Accident Recorded Statementvictim will get a call from an insurance adjuster looking for a recorded statement about the accident. If you are involved in an accident and you would like a free consultation to discuss whether you should give the recorded statement, call our office at 312-848-9783.

What is a Recorded Statement?

A recorded statement is a tool used by insurance companies like Allstate or State Farm to figure out what happened in an auto or other accident. An insurance adjuster, who is an Allstate or State Farm employee, will call you over the phone and ask you questions about the accident. The questions will seem simple and you may feel compelled to answer as you are attempting to get the insurance company to pay for your damages and/or injuries. Be Careful!

Do I Have to Give a Recorded Statement?

The simple answer is no. You do not have to give a recorded statement to the insurance company for the vehicle who caused your accident. In fact, we advise (almost) all our clients not to give recorded statements. Why? The recorded statement is a trick used by insurance companies to get you on the record.

It seems simple. At first, the insurance adjuster is nice and sincere in his or her efforts to help you. However, what they are trying to do is pin you down to a story. Once you have committed, the insurance adjuster (or their defense attorneys) will use that information later to poke holes in your case.

For example, if you stated during a recorded statement that you were positive you driving 35 miles per hour at the time of the accident, you are now locked into that speed. If you change your story at all during your deposition (sworn statement before trial) or during cross-examination (while at trial), the insurance company will capitalize on the change in your testimony to discredit you.

Or, perhaps during the recorded statement you forgot to tell the adjuster that your shoulder was in pain following the accident. A year later when you attempt to obtain compensation for your shoulder pain, rest assured the adjuster or defense attorney will point out that you did not complain of shoulder pain after the accident. To learn more about documenting your injuries, check out this article.

In most cases, the insurance adjuster can make a determination of “liability” or responsibility for the accident from the police report, from speaking to their insured or by talking to witnesses. Often the facts help dictate fault as well. For example, if you were driving straight and the defendant took a left-hand turn in front of you, in most (though not all) cases, they will be responsible for failing to yield the right of way. And of course, there is little opportunity to deny responsibility if you were rear-ended in the accident.

When Should You Give a Recorded Statement?

If you file a claim with your own insurance company after the accident, you have a duty to cooperate with your insurance company in investigating the accident. In that situation, you need to give a recorded statement.

However, beware of your own insurance company as well. If the defendant who hit you was uninsured or underinsured, meaning he or she had a small insurance policy, you may have to go after your own insurance company for compensation through your uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. In that situation, your insurance company will go from being helpful to being your opponent in a split second. Then, they will be the ones who use your recorded statement against you.

What to say in a Recorded Statement

If you do give a recorded statement, here are a few tips for what to say or not to say:

  • Don’t be too precise: Instead of saying you were driving 35 miles per hour, give an estimate. “I was driving around 35” or “I was driving between 30 and 35 miles per hour.”
  • Always be honest: if you lie, the insurance company will find out and use it against you. This will jeopardize your credibility with the insurance company or the jury.
  • Limit the scope of the recorded statement: Agree to talk about the facts of the accident but not your injuries.
  • Do NOT guess. If you don’t know an answer, say so.
  • Do NOT sign a medical release or any other document. You will provide them your medical records when you see fit.
  • Keep your answers brief. Do not expound on anything. Simply answer their questions as briefly as you can and then stop talking. The more you talk the more they have to use against you.

Conclusion

If you are contacted by an insurance company after an accident, we recommend talking to an attorney prior to giving a recorded statement. For a free consultation, contact us today at 312-848-9783.