What to do When an Insurance Company Denies Your Claim

Were you involved in an accident and the insurance company denied your

Insurance company denies your claim

claim? I’ve mentioned in this blog repeatedly that insurance companies are not on your side.

These are entities that are dedicated to one thing and that’s making profits. And as a result, they will delay, they will deny they will diminish your claims any way that they can.

If you talk to insurance adjusters, they will likely dispute this. They’ll tell you that they’re being practical about how severe an accident was and that is the basis of their decision about how much to compensate people. Well, I’m sorry. I’ve seen it firsthand. I’ve seen insurance companies deny claims or diminish the value of claims, only to ultimately pay tens of thousands of dollars once a lawsuit was filed. So, trust me on this. When dealing with insurance companies, they are not on your side.

So, what do you do when an insurance company denies your claim? First of all, we have to clarify which insurance company it was. There are likely going to be insurance companies on both sides of this accident. You may have insurance and so may the guy who you think caused the accident. Insurance denials can come from either side.

What To Do When The Defendant’s Insurance Company Denies Your Claim

Let’s start with what to do when the other insurance company denies your claim. Let’s take a hypothetical. You were involved in an accident and a guy hit you from behind – a rear end accident. You get his or her insurance information and you file a claim with State Farm or Allstate or whoever that person has for their insurance.

State Farm investigates. They talk to their insured, maybe they interview you (though you may not want to provide a recorded statement to their insurance adjuster). Maybe they analyze the property damage involved in the accident. And then you get a letter from them that says that they have denied your claim. What do you do?

You don’t have many choices in that circumstance. If you only have a property damage claim, maybe you can get compensation from your insurance company.

But if you have injuries and their insurance company denied your claim, what do you do? You really only left with one choice. And that is to file a lawsuit against the other party.

That’s the only way the insurance company is going to respond. You have the right to get your impartial day in court so that you can get the facts on the record. You get to argue your case and let the judge or jury decide whose at fault for the accident.

I always recommend to people – get an attorney to represent you. But this is particularly true if you’re going to court.  Those people represented by lawyers have a far greater success rate than those who are not.

But the problem is in this case, and I’ve seen this countless times is that if your claim was already denied by an insurance company, there’s a very good likelihood that the facts that are not favorable to you and you’re asking a lawyer to get involved in a case that has already been denied.

Now I’m not saying there aren’t lawyers who will do it or who won’t do it, but I actually did a video on the various reasons why a lawyer may not get involved in a case and an insurance claim already being denied was one of them. It’s a tough burden for a lawyer to overcome though not impossible.

If you get a lawyer, the lawyer takes care of moving the case forward. What if you don’t get a lawyer – what do you do? Well, you can file a lawsuit on your own behalf.

There’s two different kinds of cases I want to talk about here. First is the small case with minimal property damage and/or very small injuries.

In Illinois, we have something called small claims court. And if you have a case worth $10,000 or less, you can pretty much file that a case or that claim on your own in small claims court. That’s what it’s made for – people to represent themselves on small claims.

If you have a larger claim, i.e., you have significant injuries, you’re going to file in district court. That’s more complicated. But if you go to your local county courthouse (in Chicago it’s the Cook County court house on Washington Street – or there are local districts like in Rolling Meadows and Skokie), there are people there who can help you through that process.

Also, it may not be that the insurance company totally denied your claim. But what if they said that you were 50% responsible for your claim? Well, then you have a choice. You can either accept their allocation of responsibility or liability, or you can fight them. Check out this blog for more information on when you might accept some fault for an accident.

Oftentimes when an insurance company puts 50% on you or 70% on you, you can negotiate a percentage of fault.

What To Do When Your Own Insurance Company Denies Your Claim

Let’s switch gears for a second. So now let’s talk about what to do when your own insurance company denies your claim or does something that you don’t like.

The first place that this often pops up as in your property damage claim. Let’s take another hypothetical. You were involved in an accident and your Toyota is a total loss. Your insurance company Allstate is compensating you but much less than you think your vehicle is worth. What do you do in that situation?

Or, let’s say that you’re filing a claim for your pain and suffering and medical bills with your own insurance under your uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist coverage and Allstate is offering you much less than you think your case is worth. What do you do?

At this point, your own insurance company becomes adverse – meaning they are basically the same as if they were the insurance company for the defendant and you’ve got to treat them as such.

I have discussed before on this site about the fact that you have to give a recorded statement to your own insurance company. So you still have an obligation to work with them, provide them your medical bills, whatever it may be. And if you don’t, they could deny your claim altogether.

I’m not saying don’t work with them. I’m just letting you know that they are now adverse. You’re trying to get money from them. And they’re going to think in their own best interests, not yours.

If they deny your claim or low-ball you, what do you do? Some people think that, you need to file a lawsuit against your own insurance company, but generally speaking, that’s not what happens.

Appeal Not Lawsuit

You need to check your insurance policy, but generally speaking, there’s an appeal process that you have an obligation to follow. FYI, it could be that you have to appeal in writing within 30 days (or another time period). So we recommend immediately requesting a certified copy of your insurance policy from your insurance company, and advising them in writing that you are appealing their decision.

Normally there’s an arbitration clause in your own insurance policy. That means you agreed by signing your insurance contract, that you’re not going to file a lawsuit. Rather, you are going to arbitrate your dispute.

The way arbitration works, generally speaking, is that you go to an association, like the American Arbitration Association and you file a request for arbitration. But again, check your specific insurance policy.

Often there will then be a three-person panel of arbitrators who are attorneys or judges in your jurisdiction. You get your ‘day in court’ except its in front of the arbitration panel. Arbitration will be less formal than going to court and that may benefit you and your case.

Once the evidence is submitted and you (and potentially other witnesses) testify about the incident, the arbitrator rules.

One reason that insurance companies like arbitration is that since the arbitrators were past attorneys or judges, they’re not going to be moved by emotion like a jury might. So, insurance companies may be able to control the amount of damages you are awarded.

By the way, you can obtain a lawyer to represent you in arbitration against your own insurance company and again we strongly recommend that you do so. Especially if you have severe medical injuries. If it’s just a property damage claim, you probably don’t need a lawyer there on your behalf.

Thanks for checking out this article on what to do when an insurance company denies your claim. If you want to speak with the attorneys at the Chicago Legal Group reach out to us.

Sidewalk Trip and Fall Injury and the De Minimis Rule in Illinois

Our firm with co-counsel recently reached a settlement on behalf of a clienttrip and fall on sidewalk that suffered a trip and fall injury on a sidewalk. The client, a senior citizen, was walking into a bank when she tripped on unlevel concrete. The sidewalk was in poor condition and in an area of heavy foot traffic. She landed face first and broke both her front teeth. Our biggest challenge in the case was overcoming the de minimis rule in Illinois.

Slip and fall law Illinois

Under slip and fall law Illinois, a defendant will be held liable to the person who fell where the injury was caused by the property owner’s negligence. To show negligence in Illinois, the plaintiff must prove that the property owner failed to fulfill its duty to prevent the fall and that it caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

If the defendant is found negligent, liability will be under a theory of contributory or comparative negligence. Contributory negligence means that the victim is at least 50% at fault for the injury. Comparative negligence means that the victim is less than 50% at fault for his or her injuries. As a general matter, it can be difficult for a victim to recover under contributory negligence. Under comparative negligence, damages will be reduced by the proportion that the victim was found to be at fault.

One important defense that the defendant may have in Illinois is the de minimis rule.

What is the de minimis rule in Illinois?

The de minimis rule applies where someone is injured in a sidewalk injury case. The de minimis rule holds that the defendant will generally be liable for the victim’s injuries where there were sidewalk deviations approaching two inches in height. However, the Illinois courts have held defendants liable for deviations less than two inches. The courts also look at other factors besides height, like congestion, nearby distractions, as well as any evidence that the defendant was aware of the defects.

For instance, in a local case from 2018, Bartkowiak v. City of Aurora, 2018 App (2d) 170406, the plaintiff was injured when tripping over a hole in a parking lot that was approximately 1.5” deep. The trial court held that the de minimis rule prevented the plaintiff from recovering. The appellate court, however, disagreed with the trial court. The court held that since the depression was in a congested area likely to be frequented by pedestrians, there was broken asphalt in the area, and the defendant was aware of the hole the defendant could be held liable.

Likewise, the deviation in the sidewalk in our client’s case was less than 2” in height. As experienced slip and fall attorneys Illinois we were able to demonstrate to the defendant that we would be able to overcome the de minimis rule at trial. Not only was the sidewalk in poor condition it was located in a heavily congested area. Many other firms would have refused to take the case, believing that the rule would result in their client’s case being thrown out. Our firm, however, has many years of experience representing clients in sidewalk injury cases.

If you or someone you know have been injured in a sidewalk injury case, it is important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your options. If you have previously discussed your case with counsel and were informed that your claim was barred by the de minimis rule, please contact us today for a free consultation.

Rear-End Collisions Can Cause Serious Injuries

According to crash data from the City of Chicago, there were more than 26,000 rear-end collisions in the city in 2019. The true number is likely Rear end accidentshigher, since many minor rear-end collisions are never reported. Of those reflected in the city’s database, more than 20,000 resulted in no injuries and both vehicles were driven away from the scene.

Rear end collisions can cause serious injuries so in this article we’re going to talk about the danger of these types of crashes.

Unfortunately, some rear-end collisions are quite serious. Nationwide, there are more than 2,000 fatal rear-end accidents each year. Here’s what you need to know about rear-end crashes, how to avoid them, and what to do if you’ve been injured in one.

What is a Rear-End Collision?

A rear-end collision is exactly what it sounds like: a traffic accident in which one vehicle hits the other from behind. In a rear-end crash, the front end of the following vehicle makes contact with the back end of the vehicle in front. Rear-end collisions can occur in moving traffic or when the front vehicle is standing still, and range from minor bumps that do no damage to cars or occupants to serious collisions that destroy vehicles and cause debilitating injury or death.

Why Do Rear-End Collisions Happen?

One of the leading causes of rear-end traffic accidents is distracted driving. Looking away from the road for the few seconds it takes to read a text, change a playlist or enter a location into your GPS is plenty of time to close the gap if the car in front of you brakes unexpectedly.  Even at 30 miles per hour, a 5-second distraction is enough time for your car to travel 220 feet. To put that distance in context, it’s about 2/3 of an East-West city block in Chicago.

Other common causes include violations of other traffic laws and regulations, such as speeding, following too close, and failing to adapt speed to weather conditions.

Despite governmental and automobile manufacturer’s efforts to reduce the risk of rear-end collisions, they remain among the most common motor vehicle accidents. The percentage of traffic fatalities attributable to rear-end collisions has actually increased since the requirement that new cars be manufactured with a third, central brake like took effect in the mid-1980s. And, there’s some evidence that red light cameras have increased the risk of rear-end accidents, since they create an incentive for drivers to brake at the last minute to avoid a violation.

To protect against rear-end collisions on the road:

  • Avoid distractions while you’re operating a vehicle
  • Leave a safe buffer between you and the car in front of you
  • Observe speed limits and any conditions that might make it necessary to reduce speed
  • Keep an eye on traffic lights, other vehicles, and anything else that might cause a car in front of you to stop abruptly
  • Make sure to maintain your brakes in good working order
  • Make sure your brake lights are working and unobstructed, and try to avoid braking suddenly
  • Keep an eye on your rear-view mirror so you can take evasive action if you’re at risk of being rear-ended

What Types of Rear-End Crashes are Most Dangerous?

The collisions most of us think about when we hear someone say they “got rear-ended” generally occur at low speeds, often with the rear vehicle already braking. Often, this type of accident does no damage to either the vehicles or their occupants. Some of  the most dangerous types of rear-end collisions involve:

  • One or both vehicles traveling at higher speeds, especially when a vehicle traveling at full speed rear ends a stationary vehicle
  • One vehicle being much larger and heavier than the other, such as a rear-end collision involving a passenger car and a commercial truck, or a motorcycle and a passenger vehicle

Motorcyclists are especially vulnerable to rear-end collisions, whether they are the leading or following vehicle, because they are exposed in a way that passengers inside a vehicle are not. When a motorcycle is rear-ended, the rider may be thrown into the air before hitting the ground or another object. When a motorcyclist hits a larger vehicle from behind, the biker can be thrown into or over the car. Thus, motorcyclists may be killed or severely injured even in low-speed rear-end collisions.

Although occupants of passenger vehicles are better protected than motorcyclists, the risk is similarly increased when a smaller passenger car or truck is involved in a rear-end collision with a semi-truck or other large commercial vehicle.

The Dangers of Low-Speed Rear-End Crashes

Though high-speed and mixed-vehicle rear-end collisions are generally more dangerous than the more common low-speed collisions between passenger vehicles, any rear-end collision can cause injury. Rear end collisions can cause serious injuries including the most common injuries sustained in a rear-end collision – “whiplash.” The condition gets its name from the rapid back and forth motion of the spine that causes it—similar to the cracking of a whip.

Whiplash is often neglected because the symptoms often don’t show up for several hours, or even longer. A person involved in a seemingly-minor car accident may suffer whiplash, but not feel any pain or stiffness at the scene or shortly after the crash. It can also be difficult to tell the normal stiffness and soreness that comes after a jarring motion but resolves with rest and minor treatment from a more serious injury. Some signs of whiplash include:

  • Neck pain
  • Stiffness or limited range of motion in the neck
  • Neck pain that worsens with movement

However, the Mayo Clinic warns that not all signs of whiplash involve pain or stiffness of the neck. Some other common symptoms that you might not readily connect to whiplash are:

  • Tingling or numbness in the arms
  • Shoulder pain
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches, especially those starting at the base of the skull

If you’re experiencing pain or other symptoms after an accident, it is in your best interest to seek medical assessment as soon as possible. Some injuries can be seriously aggravated by normal day-to-day activities, or may worsen if not treated promptly.

Most Rear-End Accidents are Avoidable

With good vehicle maintenance, attentive driving, and respect for traffic safety laws, most rear-end collisions can be avoided. When another driver causes a rear-end collision by speeding, following too closely, texting while driving, or some other type of negligence, that driver is likely responsible for any damages you suffered as a result of the accident. If you’ve been injured in a rear-end accident because someone else was negligent, talk to an experienced Glenview car accident attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your rights.

Glenview Dog Bite Lawyer Answers Frequently Asked Questions

Glenview dog bite lawyerAs an experienced Glenview dog bite lawyer, I know better than most how devastating and traumatic a dog bite injury can be for the victim. Despite the prevalence of the dog-bite epidemic, I am often surprised how little the public knows about dog bite law.

Dog bite law is not something most people think about until they or someone they love become victims. I have previously written a post on some of the more frequently asked questions concerning Illinois dog bite law. In this article, I discuss some of the more practical aspects of dog bite cases, including, important safety precautions, first aid and procedures following an attack.

How Many Dog Bites are there Per Year?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are more than 4.5 million people bitten by dogs each year in the United States. Of these victims, more than 800,000 require medical attention. Worse, at least half of all dog bite victims are children. In fact, Between 2003 and 2012, dog bites were the 11th leading cause of nonfatal injuries to children ages 1 to 4, 9th for children ages 5 to 9 and 10th for children ages 10 to 14. The American Humane Association reports that 66 percent of dog bites to children occur on the neck and head.

The annual amount paid out by insurance companies to dog bite victims is staggering.  The Insurance Information Institute estimates that in 2013 U.S. insurers paid out approximately $500 million in dog bite claims. Moreover, the average cost per claim increased by 5.3 percent in 2018 to $39,017. Between 2003 and 2018, the average cost per claim has risen by more than 103 percent.

Why Dogs Bite Humans

As the American Veterinary Medical Association points out, “Big or small, male or female, young or old, any dog can bite.” While it is true that some breeds are more prone to aggression than others, any dog is capable of biting at any time. Dogs typically bite in reaction to fear or surprise. It is for this reason that children are the most common dog bite victims. Children are more likely than adults to do something to provoke or frighten dogs (e.g., hugging the dog or trying to take away its toy). To be sure, there are many reasons why dogs attack humans without being provoked. Some of these reasons include:

  • The dog is protecting a possession, food or even a puppy
  • The dog is protecting its territory
  • The dog is protecting its owner
  • The dog is injured or ill
  • The dog perceives you as a threat

It is helpful to be aware of the reasons why dogs bite humans so that we can attempt to avoid certain high-risk situations. More importantly, however, are telltale signs that a dog is preparing to attack. If we can recognize warning signs, we can act appropriately to protect both ourselves and our loved ones.

How Dogs Warn Us

I am often asked why dogs bite without warning. This is a common perception, that we have no way of knowing when a dog will attack. While this may be true in some limited circumstances, more commonly a dog will exhibit telltale warning signs that they are about to attack. Some of the more easily read warning signs include:

  • Barking or Growling
  • Raising a lip to show its teeth
  • Raised fur on the dog’s back and neck
  • A curved tongue (curved means tension while flat means relaxed)
  • The dog’s ears are flat or suddenly prick up
  • Salivating at the mouth (for some dogs this is a sign they are stressed)
  • Staring
  • Lifting a paw (a sign that the dog believes something negative is about to happen)

There are some other warning signs that are not as easily read. It is helpful to be aware of these less obvious warning signs and to proceed with caution. One of the least understood is when a dog is wagging its tail. We commonly associate tail wagging with excitement. This is true most of the time. However, where the tail is up and wagging stiffly it can be a warning sign that a dog is feeling threatened and/or is about to exhibit aggression.

Another difficult to read warning sign is the placement of a dog’s paws and posture. If a dog is standing with its legs spread wider than normal and is puffing its chest out, this can be a sign of aggression. Moreover, if the dog appears tense it could be a sign that it feels threatened and is preparing to attack.

Precautions to Take to Avoid a Dog Bite

If you encounter a dog exhibiting any of the above behaviors, there are several precautions you can take to minimize the risk of an attack. These precautions include:

  • Avoid making direct eye contact. If a dog is staring at you gradually avert your gaze to avoid startling it
  • Remain calm. Avoid yelling or making loud noises. Rather, say “No” or “Go Home” in a deep voice. Do not hit the dog. If the dog sees you are calm it could cause it to back down
  • Protect your neck by slowly raising your hands and keeping your elbows in
  • If the dog does not leave, then slowly back away. Avoid turning around or running. If you run the dog will likely chase you

Sometimes, regardless of the precautions that you take an attack cannot be avoided. If you are attacked it is important to act defensively and to seek proper medical care as soon as possible following the incident.

What to Do if You are Bitten by a Dog

If you are attacked by a dog the most important thing is to defend yourself. While it is understandable that you do not want to hurt the dog, it is more important that you protect yourself. If the dog starts to bite you then hit or kick it in the throat, nose, ribs and/or back of the head.

Dogs have very thick skulls so hitting it on the top of the head will likely only make it angrier.

The goal is to temporarily stun the dog to allow you time to get away. If you carry mace or pepper spray use it. Both are very effective in defending against a dog attack.

Another effective method is to place an object between you and the dog. For instance, if you are carrying a bag use it to shield yourself and/or push the dog away. If you have a jacket or shirt use it to cover the dog’s eyes. When dogs cannot see they will panic and open their mouths. This could cause the dog to release its grip allowing you to escape. If the dog knocks you onto the ground, curl up into a ball with your head tucked in. Make fists to protect your fingers. Protect your ears and neck with your forearms and fists.

If you are coming to the aid of someone being attacked by a dog avoid pulling the dog off. Pulling the dog off can cause a wound to become deeper and larger. Rather, try one of the above techniques of striking the dog or covering its eyes.

Eventually the dog will lose interest in you or hopefully someone will come to your aid. Slowly leave the scene of the attack when safe to do so.

When a Dog Bites What is the Treatment?

As soon as you are safe, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. Tend to any wounds until you can receive professional medical assistance. Perform the following basic first aid procedures:

  • Apply gentle pressure to stop bleeding. Use a clean cloth or a gauze pad
  • Wash the wound with warm water and soap
  • Apply an antibiotic cream
  • Once you have stopped bleeding apply a band-aid or bandages for larger cuts

If you are unable to stop the bleeding or feel faint call 911. If you successfully treat the wound at home but notice signs of infection (e.g., redness, warmth or pus) seek immediate medical attention.

Typical Dog Bite Injuries

The most common injuries are abrasions, punctures or lacerations resulting from the bite itself. It is also possible to suffer internal injuries such as nerve damage, muscle or ligament damage, or even broken bones. Infection following a dog bite is fairly common. According to the CDC, approximately 18% of dog bites become infected. Experts have found over 60 different types of bacteria can live in a dog’s mouth. The following diseases can be caused by dog bites:

  • Rabies – one of the most serious diseases people can get from dog bites. Rabies can be fatal.
  • Capnocytophaga – can result in heart attack, kidney failure or even gangrene
  • Pasteurella – typically results in a painful, red infection at the site of the bite
  • MRSA – a form of staph infection that can cause skin, lung and urinary tract infections
  • Tetanus – can result in paralysis

Should You Get Stitches After a Dog Bite?

Whether or not you should get stitches after a dog bite primarily depends on two factors:

  • The size and location of the bite
  • Time amount of time that has passed since the bite occurred

Bite marks located on the hands or feet are generally not stitched unless absolutely necessary. The hands and feet are more prone to infection than other areas of the body. Closing the wounds with stitches substantially increases the likelihood of infection.

Wounds should generally be stitched within 6 to 8 hours following the bite. If you are unable to stop the bleeding on your own or you are not sure whether you require stitches seek treatment from a health professional.

Should You Report a Dog Bite?

If you can it is important to use your smartphone to take photos of the dog. If the dog is with its owner take his or her photo as well. The owner will often attempt to flee the scene to avoid liability. Finally, take photographs of the surrounding area, including, but not limited to, street signs, houses, cars and any important landmarks. These photos will be important in demonstrating where the attack occurred.

If you are not severely injured it is often a good idea to take the photos before contacting the police. If the dog or owner run off you may lose your only opportunity to identify them. It is a good idea to contact the police following any dog bite. Not only can the officer help you to receive medical attention and to obtain the owner’s information, but he or she will file a report about the attack. The police report will be essential for insurance purposes, as well as animal control.

Much like you would following a car accident, if the dog’s owner has not disappeared, obtain his or her information. You should attempt to collect:

  • The owner’s name, address, phone number and email address
  • The dog’s name, age, breed and veterinarian info (to obtain the vaccination record)
  • The owner’s homeowner or renter’s insurance information

In addition to contacting the police, be sure to contact animal control to report the attack. Animal control serves many important functions, including verifying the dog’s vaccination records and biting history, as well as preventing the dog from attacking other victims in the future.

Dog Bite Law Illinois

Dog bite law in Illinois is covered by 510 ILCS 5/16. That statute provides that in order to prove a dog owner is liable for an attack, the victim must show that:

  • The dog attacked, attempted to attack or injured the victim;
  • The victim had the lawful right to be in the place where he or she was attacked; and
  • The victim did not provoke the dog

Note that the statute also applies to situations other than dog bites. For instance, if you are hurt when a dog excitedly jumps on you, the owner can be liable for the resulting injuries. The second and third of these elements highlight the two most common owner defenses: that the dog was provoked, and that the victim was trespassing. In addition to the Illinois dog bite statute, an owner may be found liable under theories of negligence, landlord liability and even for emotional distress.

Strict Liability Dog Bite Law in Illinois

The Illinois dog bite statute is based on a theory of strict liability. In the U.S., there are typically two legal theories under which a dog owner may be found liable for a dog bite. Under a theory of strict liability, an Illinois dog owner cannot argue that he or she was unaware of a dog’s aggressive tendencies. If a dog injures another person (and the victim was not trespassing and did not provoke the dog) the owner is liable. This theory may seem overly harsh. However, the Illinois legislature has identified the serious public threat of dog attacks and has placed the burden on owners to ensure that adequate precautions are taken.

Experienced Dog Bite Lawyer

As an experienced Glenview dog bite lawyer, I have witnessed firsthand how truly devastating dog bites are for victims and their families. I have assisted countless Illinois dog bite victims to recover damages for their injuries. If you or someone you know has been the victim of a dog bite in Illinois, please contact us today for a free consultation.

Fatal State Trooper Accidents on the Rise in Illinois

Fatal state trooper accidentsFatal state trooper accidents are seemingly on the rise this year. State Trooper Gerald Ellis, 36, was killed early on March 30, 2019 when a driver going in the wrong direction struck his squad car. This fatal car accident in Illinois is sadly the third fatal crash involving a State Trooper in the state this year. The second fatal crash involving a State Trooper had occurred just days prior. This is a tragedy and completely avoidable and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

These fatal State Trooper accidents are part of a growing problem of drivers hitting stopped squad cars that have their emergency lights on. To be sure, many of the reported incidents have reported minimal damage with no injuries. There has been a total of 58 reported crashes involving Illinois State Police squad cars this year. Such accidents serve as an important reminder of Scott’s Law.

What is Scott’s Law?

Scott’s Law was named after Lieutenant Scott Gillen of the Chicago Fire Department who was struck and killed by a drunk driver while assisting at a crash located on the Dan Ryan Expressway. Scott’s Law governs the passage of authorized emergency vehicles. “Authorized Emergency Vehicles” are defined as any vehicle authorized by law to be equipped with oscillating, rotating or flashing lights.

It is important to note that the above definition also includes vehicles that are not strictly for emergency use. Examples include vehicles used by construction workers, tow trucks and maintenance crews. Passenger vehicles with their hazard lights on are not covered under the law.

What Should I Do When Passing a Stopped Emergency Vehicle?

When approaching a stopped authorized emergency vehicle that is displaying flashing lights, drivers must yield the right-of-way. To yield the right-of-way, drivers must make a lane change to a lane that is not next to the authorized emergency vehicle. If the driver is unable to change lanes (i.e., it is unsafe or not possible) then he or she must reduce speed and proceed with caution past the emergency vehicle.

What are the Penalties Under Scott’s Law?

  • Drivers that fail to yield the right of way or to proceed with caution where not practicable, face a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Drivers that commit the offense while under the influence of alcohol or drugs face even greater penalties.

It is worth noting that following the recent State Trooper accidents there has been a push by Illinois lawmakers to stiffen the penalties under Scott’s Law. One proposal backed by Governor JB Pritzker would make violations resulting in a crash a criminal offense. Where the violation results in property damage the driver could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. If the crash results in injury or death the driver could be charged with a Class 4 felony. Class 4 felonies are punishable by up to 3 years in prison.

Law enforcement works hard to ensure that our roadways are safe, often coming to the aid of distressed drivers. We owe it to them to abide by the law to keep them safe. If you or someone you know has been involved in a car accident in Illinois you should not wait to contact an experienced attorney at the Chicago Legal Group. Call 847-305-4105 or fill out our online contact form to request a free case evaluation.

Emotional Distress After a Personal Injury

If you have experienced pain and discomfort as a result of an accident or injury, emotional distress law in Illinois makes it possible for you to obtain Emotional distress after a personal injurycompensation for accompanying emotional distress after a personal injury.

Often, many of those that sustain injuries suffer in silence, unaware of the symptoms of emotional distress and of important rights under Illinois emotional distress law. The attorneys at Chicago Legal Group are experienced emotional distress lawyers. We have assisted clients in obtaining emotional distress damages after an auto accident or other personal injury.

What is Emotional Distress?

Emotional distress is generally associated with mental anguish, or the non-physical symptoms of an injury. The period of mental suffering is typically brought on by a traumatic experience. Depending on factors unique to the victim, or the extent of the trauma, the period of suffering can be short-lived or chronic in nature.

What are Common Symptoms of Emotional Distress?

Emotional distress symptoms following an accident can take many forms. Common signs of emotional distress include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Embarrassment
  • Feelings of Guilt
  • Insomnia
  • Lack of Interest in Previously Enjoyable Activities

Obtaining Compensation Under Illinois Emotional Distress Law

While you may have or are currently exhibiting the above symptoms, that does not necessarily mean that you are entitled to emotional distress damages. In order to recover, you must be able to demonstrate that the accident or injury sustained caused the emotional distress. Common diagnoses in which you may be able to recover emotional distress damages include, but are not limited to:

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

The American Psychiatric Association defines PTSD as a psychiatric disorder suffered by people wo have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a violent assault or serious car accident. PTSD symptoms typically occur within three months of a traumatic incident. Depending on the victim recovery can occur in as little as several months. However, for others, the condition can be chronic and last for many years.

  • Depression

Like PTSD, depression can take many forms. Symptoms can be mild or significantly interfere with your normal day-to-day activities. Depression is one of the more common forms of emotional distress experienced following an accident.

  • Anxiety

Anxiety following an accident or traumatic event is common. In the case of a car accident, for instance, the victim may be so anxious about driving that he or she is unable to commute to and from work. More serious symptoms can render the victim unable to complete routine tasks, making day-to-day life extraordinarily difficult.

  • Insomnia

An inability to sleep due to the actual physical injuries sustained or as a result of emotional trauma from the accident.

Do I Need to Be Physically Injured to Recover Under Illinois Emotional Distress Law?

This is one of the more common questions that we are asked by prospective clients. Often when we think of emotional distress, we think of being a victim of a crime or being involved in a car accident. While these types of cases certainly fall under Illinois emotional distress law, they are not the only type. One does not need to be seriously injured to suffer emotional distress.

In fact, we were recently contacted by a prospective client involved in a dog attack case. The person was holding a small dog when the two were attacked by a pit bull. The person suffered very minor injuries, but the dog died as a result of the wounds. One can imagine how traumatic it must be to witness such a vicious attack on a beloved pet. So, while the dog’s owner suffered little in the way of physical injuries, the resulting emotional distress damages can be significant. The person’s ability to recover largely depends on his or her symptoms and the extent of professional treatment required.

What Should I Do if I am Experiencing any Symptoms of Emotional Distress?

If you are currently experiencing any of the above symptoms, or related mental anguish, resulting from an accident or traumatic event, it is important to seek professional help. Even emotional distress symptoms that are seemingly mild can become far more chronic if left untreated. In many cases, professional treatment is required for victims to make a full recovery. In addition, a mental health diagnosis will be necessary to establish the extent of your injuries should you wish to pursue damages.

Once you have sought treatment, it is important to consult with experienced emotional distress lawyers. Emotional distress law in Illinois can be complex. Failure to abide by applicable procedures can result in a forfeiture of your right to recover emotional distress damages.

The responsible party, and especially his or her insurance company, will attempt to minimize the extent of your emotional distress damages in an effort to pay you less. Experienced emotional distress lawyers can help you to place a value on your suffering and to not settle for less. Moreover, should you wish to proceed to trial, you will need to establish a causal connection between the accident or injury and subsequent emotional distress symptoms.

If you suffered emotional distress after a personal injury such as a car accident, please contact us today for a free consultation.

FAQ’s from a Car Accident Lawyer in Chicago

As an experienced car accident lawyer in Chicago, I have represented car accident lawyer in Chicagocountless individuals involved in both minor and major accidents like the one that occurred last week in Northbrook, Illinois.

On April 21, 2019, five vehicles were involved in a serious crash on Edens Expressway in Northbrook. The accident occurred when a tractor with a semi-trailer struck four passenger vehicles stopped in traffic. Five people were transported to local hospitals with critical injuries.

Like the majority of Illinois drivers, many of our clients do not know what they should do, or not do, if they have been involved in a car accident in Illinois. This post is intended to provide our readers with a basic overview of procedures to follow in the event they have been involved in a car accident in Illinois.

  1. What Should I Do in the Event I Am Involved in a Car Accident in Illinois?

The most important step following an accident is to determine the safety of all involved. If you are unharmed, immediately call 911 to request medical assistance. Why call 911 even if there are no injuries – check out my blog on why you should always file a police report after an accident.

If you are injured and unable to call, ask for help from the other driver(s) or anyone that has stopped to assist. If no one is hurt, contact local law enforcement to report the accident. If there has been damage to the vehicles you will need a police report, as well as the other driver’s insurance information.

2. Do Not Ignore the Possibility that You Could be Injured

Often those involved in a car accident are in shock following the accident and do not realize that they have been injured. While major injuries such as broken bones and contusions are easy to detect, other injuries may not be detected for hours, or even days, following the accident. In fact, the majority of car accidents result in “soft-tissue injuries” such as whiplash and torn ligaments. Once the period of shock has worn off you may become aware of the injuries for the first time. If so, seek immediate medical assistance.

3. Cooperate with Law Enforcement but Maintain Your Composure

Once law enforcement arrives on the scene the officers will first check to see whether the parties require immediate medical assistance. Next, the officers will question the parties and collect insurance information to determine the cause of the accident and to complete the police report.

It is important to cooperate with the police but also to maintain your composure. Anything you say to the police will be documented and could be used against you later when your insurance company or a jury attempts to determine fault for the accident.

This also applies to statements you make about your injuries to the police, emergency personnel or your physicians. They routinely document what an accident victim says. If you tell the police that you are not in pain when interviewed, that might be used against you later. That is not to say that you should overstate your discomfort or lie to the police. Just keep this fact in mind.

4. Gather Evidence

If you are able, it is important to gather as much evidence as possible from the accident scene. The availability of high-quality cameras on all of our smartphones has made this process fairly easy.

  • Take photographs of the vehicles attempting to capture all the damage (especially points of impact).
  • Take photographs of surrounding debris, the intersection and/or roadways, as well as traffic signs.
  • Gather the names and contact information of any witnesses if they are willing to provide you with their information.
  • Ask all officers for their names, badge numbers and agency contact information.

5. File a Traffic Crash Report with IDOT

While there is no law in Illinois that requires those involved in a car accident to file a police report, accident victims are required to file a written report with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) within 10 days of an accident that resulted in death, injury or more than $1,500 in property damages pursuant to 625 ILCS 5/11-408. Typically, those involved in a car accident in Illinois will be given a form to complete by law enforcement. In the alternative, the crash report can be filed online by visiting IDOT’s website.

6. Contact a Car Accident Lawyer in Chicago

If you have been injured in a car accident in Illinois, it is important to speak with an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. A lawyer can inform you of important rights such as the time period in which you must file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.

You will also be required to communicate with your insurance company, as well as the insurance company for the other driver. An experienced lawyer can advise you of important procedures, as well as suitable responses to the questions that you are asked. It is not uncommon for your own insurance company to attempt to minimize the extent of your injuries to limit their liability.

7. Talking with Insurance Companies

When communicating with third party insurance companies:

  • Never agree to provide a recorded statement. Direct all communication from insurance agents to your attorney.
  • Do not discuss your case with anyone except your attorney and close family members.
  • Do not provide them your medical records. You or your attorney will gather all your medical records and provide them to the insurance company when ready
  • Do not sign a medical release giving the insurance company authority to access all your medical records

If you have been involved in a car accident in Illinois, you need an experienced personal injury attorney. Please contact us today for a free consultation.

Will Legalization Increase the Number of Marijuana Related Traffic Deaths?

A study by a marijuana consulting firm concluded that legalization of Will Legalization Increase the Number of Marijuana Related Traffic Deathsmarijuana in Illinois could create a market of between $1.69 and $2.58 billion per year. But will legalization increase the number of marijuana related traffic deaths?

The massive tax revenue from such a market, not to mention the potential boost to local economies, has proponents of legalization pushing hard for legalization. State Senator Heather Steans recently introduced SB 7, which would permit recreational marijuana use in Illinois for those over 21 years of age.

The Illinois Senate Executive Committee voted 12-4 in favor of SB 7 on April 3, 2019. As it stands now the bill is nothing more than a “shell bill”, a bill that can receive significant amendments in the future. The Committee’s passage of a bill lacking in detail is perhaps evidence of the growing support in favor of legalization. This is not surprising, given that approximately two-thirds of Illinois voters are in favor of legalization.

Will Legalization Increase the Number of Marijuana Related Traffic Deaths?

Opponents of recreational marijuana use in Illinois argue that those in favor of legalization are ignoring significant long-term consequences. A recent report issued by the Midwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area points out that following legalization in Colorado and California, the number of marijuana related traffic deaths increased substantially.

Moreover, in 2016, fifty-one percent of drug related fatal crashes in Iowa involved marijuana use versus forty-one percent nationwide. The study also found that the costs of legalization would outweigh potential tax revenue by more than four times (i.e., for every $1 in tax revenue there would be $4.50 in costs).

An increase in the number of marijuana related traffic deaths is not at all surprising given research into the effects that marijuana use has on driving. The National Institute on Drug Abuse highlights research that shows marijuana use:

  • Impairs judgment
  • Motor coordination and
  • Reaction time

These studies have found a direct relationship between THC blood levels and diminished driving ability.  Perhaps most troubling among the research are the findings that marijuana is the illicit drug most often found in the blood of drivers involved in car accidents, including marijuana related traffic deaths.

Proponents of recreational marijuana use in Illinois have argued that the correlation between recreational use and marijuana related traffic deaths is a function of marijuana remaining in the blood for up to several weeks after use.

In other words, the drivers in fatal car accidents may not have been under the influence of marijuana at the time of the accident. Moreover, some studies have also found that those drivers with marijuana in their blood were more likely to be under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident.

The correlation between drunk driving and car accidents is essentially common knowledge at this point. Given that studies have found that marijuana use has similar effects on driving ability, it is debatable whether legalization of marijuana is a good idea.

It remains to be seen whether SB 7 or similar legislation legalizing recreational marijuana use in Illinois will be passed. The decision will be one of a cost benefit analysis – potential tax revenue and widespread public approval versus the safety of our roadways.

We have been involved in cases involving the use of drugs and alcohol. If you or a loved one was involved in a marijuana-related car accident, contact us today by calling 1-847-305-4105.

Top 7 Tips To Obtain a Car Accident Settlement in Chicago

It often takes years to obtain a car accident settlement in Chicago. Our approach in car accident cases is to aggressively pursue settlement options Top 7 Tips To Obtain a Car Accident Settlement in Chicagoto avoid the costs and uncertainty associated with litigation. However, we are always prepared to engage our litigation counsel if necessary.

Below are my top 7 tips to obtain a car accident settlement in Chicago:

Tip Number 1

If you have been involved in a car accident, the most important thing is to receive proper medical care. If you suffered “permanent” injuries, no settlement in the world is going to accurately compensate you for your injuries.

As such, I always advise my clients to “Focus on Your Health, Not Your Case.”

For tips on biggest mistakes after an auto accident, check out my YouTube channel called LawFull.

Tip Number 2

This one might sound self-serving, but you should also consult with a Chicago car accident lawyer. I know what you’re thinking – of course he’s going to say that.

I don’t care whether it’s with me or someone else, but there are a lot of moving pieces after an accident and it’s important to get some guidance when you get started. If nothing else, do some research on Illinois law on YouTube or Google.

I’ve seen many things happen in the days and weeks after an accident. I’ve seen victims act out of emotion, giving damaging statements and waiving important rights. Such errors can have devastating consequences and prevent the victim from receiving a fair car accident settlement.

Tip Number 3

If a doctor tells you to do something, do it. I’ve seen several cases where my clients did not follow their doctors’ instructions. Believe me, that is going to come back to haunt you when you’re trying to settle your case. Insurance companies will use your failure to follow doctor’s instructions against you.

Once your medical treatment is finished, we will obtain all of your medical bills and records and review them in depth. We will submit this information along with a formal demand letter to the insurance company.

The insurance company will then analyze the medical bills and records as well. While we try to use the medical information to our advantage, they will try to use it against us. This means, capitalizing on gaps in treatment, failure to follow doctor’s orders, and of course, pre-existing conditions.

Tip Number 4

What are Typical Car Accident Settlement Amounts in Illinois? Every case is different and I’ve seen insurance companies offer widely disparate amounts for the same injuries.

It’s really a sliding scale. In cases where the victim suffered significant and/or permanent injures and missed a substantial amount of time from work, the recovery will be vastly greater than someone who suffered a neck or back sprain.

Tip Number 5

Another important consideration in Illinois is who was at fault. Illinois is what is known as a comparative negligence state. Comparative negligence seeks to allocate recovery based on the extent of the parties’ responsibility for the accident.

In short, if you are 50% or less at fault for an accident, you can recover for your injuries in Illinois. If you are 50.1% or more at fault, you are barred from recovering.

Establishing fault in a contested matter is just another reason why I highly recommend that you consult with an experienced Chicago car accident lawyer.

Insurance companies will seek to reduce your recovery by placing blame on you for the accident. In order to receive the maximum car accident settlement in Chicago, you need an experienced attorney to disprove allegations of fault against you.

Tip Number 6

What if you get hit by an uninsured driver? Often, our clients are involved in auto accidents with another driver that either does not have insurance or has a small insurance policy.

I had a mini-van accident case like that recently. In that case, our client was struck while driving his mini-van in Hoffman Estates. He suffered an injured knee which was worth much more than the $25,000 in insurance the other driver had.

Fortunately, our client carried an underinsured motorist policy and we were able to seek $25,000 from the other driver’s insurance company and another $70k from our client’s insurance company.

Tip Number 7

How Long Does it Take to Receive a Car Accident Settlement? The time required to receive a settlement is a common and valid concern of our clients. Often, car accident victims suffer an immediate financial loss that can add to the stress and trauma of the auto accident.

In addition to medical bills, the cost of purchasing or renting another car and lost wages can take a major toll on clients. While every case is different, we will work to obtain the maximum possible recovery as quickly as possible. However, I don’t want to mislead you either. It’s going to take a while.

Thanks for checking out my blog on the top 7 tips to obtain a car accident settlement in Chicago. If you have been in an auto accident and would like to consult with an experienced Chicago car accident lawyer, please contact us today for a free consultation.

Illinois Dog Bite Law – FAQs

We repeatedly get the same questions regarding Illinois dog bite law. As Illinois dog bite lawsuch, we put together this list of frequently asked questions or FAQs on dog bite law in Illinois.

My name is Barry Zlotowicz and I am an experienced dog bite lawyer.  If you were bitten by a dog or other animal, contact me at 847-305-4105 for a free consultation.

What Law Applies to Dog Bites in Illinois?

Illinois dog bite law is governed by 510 ILCS 5/16.  The statute provides that where a dog (or other animal) attacks an individual without provocation the owner of the animal is liable to the injured person for the full amount of his or her injuries.

Under Illinois Dog Bite Law is the Dog’s Owner Strictly Liable?

Yes.  A dog owner is strictly liable for animal attacks and is liable for the full amount of the injured party’s damages.

Is Illinois law more or less strict than other states?

Illinois dog bite law is significantly stricter than many other states. In Illinois, if a dog bites, the owner is on the hook for the damages.

Other states may follow a negligence theory of liability meaning you have to weigh whether the dog owner breached his or her duty of care in managing his/her animal.

And some states follow a “one-bite rule.” This means that an animal owner is not on the hook the first time their animal bites someone. It should be called the “one-bite free” rule.

Are There Defenses to an Illinois Dog Bite Case?

Yes, there are defenses in a dog bite case, even in a strict liability state.  An experienced dog bite lawyer will typically raise several defenses:

  1. If the owner can establish that the dog was provoked by the injured party, then he or she may not be liable.
  2. Second, if the injured party was trespassing on private property when attacked by the dog the owner will may not be liable for the injuries.

What is the Justice for Buddy Act?

The Justice for Buddy Act is a law that was enacted in Illinois to protect dogs from more vicious animals.  In this case, a small dog named “Buddy” was killed by a neighbor’s dog.

The law comes into effect when a dog that has been deemed “dangerous” is found to be off its leash twice within the 12-month period following the designation.  In such cases, the owner is said to be a “reckless dog owner” and will have to forfeit their dogs to a shelter, rescue or sanctuary. Then the owner will be prohibited from owning dogs for a period of three years.

The Justice for Buddy Act took effect on January 1, 2019.

What is the Statute of Limitations in Illinois Dog Bite Cases?

In Illinois an injured party has two years from the date of the injury to file a complaint in court.  If the case is not filed within two years, the injured party will lose the right to receive compensation for his or her injuries.

The statute of limitations for minors bitten by dogs is different.

Thus, it is important to consult with an experienced dog bite lawyer so that you are aware of your rights and important deadlines.

What Should I do if I Have Been Attacked? 

If you have been bitten or attacked by a dog or other animal, it is important to seek immediate medical attention.

Medical care for dog bites varies as do the injuries suffered by dog bite victims. There is always a risk of infection from the dog’s saliva getting into the wound. Therefore, your medical provider may or may not close the wound with sutures. Thereafter, the wounds should be cleaned regularly.

It is also important to find out whether the has been immunized.  If not, you may need a tetanus shot or additional vaccinations.

Once you have received medical attention, it is important to consult with an experienced lawyer for dog bite to ensure that you are aware of your rights.  The Chicago Legal Group has successfully assisted clients in receiving full compensation for their injuries.  Please contact us today for a free consultation.