Wheeling Military Personal Injury Lawyer

This weekend is Memorial Day and I’ve been so actively involved in several Wheeling Military Personal Injury Lawyermilitary personal injury claims in the past eighteen months, I wanted to say as a Wheeling military personal injury lawyer, I am grateful for the service of our women and men in uniform.

The past couple weeks I’ve been working on a veterans’ project. I cannot disclose much but for to say that it involved representing veterans in claims for damages suffered in recent wars.

This was eye-opening for many reasons. Although I heard of the carnage that went on in Iraq, I was not as aware of the daily activities of your average soldier. Based on what I’ve seen, I can say I will never take their service for granted again.

I’ve also reflected recently on the many veterans’ personal injury cases I’ve worked on in the past few years. Just this week I met with a vet who clearly suffered from PTSD and other severe physical ailments suffered while serving.

He was just injured in an auto accident when he got rear-ended through no fault of his own. You’d think it would be an open and shut case. It’s not. Veterans with pre-existing conditions make complicated cases.

Specifically, is their injury the result of their auto accident or was it the result of an injury they suffered in the field. Yes, you can have both. Meaning, they suffered an injury in combat and that injury was exacerbated or aggravated as a result of the accident. But those types of cases are difficult to prove.

Another challenge facing these folks after an auto accident is obtaining medical treatment. As a Wheeling military personal injury lawyer, I’ve had to deal with Tricare Insurance and the Veteran’s Administration countless times. The VA in particular is extremely difficult to deal with. What you’ve heard about dealing with the VA is not fictional.

If I’m hired to represent a vet who is using the VA for his or her medical treatment, I tell them up front, get ready for a long wait to obtain medical treatment, to get the medical treatment they need such as an MRI or surgical procedure, to obtain their medical bills and records from the VA and as such, a long wait to receive compensation for their injuries.

Finally, my most recent experience with at least one liberal vis-a-vis military veterans has not been positive. He told me that he didn’t think our veterans were heroes for serving and sacrificing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not saying this is all liberals and frankly, on social issues, I’m very liberal myself. Just saying, this guy represented a lot of liberals’ thinking on the military.

I was heartened today this morning, May 26, 2018, when my daughter and I attended a town hall meeting with Democratic Congressman Brad Schneider of the 10th district here in Lake County, Illinois. The Congressman spoke quite a bit about the sacrifice of our veterans and he himself had attended several memorial events in the past few days to honor their service. Thank you, Congressman Schneider.

I’m off my soapbox and will get back to legal topics in future weeks. Just wanted to share a few of my experiences as a Wheeling military personal injury lawyer and advise vets what they can expect if they are involved in a personal injury claim. If you would like to discuss any of these issues, feel free to call me at 847-305-4105.

My car is totaled in a Chicago auto accident and I owe more than what it’s worth

Chicago auto accident


What happens if your car is totaled in a Chicago auto accident and you owe more than it’s worth? Be prepared to pay. But there is a way to protect yourself. Call my office for a free consultation at 847-305-4105.

Intro

According to an article on insurance.com, Experian Automotive said around 86 percent of new car buyers finance their vehicle and the average new car loan is about $30,000 for roughly 68 months. So, people are financing millions of vehicles. As such, drivers in Illinois who get in a Chicago auto accident are often faced with paying money owed on newly purchased vehicles that are involved in accidents.

Example

You purchase a car for $30,000. You put $1,000 down and you finance $29,000 through a bank or the auto dealership’s finance company. A few months later you are involved in an accident and your car is totaled. You file a claim with your auto insurance company and they determine that the actual cash value (ACV) of your vehicle is $27,000. What happens?

Your auto insurance company will write a check to your finance company for the ACV of your vehicle and you owe the remaining balance outstanding of $2,000. It’s unfair, you did not cause the Chicago auto accident. Yet you are still on the hook for the balance outstanding.

Gap Insurance

The only way you can protect yourself from this situation is to purchase Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP) insurance. In the situation above, your GAP insurance would have covered the difference between what your vehicle is worth and what you owe.

You can purchase GAP insurance when you purchase your vehicle from the dealership or you can likely purchase it from your auto insurance company.

If you don’t have GAP Insurance

How do you pay the balance owed if you do not have GAP insurance? Generally speaking, my clients in this situation have been able to continue to make their monthly payments until the balance is paid off. You may also be able to contact your finance company and figure out an alternative payment arrangement.

That’s little solace to someone who just lost their investment in a vehicle including their down payment, has to pay money for a vehicle they can’t drive and may not have money for a down payment on a new vehicle.

If you want to fight it

If you are unhappy with your auto insurance company’s valuation of your vehicle, you do have the option of contesting the valuation of your vehicle. You can try to get your own appraisal from a resource like Kelley Blue Book. That probably won’t work and as such, you will likely have to hire an appraiser to provide a new appraisal to give to the insurance company.

If that doesn’t work, you will have to demand arbitration from your insurance company. If you are dealing with the insurance company for the driver who caused the accident, your only option would be to file a lawsuit.

Do I need an attorney?

Most personal injury attorneys won’t get involved in a matter that only involves property damage. It’s not that I don’t want to help. However, as a Chicago auto accident attorney, I represent people who suffer injuries in auto accidents.

Regardless, I am happy to speak with you about how to proceed with your claim against the insurance company. Call me for a free consultation at 847-305-4105.

Can I keep a car that is a total loss in Illinois?

Can I keep a car that is a total loss in Illinois? Yes, but only under very Car is a total loss in ILlimited circumstances – so limited that the answer really is no. If you are involved in a Chicago auto accident, contact us to discuss your options regarding keeping your vehicle at 847-305-4105.

The Process

You are involved in an auto accident and shortly thereafter, the insurance company, either yours or the other guy’s, sends out an appraiser to look at your vehicle. He or she writes up a report, takes photographs and gives the information to the insurance adjuster.

The adjuster will crunch the numbers. Generally speaking, if the cost to repair the vehicle costs more than the vehicle is worth, the vehicle will be declared a total loss in Illinois. Some insurance companies have a formula they use. But this is generally the process and there is very little you can do about it.

Next you will be contacted by the total loss department who will provide you a few documents to sign including a power of attorney so that they can file documents with the state on your behalf. In addition, you will have to provide them the title to your vehicle.

The insurance company will then take ownership of the vehicle, file a salvage certificate with the state and will then most likely sell it for scrap or parts at an auto auction.

Can you keep your vehicle?

If your vehicle is a total loss, there is almost nothing you can do about it. Due to Illinois’ proclivity toward crime, the Illinois state legislature enacted legislation to prevent “chop shops.”

To do so, there are only two situations where you can keep your vehicle if it is a total loss in Illinois:

  1. Your vehicle is 9 years old or older
  2. Your vehicle only suffered hail damage but is otherwise operable (obviously not accident-related) (625 ILCS 5/3-117.1)(b)(1)

What happens if you keep your vehicle?

If you do keep your vehicle after it is declared a total loss, it becomes a “salvage vehicle” aka “junk.” Salvage vehicles must be registered with the state of Illinois.

You CANNOT drive a salvage vehicle on the roads in Illinois.

Illinois law is very clear – per the Illinois Vehicle Code: “(625 ILCS 5/3-117.1)(e) Any vehicle which is salvage or junk may not be driven or operated on roads and highways within this State.”

Any other options?

If you really want to contest your vehicle being declared a total loss, there are a few ways around it. First, your Chicago auto accident attorney may be able to help. I have had a few limited situations where through some negotiations, we were able to convince the insurance adjuster that my client’s vehicle was not a total loss.

Another option that you could exercise on your own even would be to hire an independent appraiser to inspect your vehicle. He or she may come up with a different estimate to repair your vehicle. You can use that to dispute the insurance company’s appraisal.

If you are involved in a situation where your vehicle is declared a total loss in Illinois, feel free to reach out to me for a free consultation at 847-305-4105

Can I cancel my car insurance after a claim?

Car Insurance Claim
If you were involved in an auto, motorcycle or other motor vehicle accident, you might ask “can I cancel my car insurance after a claim?” Read on to learn more about cancelling your insurance after filing a claim. Or, call our office for a free consultation at 847-305-4105, before you take any action.

Can I cancel my car insurance after a claim?

I have received calls from many motor vehicle accident victims who ask if they can cancel their insurance after filing a claim. In a word, yes, you can cancel your insurance after you file a claim. However, there are a few things to consider before you do so.

This issue often comes up involving motorcycle accidents. At the firm I worked at previously, we did a lot of motorcycle accident cases. Motorcycles that get in accidents are often completely totaled. In that case, there is little reason to keep your motorcycle insurance active after the accident on the motorcycle that was totaled – unless you are immediately going to get another bike.

Many people after they get in a motorcycle accident decide not to ride any more. As such, people often asked if they could cancel their motorcycle insurance policy without affecting their insurance claim.

Insurance at the time of the accident

Generally speaking, your motor vehicle insurance policy is going to cover your claim if the policy was in effect at the time of the accident. As such, it is irrelevant to the viability of your claim if you cancel your policy after the accident – even the day after your accident.

However, cancelling may affect your claim in unexpected ways. Insurance companies are notoriously (and some might say intentionally) difficult to deal with.

In my experience, when you file a “first party claim,” meaning a claim with your own insurance company, the insurance company will attempt to be helpful, depending on the adjuster you are dealing with.

However, as soon as you are “adverse,” meaning, you are opposing your insurance company, you are no different to them than you are to the insurance for the person who hit you.

As such, its beneficial to stay on good terms with your insurance. If you cancel your insurance right after filing a claim, you may risk becoming less of a priority to them. You are no longer a client. You are not adverse per se, but you are no longer paying insurance premiums to State Farm or any other insurer.

Other effects

If you do cancel your auto insurance, there are ramifications just in general, not necessarily related to your claim. First, your vehicle has to be covered at all times. Do not allow a “gap in coverage” on your vehicle. That could result in fees and there could be other charges when you try to restart coverage.

Also, if anything happens to your vehicle while the coverage is not in effect, of course your insurance will not cover it.

So, for example, let’s say your car gets involved in an accident and you believe the insurance company is going to total it. The car is sitting in front of your house waiting to be inspected. If you cancel your policy before a final decision is made by your insurance company, you will be stuck with the bill if anything happens to it – like a break in, or a tree falling on it etc. What if the insurance company does not total it?

There may also be ramifications from the Department of Motor Vehicles for owning a vehicle without having insurance. As stated in other articles on this website, in Illinois, all drivers are required to have a minimum of $25,000 in liability insurance on all vehicles.

On your insurance policy, it may look like this 25/50/20. This means, that you have $25,000 insurance compensate any single individual you injure; $50,000 coverage if you injure more than one person in an accident; and $20,000 if you cause property damage to another person.

In Illinois, this also means that you have 25/50 in uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.

Recommendation

So, while the answer to the question “can I cancel my car insurance after a claim?” is yes, you may want to stop and contemplate before canceling your policy.

Normally, I would say contact a personal injury lawyer. I think that’s a good idea. However, in this situation, I think it might be better to call your insurance agent. Find out what the ramifications of cancelling the policy are. Learn your options before you act.

If you want a referral to a great auto insurance agent, feel free to reach out to me. Or, if you have any questions on this or any other legal topic, feel free to call for a free consultation at 847-305-4105

Can I Sue an Uninsured Driver?

Can I sue an uninsured driver?

Unfortunately, there are millions of uninsured drivers on the road. If you get hit by an uninsured driver, you might be wondering, can I sue an uninsured driver? In a word: Yes. You can sue an uninsured driver. But the bigger question is – is it worth it?

If you were hit by an uninsured driver, contact our office to discuss your options at 847-305-4105.

The truth – 1.1 million uninsured drivers in Illinois

According to the Insurance Information Institute, approximately 13% of all drivers driving on the road are uninsured. In the state of Illinois, there are approximately 8,500,000 licensed drivers. That means, there are over 1.1 million uninsured drivers in Illinois. As such, you are at risk every time you get in your vehicle.

The state with the highest levels of uninsured drivers? It’s Florida where it is estimated that 27% of all drivers are uninsured according to this story by CBS News.

Can I sue an uninsured driver?

Yes, you can sue an uninsured driver. You can file a lawsuit and seek reimbursement for your damages. The problem is, if the uninsured driver doesn’t have the resources to buy auto insurance, they probably don’t have enough money or financial assets to compensate you for your damages.

So, what do you do?

First, you do not just take the driver’s word at the scene of the accident that he or she is uninsured. Take down his/her driver’s license number, license plate number and contact information. Provide that to your auto insurance company which has access to resources to determine if the driver was actually uninsured.

Second, it may be that the driver had insurance but it lapsed prior to the accident. This is a very common scenario. In that case, still file a claim with the defendant’s auto insurance company. Do not just take his/her insurance company’s word that the driver is uninsured. Make them provide you a letter documenting the fact that the driver is uninsured. Your insurance company will likely require that before they compensate you anyways.

File a claim with your auto insurance company

If you have auto insurance in the state of Illinois, then you also have the mandatory uninsured motorist insurance limits of $25,000. If the driver who hit you is uninsured, you can seek reimbursement for your medical bills and your pain and suffering from your own insurance. You may be able to seek reimbursement for your property damage as well if you have collision coverage.

Beware – when you seek compensation from your own insurance company, you become adverse – meaning, your insurance carrier will try and pay you as little as they can just as if you were the opposing party.

Is $25,000 enough uninsured motorist coverage?

Not even close. If you are able, I also recommend that drivers have at least $100,000 in uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. If you get in a serious accident, $25,000 might not even cover your medical expenses let alone compensate you for your pain and suffering.

When can I sue an uninsured driver? And when should you sue the driver?

If you are involved in an auto accident and you learn that the defendant is uninsured, when should you file a lawsuit against him or her?

I have recommended that people file a lawsuit against the defendant driver in several situations. The most common are:

  • When both parties are uninsured: If you suffered damages and you as the victim also do not have insurance, then file suit. You can file in small claims court if your damages are below $10,000. This is the very situation that small claims court is there for. It will cost you a few hundred dollars to file suit and serve the defendant but at least you have a chance of recovering
  • If you have liability/uninsured motorist coverage but do not have collision coverage: It may be that you got in an accident and you have insurance but do not have coverage to repair your car. If you didn’t suffer any injuries, you might as well file in small claims court.

Prior to going to court, you need to have estimates or receipts for repairs to your vehicle. It is also a good idea to have completed your medical treatment and obtained your medical records and bills.

If you do decide to file suit, do your homework. The rules regarding introducing evidence (like your property damage estimate and medical bills) are very laxed in small claims court. However, you still should do a little research on how small claims court works to ensure success.

If you have any further questions regarding how to sue an uninsured driver, feel free to contact my office at 847-305-4105 for a free consultation. I am happy to consult with you on this or any other personal injury related topic.

Do I have to report my Illinois auto accident to the DMV?

Do I have to report my Illinois auto accident to the DMV?

Am I required by Illinois law to report my Illinois auto accident to the department of motor vehicles? That is a question I often receive from auto accident victims. For a quick answer to this question read below or contact me at 847-305-4105 for a free consultation.

The Law

Every driver involved in an Illinois auto accident is required to file a traffic crash report if the accident resulted in: bodily injury, a fatality, or, more than $1,500 of property damage (if both drivers are insured – $500 if either of the drivers is uninsured).

Both drivers involved in the accident have 10 days after the accident to file the report or they could be fined. This pdf from the Illinois Department of Transportation provides instructions on how to file a motorist report.

Ramifications?

This law can be hard on people involved in a minor accident. $1,500 in property damage is not very much. Your vehicle could have suffered simple bumper damage. If you have to replace the bumper, this alone could put you across this threshold.

As a result of reporting the Illinois auto accident to the Illinois Department of Transportation, your insurance rates could go up. If you are not at fault for the accident, they shouldn’t. However, no one can promise you that. As such, the mandatory filing requirement could be costly.

In addition, if you do not file a report with the state of Illinois after your accident, you could be fined. However, I personally have never heard of this occurring.

Why you should report the accident

I always advise our clients to file a report the accident to IDOT but also to their own auto insurance company. Why? Your insurance company is likely going to find out anyways.

Also, I have seen many situations where the victim of an auto accident did not report the accident to IDOT (or to their own insurance company) because the other driver assured them that they would pay for the damage. They often will call me thirty or sixty days later complaining that the driver still hasn’t paid to repair their vehicle and want to know their rights.

Unfortunately, there is no official record of the accident which combined with the lag in time will raise a red flag which might prevent you from recovering at all.

If you are able to file a claim after such a gap in time, peoples’ stories regarding how an accident occurred often change. Suddenly, the victim is alleged to have caused the collision.

Example scenario

I had a case I worked on where a man was a passenger in a vehicle driven by a friend of his. They were driving home after a night out drinking. The driver of the vehicle drove off of a backroad which resulted in a fracture to his passenger’s rib. The passenger sought medical treatment the following day. The passenger did not report the accident to IDOT or to the driver’s auto insurance company.

During the weeks and months that followed, the passenger received medical bills from the emergency room. He was unable to pay the bills and as such, contacted an attorney to file a claim against the driver of the vehicle’s insurance.

The claim was filed and ultimately denied. The driver of the vehicle denied that the passenger was even in his vehicle at the time of the accident. No report was filed so it was word against word. As such, the passenger got stuck with the bills.

Another example

Another situation of an Illinois auto accident gone bad often occurs where the parties agree to resolve the damage privately. However, it turns out that the auto insurance policy for the driver who caused the accident lapsed.

In this case, the threshold for reporting the collision to IDOT is much lower – $500. It often takes a few weeks for you to figure out that the defendant is uninsured. By then you have blown the timeline to file with IDOT.

You may have also jeopardized your ability to recover from your own auto insurance company for the damages through your uninsured motorist coverage.

Bottom line

If you are involved in an Illinois auto accident, file a motorist collision report with the IDOT or contact our office for a free consultation at 847-305-4105.

What Is Full Coverage Car Insurance In Illinois?

Car Insurance Coverage IL
What is full coverage car insurance in Illinois?

Think you have full coverage car insurance in Illinois? My name is Barry Zlotowicz and I am a Glenview personal injury attorney. If you were involved in an auto accident and thought you had “full coverage,” only to find out you did not, call us for a free consultation at 847-305-4105.

“I’ve got full coverage”

I repeatedly hear the same thing from auto accident victims when they call my office after being involved in an accident. I ask them who they have car insurance with and what the policy limits of their auto insurance policy are. They often answer the same thing – “I have full coverage.”

It’s unclear what exactly people are referring to when they say this. The meaning varies depending on the situation. But universally, people do not know how much insurance and what type of insurance they have. And they definitely don’t know how much insurance they need.

Illinois mandated insurance limits

In the state of Illinois, all drivers are required to have the state minimum in liability insurance. On your insurance policy, the minimum limits will look like this:

25/50/20

This means that if you are involved in an accident, you have $25,000 in insurance to compensate the injured party; you have $50,000 for the entire accident – in the event that more than one person was hurt; and, you have $20,000 in property damage insurance.

In addition, in Illinois, you also automatically have $25,000 in uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage in case you were involved in an accident and the other driver was uninsured.

Minimum limits do NOT equal “Full Coverage”

These are the minimum limits you need to be able to drive in Illinois. To a Glenview personal injury attorney, this does not equal full coverage. To the contrary, you are seriously underinsured.

I would highly recommend that you consider adding the following:

  • Increase your liability AND uninsured/underinsured limits to a minimum of $100,000 per accident (100/300). Though frankly, it’s not enough. If you can afford it, increase the limits to 250/500
  • Collision coverage: if you get involved in an accident, it will be much quicker to use your own insurance to get your property damage repaired
  • Comprehensive coverage: if your car gets hit by a lightning bolt or other non-vehicle related accident, comprehensive coverage will pay for the repairs to your vehicle
  • Medpay insurance: medpay or medical payments coverage is a small add-on to an auto insurance policy that covers the first $2,500 or $5,000 or even more, of your medical bills. This is a great way to pay for your co-pays or deductibles
  • Rental car coverage: does your policy cover the cost of a rental car in the event you are involved in an accident?
  • Gap insurance: if you purchase a new car, you have the option of buying gap insurance. If you get in an accident and the car is totaled, the insurance company will only compensate you for the actual value of your vehicle. This value could be much lower than what you owe on the vehicle. Gap insurance will cover the balance

Why do you need so much insurance?

It is estimated that approximately 15% of all drivers in the state of Illinois are driving on the road without auto insurance. The next time you are driving, count 10 cars around you. Chances are that more than one of them are uninsured.

If you get in an accident with an uninsured driver, you can turn to your own auto insurance policy for protection. Also, if the person who hit you has the state minimum limits of $25,000 but your medical bills and/or your injuries are worth much more than that, you can seek compensation from your underinsured motorist coverage.

Also, as I’ve discussed in other blog articles, there is an increasing amount of accidents involving Uber and other rideshare vehicles and soon we will all be driving alongside self-driving cars. As such, it’s critical to have the right amount of insurance.

When do I have to have insurance?

Another question auto accident victims ask their Glenview personal injury attorney is whether they can cancel their auto insurance after an accident. They are concerned that if they cancel their coverage, they will lose the protection they have for the injuries they suffered in an accident that occurred prior to the cancellation.

That is not the case. The insurance policy that was in effect at the time of the accident will follow you regardless of what you do after the accident and/or after the policy expires.

To the contrary, I also receive quite a few calls from people who were involved in an accident but accidentally let their insurance policy lapse by not paying their bill. Or, they are uninsured at the time of the accident but immediately after an accident, they sign up for insurance in the hope that the accident will be covered.

Unfortunately, in both of these circumstances, you will not have auto insurance coverage. You have to have a policy in effect at the moment the accident occurs. Though, if you accidentally let your policy lapse through non-payment, your policy may have a clause providing you a certain number of days to make payment to continue the policy.

If you are unsure whether you have “full coverage” and want to speak with us about what insurance you should have, and how much insurance you need, call us at 847-305-4105 for a free consultation.

Prospect Heights Personal Injury Attorney for Bus Accidents

Illinois is one of the most significant locations for passenger bus transportation.  Whether or not children take school bus, public bus riders or passengers taking a long distance bus trip, there are a large number of people in Prospect Heights that count on bus transportation every single day.

Bus accidents occur all too often on America’s streets and highways.  Roughly 300 fatal bus crashes take place each year, in accordance with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  Bus accidents without any fatalities, the damage to property and the price of serious injury is much higher.

As soon as stepping foot on a bus, the passenger has faith that the driver is licensed, rested and prepared to operate the bus in the safest possible way to protect the safety of all passengers.  A passenger also trusts that the bus has been properly inspected and all parts of the bus are fully functional.  Even so, bus accidents do take place, and in many cases it is the consequence of negligence on the part of the bus driver, the bus company or the bus manufacturer.  When passengers are severely injured in a bus accident, they might be able to take action and hold everyone who is responsible accountable.

Our Prospect Heights accident attorneys take care of all sorts of bus accident cases.  A number of these types of accidents include the following types of buses:

  • School buses
  • CTA buses
  • Shuttle buses
  • Chartered bus tour buses
  • Sight-seeing buses
  • Interstate passenger buses – including Greyhound

Because of the size of most buses, the injuries can be quite serious and even life-threatening for some.  Passengers located from Prospect Heights, Illinois that are involved in accidents can possibly suffer from some serious physical injuries requiring hospitalizations and continuous medical care, plus many injured victims may even lose the capability of being able to work and earn an income.  The long-term repercussions of an accident of this nature can be very devastating, so it is vital to take action very early if involved in a bus accident to guarantee your rights will be protected.

If ever in a bus accident whether or not physically injured, help dealing with stress and anxiety may very well be needed aside from any physical injuries.  With that said, you might just be entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering, medical bills and any lost wages resulting from the bus accident.  If death occurs, the liable driver can also face criminal charges for wrongful death.

We represent all kinds of Prospect Heights bus accidents, whether you have been injured or not, you will be pleased to know that our office is well equipped to assist you with recouping from any damages. IF you have been in a buss accident, don’t delay in getting touch with a qualified Prospect Heights personal injury attorney.  Contact us today for a free consultation with Barry Zlotowicz, a Prospect Heights personal injury attorney at 312-848-9783 or 877-LAW-4312.