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.

Why personal injury cases take so long

People are often surprised when we tell them that their personal injury case may take twelve to twenty-four months to resolve. They always

Personal Injury Cases
Why personal injury cases take so long

ask why personal injury cases take so long. For the answer to this and other personal injury related questions, see part one of the blog article, or contact our office for a free consultation at 312-848-9783.

Why personal injury cases take so long – Part Two

In part one of this blog article, we explained that obtaining insurance from the defendant who caused your accident, confirming that the defendant’s insurance company has accepted liability or responsibility for the accident, and the severity of your injury, can all affect how long it takes to resolve your case.

In part two of this blog, we will address additional factors that explain why personal injury cases take so long.

Factors that affect how long it takes to resolve your case

Obtaining medical bills and records

The medical bill and record aspect of your cases is a primary reason why personal injury cases take so long.

Once you are through treating, your law office will have to order all your medical bills and records from your medical providers – and there can be a lot of them. This is a slow process that requires dealing with medical bureaucracy. We are constantly required to order and re-order bills and records. And there are often significant fees for ordering the bills and records that have to be processed and paid.

Often our clients send us copies of the bills they receive and wonder why those won’t work. When we order bills from medical providers, they come with ICD Codes which are the codes insurance companies require before they compensate an accident victim for his or her damages. Our clients do not receive bills with ICD codes, we have to order them ourselves.

Medical bill and record review

Once we finally obtain the bills and records, they are reviewed in detail. This is a time intensive process and must be performed by an attorney or paralegal. Often there are hundreds and hundreds of pages of bills and records that have to be reviewed.

In addition, often when records are first reviewed, we learn that there was additional medical treatment that we did not know about, that there are records we have not ordered or received as yet, or that there were dates of service that were not provided to us. As such, we have to order those bills and records and that starts the process over again.

Once all the documents have been reviewed, your attorney will get on the phone with you to review your case before taking the next step in the process described below.

Demand Letter

Writing the demand letter to the insurance company is also a time intensive process. The demand letter will document:

  • The facts of the accident
  • Your theory of liability
  • Analysis of the medical bills and records
  • Description of your pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment, among other things
  • A demand for compensation

Once the letter is written, it must be reviewed and sent to the client for corrections, suggestions and approval. Then we will mail the demand to the insurance company. We will give them 30 days to respond to the letter – though it often takes much longer.

Negotiation

The negotiation process can take several weeks or months. Our demand letters often include very high demands and the insurance companies often begin with a very low offer. Then the process of negotiation begins. Your attorney will argue to the insurance adjuster about the value of your case and where the insurance company has exposure.

The insurance company will attempt to reduce your claim by disputing the severity of your injury and the amount of your medical treatment. They may point out you have pre-existing conditions and allege that the injuries you suffered were not actually suffered in the accident at all.

In many cases, the two sides are able to come to a mutually agreeable resolution of claims. However, that does not happen in all cases, discussed below.

As an aside, it may be that your injuries are so severe that they are more than worth the value of the insurance policy. In that situation, the insurance adjuster may just “tender” or offer the entire amount of their insured’s insurance policy.

Underinsured Motorist Protection

If the defendant offers you the full value of their insurance policy, you may be able to seek to recover additional compensation from your own underinsured motorist policy. We have handled several cases where we were able to quickly obtain the $25,000 or $50,000 policy limits from the defendant and then went after our client’s own insurance policy to compensate our clients for the rest of their damages.

Medical Bill/Lien Negotiation

Once your case settles, your attorney will attempt to resolve all outstanding medical bills you have as a result of injuries suffered in the accident. There are often deductibles, co-pays and in some cases entire medical bills outstanding.

Health insurance companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois also intend to be reimbursed for the medical bills they paid on your behalf. Your attorney will attempt to negotiate a reduced amount with your insurance company as well. Do you have to pay your health insurance company back? Yes, often you do.

If you used your auto insurance medical payments (or “medpay”) benefits to pay your medical bills, you will have to pay your auto insurance company back as well. Your attorney will attempt to negotiate this amount down for you as well.

Be aware that some health insurance companies just simply take forever to settle with, mainly Medicare and Medicaid. They are huge governmental bureaucracies and just move much slower than a private health insurer.

Lawsuit/Litigation

The last reason why personal injury cases take so long, is that if you are unable to reach a settlement with the insurance company, your attorney may be forced to file a lawsuit against the defendant on your behalf. If you are in Cook County, you might not get to trial for eighteen months to two years. That’s on top of all the time you already spent on your case.

Despite this, it’s still optimal to try and resolve your claim amicably first as litigation costs a lot of money. Every dollar you spend on costs and expenses for your case comes out of your settlement/your pocket. Pre-litigation expenses cost a few hundred dollars while litigation can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Conclusion

All the above are many of the reasons why personal injury cases take so long. These are just the tip of the iceberg. There are countless other tasks that your law firm must to do prep your case and they all take time. If you want a free consultation to discuss why personal injury cases take so long, contact our office at 312-848-9783.

Chicago Pedestrian Accident Deaths Increasing

Involved in a Chicago pedestrian accident? According to a new report by the Governors Highway Safety Association, in 2016, 15% of all deaths caused by vehicle collisions were pedestrians, which is an 11% increase from just a decade ago.

Chicago Pedestrian Accident Attorney
Chicago pedestrian accident

Possible factors that contribute to this increase include increased use of smartphones, which can cause distraction, improved safety features in automobiles, which may help in reducing the risk of serious injury to the occupants, but do not offer any benefits to pedestrians who are struck by vehicles, and an increase in the US population walking for environmental, health, or economic reasons.

In February 2017, the National Safety Council reported that there was a 6% increase in traffic deaths overall across the nation in 2016.

According to the council, the increase was spurred by “a perfect storm” of factors. A stronger economy and low prices of gas have resulted in more cars on the road and people driving more often. However, it says, this is only a small part of the story, and that there is something else at play in the increase of pedestrian deaths.

Distractions Caused by Mobile Devices

Experts say that if you look at both the drivers of the countless cars as they inch their way through traffic AND the scores of pedestrians crossing busy intersections, there is a common thing you will notice in both – their eyes are down, busy with their phones. This has been the cause of many a Chicago pedestrian accident.

For pedestrians, this is called “distracted walking!”

It is without a doubt that people, whether inside vehicles or walking on the street, are distracted. The Active Transportation Alliance reports that distractions, particularly by electronic devices, are the third most common cause of pedestrian deaths, after speeding and failure to yield.

Distracted driving and distracted walking are both a major cause of motor vehicle-related injuries and fatalities. But vehicle speeds and drunk driving are also significant factors. Safety advocates say that better road designs, more sidewalks, and lower speed limits can help reduce fatalities.

If you have been the victim of a Chicago pedestrian accident, contact attorney Barry Zlotowicz at 312-848-9783.