Should you file a police report after an auto accident

Should you file a police report after an auto accident? The answer is almost always YES. My name is Barry Zlotowicz and I am a personal injury lawyer in Glenview, Illinois.  If you are involved in an auto accident and are unsure if you should file a police report, contact us at 847-305-4105 for a free consultation.

The Rule

The law in Illinois is that any driver involved in an Illinois traffic crash must file a traffic crash report with the State of Illinois within 10 days of the accident if the accident resulted in a death, injury, or more than $1,500 in property damage – 625 ILCS 5/11-408. You can fill the form out the police give you at the scene of the accident or you can file a report online.

There is no law however, that requires you to call the police after an accident. However, as a Glenview personal injury lawyer, I can tell you that it is extremely important to call the police after you are involved in almost any auto accident, from a minor fender bender to a severe accident which resulted in injury.

Why file a police report?

It is extremely important to document the existence of and facts surrounding your accident. If the police do not file a police report after investigating the accident, then it is your word against the word of the driver who caused the accident.

Unfortunately, two drivers in the same accident often see the facts very differently. Therefore, it’s important to have a neutral third party like the police investigate and document what happened. This could include measuring skid marks, talking to witnesses and looking at the damage to your vehicle to try and piece together what happened.

In addition, after an accident you want to obtain the other driver’s auto insurance information. Often the other party does not want to give you their information. The police can do that for you.

Many people don’t call the police after an accident because their vehicle suffered minor property damage or they did not feel they were injured at the scene. Often however, property damage and/or injuries arise later. If you did not document the existence of the accident through a police report, it may be difficult to obtain compensation for your damages.

I have seen several cases where a vehicle involved in an accident started making a strange sound several weeks after an accident. Likewise, injuries often don’t manifest for some time after the accident. If you didn’t document the accident through a police report (and get treatment shortly after the accident) it may be difficult to obtain compensation for your injuries.

You want your vehicle repaired as quickly after an accident as possible. However, the defendant’s auto insurance company may want to see a police report to establish liability or responsibility for the accident before they pay for your property damage. Having the police report will expedite the process.

What if the police won’t come to the scene?

Often you will call the police after an auto accident and they either refuse to come to the scene of the accident or they take forever to show up. Should you file a police report after an auto accident in this situation? Absolutely.

Police are very busy and as such, they often won’t come to an accident scene if there is minor property damage, no injury or they are just too busy at that moment. They also might not file a report if the accident occurred on private property like in a department store parking lot.

I’ve seen cases where there is no police report and a person to tries to file an insurance claim. The driver who was friendly at the scene of the accident suddenly denies that they were at the scene of an accident at all or that an accident even occurred.

If you call 911 after the accident, there will at least be a transcript of your call. You can order that transcript to prove to your insurance company the existence of an accident.

File a report

Should you file a police report after an auto accident if the police do not come to the scene of the accident? Yes. As soon as you are able, go to the closest police precinct and file the police report yourself. Document what time, where, and how the accident happened. Also, be sure to document if you suffered any injuries.

The police may provide you a copy of your police report right at that moment. You can use that to provide to your insurance company to obtain coverage.

However, you may have to wait to obtain your police report. If you are injured in the city of Chicago for example, the police will take a police report, but it is likely that the police report will not be available for several weeks after the accident.

You can order the Chicago police report online and the Illinois State Police now offers you the ability to e-pay for their reports as well.

Call today

According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel, around 37,000 people die and 2.35 million people are injured or disabled in auto accidents in the United States every year. Police reports are obviously not filed for all of those accidents. But if you ask me as a Glenview personal injury lawyer should you file a police report after an auto accident? My answer will always be yes, you should. Call me today at 847-305-4105 for a free consultation on how to file a police report or for any of your legal needs.

Illinois injury lawyer – Can I sue the insurance company

My name is Barry Zlotowicz and I am an Illinois injury lawyer. I often get asked by clients “can I sue the insurance company?” In this article I Illinois injury lawyerwill address this common question and also briefly discuss when you can in fact sue an insurance company. If you are involved in a dispute with an insurance company, call me today at 847-305-4105 for a free consultation.

Who do you sue?

Auto insurance companies can be very difficult to deal with. The insurance company has one goal – to make money. They do this by taking in as much in premium payments as they can while at the same time paying as little as they can for insurance claims.

As such, it should be no surprise that the insurance company will nickel and dime you to every extent possible to save money. They know that the likelihood of someone filing a lawsuit against them is small – the vast majority of cases settle. Few people will file a lawsuit over a couple hundred dollars in property damage.

This often leads to serious frustration when dealing with an insurance company after an auto accident or other personal injury accident. I have received many calls from people who ask: “can I sue the insurance company?”

The answer is….

As an Illinois injury lawyer, I’m very familiar with insurance company tactics. But generally speaking, no matter what the insurance company does, you do not sue the insurance company directly for injuries and damages suffered in an auto accident. Rather, you sue the person who hit you.

Example

Let’s say you are involved in an auto accident with a “John Smith.” Mr. Smith rear-ended you while driving on the Kennedy Expressway. Mr. Smith is insured by Geico Insurance. After the accident, you obtain Mr. Smith’s auto insurance information. You file a claim with Geico and after you finish treating you demand $25,000 to settle your case. Geico offers you only $10,000. You are not happy with the offer. What do you do?

In short, your Illinois injury lawyer will file a lawsuit against John Smith, not Geico Insurance. Geico has a duty to defend Mr. Smith. Therefore, once Mr. Smith is served with your lawsuit, he will call Geico and Geico will pay for a law firm to represent Mr. Smith.

When do you sue the insurance company?

The only time you will hear your Illinois injury lawyer talk about suing the insurance company is when he or she alleges that the insurance company is acting in “bad faith.” It’s a term that’s thrown around a lot by people but as applied to auto insurance claims, it is not used that often.

In short, a bad faith claim in this context usually arises when an auto accident victim files a claim against the defendant driver and there is a reasonable probability that the recovery will be in excess of the insurance policy. Despite this, the insurance company refuses to “tender” or offer the entire insurance policy to settle the case.

If your Illinois injury lawyer files a lawsuit on your behalf and you win an amount in excess of the policy amount, you may be able to file suit against the defendant’s insurance company and recover the entire amount of the verdict plus attorney’s fees and more.

If you want to read more about this topic and the standard for a bad faith claim, check out the Illinois Insurance code 215 ILCS 5/155.

Practical use of bad faith

Most of the times I have used this allegation is when an insurance company engages in significant delays in responding to a demand letter or other request for compensation. In that case, I will send a letter to the insurance company subtly suggesting they are acting inappropriately. An insurance company is usually fairly quick to respond to such a letter. However, this is normally a last resort.

Conclusion

Have a question for an Illinois injury lawyer including can I sue the insurance company? Feel free to contact us today for a free consultation at 847-305-4105.

Illinois Accident Lawyer – Property damage attorney

Call Illinois accident lawyer Barry Zlotowicz of the Chicago Legal Group today at 847-305-4105 if you are searching for a property damage attorney. We have handled countless property damage claims on behalf of victims of automobile, motorcycle, bicycle and other accidents.

What type of property damage can you recover for?

If you are involved in an auto or other motor vehicle accident, you likely suffered some form of property damage. That could include damage to your vehicle, damage to personal items like your iPhone or GPS, and you will also be forced to pay for a replacement vehicle while your vehicle is being repaired. To obtain help, call an Illinois Accident Lawyer today or continue reading below.

The most common claim is for the damage to your vehicle. Each type of accident is different and raises a different type of issue. If you were hit in your car, there might be damage to your bumper that can’t be seen by an auto insurance appraiser without taking the bumper off. Perhaps you got hit on a $5,000.00 road bicycle. If the bike has a carbon fiber frame, it may require an x-ray to determine if it is cracked. If you were on a motorcycle, you may have many aftermarket parts on the bike. As a property damage attorney, I have seen nearly every issue that can arise.

Common property damage issues

How do you prove your property damage? In a word, documentation. Check out my blog on this topic or check out my YouTube page LawFull for more information on documentation. But in short, obtain photographs of all the property damage as soon as possible. If you are seeking reimbursement for a phone, a pair of riding pants or a leather jacket, find your receipts for the items or provide your Illinois accident lawyer links on Amazon.com or another site so that you can establish the value of your damaged property.

How many estimates do you have to obtain?

In Illinois, there is no specific law regarding how many estimates you have to obtain. It may behoove you to obtain more than one, however. Insurance companies often require more than one and it is not worth fighting them about it. You may not have to get an estimate at all as the auto insurance company may send an appraiser out to inspect your vehicle.

Can I choose where I get my vehicle fixed?

In short, yes you can. However, it may be a good idea to work with the insurance company to get your vehicle fixed with one of their contracted/approved shops. The reason being is that the insurance company will come up with an estimated value of your vehicle. If you take your vehicle to a different shop, the insurance company might refuse to pay more than their own appraiser’s estimate. That could lead to a dispute which may have to be settled in court.

Rental Car and Loss of Use

You are entitled to a rental car for a certain period of time. I’ve had insurance companies come down on all sides of this issue. Some give you a car of comparable quality to the car you were driving. Others pay for a compact. There are also limitations on the amount of time you can be in a rental car. If the insurance adjuster is pressuring you on this, ask them to prove to you that there are limits and/or restrictions on rental car compensation in their insured’s auto policy.

You may also be able to recover from the loss of use of your vehicle. In short, if you have a motorcycle and you can’t ride it for 30 days because of the damage to the vehicle, you can try to seek compensation for that. Insurance companies will frequently pay you the amount it would have cost for you to rent a car during that time period.

Diminished Value

I’ve had clients who were hit shortly after they purchased their cars. There is no Illinois law that dictates that an insurance company has to pay you for the diminished value of your vehicle. However, it’s worth the effort to try and recover for diminished value. You do so through, once again, documentation. You need an expert to document that the value of the car as it sits after being repaired is less than a comparable car that has not been in an accident.

Why Won’t an Illinois Accident Lawyer take my case?

Illinois accident lawyers are compensated for recovering from an injured person’s medical bills, pain, and suffering, lost wages, loss of enjoyment etc. I do not and never will take money from my clients’ property damage settlements. As a result, if a case only involves property damage, there’s not a lot an accident lawyer can do for you.

If you are involved in a property damage only accident, you may have to file in small claims court on your own and/or settle your dispute with the insurance company. If that’s the case, feel free to contact me to discuss your case. I’m happy to be a resource for you.

Should I use my own insurance to pay for my property damage?

I always recommend my clients use their own insurance company to pay for their property damage if they have collision coverage. Yes, you will have to front your deductible. But you will probably get it back (depending on a few factors). This is the quickest way for you to get your car back quickly and set you on the course to returning to your pre-accident status.

Your auto insurance company will then “subrogate” or go after the other insurance company on your behalf, to recover for the costs to your vehicle. Your insurance rates should not increase just because you used your own insurance unless you were at fault for the accident.

Comparative negligence

In Illinois, an accident victim can still recover their damages even if they are partially at fault for the accident. The concept is called comparative negligence. Often an insurance company will try and place a small percentage of fault on you for the accident even if it is not warranted. You are not obligated to accept this if you do not want to. However, be aware that if you do accept partial fault, that your recovery for your property damage will be reduced by your percentage of fault.

Thank you for reading my Illinois Accident Lawyer blog article on property damage. If you would like a free consultation on this or any other injury-related issue, please feel free to contact me at 847-305-4105.

Personal Injury Medical Codes

Ever wonder what those personal injury medical codes are in your medical bills and why they are important to your personal injury

Personal Injury
Personal Injury Medical Codes

case?  For example, a code might look like: “ICD S42.402A.” Those codes actually mean something and can be very important to the success of your personal injury case. For help figuring out these codes, contact our office for a free consultation at 312-848-9783.

Personal injury medical codes

For many years, medical providers and insurance companies have been using personal injury medical codes called “ICD Codes” to document the diagnoses of medical patients. ICD stands for International Classification of Diseases. If you are interested in looking up what the diagnosis is of your injury, check out this ICD website – www.icd10data.com. This is the site we use to figure out ICD codes. The reason behind using codes like this is to create uniformity within the medical world. It’s also used by auto insurance companies – many times to reduce the amount of your claim.

ICD codes were created by the World Health Organization and there have been 10 versions of ICD Codes. ICD 11 codes are currently being created. A huge jump in the number of classified diagnoses/diseases etc. occurred in the change from ICD 9 to ICD 10. ICD 9 had approximately 14,000 classification codes. ICD 10 has approximately 70,000 codes.

The biggest difference between 9 and 10 is that ICD 9’s were generic. For example, this is an ICD 9 code: “812.40 – Closed fracture of unspecified part of lower end of humerus.” Note that there is no indication whether this applies to the left or right arm and does not state whether this is the first medical visit for this issue or a subsequent visit.

Conversely, the ICD 10 code for the same injury is “S42.402A – Unspecified fracture of lower end of left humerus, initial encounter for closed fracture.” The left arm is specifically indicated as is where in the treatment process the visit occurred (initial encounter).

If you were involved in an accident and received treatment prior to September 30, 2015, use ICD 9 codes. For all injuries from October 1, 2015 and after, use ICD 10 codes.

Why are personal injury medical codes important to my case?

Many auto insurance companies use personal injury “calculators” to assess the value of your case. The most known tool is called “Colossus.” Insurance adjusters take your medical bills and everything else about your case and enter it into the software and it comes back with a settlement range within which to resolve your case.

One piece of data that insurance adjusters enter into their software programs are ICD codes. When we do a demand letter to an insurance company, we always document what ICD Codes we want entered for them. That way you can avoid a situation where an insurance adjuster misses a relevant personal injury code.

For example, in a demand letter we might insert the following:

“Emergency Room Visit

Dr. Smith instructed Ms. Jones to take Prednisone and Tylenol for pain and to return to his office in four to five days if her symptoms increased. Dr. Smith also instructed Ms. Jones to undergo x-rays of her thoracic spine which Ms. Jones dutifully did on June 20, 2017, the results of which were negative.

ICD Codes:

  • M62.830: Muscle spasm of back
  • M54.2 Cervicalgia
  • M54.6: Acute right-sided thoracic back pain
  • V89.2XXA: MVA, initial encounter”

Pros and Cons of personal injury medical codes

The idea behind using ICD Codes (and personal injury calculators) makes some sense. It provides uniformity within a system. And using ICD 10 codes provides for very specific detailing of diagnoses.

However, ICD Codes can be a pain to work with. Often, they are not listed on medical bills or in the records and you have to find them yourself online.

Also, ICD Codes are descriptive as to an official diagnosis, but they don’t measure the effect the diagnosis has on a person. In fact, it can hurt your case. For example, if you are diagnosed with a back strain or sprain – a soft tissue injury – you can be sure that the offer from the insurance company is going to be fairly low.

ICD Codes (and/or programs like Colossus) cannot measure the degree of your pain and suffering as a result of an injury. People who suffer strains and sprains can suffer significant pain and discomfort for a long period of time but that will not be reflected no matter what ICD Code you use.

Also, there is no ICD Code for aggravation or exacerbation of an injury. As such, if you had a pre-existing back injury, get rear ended, and this exacerbates your pain and discomfort, there is no ICD Code you can point to in order to explain the situation. The ICD Code will simply document “back sprain/strain.”

Pro Se Representation

Often our clients receive medical bills and send them to us. The medical bills that you receive in the mail normally do NOT include ICD Codes. As such, if you represent yourself, when you obtain your bills, make sure you request bills with the ICD Codes.

If you get injured in an accident and you want to talk to an attorney about your case, or you want clarification about how to use personal injury medical codes, feel free to contact us for a free consultation at 312-848-9783.

How to damage your personal injury case?

How to damage your personal injury case

Personal Injury Case
How to damage your personal injury case

We’ve unfortunately seen a few accident victims who could teach a course on “how to damage your personal injury case.” To avoid damaging your case, contact our office for a free consultation today at 312-848-9783. Or read below for a few of the common ways that accident victims damage their case.

Dishonesty

The first lesson in how to damage your personal injury case is by lying to the insurance adjuster. The truth is going to come out. The facts will be verified by the parties, an independent witness, an expert witness, or the physical evidence/property damage. As such, it’s better to be honest up front with your attorney or the insurance adjuster. It avoids being called to the carpet later.

Also, in Illinois and many other states, you can recover for your damages even if you are partially responsible for the accident under the theory of comparative negligence. It’s much better to accept 20 (or whatever) percent responsibility for the accident up front than have the insurance deny your claim entirely because you were dishonest.

Medical Treatment

Another way how to damage your personal injury case involves your medical treatment. First, often accident victims don’t immediately seek medical treatment – this is a mistake. If you didn’t get medical treatment right after the accident, it is very difficult to tie subsequent ailments to your accident.

Many people will get medical treatment after an accident but then won’t get any additional treatment (like physical therapy) for weeks or months thereafter. That results in a “gap in treatment.” Gaps in treatment are something that insurance companies utilize to diminish claims. Their argument is that something else could have caused your injuries during the gap (slip and fall/another accident/work injury). As such, it’s important to engage in a continual course of treatment after an accident.

Some people don’t follow their doctor’s instructions regarding medical treatment. The doctor instructs them to undergo physical therapy or use crutches, but they refuse. As a result, they are “non-compliant” with a doctor’s instructions. This is something that an astute insurance adjuster will point out to diminish your claim. You have a duty to take steps to minimize your injuries and failure to do so will be used against you.

Don’t “tough it out.” When you’re at your doctor’s office, tell the doctor/RN/NP about all your injuries. Do not diminish the pain you are going through. As we discussed in another blog article on documenting your injuries, if your injury is not documented in the medical records, it doesn’t exist to the insurance company. Don’t tough it out, tell them about everything you’re going through.

Social Media

Posting on Facebook or any other social media about your accident can hurt your case. I’ve discussed a situation before where I observed a client engaging in vigorous activity at a time when he was recovering from an injury. If we saw it online, so did the insurance adjuster. As such, be cautious about what you post on social media.

As an aside, whenever we sign up a new client, we check the defendants’ social media as well for information we can use against them. So social media can be a double-edged sword.

Recorded Statements/Sign Documents

Another “how to damage your personal injury case” is to give a recorded statement to the insurance adjuster and/or to sign any of the insurance company’s documents without consulting with an attorney first.

The insurance adjuster is not on your side. They want to delay, deny and diminish your claim. As such, they will use the recorded statement against you later to call into your question your credibility. Few people can tell a story the exact same way two or three times.

Also, insurance adjusters will often get you to sign a release as soon as they can. If any additional medical issues arise after you sign, you are out of luck. Also, they will get you to sign a medical release which gives them the authorization to obtain all your medical records. You should control what they see, not them.

For more information about to avoid damaging your personal injury case, contact our office for a free consultation at 312-848-9783.

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.

How long does a personal injury claim take to settle?

Were you involved in a personal injury accident? If so, your first question may be – how long does a personal injury claim take to settle? To Personal Injury Claimdiscuss this and/or any other issues regarding your accident, contact our office for a free consultation at 312-848-9783.

How long does a personal injury claim take to settle?

If you’ve dealt with personal injury attorneys before, you’ll understand that it’s hard to get a definite answer out of them. That’s because there are many factors that go into a personal injury case. Anyone of them could delay your case. For that reason, the only honest answer to the question of how long does a personal injury claim take to settle is – “It Depends”.

Factors that affect how long it takes to settle your case

There are many factors that affect this answer. The most important being the severity of your injury. Instead of starting there, however, we will address this question by looking at the normal pattern a personal injury case takes.

Finding the defendant/insurance

Many times our clients were taken from the scene of an accident in an ambulance. If that’s the case, chances are you didn’t have a chance to get the defendant’s contact information let alone his/her auto insurance information. As such, you may have to wait until the police report is ready to identify the defendant or his insurance. That can take weeks in big cities like Chicago. The easiest way in Chicago to obtain a police report is on the CPD website. You can also obtain reports from the Illinois State Police, your local Sheriff’s department and/or your local city.

Liability

Once you find the defendant, you or your attorney will file a claim with their insurance company. Most insurance companies have websites with instructions or a phone number to file a claim, like this one from State Farm insurance.

Just because you filed a claim, however, does not mean that State Farm etc. will immediately compensate you for your damages. Normally the insurance company will investigate the matter first. This could include ordering the police report, interviewing their insured about the facts of the accident, interviewing witnesses, inspecting the scene of the accident and so forth. Then, they will either accept “liability,” meaning responsibility for the accident, or they can deny liability, or they might split responsibility between their insured and you the victim.

This can take a long time, especially if a serious injury or a death is involved. In the meantime, your car is damaged and you’re in pain. You may get frustrated and for good reason. However, aside from filing a lawsuit, there is little you can do to speed the insurance company’s investigation up. That’s one of the reasons why we recommend filing a claim with your own insurance company as well.

This is the quickest way to get your property damaged resolved. Yes you will have to pay your deductible in order to get your vehicle fixed, but you should get that money back shortly.

Severity of Injury

The one factor that most affects the question of how long does a personal injury claim take to settle, is the severity of your injuries. Why? Because this will (in many situations) dictate how long you obtain medical treatment for.

Once you sign a release from the insurance company accepting compensation for your damages, you waive away your right to recover anything else from the defendant/his insurance in the future. It doesn’t matter what happens. We just received a call from a woman who signed a release from an insurance company six months ago. She was just recently diagnosed with bulging discs in her neck and wanted to go back to the insurance cover to obtain additional compensation. We had to tell her that once she signed the release her case was over. There was no going back for more money. Consequently, you want to make sure your medical treatment is completely finished before you sign on the dotted line.

Ironically, the severity of your injuries may also mean that the amount of time it takes to settle your case is very short. For example, we had a case recently where our insured (a pedestrian) suffered a severe leg fracture when she was hit by a car while crossing the street. She underwent open reduction internal fixation surgery on her leg.

This is a severe injury for which she could have recovered significantly for. However, the driver of the car that hit her only had $50,000 in insurance and our client did not have any auto insurance. As such, she was limited in her recovery to $50,000. The insurance company offered the $50,000 within weeks of the accident occurring. Theoretically, we could have settled her case right then but for the time it took to negotiate her medical bills.

We will discuss that and other issues that effect how long it takes to settle a personal injury claim in part two of this blog article, which we will post next week. If you want a free consultation to discuss the question – how long does a personal injury claim take to settle? Contact our office at 312-848-9783.

Reasons People Don’t File Suit in a Personal Injury Case

Need to speak to a Morton Grove personal injury lawyer? Call our office today at 312-848-9783 for a free consultation about whether you Personal Injury Caseshould file a lawsuit in a personal injury case.

You Need to File a Lawsuit When….

There are times when you have no choice but to file a lawsuit for injuries suffered in a personal injury accident. The main reason being when the police report (if there was one filed) does not contain the auto (or other) insurance information of the party who caused the accident and the defendant refuses to reveal what insurance he or she has. Feel free contact a Morton Grove personal injury lawyer to determine whether you should file suit. But frequently there are situations when people choose not to file suit

When Personal Injury Victims Do NOT File Suit

There are situations when filing a lawsuit does not make sense. The main reason is when the person who caused the accident has no insurance or has the minimum insurance limits – $25,000.00 in Illinois.

As I’ve mentioned many times on this site, if there are no insurance proceeds to go after the likelihood of recovering against the defendant personally is small. I had a call this week with the victim of an accident and had to tell him we couldn’t help him because there likely were no insurance proceeds to go after. I hate those calls. The only way to protect yourself is to have adequate uninsured/underinsured motorist protection.

Another reason people don’t file suit is when the numbers do not “make sense”. What does this mean? As a Morton Grove personal injury lawyer, we are experienced in crunching the numbers to determine the potential difference in recovery by an accident victim who accepts an insurance company’s offer or who files a lawsuit.

For example, we have an auto accident case we recently worked on. The insurance company offered approximately $50,000.00 to settle the case. We estimated that at trial the case could be worth up to $70,000.00 – though a jury could always award more or less. If we went to trial, our client’s attorneys’ fees would increase from 33.3% to 40.0% and costs would increase from approximately $250.00 to approximately $10,000.00. To understand how much money more our client would have recovered in litigation, check out the numbers below.

Settle pre-litigation:

$50,000.00
$16,333.33 attorneys’ fees (33.3%)
$ 250.00 costs
$33,083.33 Total recovery

Jury Verdict of $70,000.00:

$70,000.00
$28,000.00 attorneys’ fees (40.0%)
$10,000.00 costs
$38,000.00 Total recovery

As you can see, assuming we won a $70,000.00 jury verdict, our client would have recovered less than $5,000.00 more by going to trial (not taking into account paying back medical bills and liens). And, she would have had to wait approximately 18 to 24 months to have the jury trial in the first place. Most people do not want to wait 18 months to get another $5,000.00.

This is not accurate in all situations. There are many times when insurance companies low ball accident victims. As such, a trial is the only way to get a fair and just recovery. The example above is to point out those situations when filing suit would not make sense.

Other Reasons People Do Not File Suit

Time, Aggravation, Money

We have handled a couple of cases in the past six months where our clients, one a female bicyclist and an another a female auto driver, were affluent and suffered moderate injuries. For these two ladies, the issue wasn’t so much the amount of the compensation but to see justice done. Neither party wanted to file a lawsuit and get involved in litigation that would have required them to undergo a deposition, respond to discovery and possibly spend time in a courtroom. So, we settled both cases on their behalf for a little less than they might have been worth at trial. In addition to the case not being about money, neither of our clients wanted to spend the time required in litigation and/or to deal with the aggravation of litigation.

Fear of the System

Some people don’t file lawsuits because of fear of the system. I’ve heard this from some people recently who might not have the residency status that many of us enjoy. Not making a value judgment here, just pointing out that some people are scared to go to court because they fear being deported.

Others are just afraid of the legal system in general regardless of their citizenship status. They don’t know the system works, they are distrustful of attorneys (sometimes for good reason) and they don’t want to get caught in something they know nothing about. And these people often think they will owe their personal injury attorney money that they cannot afford or that it will cost them money (they aren’t aware that p.i. attorneys work on a contingency fee basis – no recovery, no fee).

Severity of Injury

Finally, as a Morton Grove personal injury lawyer, it’s our duty to advise people when it is and when it is not a good idea to file suit. Often, a person’s injuries will dictate whether they should or should not file a lawsuit.

If you were involved in an auto accident and suffered a back or neck sprain or strain, it is not likely that a jury is going to compensate you very much for your injuries. This is not to diminish the pain or discomfort you are going through. Simply pointing out that those are not the kind of injuries that juries compensate victims for. I think jurors feel that these types of cases should have been resolved out of court. Most judges would agree with that as well.

Our firm is located in Northbrook, Illinois but we practice all over Chicagoland and throughout the state of Illinois. As such, if you are seeking a Morton Grove personal injury lawyer, or you want to confer with an attorney about whether you should file a lawsuit, call our office today at 312-848-9783 for a free consultation.

Social Media as Evidence

Bottom line, be careful what Social Media as Evidence

In most personal injury cases, this issue of whether you can use social media as evidence comes up often. In this

Social Media as Evidence

article we’re going to do discuss what you should and should not do with regard to your Facebook, Instagram and other social media accounts. If you have any questions about this issue or you have been involved in an accident, contact our office for a free consultation at 847-305-4105.

Social Media as Evidence

Personal injury cases are won and lost based on evidence. In the past, this was restricted to witness testimony, the statements of the parties involved, and the written documents, usually in paper form, that supported your case.

Today, evidence is totally different. While the above sources are still available, the first place we look today for evidence is online. Our clients were involved in automobile, slip and fall, or other types of accidents. Most of our clients have social media accounts as do most of the people involved in the accidents with our clients. As such, when we get a call from a new client, the first thing we do is look them up on the internet. The most abundant source of information comes from Facebook.

Statistics

Facebook has more than 1 billion daily active users. YouTube has 1.5 billion active monthly users. These people are posting content online at an astounding rate. And they spend an enormous amount of time online. It’s estimated that the average person spends five hours a day on their mobile device. Most of that time is spent on apps. We’re now spending more time on apps than we spend watching television.

Criminal Conduct

This corresponds with an increase in criminal conduct on Facebook. On Facebook Live, there have been at least 45 instances of violence, such as rape and murder, broadcast live. What is wrong with these people?

Personal Injury Cases

Our firm does not practice criminal law, we are a civil practice. Our cases do not involve incarceration, but rather financial compensation for our clients who were victims of accidents. Most of our clients have Facebook or other social media accounts, as do the people who caused their accident. We look every one of them up.

Social Media as Evidence – Example

Believe us, if we are checking your social media, so are insurance adjusters. And the insurance adjuster’s sole job is to pay you as little as they can for your injuries. As such, we advise all our clients not to post excessively on Facebook about your accident. And, be wary of what you post period.

We had a case where our client suffered a real knee injury as a result of a motorcycle collision that was not his fault. He underwent significant medical treatment (not surgery) and physical therapy. The medical records were filled with references to his pain and discomfort.

Unfortunately, at the same time our client was reporting pain in his knee to his physical therapist, he continued to engage in a very active lifestyle that included working on small, personal helicopters. He posted photos of him engaging in this activity on Facebook. He was bending down, working on the engine, bending over, carrying things, flying the helicopter and so on. Sure enough, the insurance adjuster looked him up on Facebook. They used his social media as evidence against us. Because of this, the adjuster scoffed at our demands and we were forced to resolve the matter for far less than it would have been worth but for the social media evidence.

We have also used social media as evidence against the person who caused the collision. People often admit fault on Facebook. We’ve seen posts where people admitted they ran a stop light or didn’t see someone before an accident. All we had to do is take a screenshot of those posts to enable us to capitalize on them. Ultimately, we would have to authenticate them as evidence in court if the matter went that far. But that is not the topic of this article.

Other Electronic Evidence

As an aside, other forms of electronic evidence are excellent as well. We’ve had several cases where our clients and the defendants who caused their injuries texted about the collision after it happened. We’ve had more than one occasion where a defendant admitted fault in a text. In one case, the defendant, a young woman, admitted she was texting while she was driving and as a result did not see our client. She lied to her insurance company and told them she was blinded by the sun. This did not go well for her.

Conclusion

Bottom line, be careful what you post online as the insurance company or attorneys involved will use your social media as evidence against you. If you have any questions about the use of social media, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation at 847-305-4105.

How to prove your personal injury case?

How to prove your personal injury case

To prove your personal injury case, you need to “prove” your damages. But how do you do that? Contact Morton Personal Injury AttorneyGrove personal injury attorney Barry Zlotowicz at 847-305-4105 for a free consultation.

In a word – “Document” it!

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve represented personal injury clients and there simply isn’t any evidence to support their claim. There is evidence that the collision occurred, that they were taken to the emergency room and treated, and that they underwent physical therapy afterwards. But there isn’t any evidence that documents:

  • The severity of the impact
  • The injuries they suffered
  • Their pain and suffering
  • Their expenses such as prescriptions and mileage

How to prove your personal injury case? Read further.

Severity of Impact

Severity of impact is one of the factors an insurance company looks at to determine, at least preliminarily, how significant your injuries are. It makes a little sense (but that’s it). Sure, the severity of impact could be an indicator of how severe your injuries are. However, it is not always accurate.

We have handed countless cases where there was a minor impact but resulted in a significant injury. To avoid this issue, take photographs of the damage to your vehicle.  If you can demonstrate “significant damage” through photographs (and other evidence like repair estimates) you can end this issue quickly.

Despite nearly every cellphone having a camera, we have handled many cases where our clients did not take photographs of the damage to their vehicle. Don’t make that mistake. Begin your efforts to document your case with your property damage.

Photographs are also necessary if you are going to recover for damage to your personal property as well, such as cell phones, your GPS, your clothing, or any other property that may have been damaged.

Document Your Injuries

Most people think that their injuries “speak for themselves.” That an insurance adjuster will review your medical records and make you an offer that is fair based on your injuries, among other things.

It doesn’t work that way. Not the part about an insurance company making a fair offer – that doesn’t happen either. But specifically, the presumption that your injuries are apparent to the insurance adjuster. They are not. It is critical to document your injuries during your recovery so that the significance of your injuries is apparent.

If it’s not in the medical records, it doesn’t exist!

It would seem reasonable that you would suffer headaches if you were rear-ended and suffered a concussion. But how do you prove it to the insurance company? Through documentation.

  1. Tell your nurse/doctor/physician’s assistant about all the significant pain or discomfort you are suffering from after the collision. She/He will hopefully enter it in the medical records. And, she/he will hopefully identify it with the appropriate codes that medical providers use to get paid by health insurance companies. These codes, called ICD 10 codes are important to getting you compensated for your injuries.

If there is no documentation to support your claim that you suffered headaches after your accident, it will be very difficult to recover for your pain and suffering they caused, no matter how real they are to you.

We have represented countless accident victims who swear they suffered injuries (headaches or shoulder pain etc.) after a collision but there was no documentation of it in the medical records. Absent direct testimony during a deposition or at trial, it is very difficult for an attorney to obtain compensation for your injuries if they are not in the medical records.

  1. Take photographs! A picture really does tell a thousand words. There is no better way to demonstrate the significance of your injuries to an adjuster or a jury than through photographs. You cannot take a photograph of a headache of course. But if you are in a splint or cast, take a photo of it. If you are walking on crutches, get a photo of it. If you have bruising, lacerations and abrasions, or end up with any scarring as a result of your injuries, take photographs of them.

We represented a client recently who suffered a simple ankle fracture. For many reasons, the insurance company disputed many of our client’s claims for damages. In our demand package, we sent over photographs of our client. However, for some reason, the insurance adjuster did not see them. During our negotiations with the adjuster, she attempted to diminish the significance of the fracture. We argued that our client couldn’t even walk after the collision and we had the photographs to prove it. We re-sent the adjuster a photograph of our client in a wheelchair (a photo that we took ourselves). The adjuster immediately offered an extra $5,000.00 to our client and that was enough to settle the case.

We had another case just recently where we had an excellent photo of a large scar that resulted from road rash to our client’s leg. That scar was in a highly visible place on our client’s body. It was visible and apparent to everyone our client came into contact with. And as a result, we were able to obtain the policy limits of $100,000 for our client.

Pain and Suffering

Like documenting your injuries above, you can document your pain and suffering by telling your doctor what you’re going through. However, it may also be helpful to your case to keep a daily journal or log. Your journal should document your:

  1. Symptoms: “I feel an aching and throbbing pain in my left shoulder every time I move it.” It’s also stiff and I can’t rotate my shoulder at all.
  2. Pain levels: “The pain is an 8 on a scale of one to ten.”
  3. Activities effected: “Today I was unable to go to the gym” or “drive my kid to dance/baseball practice.” “I couldn’t ride my bicycle/motorcycle.” “I had to get a ride to work.”
  4. Doctor’s visits: “11/18/2017 visit with orthopedist Dr. Smith”
  5. Impact on your ability to sleep: “I woke up 2x last night in pain. Had to take Aleve and ended up sleeping on the Lazy boy.”
  6. Anything else you’re going through

Be careful what your write. This journal could end up as evidence and if so, the insurance company or defense lawyer could use it against you. Keep your journal brief and to the point. Do not rant. Simply document what you are going through.

We had a case where our client hand-wrote thirty pages documenting his pain and suffering, his anger at the defendant, at the insurance company and at the system. This was not helpful.

For an example of a journal, check out this article on Enjuris.

Expenses

It seems obvious, but our clients often don’t keep their receipts for items they purchased to treat themselves after a collision. This could include prescription medicine, splints, an Ace bandage, or gauze. Keep receipts of everything you purchased. You can recover from these expenses.

Also, keep a “mileage log” of all the trips you took to your doctor’s office or to physical therapy. You can recover from this as well.

Our client often sends us documentation of their co-pays. This is not necessary. While it is helpful to document what medical providers you are seeing, we will not recover specifically for your co-pays. However, you will be reimbursed for them and more. Your co-pay is a small percentage of the actual cost of seeing your doctor/physical therapist etc. Your attorney will try to recover for the entire cost of your medical visit – not just the co-pay.

Conclusion

In sum, if you want to know how to prove your personal injury case, in a word – “document” it! For additional information on how to document your case, contact Morton Grove personal injury attorney Barry Zlotowicz at 847-305-4105 for a free consultation.