Can more than one person be held liable for an auto accident?

A recent case handled by our office addressed the issue of can more than one person be held liable for an auto Glenview auto accident lawyeraccident. If you were involved in an accident where multiple parties were involved, feel free to contact Glenview lawyer Barry Zlotowicz at 312-848-9783 for a free consultation.

Can more than one person be held liable for an auto accident?

The answer seems obvious, doesn’t it? If two parties (defendants) were negligent and caused your injury, they should be held responsible or “liable” for your damages. This is called “Joint and Several Liability.”

  • If the defendants are “jointly liable”, then each defendant could be liable to pay up to and including, ALL OF YOUR DAMAGES. This might be necessary if for example, the other defendant was uninsured or otherwise unable to pay
  • If the parties are “severally liable”, that means that they are only responsible for their fair share of the damages

Why would one defendant be held responsible for ALL the damages?

It is a matter of public policy. If someone is the victim of an auto accident that they did not cause, it is simply fairer to hold the defendants responsible for all the damages, than it is to put the burden on the victim.

What if the defendants were not equally liable?

What if the defendants were not equally liable for the accident? In this situation, Glenview lawyer Barry Zlotowicz and counsel/insurance for all the defendants will apportion liability among the parties. Or, if the case goes to trial, then apportionment would be left to a judge or jury.

The law in Illinois

Some states follow the theory of “pure joint and several liability.” This means that the plaintiff/victim can only recover the specific amount of damages that a defendant is responsible for. So, for example, if your case is worth $100,000 and each defendant is ½ at fault, you can only recover a maximum of $50k from each defendant – NOT $100,000 from one defendant and zero from the other.

Illinois however follows the concept of “modified joint and several liability.” In Illinois, if a defendant is more than twenty-five percent responsible for an accident, then he/she is responsible for up to 100 percent of the victim’s damages (if the other defendant is uninsured, underinsured, or, otherwise unable to pay).

If a defendant is less than 25 percent responsible for an accident, then he/she is responsible for 100 percent of the economic damages (medical bills and lost wages) but only “severally liable” (responsible for their fair share) for non-economic damages, like pain and suffering.

It’s very confusing and if you are faced with this situation, please call Glenview lawyer Barry Zlotowicz for a free consultation at 312-848-9783.

It’s easier to understand in a couple of examples:

Scenario 1

Plaintiff A:           0 % liable

$100,000 in medical bills

$100,000 in pain and suffering

Defendant A:     50% liable

$250,000 in insurance

Defendant B:     50% liable

Zero/no insurance

Result:

Defendant A:     Is liable for ALL damages

Liable for 100 percent of ($100,000) medical bills

Liable for $100,000 in pain and suffering

Defendant B:     Liable but has no assets to recover against

Scenario 2

Plaintiff A:           0 % liable

$100,000 in medical bills

$100,000 in pain and suffering

Defendant A:     80% liable

$25,000 in insurance

Defendant B:     20% liable

$250,000 in insurance

Result:                  Defendant A is primarily responsible for the accident but has limited insurance.

As such, Defendant B will have to pay practically all of the medical bills. But, since Defendant B is less than 25 percent responsible for the accident, he only had to pay his several share of the pain and suffering – 20 percent, or $20,000.

It is important to note that in Illinois, if the Plaintiff was more than 50 percent responsible for the accident, she could not have recovered at all for her injuries and damages.

If you were injured through someone else’s negligence and are faced with the question of whether more than one person be held liable for an auto accident, contact Glenview lawyer Barry Zlotowicz at 312-848-9783 for a free consultation.

Settlement Value of a Mini-Van Accident in Glenview

Our client was driving his mini-van westbound on Higgins Road in Hoffmann Estates, Illinois. He was with his

Illinois Auto Accident Attorney
Settlement Value of a Mini-van Accident

family attending a function at the Sears Center. Suddenly and without notice, a car that was also heading westbound on Higgins made a sudden movement right and smashed into the front driver’s side of our client’s car. Our client jammed down on his brake with his right leg causing tears in his right knee. Our client underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair his knee.

Before I address the obvious question of what is the settlement value of a mini-van accident, let’s review the process of an auto accident settlement.

Process of an Auto Accident Settlement

Legal Representation

We met with our prospective client in person over breakfast at a coffee shop near his home. He retained us to represent him as his Glenview car accident law firm. We immediately sent letters of representation to the insurance for the defendant and to our client’s insurance company as well.

Property Damage

The first element of a case that is usually addressed by the insurance company is property damage. In this matter, the client took care of all property damages prior to engaging our firm. Had he not, we would have:

  • Obtained the insurance company and/or mechanics’ appraisal of his vehicle
  • Ensure he had a rental vehicle or helped him recover for the “loss of use” of his vehicle
  • Obtained reimbursement for any other property damage such as a damaged iPhone, GPS or for damage to his clothing which might have been damaged or even cut off him in the emergency room

Medical Attention

At the same time, our client obtained medical care for his injuries. He did not go to the emergency room immediately. Rather, he waited until the following Monday to get his knee checked out. At first, his doctor thought it was a knee sprain. However, the pain persisted and with encouragement from our office, the client obtained a MRI of his knee which was inconclusive. However, the pain intensified and as such, the client underwent an outpatient arthroscopy which revealed two tears to the meniscus in his knee. The tears were repaired surgically and the client later underwent physical therapy.

Amount of Insurance

We were concerned that the defendant had a small insurance policy as he was insured by a sub-standard insurance company. We demanded that they disclose the amount of their policy pursuant to Illinois Insurance Code section 143.24b and as expected, the defendant only had $25,000.00 in insurance. Fortunately, our insured had a satisfactory underinsured motorist policy is $100,000.00. This meant that we could go after the defendant for the first $25,000.00 and then go after the client’s own insurance policy for up to the $100,000.00. And, the client’s auto insurance rates would (should) not be affected because he was not at fault in any way for the accident.

Medical Bills

After a collision, the victim of an accident is required to make sure his medical bills are being paid. Otherwise, the bills could go to collections. The defendant’s insurance company will not pay the bills until the case settles. As such, we jumped on the bills to make sure they were paid.

The client had “medpay” coverage through his own auto insurance policy that paid for the first $5,000.00 in medical bills he incurred. We made sure that $5,000.00 was used first – part of it was even paid directly to our client to make sure his co-pays and his deductible were paid. At the same time, we called his providers to make sure the remaining bills were sent to his health insurance and whatever balances were left over were put on hold until his case was resolved.

Case Loan

Even though the medical bills were covered, our client suffered significant financial hardship because of the accident. Just like the medical bills, you will not be compensated for your lost wages until your case is resolved. As such, the client did not receive a paycheck for three months until he was able to return to work.

In the interim, the client took a case loan from a lending company to tie him over until the case resolved. This helped him pay his mortgage and other normal expenses while his case was pending. We usually discourage case loans unless it is absolutely necessary, which it was in this situation.

Lost Wages

In addition to not collecting wages while injured, we faced another lost-wages issue. The client worked for a family business, a significant part of his wages was bonus based on how many sales he made and was very seasonal. Also, his employer records were not easily evaluated. As such, we thoroughly evaluated his income records and provided the insurance company a detailed description thereof. We also produced copies of the client’s past two years of W2’s to further document how much money he lost due to his injuries.

Settlement value of a mini-van accident

First, we sent an “abbreviated” demand letter to the defendant’s insurance company and demanded that they offer (“tender”) their $25,000.00 policy limits, which they quickly did. Then we submitted a detailed demand letter to our client’s insurance policy and demanded that they tender the additional $75,000.00 that our client was able to recover from his own policy.

The negotiation went back and forth. Ultimately, we settled his claim with his own insurance company for $95,000.00 total. Why did we accept less than the whole $100,000.00? If the insurance company was forced to tender the whole policy, they might as well have fought the case. Saving $5,000.00 was a win for them and getting almost the whole policy was a win for our client and he avoided having to pursue his claim through arbitration, where he was not guaranteed to recover as much and would have incurred significant expenses.

Post Settlement

Our client’s health insurance company field a “lien” with our office and as such, our client was obligated to pay them back for the medical bills they paid on his behalf. We were able to negotiate a reduction of the health insurance lien. He also had a few outstanding balances on medical bills from among others, his hospital. We were able to obtain reductions on those bills as well.

Finally, we obtained releases from both insurance companies and created a “settlement statement” that documented all the costs associated with our client’s case. Our client signed the documents and we distributed him his funds.

Conclusion

The process of navigating a settlement value of a mini-van accident is complicated. If you would like a free consultation with a car accident attorney in Glenview to discuss your auto accident, contact our office at 847-305-4105.