Personal injury law firm – arbitration clauses

Personal injury law firm discusses arbitration of auto insurance claims

My name is Barry Zlotowicz and I am the owner of a personal injury law firm headquartered in Glenview, Illinois. I’ve been licensed to Personal injury law firmpractice since 1993. During that time, I have been involved in many auto insurance claims where a client sought to recover from her own auto insurance policy for her damages. If you want a consultation about pursing an uninsured motorist claim against your own auto insurance policy, call me today at 847-305-4105.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

I have detailed at length in this blog about the need to have adequate amounts of uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. If you get hit by an uninsured driver, you will have to seek compensation from your own insurance policy. In Illinois, everyone has a minimum of $25,000 in UM coverage if they have auto insurance.

What’s the Catch?

Once you file a claim against your own insurance policy, you and your insurance company become adverse. Meaning, that your personal injury law firm is trying to recover the maximum amount from your auto insurance and your insurance company wants to pay out as little as possible. That’s correct, you can and will get low-balled by your own insurance company.

Mandatory Arbitration Clauses

The first trick the insurance company already used to reduce your recovery against your own policy is that they inserted a mandatory arbitration clause in your auto insurance policy. You already bargained away your right to a jury trial for your damages. Don’t feel bad. We all agree to these clauses. They are inescapable if you want auto insurance. Unfortunately, juries, especially like those in Cook County, Illinois, can award large verdicts in cases involving severe injuries. In contrast, arbitrators are much more conservative when doling out compensation.

How to spot an arbitration clause

A typical um arbitration clause will look just like the clause below, which I copied from a former client’s policy. The name of the company will not be disclosed:

Arbitration. “Any dispute with respect to whether the insured is legally entitled to recover damages or the amount of damages recoverable by the insured shall be submitted for arbitration to the American Arbitration Association and shall be subject to its rules governing the conduct of arbitration hearings…”

How do you select an arbitrator? Usually set forth in the policy as well. The same policy as above stated that:

“Upon the insured requesting arbitration, each party to the dispute shall select an arbitrator and the 2 arbitrators so named shall select a third arbitrator.”

The arbitrator’s decision could be binding (meaning your stuck with it whatever it is) depending on the language of the policy. It might also provide that cases under a certain value are limited to arbitration but that cases in excess of that value might have the right to a bench (though probably not jury) trial. Meaning, a judge might hear your case, but a jury will not. And as stated above, a jury verdict is what you want, especially in Chicago.

Benefits of an arbitration clause

It wouldn’t be fair to completely diminish the value of an arbitration clause. There are benefits of an arbitration clause to you and your personal injury law firm. For example, it can take eighteen or more months to get to trial. However, the arbitration process moves much quicker. As such, you can obtain a resolution of your case and get access to your money quicker.

Also, the costs of arbitration can be much less than going to trial. That’s a benefit to you because accident victims represented by a personal injury law firm will have to pay the firm back for the expenses it fronted out of the proceeds of the recovery. The more costs, the less you recover.

Finally, arbitration is a less formal process. If you are intimidated by sitting in a courtroom and testifying to a jury, arbitration might be a better forum for you to have your grievance heard.

If you are injured in an accident and want to talk to a personal injury law firm, feel free to contact us for a free consultation at 847-305-4105. We can help you decipher the arbitration clause in your auto insurance policy and decide on the best course you can take to recover against it.

Should You File A Claim With Your Auto Insurance?

Frequently, victims of auto accidents want to file a claim solely with the insurance company for the vehicle that caused the accident. Should

Auto Insurance Claim
Should you file a claim with your auto insurance

you file a claim with your auto insurance as well? Yes. To find out why read this article or contact us at 312-848-9783.

Should you file a claim with your auto insurance? 

YES. You should file a claim with your auto insurance even if the accident was not your fault. There are several reasons why filing with your insurance right after an accident is important.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Protection

First, there are several clauses in your own insurance contract that might be of benefit to you. The most important being your uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. We’ve discussed UM and UIM coverage several times on this website. And we have spoken to many groups of people about the need to have adequate amounts of UM and UIM coverage.

In Illinois, if you have auto insurance, you automatically have a minimum of $25,000 in UM/UIM coverage. It is estimated that approximately 15 percent of all drivers in Illinois are uninsured. If the driver who hit you turns out not to have insurance, you will need to have filed a claim with your own insurance or you will be unable to recover for your damages. It happens all the time.

Some people want to wait to file with their own insurance company until after they hear from the defendant’s insurance as to whether there is insurance and if they accepted “liability” or responsibility for the accident.

That is risky. Accident victims often don’t obtain the name of the driver who hit them or the name and policy number of the defendant’s auto insurance. If that’s the case, you have to wait until the police report comes out to get that information and that often takes a long time, especially if it’s the Chicago Police Department.

Some insurance policies have a time limit within which a claim has to be filed in order to utilize uninsured motorist coverage. If you miss that deadline, the insurance company could reject your claim leaving you without any recourse. We have a new client who recently delayed filing a claim with her insurance for over 60 days because she thought she could pursue the defendant’s insurance. When our client finally did file with her insurance, she was denied for filing more than 30 days after the accident. By the time she got to us it was too late.

Medical Payments coverage

Many auto policies include medical payments or “medpay” coverage. Medpay is a clause in your insurance policy that will cover you for the first $2,500 or $5,000 etc. of your medical bills. We often use it to pay our clients’ co-pays or deductibles. You will eventually have to pay your insurance company back for the medpay you use out of the proceeds of your settlement. However, you will usually get a 1/3 reduction off of whatever medpay you use which is a significant benefit to you.

We have heard some attorneys argue that medpay is a waste of money. We disagree. We’ve seen it used too many times to our clients’ benefit to dismiss it so quickly. Especially for what it costs.

In addition, your medpay is “primary”, meaning, medpay must be exhausted before your health insurance will cover your remaining medical bills.

Property Damage

If you have collision coverage, it may also benefit you to file a claim with your own insurance company. The defendant’s insurance company is not going to pay for the repairs to your vehicle until they accept responsibility for the accident. That can take a while.

If you have collision coverage on your own policy, you can get your insurance company to pay for your property damage. This gets you back in your vehicle quicker.  It also avoids the situation where you have to pay for your own tow bill and reduces the amount of storage charges you pay while your car sits at the tow yard. You have a duty to “mitigate” (reduce/diminish) those charges.

If you use your own insurance to pay for the property damage, you will likely have to pay your deductible as discussed in this article. However, you will get reimbursed for your deductible once your insurance company “subrogates” or seeks reimbursement for your property damage from the defendant’s insurance company.

Other Benefits of Filing with your Insurance

Insurance companies have access to resources and tools to research whether a defendant has insurance; they have the manpower to interview witnesses; they can pay for an appraiser to travel to where your vehicle is to inspect it, and so forth. We utilize our clients’ insurance often to assist us in pursuing claims against defendants.

Other Issues

Will my auto insurance rates go up? It is possible. Anyone who tells you 100% that your rates will not go up is not telling the truth. Insurance companies have the ability to raise your rates for no reason, let alone if you are in an accident, even if they are not your fault. But that is a topic for another article.

What if there is no other vehicle involved? If you crash your car into your garage door and it causes $750.00 to your bumper, should you file a claim with your auto insurance? That depends. If you have a $500.00 deductible, it might not be worth it. You will only save $250.00 and this will count as a mark against your insurance which could cause your rates to go up.

Duty to cooperate. If you do file a claim with your insurance company, you have a duty to cooperate with your insurance company to investigate the accident. That might mean giving your insurance company a recorded statement, facilitating an inspection of your car, or undergoing a deposition. If you refuse the above, your coverage could be denied.


Call us today at 312-848-9783 if you are unsure whether you should you file a claim with your auto insurance after an accident. Our consultations are always free and we will come to you if we agree that our firm can help you.