Auto accidents can be one of the most traumatizing experiences you can ever go through. Besides the obvious dangers that are present (injuries and property damages), one can truly get overwhelmed by the steps one needs to take after the accident. Below is a short summary of what to do next…
1) Notify the police. In Illinois, the law requires you to contact the police if there is anything beyond minor property damage or if someone is injured. Be sure to ask the police officer how you can get a copy of the traffic crash report.
2) Get all information at the scene of the accident i.e. names (those involved in the collision and witnesses), addresses, phone numbers, insurance information, etc…If you have a camera (your smart phone will do), take photos of the accident site, the vehicles and people involved, and anything else that might tend to indicate what or who caused the accident. If any driver appears to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, inform the responding police officer.
3) Most importantly, if you or anyone is injured, call 911 or, if able, drive to the nearest hospital for medical attention. Failure to get medical care might jeopardize your claim if you or a passenger has unknown injuries (that may show up later). Do not assume that your pain and discomfort will ‘go away'. If you do seek medical treatment, report any and all symptoms to your treating physician (i.e. E.R. physician or family physician), however slight. Not only is it important for your own well-being but, if you do have certain injuries, your insurance company will need proof that the problems you are having are related to the accident. Any gap in treatment could jeopardize your claim, as well.
4) After the incident, do not give any statements to any party or insurance company until you speak with an experienced auto accident attorney. Don't jeopardize your rights without speaking with a personal injury lawyer first. Knowing your rights will ensure you the best protection under the law.
So now you've done all that and need to file a claim against the at-fault driver. What's next? When filing a personal injury claim for damages resulting from an automobile collision in Illinois, three very key factors of Illinois law come into play: statutes of limitations on when a plaintiff may file a lawsuit; driving while uninsured; and what happens when you bear some of the blame for those damages or what's called ‘comparative negligence.'
We've discussed the latter two areas of consideration in our blog as linked above, but for the statute of limitations, we've only discussed the limitations from a broader perspective. Illinois, like all other states, prescribes very specific limitations for filing a variety of personal injury lawsuits. For suits involving car accidents, Illinois limits the timeframe for filing a claim to the following:
- two years after the accident for filing a personal injury lawsuit (735 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/13-202)
- five years after the accident for filing a lawsuit for property damage (i.e. damage to a vehicle) (735 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/13-205).
Even though these limitations apply to filing a lawsuit and not filing a claim with either party's insurer, it's very important to remember that filing an insurance claim at the outset will only strengthen your leverage for negotiating damages should you be near the filing deadline for the statute of limitations.
Another point to consider is the defendant in these cases. If your car accident involved a government agency (i.e. transit system, for instance) you may have an even smaller window of time to bring your case against a defendant. Lawsuits against the government do not fall under the normal purview of the Illinois Statute of Limitations and are given an abbreviated timeframe for filing suit. Furthermore, if the at-fault driver was without insurance or has insufficient insurance, you may be entitled to filing an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim with your own insurance carrier.
Because every situation is different and because of the many factors that can impact liability and damages, it's important that you immediately seek the counsel of a practiced personal injury attorney with experience in Illinois car accident cases.
Panio Law Office attorneys are well practiced in Illinois personal injury law and are able to examine the details of your case and advise you on damage liability, comparative negligence and insurance claim issues.
If you have questions about a car accident and would like to consult with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys, please call (708) 928-8680. Consultation is free, there are no out-of-pocket expenses, and we do not collect any fee if we do not recover damages on your behalf. Call us. We can help.