The impact of a motor vehicle accident ranges from the inconvenience of property damage to serious injury or death. A Chicago personal injury lawyer can evaluate all of the issues raised by a car accident. This includes the fault or negligence of the defendant, the right of the injured person to compensation and the steps necessary to obtain the compensation you deserve.
Dwyer & McDevitt has the experience and resources necessary to effectively represent clients who have been involved in serious accidents causing personal injury and require legal assistance. We have settled, mediated, arbitrated and tried to verdict substantial cases involving severe injury and death caused by car, truck or motorcycle accidents.
What is a “Free Case Evaluation”?
Dwyer & McDevitt offers a free case evaluation by phone or in person. This includes discussion of the accident, the injury suffered and the care received as well as an assessment of how the claim should proceed. The case evaluation is an interview with a potential client and often includes a review of materials such as the police report and medical records. This provides the information necessary for the prospective client to assess whether they need a Chicago lawyer and how our firm can help. There is never an obligation to hire our firm or pay any money for the time spent discussing the case.
How much will Dwyer & McDevitt charge to represent me?
Dwyer & McDevitt represents clients on a contingent basis. With a “contingency fee” the Chicago attorney receives a percentage of the money recovered for you. This agreement provides a risk free fee structure for our clients. The client is not charged any amount while the claim is pending. Weekly or monthly bills are not sent to the client and there is no need for a retainer payment. If Dwyer & McDevitt is not successful in recovering money, the client is not charged any amount for the professional time spent on the case. The contingency fee we charge is typically one-third of the amount recovered.
Are there any other charges associated with the handling of my case?
Dwyer & McDevitt pays all of the litigation expenses associated with presenting your claim to the insurer as well as the cost of the litigation. Litigation expenses include the cost of acquiring medical records, court reporting fees for deposition transcript, trial exhibits, witness fees and hiring experts, if necessary. These expenses are paid for by Dwyer & McDevitt during the pending claim. If we are successful in recovering money for our client, we are repaid for the expenses we have paid at the conclusion of the case. If we do not recover money, Dwyer & McDevitt is not repaid for any litigation expenses.
Differences between passenger car and commercial truck accidents
Accidents involving tractor trailers raise different issues than accidents with other passenger vehicles. The Chicago personal injury attorney must consider a wide range of potential issues when evaluating a case involving a tractor trailer including driver fatigue, whether the vehicle was properly loaded, whether the load was properly inspected and whether the driver was qualified to drive the tractor.
These questions and others can be answered in a number of ways during litigation through the discovery process which includes depositions and requests for documents. Most tractors are equipped with an Electronic Control Module (ECM) which records vehicle data. This includes speed, braking and whether evasive maneuvers were undertaken before the collision. This can help the lawyer establish fault and obtain compensation in a tractor trailer accident.
Differences between car and motorcycle accidents
Car accidents share many of the same characteristics as motorcycle accidents. The elements of damage that may be claimed by an injured person are the same whether a car or motorcycle is involved. There are however several issues specific to accidents involving motorcycles.
Drivers of cars often have trouble seeing motorcycles. This is problematic when the car is making a left turn in front of an oncoming motorcycle or when a motorcycle is riding adjacent to a vehicle. It may be necessary to involve an expert to perform a reconstruction of the motorcycle accident. This may also involve the use of an expert to assess the visibility of the cycle involved and to testify to the difficulty many drivers have seeing cycles. Photographs taken at the scene of the accident are oftentimes critical. Information obtained at the accident scene including measuring the skid marks and the position of the vehicles is helpful. A reliable accident reconstruction is oftentimes impossible if the scene is not properly secured. A detailed accident reconstruction often provides the information necessary to determine fault.
The expert can consider issues including the ability of motorists to observe the cyclist, and the response of the driver of the car to the presence of the cycle as well as the conduct of the cycle driver. Was the cyclist lane splitting, curb sneaking, lane sharing or moving up on traffic? Was the cyclist driving aggressively or defensively? Did the cyclist respond appropriately to the conditions on the roadway? Did the driver appropriately counter-steer? These issues should be addressed with a Chipersonal injury attorney and potentially an expert as soon as practical following a motor vehicle/motorcycle accident.
The rules of the road apply to motorcycles in the same fashion that they are applied to other vehicles. The ability of the driver of a car to perceive and respond to a motorcycle is different than that perception of another vehicle. The circumstances surrounding the motorcycle/car accident must therefore be considered with this in mind.
What if the insurance company wants to take my statement?
Many insurers want to take a recorded statement from the injured person shortly after the accident. This is often done before a lawyer becomes involved. The insurance company representative who will take the statement does not have the same interest as the injured peson. A recorded statement typically addresses issues of fault and damage. It is important that the injured person contact an experienced attorney to discuss whether the statement is appropriate and if so, can attend the statement. The lawyer can then make sure that the statement is taken fairly.
What about the medical bills?
The medical bills resulting from a serious accident can be substantial. The emergency room visit can include a bill from the ambulance, hospital, radiologist, and ER physician. When someone has been seriously hurt and the bills start to come in, this can cause significant anxiety and be a financial burden, especially when the injured person is unable to return to work.
The insurer of the negligent driver will not typically pay medical expenses throughout the treatment. The expenses are instead considered one element of damage which is evaluated at the conclusion of the claim. The insurer cannot be counted on to pay the bills in the meantime. Other sources of payment of the medical bills must be identified while the case pends.
Health insurance is one potential source of payment of the bills. We typically recommend that our client promptly submit bills to their health insurer for payment. This involves providing the billing department at the hospital or doctor’s office with your health insurer’s information including the policy number. It is recommended that this be done promptly as many health insurance policies have time limits on the submission of claims. Payment of the bills by a health insurer saves the injured person from a collection proceeding and also helps the lawyer present the bill as an element of damage. If a health insurer refuses to pay a bill, it is important that a lawyer review the terms of the policy to determine whether the health insurer is obligated to pay the bill.
Many people do not have health insurance. The auto insurance policy on the car they were driving or occupied may include “medical payments coverage.” The limit of medical payments coverage ranges from $1,000.00 to over $100,000.00 and is noted on the declarations page. Most auto policies provide that medical expenses will not be paid until the limit of coverage is exhausted as long as the bills are “reasonable and necessary.” The policy may also limit the time for the filing of a medical payments claim. A careful review of the auto policy is necessary to determine the terms and limits of any medical payments coverage.
If medical expenses are paid by a health or auto insurer, the insurance company may be entitled to reimbursement if you are successful in recovering money from the negligent driver. Whether the insurer is entitled to reimbursement depends upon a careful review of the policy, the type of policy and the amount of compensation received. There are state and federal laws which impact this issue and should be discussed with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
If you do not have health insurance, auto insurance or the ability to pay medical bills out of pocket (most people can’t), you may still be able to receive the medical care you require. Some medical care providers are willing to treat a patient and forego immediate payment or collection proceedings if they know that the patient is represented by a lawyer and are confident that the bills will be paid at the conclusion of the litigation. This arrangement is not without risk. The medical expenses are not contingent on the litigation outcome. They are owed to the doctor or hospital even if the litigation is unsuccessful.
As the medical bills pour in after a serious accident, consult with an experienced Chicago personal injury attorney to discuss your options to deal with this important issue.
What damages may be recovered for injuries suffered in a car accident?
There are many elements of damage that may be recovered for injuries suffered in a car accident. The bills for medical care received even if the bills are paid by a health insurer as well as medical bills for care which will be necessary in the future may be recovered. The earnings lost as a result of time missed from work may be claimed even if sick or vacation days are used for some or all of the missed time. The wages lost can be easy to calculate if the injured person was paid hourly or on a fixed salary. It can be more difficult to calculate a wage loss if the injured person’s compensation was based upon commission or if the employment or wage history was less consistent.
Medical bills and lost wages are “economic” damages. Economic damages are in many ways easier to calculate than “non economic” damages. Compensation for pain and suffering including the pain and suffering a person has experienced in the past as well as the pain and suffering likely to experience in the future is a significant part of the claim. “Pain and suffering” refers to the physical pain and discomfort as well as the worry, anxiety and embarrassment which results from the injury.
“Loss of normal life” is another element of damage which can be recovered. This includes the loss of normal life previously experienced and reasonably certain to be experienced in the future. “Loss of normal life” means the temporary or permanent diminished ability to enjoy life. This includes a person’s inability to pursue the pleasurable aspects of life. The avid jogger who isn’t able to exercise after suffering injury in a car accident has suffered “loss of normal life.” If they won’t be able to job for the rest of their life, then they will also suffer “loss of normal life” in the future. This element of damage requires a doctor to testify that the limitation will likely continue.
Disfigurement suffered as a result of a car accident is also an element of damage. Disfigurement refers to the damage to the body such as scarring, burns or amputation which causes the injured person embarrassment and discomfort.
If a person’s life expectancy has been shortened as the result of the injuries suffered in a car accident, this may also be a separate element of damage. This arises when a person is likely to die prematurely as a result of the injuries suffered. If the person would have otherwise lived a normal life expectancy but now their life expectancy has been shortened because of the injury suffered, evidence regarding this separate element of damage may be presented.
It is important that you fully explain the losses you suffered to your lawyer so that the claim may be presented on your behalf in the best possible light.
What can I expect during the insurance claims process?
The claims process typically begins with you or your lawyer advising the other driver’s insurance company of a potential claim. It may also be important to advise your own insurance company of a claim so that medical payments, property damage and underinsured motorist or uninsured motorist claims can be established if needed. Many insurance policies require prompt notification when you are involved in a car accident or are making a claim. Steps should be taken immediately to begin the claims process and to assess what specific claims are available.
Once your lawyer has advised the defendant’s insurance company that you are represented, the insurance company will typically only deal with the lawyer. Both your lawyer and the insurance company will conduct their own investigation including reviewing relevant documents such as the police report, speaking with witnesses and evaluating other evidence. Both sides will evaluate the issues of fault and the nature and extent of the damages.
Typically at the same time that fault is being investigated, the nature and extent of the injuries suffered will be examined. This involves obtaining medical records associated with treatment received after an accident. Medical records which detail similar care before the accident are also important. Oftentimes a primary care doctor’s record will be requested from both before and after the accident as will any other relevant records from before and after the trauma.
Although there is a lot of activity at the beginning of a case as the claim file is established and information is gathered, there may be some delay thereafter as medical care is received. Typically, a settlement demand is not made and the claim is not resolved until after the injuries have been fully evaluated and treated. Either when the condition has plateaued or resolved is it typically appropriate to address settlement. Once a claim is settled, it cannot be reopened. The resolution of a claim before an injury has been fully addressed is a mistake that is costly and typically not something that can be fixed. The appropriate time to settle a claim is an issue which should be addressed with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Once your medical records and bills have been reviewed by the other driver’s insurer, a settlement offer may be made if the insurer agrees that their driver was negligent. If there is disagreement on the issue of liability, litigation may be necessary. Similarly, if the parties disagree as to the value of the claim, litigation may be necessary. The need for litigation and the costs associated with litigation must be considered in the context of any settlement offer.
If litigation is necessary, the claim is typically assigned by the insurance company to a new representative within the company as well as to an attorney to defend the case. Negotiations may continue after a lawsuit is filed. An insurer’s position regarding liability or damage may change once additional facts are learned during the litigation. Given the costs, risks and time involved in litigation, it is in the interest of both parties to continue evaluating the possibility of settlement. Oftentimes a final attempt to settle a case will take place on the eve of trial. A trial date is oftentimes the best way to prompt a full and fair evaluation of a settlement demand.
Dwyer & McDevitt has the experience and resources necessary to effectively represent clients who have been involved in serious personal injury accidents and require legal assistance. We have settled, mediated, arbitrated and tried to verdict substantial cases involving severe injury and death caused by car, truck or motorcycle accidents.
Contact our office today for a free case evaluation at 312-332-0072 or complete the form at the right of this page.