When an auto accident occurs, someone is usually at fault. If someone is at fault, insurance companies usually pay compensation for personal injuries, wrongful death, and property damage. States apportion damages in different ways. The two main types of insurance that states use to pay personal injury claims are no-fault insurance and at-fault insurance. Illinois applies an “at-fault” system.
How No-Fault Insurance Works
In states that apply a “no-fault” system, drivers must purchase Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance that covers their own injuries and lost earnings, regardless of fault. PIP insurance does not cover non-economic losses such as pain and suffering and emotional distress. Moreover, if PIP applies, you can’t even file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver unless your injuries are “serious” (more on this below).
Currently, a dozen states are “no-fault” auto insurance states (or at least have a no-fault component): Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Utah.
PIP insurance’s major drawback is that its coverage does not include non-economic damages. In many cases, its coverage limits are insufficient to cover even the economic damages arising from a catastrophic injury.
To remedy this situation, no-fault states allow injured victims to escape the no-fault system and file an ordinary personal injury claim if their injuries are “serious,” as defined by state law. State law might, for example, define the permanent loss of a bodily function as a “serious” injury.
How At-Fault Insurance Works
The alternative to no-fault auto insurance is at-fault auto insurance. Under an at-fault system, each party is liable for the damages they cause. If a driver in an at-fault state runs a stop sign and injures you, for example, you don’t need to look to your own PIP insurance to pay for your personal injuries. Instead, you can immediately file a third-party claim against the at-fault driver’s liability insurance carrier or file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
Car Insurance in Chicago, Illinois
Illinois personal injury law governs Chicago car accidents, and Illinois is an at-fault state. Accordingly, Illinois law requires all drivers with cars registered in Illinois to purchase the following mandatory minimum automobile liability insurance:
- $25,000 bodily injury liability insurance per injured victim;
- $50,000 bodily injury liability insurance per accident; and
- $20,000 per accident in property damage liability.
Remember, this is minimum insurance coverage. Optional insurance includes:
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance;
- Comprehensive; and
- MedPay (which is similar to PIP insurance).
Other minor forms of insurance are also available, such as roadside assistance.
In many, if not most, injury car accidents, more than one party is responsible for the accident. One party might have run a stop light, for example, but the other party might not have braked as quickly as they could have. Under circumstances such as these, Illinois applies comparative fault.
If the case goes to court, the court will assign each party a percentage of fault. Any party whose fault exceeds 50% receives nothing. If your fault is 50% or less, your damages will be reduced in exact proportion to your percentage of fault. In settlement negotiations, the parties typically try to approximate what they think a court would do.
Available Damages in “At-Fault” State Personal Injury Claims
Following is a list of damages that might be available in a car accident lawsuit:
- Accumulated medical expenses;
- Future medical expenses, if your injuries are long-term;
- Accumulated lost earnings;
- Diminished earning capacity, if you cannot return to your previous position;
- Out-of-pocket expenses;
- Legal fees (sometimes);
- Pain and suffering;
- Mental anguish,
- Loss of enjoyment of life;
- Loss companionship;
- Loss of consortium (filed by the injured party’s spouse); and
- Punitive damages (occasionally).
If the victim died in the accident, the personal representative (executor) of the victim’s probate estate can file a wrongful death claim. Wrongful death claims carry their own list of possible compensation to be distributed among relatives and estate beneficiaries. Wrongful death damages can be immense.
Bring a Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Into Your Corner
Determining your benefits and liability after an Illinois auto accident might not be easy. Indeed, the quality of your Chicago personal injury attorney can dramatically increase the value of your personal injury claim. The bigger your claim, the bigger difference your lawyer is likely to make. And remember-–with most personal injury lawyers, you only pay legal fees if you recover compensation. Don’t hesitate to contact Attorneys of Chicago Personal Injury Lawyers for a free initial consultation at (312) 929-2884.