FAQ's. Common Questions answered here.
Going through something as difficult as a major legal event can leave you filled with questions about the past, present, and what to expect in the future. Get answers to some of the top questions I receive, to help put your mind at ease. Check back often for even more answers to your legal questions. Better yet, give us a call to see how we can help.
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Do online personal injury calculators work to tell me my case value?
If you were hurt in a serious car accident, slip and fall accident or other kind of accident in which you were injured because of someone else’s carelessness or negligence, it is normal to wonder how much money you can expect to see by way of compensation. Don’t be fooled by those personal injury award calculators you might see online, claiming that if you enter just a few facts into your computer, it will magically tell you how much money your case is worth! The truth is, even when you sit down with an attorney for the first time to discuss details about your accident, it is impossible to put an exact dollar value on your case. An online calculator is more likely than not just going to feed your information to a personal injury lawyer so that they can follow up with you. That’s fine, but let’s just be clear as to the main reason that these online tools are out there.
Better questions to ask when talking to an injury lawyer are:
- Do I have a case?
- How likely is it that fault of the other party can be proven?
- If the accident was partly my fault, how do you see that impacting my case?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of my case?
- What should I do when the insurance company calls me?
- What steps should I be taking now, in preparation for filing a claim for personal injury?
- Can you help me evaluate a settlement offer given to me by the insurance company?
Why the value of a personal injury case shouldn’t be calculated too early on
A good accident lawyer isn’t going to throw a dollar number out there during an initial consultation, for the simple reason that the facts of your case must first be thoroughly investigated which includes reviewing the police report, becoming familiar with the accident scene, speaking to witnesses, and so forth. Just as important is the need to wait until you have completed your medical treatment or at least have a very good idea as to what you can expect in the future in terms of your physical condition due to the accident. Since one of the main components of your case will involve payment or reimbursement of your medical bills, you don’t want to leave anything out. This is one of the main reasons that insurance companies for at-fault parties are going to be so quick to offer you a settlement, if in fact they even accept responsibility for having caused your injuries. They want to get your signature on a settlement agreement before you get a lawyer and before you incur more bills for doctors, physical therapy, pain medications or injections or even surgery because once you have settled, there is no coming back and forcing them to give you more money, not even with a lawsuit. Your case is forever closed once you sign a settlement for your injuries.
What if I am already done with my medical treatment- can’t we estimate a case value?
If you are done receiving all of the medical treatment that you are going to receive for the accident, are back to work and feeling about as going as you are going to following your injury, and can give the attorney a very good summary as to how the accident happened, then it is possible and even likely that an attorney can give you range of what you can expect, but that is very different than throwing around numbers immediately following an accident or expecting an online tool to give you any measure of accuracy in terms of telling you how much your case is worth.
It is worth mentioning that an important key to the value of your case is not only the cold facts and amount of your medical bills and other measure of damages, but also how your case is going to be presented (think about the various lawyers in the classic and very funny movie, My Cousin Vinny). Will your case be skillfully negotiated by a good attorney or will it be presented in a sloppy manner? How have your injuries impacted your life and how will that part of it be conveyed? Will a lawsuit be necessary and if so, how will a jury react at trial? Will the case go as far as trial and if so, will you make a good witness? The human component can never be taken into an account by a computer widget which is why it is important to have a real conversation with a real attorney about your accident.
How can I find out more about my own injury case?
Don’t be afraid to talk to a personal injury lawyer. A good lawyer is not going to intimidate you or rush you into anything but instead, should be helping you to understand how the process works and what you might expect in terms of your own case. This will allow you to make a decision as to when and how you may wish to move forward after a serious accident. If you live in or around Chicago, or the accident happened here, give us a call at 630 250-8813 if you are curious about what a personal injury case might look like for you.
I fell down at a store and am being blamed for it. What now?
If you fell down at a store, place of business, or other public location and were injured to the point where you required medical treatment, hopefully a report was made at the time. If you are trying to hold the owner responsible for your injuries, it can be an uphill battle, especially if you are trying to handle the case without a lawyer.
In order to be able to hold another legally responsible if you fall or somehow get hurt while out in public, it is important to prove fault. To defend against fault, the shop owner or their insurance company will often try to blame the person who got hurt by saying that they were not looking where they were going or tripped over their own feet. Unless they were there and actually saw what happened, this is usually just a guess designed to protect the place of business. If you are the one who got hurt, it is going to be up to you to prove how the accident happened, and not the other way around where the business owner has to prove that it wasn't their fault. You, unlike the the store owner or employee (in most cases), were right there and can give your version of how the events happened. Be careful though, insurance adjusters are highly trained and may ask you tricky questions designed to build a case against you and deflect blame.
How can I prove what happened when I fell?
Try to remember everything that you can about what you noticed immediately before you got hurt. For example, was the floor wet or was there anything remarkable about the area in which you got hurt? What were you doing at the time? If you were with anybody, ask them what they remember or what they noticed. Independent and unbiased witnesses are the best because they have nothing to gain by embellishing the facts and are a great resource, if someone was around and saw what happened. Their contact information may be on the incident report, in case you did not get their name and phone number at the time of the accident. Surveillance tapes, business records, and employee statements can often be helpful in establishing how an accident happened.
What if the insurance company says it is my fault and refuses to pay?
Slip and fall cases, also known as premises liability cases, can be tricky and business owners quick to deny blame. Maybe they don’t want their insurance rates to go up or are afraid of bad publicity. Some may take it personally if they are accused of not keeping their place of business in anything but the best condition. Their insurance companies earn more profit if they can get away with paying out as little as possible to those who are injured and before they offer a dime on your case, they are going to want solid proof about what happened. By denying your claim, they are essentially forcing you to prove that what happened was somehow the business owner’s fault for being careless. Remember, the insurance company or store owner’s decision not to pay or determination that the injury was your fault somehow, is not the end of the story. That is why our legal system exists.
The best thing that you can do after falling down in a store or getting hurt in a public place is to speak to an attorney. A personal injury attorney will listen to the facts of what happened and should give you an honest assessment of what they think your chances are for compensation. It must be shown that the property owner did something wrong. For example, if a liquid spilled on the floor and they knew about it but did not clean it and you slipped, the owner can be held accountable. But if you tripped (as we all do sometimes) on a perfectly good floor for no real reason, this is not the property owner’s fault. After speaking to a lawyer, if he or she thinks that you are likely to succeed in a claim against the store owner, they will want to talk to you about your injuries. If a lawyer takes your case, then your lawyer can deal with the insurance company and hopefully bring about a reasonable settlement to compensate you. If not, a lawsuit might be necessary.
If you fell down or got hurt in a public place and are being blamed for what appears to be the business owner's fault, or if their insurance company is trying to pressure you into a low settlement, be sure to give us a call. Not sure if the settlement is reasonable? It probably is not, for a number of reasons. Give us a call today and we can help you to evaluate your claim and suggest the next steps.
Am I legally responsible for a car accident if my car slid on ice or snow?
All Chicago drivers are familiar with the awful feeling of losing control of their car when they hit a patch of ice or when their tires just can’t get a grip on a snowy road. Even in bad Illinois weather, we still have to get to work and have places to go, which means sometimes having to drive on icy or snow-covered roads. When someone loses control of their car due to the weather, it is easy to blame the weather conditions for causing the accident. After all, far more accidents happen right after a snowstorm or on days when we have had freezing rain and ice. Black ice is especially dangerous because of how hard it is to see. Ice forms fast on Chicago roads because of how close we are to Lake Michigan and the wind chill factors that develop.
Is the car accident my fault if snow or ice caused me to lose control?
Legally, fault for a car accident cannot be placed on the weather. All drivers have a duty to exercise reasonable caution once they get behind the wheel and can still be found at fault for a car accident, even if they hit a patch of ice and the car skids. The reasoning is that everyone must drive even more carefully in winter weather. This means slowing down and may even mean that cars should be slowing to a crawl if that is what it takes to keep everyone safe. We’ve all heard the expression “driving too fast for conditions”. Everyone needs to go slower when roads are slick. The same hold true for rain and freezing rain. In bad weather, drivers should also keep a further distance between their car and the car in front of them. Headlights should be turned on and extra care taken. If your car slides on ice or you cannot brake well in the snow and this causes an accident, you could be held responsible for driving too fast for the weather or not keeping a safe distance.
What if there were multiple cars involved?
Black ice, blizzards and otherwise snowy and icy roads often cause multi-car crashes. Fault can be even harder to pinpoint in multi-car crashes and more than one driver might be at fault. Fault for an accident is not always clear cut and even if you suspect that you may not be blameless for causing an accident, do not admit fault until you discuss the facts of how it happened with an attorney. Even if you were partially at fault, you might still be able to bring a claim against another driver if you or one of your passengers got hurt and if the other driver was also at fault.
What should I do if I was hurt in an accident during bad weather?
The advice on what to do is the same for all car accidents, regardless of weather conditions. Do not leave the scene, seek medical attention if you were hurt, speak to the police, report the accident to your insurance, and do not talk to the other person’s insurance company without first talking to a lawyer. Avoid common mistakes made by accident victims and give us a call at 630 250-8813 to discuss the facts surrounding your accident with an attorney and get advice specific to the circumstances.
What is a Notice of Health Care Provider Lien?
If you sought medical treatment following an accident, it is very possible that you may have received a document called a Notice of Health Care Provider Lien, either from the hospital or other medical provider directly or, more likely, from a law firm representing the provider. The two most important things to understand is that you cannot ignore the lien and that as long as the lien is respected, you have no reason to worry.
Rest Assured, You’re Not in Trouble
No one likes to receive a letter or official looking document from an attorney’s office that they have never heard of. Usually this spells trouble, demands money, or threatens legal action. Relax, Health Care Provider Liens are a normal part of the complex legal process that occurs after an accident, even if you have not filed a lawsuit. Simply put, the hospital, doctor or clinic just wants to make sure that it is paid for services rendered. The normal way that is often accomplished, without an accident or someone to blame, is by having the bill submitted to a patient’s health insurance and then by billing the patient directly for any amount that was not covered by health insurance. The provider then has to hope that the person can pay their share of the bill, and that they do so quickly. However, when the health care provider has reason to believe that the injured patient will be bringing a claim against whomever was at fault (for example, another driver in the case of a car accident), the health care provider can take an extra step to legally protect their right to get paid. This is done by issuing a Health Care Provider Lien.
The Health Care Provider Lien Protects the Medical Bill
Your medical bills were likely submitted to your health insurance company for payment, or you may intend to pay a portion of the bill out of your pocket while your case is going on, but when the lien is issued, the health care provider likely does not know what is going to happen to its bill yet. They want to make sure that they get paid. The lien means that by law, the bill has to be dealt with when your case against the other party is complete- before you even take your share. Your attorney will be addressing the bills at the end of your case and making sure that the liens are properly handled. Once you receive your check at the end of the case, all medical bills should have already been handled which leaves you with peace of mind.
It is very important to keep in mind that if your health insurance company paid a bill, they may exercise their right to subrogation, which is closely related to the topic of health care liens. If you have been trying to deal with the insurance companies, requests for information, bills and legal notices after an accident, it can seem overwhelming. Unfortunately, there are right ways and there are wrong ways to handle an injury case. It may be time to speak to an attorney, especially if you were seriously hurt as there may be a lot at stake. Give us a call at 630 250-8813 for a no-obligation strategy session with the attorney.
I was hurt in an accident while visiting Illinois. Do I need a local injury lawyer?
If you were hurt in an accident in Illinois but you live out of state, you may be wondering if it is worth hiring a lawyer. Chicago is a very popular place to visit and because traffic can become quite congested, we do unfortunately see many road accidents. The decision as to whether or not you need a personal injury lawyer is determined by many things, only one of which should be where the accident happened in relation to where you live. The fact that you were only visiting should not be the sole determining factor.
You certainly have the right to file a claim or even sue, if necessary, even if you don’t live in Illinois. Most injury cases can be successfully completed without your ever having to set foot in a courtroom and if a lawsuit is not filed, it is unlikely that you will even need to come back and be physically present in order to have a good outcome. That being said, it does not mean that you can remain completely uninvolved. As with any case, you need to be in touch with your attorney and actively cooperate in the process, but much of that is done by telephone and email anyway. Depending on how many steps need to be taken to complete your case, it may not make much of a difference that you live out of state. It is possible that you might be asked to return to either give a sworn statement, deposition, or maybe even appear for an arbitration but if you would rather do so by telephone, this is sometimes possible with an agreement from the other side or by way of court order.
Can I use a lawyer in my state if the accident happened in Illinois?
Your case will be in Illinois and Illinois laws apply. If you were hurt here, you should hire an attorney who is not only licensed here but who is familiar with local rules and custom. Every state has their own set of laws and even if your case doesn’t “go to court”, you will want a lawyer who understands how laws are applied in our state. If a lawsuit becomes necessary, a local lawyer in your own state would need to find an Illinois lawyer to work with, making your case more complicated than it needs to be.
Will I have to travel back to Illinois for my injury case?
As mentioned above, it is possible and in fact likely that your entire case can be wrapped up without your needing to return. However, if your case has to go as far as a trial, it would be a very good idea for you to come back and it is possible that a judge may require you to return. Depending upon the severity of your accident, this may or may not make it worth it for you. Keep in mind though, that while the insurance companies always want to rush people through the process so that they can get out as cheaply as possible (or pay nothing), you should take your time. There are time limits called statutes of limitations that you must be familiar with- for example, two years for most Illinois car accident cases, which should give you plenty of time to heal your body before you even need to think about traveling.
What Should I do if I think I might want to pursue an injury case in Illinois?
The first thing that you should do if you were hurt in an accident in around the Chicago area that was not your fault is to speak to an injury attorney in the State of Illinois. You can have a consultation over the telephone at no cost to find out what your options are. You should consider a number of factors like how the accident happened, whose fault it was, how badly you were hurt, if you had to miss time from work, the availability of insurance and so forth, before worrying about the fact that you don’t live in Illinois. If you “have a case”, the simple answer is that you should hire an Illinois attorney to get the job done. If you aren’t sure- a Chicago area attorney will be happy to talk it over with you to explain the process so that you can make the best possible decision for yourself. If you live outside of the State of Illinois but were hurt here, give us a call at 630 250-8813 to talk about your options.
How Does the Insurance Work in a Hit And Run Accident?
You can use your uninsured motorist coverage if you were the victim of a hit-and-run. Even though the person who hit you may have had insurance, you can’t collect from someone (or their insurance) if you cannot identify them. This essentially turns your case into an uninsured motorist claim. Check your policy to see the limits of your own insurance as this type of coverage is designed exactly to protect you if you were hurt in an accident and cannot pursue another driver’s insurance- either because they didn’t have any or because you cannot identify the other motorist. Even though it is the law to carry at least a minimum amount of car insurance in the State of Illinois, this does not mean that everyone does. Do not be afraid to use your uninsured motorist coverage. You have paid the premiums and since the accident wasn’t your fault, your rates will not go up. Dealing with insurance companies can still be a pain and you may wish to at least consult with an injury attorney to help you decide whether or not it is worth hiring one to help on your uninsured motorist claim, depending on the circumstances of your accident. We will be happy to discuss the details with you and provide honest feedback without any obligation on your part. Call us at 630 250-8813 if you were hurt in a hit and run car accident.
The Other Driver’s Insurance Wants me to See their Doctor- Do I have to go?
Medical Exams set up by the insurance company for the other driver are unusual in Illinois car accident cases, but sometimes it will come up.
I spoke to someone today who was rear ended less than 24 hours ago by someone who took their foot off the brake as both cars sat in a fast food drive through lane. It was relatively minor but that same evening, the insurance company for the driver who did the rear-ending was already calling the woman who was hit. They started asking her all about her medical history and after learning that she had a back injury many years ago, they immediately told her that she needed to go see one of their doctors.
Insurance companies will act very quickly in trying to contact the other driver, especially when they know that it was their own driver’s fault. This is deliberate and done for the sole protection of the insurance company, so that they can get out of paying you anything or paying you as little as they think they can get away with. In the situation above, it is likely that the reason that the insurance company pushed for a medical exam by a doctor who is paid by the insurance company, is so that they can try to get a report written which says that her injury was not related to the accident and has to do with her prior back problems, which they also hope to pry further into using the medical setting. If a doctor says that the pain she felt after the accident isn't really because of the accident, then the auto insurance company does not have to accept responsibility for her injury. Whether or not what she feels relates to the accident is best determined by her own doctor and by what she herself notices about her own body.
Make no mistake about it, following a car accident, when someone else’s insurance company wants to send you to their own doctor, this is not so that they can help you or provide you with medical treatment. It is solely for their protection. Do not let their insurance company tell you what you need to do because their motives are not in synch with your own objectives, especially if the accident was not your fault. If you are being told what to do by the other driver’s insurance company, you should speak to your own attorney immediately and before agreeing to anything.
If you are being either bullied or gently guided into doing something that you aren't sure about by an insurance company, give us a call before its too late.
How can a lawyer help after a car accident?
Car Accident lawyers and injury cases are often misunderstood, in large part due to television commercials on Chicago stations showing screaming lawyers with fistfuls of cash. For most car accident victims, fistfuls of cash are the furthest thing from their mind as they focus on their recovery, getting by day to day with the pain, and wondering how they will manage all of the bills. Unfortunately, no one can go back in time to un-do the accident, but using both the legal process and medical treatments is often the best way to return life to how it was before the accident. This is what most people want after a bad accident, just go go back to how things used to be. No tv lawyers here to scream in your face. I prefer to educate my clients so that they can make the best possible decision for themselves following an accident.
How a lawyer can help you after a car accident
With all of the traffic Chicago and the suburbs, combined with bad weather in the winter, car accidents are unfortunately an everyday occurrence. We are here to help on the legal end by first evaluating your case to make sure that hiring a personal injury lawyer makes sense for you. We will talk about exactly how the accident happened and what your injuries are. Honesty is a core value at O’Connor Cadiz Law, so if we can’t help you, we will explain why and hopefully point you in the right direction. If we proceed with a case, we can help you recover payment of your medical bills and out of pocket costs, along with:
- Compensation for missed time from work (lost wages)
- Pain and Suffering
- Loss of a Normal Life (how the accident changed what you can do, even if only short term)
Not only does a lawyer help you with recovering any money that you may be entitled to after a car accident, but will also
- Alleviate the stress of dealing with the insurance companies, so that you don’t have to take their phone calls anymore
- Help you evaluate the reasonable value of your claim
- Negotiate on your behalf
- Make sure that all of your medical providers are paid, so that you don't have to write checks after the accident
- If necessary, file a lawsuit on your behalf
- If necessary, take your case to trial
If you were hurt in a car accident in or around Chicago, and the accident was someone else’s fault (or mostly someone else’s fault), get in touch with us by filling out a webform on this site or giving us a call at 630 250-8813 for a free strategy session.
I’m Off Work after a Car Accident but I can’t Afford it! What Should I do?
After a serious accident, you may find yourself unable to go to work and worried about not getting a paycheck. While the hope is that this will be a temporary problem that can be covered by personal savings or the use of sick days, paid time off or vacation time, this is not always the case. Many people struggle with how to meet their living expenses if they need to be off from work while recovering from a car accident, let alone how to pay the bills that start to come in from the doctors.
One of the hardest parts of my job as an injury attorney is hearing that people can’t make ends meet after their accident because they are not back to work yet and have used up all of their paid days off. Of course, you will want to make sure that you are following all of your doctor’s recommendations (such as physical therapy, etc) so that you can get back to work sooner rather than later. The natural temptation is to return to work before you are ready because you feel that you do not have a choice since your family is depending on your paycheck. With your doctor’s permission, you may want to try and see if you can return to work, but many people end up leaving again in frustration if they have returned before their bodies are ready or worse, end up hurting themselves again. If you are not healed enough to return to work and have used up all of your paid time off, there are other options.
What are my options if I have used all of my paid sick leave and personal days?
Talk to your boss or the human resources (HR) department at work to find out if short term disability may be used. It is possible that you might be able to benefit from such a plan until you are well enough to work, but it may be harder to receive if your injuries are “soft tissue”, as in whiplash-type injuries.
Some people have PIP Insurance, which is known as personal injury protection, which will cover their medical bills and lost wages if they are in an accident, regardless of fault. Since this is not at all mandatory, most people don’t have it. It would not hurt to look into it and find out if you have purchased this insurance and if so, what the limits are. The limits may vary in terms of dollar amounts and depending on whether or not you have other kinds of insurance. Unfortunately, it will not cover pain and suffering, etc. Your bills might also be more than what the coverage provides. While using PIP insurance usually requires you to give a recorded statement to the insurance company and possibly submit to a separate medical exam, it can still be an okay option under some circumstances.
Can I get my lost wages from the At-Fault Driver now?
Being off of work and not getting paid for it after a car accident will be a very vulnerable time and it may be tempting to settle your case with the insurance company just to get some bills paid. Resist the temptation to enter into a premature settlement. The at-fault-driver is not required to reimburse lost wages as you go, rather - it comes at the end of your case. If you settle now, you will be doing so before the full extent of your damages are known- since time off from work is one piece of what are known as your ‘damages’. In other words, you don’t know yet how much longer it will be before you are able to get back to work. Once you settle, that’s it- no more money down the road from the at-fault driver or their insurance company. The good news is that your lost wages will be part of your claim against the person who hit you, so ultimately the other driver does have to take responsibility for this and reimburse you. But, since it doesn’t help you in the moment to know that eventually you should be able to recover for this lost time from work, you must explore other options. It may be that you need to borrow money from friends, family, church or other community resources if none of the above plans are an option for you.
Have faith in that there is light at the end of the tunnel. If you were seriously hurt in an accident and believe that it was the other person’s fault, you should be able to recover not only your lost wages but also be compensated for your medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, medication and other out-of-pocket costs. Illinois has definite time limits, so do not wait. You should be speaking to an attorney early on to determine what you should be doing and to avoid making mistakes that can hurt you later. Give us a call if you need help.
What does it cost to talk to a personal injury lawyer?
Most personal injury law firms in the Chicago area, including O'Connor Cadiz Law, do not charge anything to speak with you about your personal injury case. This means that if you were hurt in an accident and it was someone else's fault (or mostly someone else's fault), there should be no hesitation about speaking to a lawyer. At least it is not going to cost you anything. But wait, you might be thinking, I am still not sure if I am ready to talk to a lawyer. Understandable. Many people feel intimidated by going to speak to a lawyer for the first time, especially one that they don't know. What actually goes on once a lawyer has you in their office?
I can't speak for what goes on at other law firms, but I can say this: not all free consultations are equal. Some will be nothing more than a sales pitch with high pressure to hire even if you are just trying to get information. Others will have a consultation done by a paralegal who may be qualified to gather your information but cannot give legal advice. And aren't you really there to get legal advice? Of course! While you likely will not have to pay to talk to a lawyer if you have been injured, you still want to make sure that you feel comfortable about what will happen before you go in to talk to a lawyer. At O'Connor Cadiz law, our goal during the strategy session is to be helpful and answer your questions. It is possible that you might not be the best fit for us and we might not be the best fit for you, but if that is the case- we will tell you and still try to point you in the right direction. No high pressure tactics here. If you are not ready to speak to go speak to a lawyer yet, give us a call or fill out our webform to request free information or sign up for our newsletter. We are here when you are ready, but please remember that there are strict time limits in the State of Illinois (& in other states too) about how long you have to take action or lose your rights forever.
If you would like to schedule an appointment, call us at 630 250-8813 or fill out a contact form on this site to start the conversation.