Auto accidents are unavoidable realities for many Illinois residents, with the crash count totaling 324,373 in 2016 alone. The auto accident attorneys at FLT Law understand that these crashes come with loads of legal questions, and if you’re here, you’re probably armed with your own share of legal questions, too. You’ve also probably read our guide to the steps you should take directly after an accident. Sometimes, those steps are adequate, but sometimes, you’ll need to go one step further and file a lawsuit to receive a compensation that is fair and reasonable for the damages incurred.
If this applies to you, there are some things we recommend you have for a successful lawsuit. Going through the physical, emotional and financial pain of a terrible car accident is a lot, and a lawsuit can bring even more stress to the equation. But in our experience, having the five following things can make life so much easier while you’re going through an already tough time.
1.) Great documentation and records
If you read our guide to the steps to take after an auto accident, you know that there are some key pieces of information you’ll want to get directly after the crash. (And if you haven’t read it yet, you’re missing out on some valuable info — please do check it out here!) The best time to start collecting documentation and records is in the first hours post-accident. Here’s a list of the information our office recommends you make sure you have ready to go before you file a lawsuit:
- Contact information for those involved in the crash
- Names and badge numbers of responding officers
- Witness list (including contact information for witnesses, home addresses and license plate numbers if possible)
- Documentation of all damages
- Documentation of medical treatment, including signed notes from your doctor, if possible
- Medical bills
- Receipts from auto shops/dealers and any other receipts from purchases you made because of the accident
- Police reports and copies of any statements you can obtain
If you can collect any evidence after the crash, that’s a plus too. The best evidence is sometimes found in-dash camera footage, audio or video recording taken of the crash. If you don’t have access to evidence like that (or it doesn’t exist), a good alternative is to take down notes about what you remember about the accident shortly after it happens. Having a personal account can help when you consult police and/or a lawyer.
2.) A good lawyer
The auto accident attorneys at FLT Law never recommend going into a lawsuit without a competent lawyer. In our years of experience, we’ve seen many people think they can get away with representing themselves, but the reality is that laws are tricky and court deadlines are muddy. More often than not, savvy and deceitful insurance representatives along with legal complications get in the way of people advocating for themselves and receiving compensation for damages they deserve. Hiring a good lawyer will ensure these things don’t happen to you.
When hiring a personal injury lawyer, you’ll want to do your due diligence and spend some time researching the best fit for you. Look for a firm with resources and lots of experience. You might need to call a few different firms to find out what each can do for you.
When you find a lawyer, you’ll want to discuss how they’ll communicate with you and the insurance company and see if they recommend going as far as filing a lawsuit. Sometimes, if the reason you are not receiving proper compensation for your damages is because the insurance company is not forthcoming with you. Having your attorney discuss liability and damages, as well as settlement, can help. Other times, a lawsuit might be necessary. Your attorney will help you prepare for a statement or other depositions that might be needed. This will help you avoid tricks and traps used by the other side and better communicate how the accident happened and how you were injured.
Throughout the lawsuit process, you should rely on your lawyer for mediating communications, consultation about settlements that may be offered to you and advocating for you to receive the damages you are owed.
3.) Knowledge of filing steps
Your lawyer will be able to make sure you have a detailed understanding of the steps for filing a lawsuit, but it never hurts to have a basic grasp even before you make the first contact with an attorney. We won’t lie; the lawsuit process can seem daunting, but when we break it down into a few major steps, clients feel less intimidated by it. Here are the basic steps you can expect your lawyer to follow if you do file a lawsuit:
- File a complaint
- Serve the complaint on the defendant
- The defendant files an answer
4.) List of important dates and deadlines
When you select an attorney and begin the lawsuit process, one of the first things you should outline with them is a complete list of important dates and deadlines you’ll need to meet until the lawsuit is resolved. There are often legal deadlines your lawyer must follow when they file your lawsuit. It’s a good idea for you to get a sense of how quickly or slowly your lawsuit might move, especially since some aspects of your life might understandably be put on hold while the lawsuit is happening.
5.) Knowledge of important laws
Before you file a lawsuit, you’ll want to make sure you also have a basic grasp on the laws that will be at play during the lawsuit, especially those that affect deadlines. Two laws/concepts you might want to spend some time discussing with your attorney or reading up on include:
This law sets a strict time limit for filing a lawsuit after an accident. The deadlines will depend on the type of the injury or damages claimed and who you are suing. In general, the Illinois law will give you two years to file the suit, but there are some exceptions to this rule. The time period for filing a lawsuit might even be as little as one year. For this reason, it’s always best to consult with an attorney as soon after the accident as possible to determine what kind of deadline you’d be looking at for your specific lawsuit.
Comparative negligence apportions fault for the accident between the parties to the accident. This law pertains to lawsuits for cases in which both parties are found to be at fault for an accident. If this applies to you, it means that your recovery for the damages you’ve incurred as a result of the accident will be reduced by the percent fault that belongs to you for the cause of the accident. If you are determined to be more than 50% at fault for the accident, you will recover nothing.
Here at Friend, Levinson & Turner, LLC, we know how gut-wrenching it can feel to go through an auto accident, especially if the physical and emotional damage is long-lasting, or if a lawsuit becomes necessary. We provide people just like you with practical solutions and representation for their legal needs when faced with a serious personal injury, and we’d be honored to consult and represent you. Please give us a call at 312-346-8465. We’re always here for you and your loved ones, and we’re happy to answer any questions you might have.